Kitchen Island Design Ideas
Both aesthetically pleasing and utilitarian, an island can serve as an anchor for the kitchen and be a wonderful asset to the place at once. They focus the space to one area, allowing homeowners to cook and socialize simultaneously. They’re extra countertop space, a secondary table, a common space creator, and can help suck space out of kitchens that aren’t properly balanced (speaking towards bigger kitchens here). Anyone who has lived in a home with an island finds it immensely difficult to shift back into a home without one.
Today, more and more homes are adding islands during their kitchen remodel. It’s a home design that is no longer specific to upper scale, luxurious properties. If you like islands and are currently looking for some inspiration, then you’ve landed in the right place. We’re going to detail quite a few different style choices ranging from the traditional aesthetic, to postmodern improvisations that might be everything your heart desires.
First, let’s discuss logistics.
We know, we know. This isn’t necessarily the fun part of scouring the internet for new ideas. Still, it’s important that you–if you’re considering this renovation–at least have these concepts in the back of your mind. What are the necessary requirements for an island?
This should be somewhat common sense, but if you’re looking to install an island in your kitchen then you’ll need the space for it. There’s no definitive here but generally the rule of thumb is that your kitchen needs to be over 6 feet deep and 10 feet long to truly utilize an island. If it’s smaller than that, the island becomes less practical and efficient, detracting from its value.
When considering putting an island in your home, you also need to consider what sort of application it’s going to serve to your kitchen. Most would consider it a waste to slap a beautiful island in the middle of a room but not fill it up with drawers to serve as a utility for storing your cooking apparatuses, kitchen items, and even a secondary or primary trash chute. Remember that an island draws people forward as it is quite literally the center of the room, so you’ll probably be doing a fair amount of cooking on it.
Any place in which work is done needs a light. Is your kitchen properly structured to light an island or will that be additional work involved? Generally you want a dedicated light for your island, one beaming down from overhead. The most popular choice is recessed lighting, a simple design that doesn’t require much effort if your ceilings aren’t unnecessarily high. However, if they’re higher than usual, it can pose a problem as the ‘general’ light bulb focuses its light from the bottom out, meaning it covers a spread. Specific light bulbs meant to focus light from higher altitudes can be installed to right this issue.
The last part to consider is how well ventilated your kitchen is. Islands that are primarily used for cooking benefit greatly from a downdraft fan. But even then, sometimes a secondary fan will need to be installed to work as an exhaust (smell that stagnates will truly ruin the experience of having an island). Our point being: you need to have airflow moving away from the island and toward an appropriate opening. It’s simply not something that can be overlooked if you plan to cook on it.
Now that you have a basic understanding of an island’s structural design, here is some kitchen island idea inspiration.
The Bar Top
Outside of being a utility for the kitchen, you can be creative about the purpose you want your island to serve. One of the most dynamic and aesthetically pleasing designs is to structure your island like a bar top, which means to install another level. In this way all your kitchen countertops (including the main countertop of island) are level, but the second step-up of the island can be used to serve drinks, eat over, and as somewhat of an impromptu high-top. Enjoy the full utility of using an island for cooking but also make it a great place to serve the friends and family. When these are done correctly, they look absolutely amazing. You can have veggies steaming over the middle level while you’re guests keep their glass of wine a few feet up on the bar top.
The Double Dresser
While this can look tacky if not properly styled, when it lands, it’s the first thing people notice. The idea is to put two identical dressers (typically wooden) back to back. All the drawers face outward. Then a slab of wood or marble is sealed to the top (most often to match the kitchen countertops). The drawers act like kitchen cabinets and they work to balance the island. As an aesthetic–in homes that fit–it can give the place an entirely vintage and rustic tone, even if the home is somewhat modern. Being that it’s isolated, even if the style isn’t completely fluid it can still pair well with the rest of the home. Ever seen a single piece of outdated or vintage furniture in a modernized home? They often work well because of their independence and the opposing style of their environment.
Hanging Pot Rack
Because we’re rolling off the vintage tones, another incredible design choice is to incorporate a drop-down light fixture, then enclose it in a rack. Meaning you would have something like two or three drop-down lights hanging over the table, a metal perimeter around them fixed with hooks, and you could then hang the pots over the island. Not only does this open up room but the pots can be part of the aesthetic. Blend some auburn pots over a rich mahogany and give your home that sophisticated twist it needed.
The Makeshift Bookcase
While it may not be feasible for you to actually put books in your kitchen—although who knows, it could have its own stylistic charm—there are plenty of innovative homes that have used bookshelves as their kitchen island. Similar to the dressers, often you can take two and place them back to back to create more surface area. The shelves can then be filled with spices, cups, kitchen items, candles, and anything to give your home that extra charm. The bookcase look is both vintage and sophisticated and can pair well in homes with a more dynamic aesthetic.
The Second Table
We’ve already spoken about how islands are practical because they can provide a second table to eat upon or utilize, and some of them are customized specifically for this. Think of on this: you build your island at the desired size and instead of calling it a day, you push it out another couple feet but away from the island with a hollow inside. One side of your island can become a ‘table end’ where chairs or barstools are pushed comfortably into their coves. This invites guests to sit and utilize the space and makes the island even more practical.
A Second Kitchen
This is definitely a bit more costly, but some homeowners love to create another kitchen out of their island. They run piping and electric to it, install a stove, oven, dishwasher, and sink, and use the island the same way as the rest of the kitchen. This helps with cooking and cleaning as having more than one centralized place can allow you to do more and put the place together faster. Fit with a marble top and a wooden body, this ‘second kitchen’ can be a wonderful addition to your already existing one. This is practicality at its finest.
If you’re not entirely up for committing to a built-in island, then there’s no harm in using a freestanding one. This is a fun idea because it allows you to fill in the blanks and be creative about what you use. In theory, plenty of furniture pieces can work as an island. They need to have a base, a decent surface area, and be sturdy enough to work over. When they’re done correctly there is something extremely attractive about having a lone-wolf piece of furniture serving as your island. Not only that but if you enjoy it enough, then it can pave the way for a built-in one.
The Island Push Out
We already spoke on the ‘The Second Table’ but this is a bit different, as it’s both a table and island in one. If your kitchen is big enough, then you can center an island right in the middle, then extend a lower level of it out like at table. Although connected, often the aesthetic is most pleasing when both fit the same tone but are painted differently. A family can seat the kids at the table extension to do homework while the parents prepare food over the island. Not only that, but it helps orient space. This, like some of the others we mentioned, is an invitation to regard the kitchen as another room to socialize in.
Hand Carved Kitchen Island
One of the most attractive and innovative ways to design a kitchen island is to have a woodsman carve one for your space. Even if your kitchen is sleek and sophisticated, customized woodwork (which can also be painted) can not only stand on its own but create a more inviting atmosphere. It’s also completely up to you. You won’t have to scour around trying to find certain designs or prebuilt islands to purchase. You can customize one to fit your space and pair with the aesthetic of your home.
The Picnic Table
Best serving a home with wooden floors and autumn tones, there is something quite pleasing about designing your island to look like an outdoor bench. Often it’s the countertop that sports the ‘picnic bench’ aesthetic and the base is something practical (with drawers and storage space). Some designers like to match the countertop with the wood flooring rather than other countertops, which gives the island even more isolation.
At The End of the Day, It’s Up To You
Designing and deciding on an island shouldn’t be a stressful process. It’s a standalone piece that—as you can tell—can be just about anything. Outside of the logistics, what you want your island to look like and what sort of utility you want it to serve your home is completely your choice. They aren’t a difficult piece to install (although this varies dependent on the complexity of the design) and depending on what design you choose, can be extremely economic. Perhaps you create an island out of something no one has ever used before.
All said and done, an island is a fantastic focal point in the kitchen. It simplifies the cooking experience and creates a social atmosphere out of a place that is not necessarily conducive to chitchat. If the island is a success, the kitchen flourishes.