Kitchen islands have become an essential kitchen feature, with the move towards larger kitchens in open plan spaces. It’s an easily adaptable piece which might be long and slim, running parallel to the work area, neat and round in a compact space or broad and spacious housing a sink, appliances, a seating area and oodles of storage – there as many kitchen island options as there are kitchens.
Use our kitchen island ideas below to inspire your choice of size, shape, finish and design.
For more decorating inspiration, be sure to check out our kitchen ideas, too.
1. Go for an unusual shape
Buck the trend and swap a traditional rectangular kitchen island for something a little more unique - this might be slightly curved or fully circular.
This Tom Howley kitchen island is a double whammy, with a part rectangular, part curved design - for the ultimate statement feature.
See more on designing a kitchen island in our comprehensive guide.
2. Create different zones
Switching up materials on the surface can help to break up a long kitchen island. This can also be done to help 'zone' different areas, depending on what they might be used for.
For example, a surface used for food prep might be kept as stone, whereas wood might be used to define the breakfast bar eating area - like in this particular kitchen.
If you love this neutral style, be sure to check out our white kitchen ideas.
3. Double the seating with an L-shaped breakfast bar
You've probably seen a fair few L-shaped kitchen ideas, but did you know the format typically used with cabinets can work really well for an island?
Creating an L-shaped breakfast bar with your kitchen island can be a handy way of doubling the amount of seating and creating a sociable cooking space. It also makes serving food and drinks easier, so the design is perfect for those who love to entertain.
4. Go long
If you're blessed with a lot of space in your kitchen, your island can be as large as you want.
One way to make your kitchen stand out is to make the island extra long with ample seating - almost reminiscent of a cocktail bar. We love this elongated design, with space for seven, as a modern alternative to a dining room table.
5. Use it to make the hob the center of the room
By putting the hob on a kitchen island, you're helping to make it the central point of the room. This means a person cooking can face the rest of the room (rather than with their back turned) - making it a clever, sociable design feature. It also offers lots of space around your cooker, for food preparation.
We love the blue and white kitchen cabinet color scheme in this country house in Wiltshire.
6. Add in a work table to create a multi-purpose space
From a functional perspective, a kitchen island provides extra prep space, cutting down the footwork between key areas of sink, cooker and fridge in an open plan space, and it also provides a boundary between the work zone of the kitchen and the neighbouring living/dining zone, keeping children and guests from getting under your feet. It is increasingly a work space, too.
'The rise of the "working kitchen" reflects a repurposing of the traditional kitchen and an increased demand for multi-functional spaces,' says Merlin Wright, Design Director at Plain English and British Standard by Plain English.
'Worktables offer added space and clever storage to hide not only kitchen items but also office paraphernalia. Often they incorporate a seating area with high stools, adding another valuable space to work or relax and helping to zone the kitchen.'
7. Make space for seating at a kitchen island
Almost all kitchen islands incorporate some form of seating. Even the smallest space can usually accommodate an overhang of worktop and a pair or bar stools although more of us are opting for long islands with integrated low level, table-style seating at one end as a comfortable set up for family meals and entertaining.
'Extra work surface space is high on our wish lists,' says Annie Tullett, Kitchen Designer at Neptune Hove. 'The layout of a kitchen is vital to creating extra workspace and designing a harmonious flow.'
You can also make your kitchen island work even harder for you by incorporating smart designs and appliances for a veritable tech hub, such as hidden power sockets and charging points.
For more ways to use bar stools and dining chairs, check out our kitchen island seating ideas.
8. Work in a dining table
As well as extra workspace, a top kitchen island trend right now sees the addition of a dining table for a clever space-saving solution.
Richard Atkins Design Director, DesignSpace London, say: 'A decade ago, islands were generally only one height: either worktop height or a higher bar level. Now there is much more variation, with different levels for different functions.
'We regularly integrate a table into the island, due to two main reasons: when a living space is more compact and there isn’t the space for a separate dining table or when clients actively want to eat in close proximity to the kitchen.'
Like what you see? Our modern kitchen island ideas has plenty more to offer.
9. Make a display
The small finishing details of a kitchen add another layer of depth. Plain English's Merlin Wright explains: 'No longer content with purely practicality, clients are incorporating open shelves within kitchen islands to act as beautiful displays, curated to showcase unique collections – from vintage curiosities and ceramics, to cookery books and glassware – each adding color and personality.'
This is just one of many handy kitchen storage ideas.
10. Add design details to a kitchen island
Giving a nod to simple English countryside style and the cottagecore aesthetic, panelling is more popular than ever. Merlin Wright at Plain English says: 'The long established love for tongue and groove panelling is more popular than ever. The natural design choice helps to add a tactile and warm feel when used on a kitchen island.'
If you love workstations and breakfast bars with a rural flavour, dive into our farmhouse kitchen island ideas, too.
11. Use a kitchen island to introduce new materials
The change of pace offered by an island often encourages a change of material, introducing another dimension to your kitchen design. You might afford to be braver here with a bolder finish or colorway, or perhaps a more expensive material that would be prohibitive across an entire kitchen.
‘An island tends to define the kitchen, forming a neat and transparent division to the dining and living space beyond,’ says Laurence Pidgeon, Director at Laurence Pidgeon.
12. Add color with a kitchen island
A kitchen island is a fabulous opportunity to add color to a kitchen.
'For this reason, at least the facing part of the island should be in warm and welcoming materials to make a transition from efficient kitchen surfaces. For a show-stopping centerpiece, look to luxury materials, from deeply veined marble and mottled granites to exotic timber veneers and gleaming mirror or burnished metal.
'There’s also a trend for an increasing use of textured materials – think raw or rough-sawn wood, honed or flamed stone tops – as well as a contrast of color or finish between island and rest of kitchen,’ reveals Laurence Pidgeon.
If you're struggling to settle on a scheme, be sure to consult our kitchen color ideas.
13. Max out kitchen island storage
A kitchen island is a golden opportunity to up the storage space in your kitchen, so ensure you work it into both sides of a deep unit. Store seldom used items, accessories you need for dining or even home-work related clutter on the outer side of the island, with cooking essentials on the kitchen side.
14. Work two kitchen islands into a larger space
If space allows, two kitchen islands is always better than one. A pair of island units has become the last word in luxury, an expansive addition for when space is no object. This bespoke Macassar kitchen is by Smallbone of Devizes.
This design creates a galley kitchen hybrid, with places to prepare food on either side.
15. Pick a luxury material for your kitchen island
As we said above, it’s the time of strongly veined marble.
‘Deep veins are a key trend in island surfaces, and marbling comes in lots of colors. Don’t be tempted to stick to white, but seek out greener tones, which are calming and sophisticated,’ says Sarah Spiteri, Editorial Director at Homes & Gardens.
16. Add in a wine cabinet
A few years ago, wine cabinets were considered a luxury appliance, available only to those with big budgets and big kitchens to match. These days however, as prices and sizes have reduced, there’s something to suit every scheme and size.
Wine coolers built into a kitchen island are a great investment, as they will free-up space in the refridgerator as well as the worktop while keeping your wine in optimum condition.
If you enjoy entertaining, friends and family can help themselves to a glass while you get on with the cooking. As our kitchens become more like theaters, with island cooking becoming more popular, it makes sense to have a wine cabinet to complete the performance.
17. Light your kitchen island
Kitchen island lighting is a really important element of its design and should be planned in right at the beginning of your kitchen design journey. If you do go for pendants, bear in mind that odd numbers are more visually arresting than even numbers.
See more kitchen island lighting ideas in our dedicated feature.
18. Devote budget to bookmatching
The overhang means seats can be stowed and the legs add an airy feel. A stunning slab of stone can be showcased in several ways around an island. Bookmatching, where slices of stone reflect their neighbors, or slip-matching, which uses stone slices to produce a continuous effect are effective techniques but, where possible, a seamless piece of stone mounted across the front of a unit is especially awe-inspiring.
If you want to create a functional, family-friendly kitchen, our breakfast bar ideas should help you along.
19. Consider deep drawers for a streamlined look
The success of this sleek, uncluttered space is largely down to the island unit. The layout ‘front of house’ focuses on a 4.2m-wide island unit, topped by two book-matched marble-look composite slabs. The island is a soft division between the cooking and living areas. The 2.4m-wide drawers are used to stash crockery and utensils and help keep everything tidy.
If you're a fan of this streamline look, our modern kitchen ideas could be for you.
20. Pick a material that matches your home's fabric
If your kitchen is dominated by a particular feature that's part of your home's architecture – whether a marble fire surround or aged wooden beams, as in the kitchen above – picking a material for your kitchen island that complements or mimics it will create a look that's streamlined, sleek and calm. However, it is important to work at least one element of contrast into the room – here, the rough plaster of the white walls offers the relief.
Like this countryside aesthetic? Check out our cottage kitchen ideas.
21. Be flexible with a mobile island
Kitchen islands needn't be fixed pieces of furniture – freestanding – or portable kitchen islands are a versatile choice that allow you to flex your kitchen layout over time, or to create a more relaxed look that's the antithesis of the fitted finish. These kitchen islands are unlikely to house appliances or electrical points – instead they are purely for prep and eating, storage and, of course, display. Put yours on casters if you want it to be truly mobile.
Is a kitchen island a good idea?
‘Even in a compact kitchen, a kitchen island is a fantastic way to maximize space as you can make it as multi-functional as possible by incorporating integrated appliances and smart storage solutions,’ says Darren Watts, Showroom Development and Design Director at Wren Kitchens.
‘We’re all spending more time at home these days, with the kitchen at the heart of the home social life. It’s important to consider the comfort of the cook. Integrating cooking appliances into the island puts them at the centre of the action – even better if there is space for bar-style seating too so guests can socialise while the food is prepared,' adds Daniel Bowler, Director of Eggersmann UK.
Is my kitchen too small for an island?
If you don't have a lot of space, you might be thinking your kitchen is too small for an island - but this may not be the case.
‘It is all about proportions and practicality; the room needs to work ergonomically and have enough space to move around. For example, to incorporate seating on an island, we would suggest a minimum of 1.2m between a breakfast bar and a wall or furniture,’ says Richard.
Don’t install an island for the sake of it, they have to play a vital role in cooking efficiency (preferably multiple roles) and not get in the way. Try using a table or even boxes to block out the space for a few days – it’s a great way to work out how an island will impact the room’s flow.
- Working with limited space? Our small kitchen ideas offer some practical solutions..
What color kitchen islands are on trend for 2021?
The kitchen island colors on trend vary depending on your kitchen's look.
For painted kitchens, dark blues and greys are ideal for kitchen islands, helping to add depth to an otherwise plain design. While more modern schemes include burnished metal trims and handles alongside clean white and grey cabinets.
Look out for an embracing of earthy reds and rich grassy greens. These are paired with burnished brass and soft gold finishes for handles and trim. Texture is in abundance, too. Fluted cabinetry echoes the fluted glass we’re seeing in designs from companies such as Ledbury Studio – the new company led by kitchen supremo Charlie Smallbone.
Faux marble worktops with waterfall edges encasing an island are also proving increasingly popular, pairing pattern with an easy-to-clean durable surface.
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