Looking for some kitchen island ideas? Whether you’re in need of inspiration for a small kitchen island or tips on how to design a kitchen island with seating, every home can benefit from one, even if space is at a premium. Before you set out to design your ideal kitchen island, take a look at everything you need to know including size, style and shape…
What is a kitchen island?
A kitchen island is a freestanding countertop unit in the middle of a kitchen, serving as a focal point to prepare food and eat meals. One of the most sought-after features, kitchen islands are accessible from all sides, adding more precious space and storage.
‘Islands tend to become a home theatre of cooking, they put the cook at the heart of the layout, front, and centre stage,’ says Graeme Smith, Head of Retail and Design at Life Kitchens. ‘They also act as a natural room divide, bridging the kitchen to another space be it a dining or living environment. Add in storage below for utensils in drawers, an integrated bin for food scraps and a chopping block for a designated prep area.’
How do you plan a kitchen island?
When planning your kitchen island, think about its purpose. Will it be a space for cooking or are you dreaming of creating a communal spot for relaxed dining? Once you have decided on the main use of your kitchen island, it’s time to chose the size. If you’re working with a more compact space or a galley kitchen, it might be best to consider narrow freestanding styles. If you’re blessed with a large kitchen, consider building in bar stools for dining.
‘Assuming the size of the room allows for an island, one of the most important things to consider is how you would like the island to look and its functionality,’ says Richard Davonport, Davonport Managing Director and Founder. ‘Functionality and style go hand in hand as the functionality that is required from an island will inevitably influence the design. For example, is seating required and if so for how many people? This would ultimately impact whether a breakfast bar was included or whether banquette seating would be a better option.’
What size should a kitchen island be?
According to Life Kitchens, the desired amount of room is approximately 1200mm between fitted cabinetry and the island, although extra floor space may be needed in areas that experience a lot of high traffic (such as around the hob).
Matt Baker, Kitchen Designer at Harvey Jones, advises that kitchen islands need to be at least 1000mm wide in order to be safe and practical. While many people think bigger islands are better, this isn’t always the case. ‘Wide islands are sure to make a big impact in a kitchen, however, they’re not the most practical solution, as you have to be able to reach the middle when cooking,’ he advises. ‘Try to keep it no deeper than 1400mm front to back.’
What is the difference between a breakfast bar and an island?
Breakfast bars are typically incorporated within kitchen islands or peninsula-style layouts to create a laid-back, informal space. While they both add counter space, a breakfast bar is attached to either an existing counter or wall, featuring only three usable sides, and is typically higher than kitchen counters. Breakfast bars are great to consider if you have a smaller kitchen, as they don’t take up as much room.
So is a kitchen island a good idea?
Adding a kitchen island immediately creates more seating for friends and family, as well as additional counter space and storage. You want your kitchen to be functional, so if you are planning a kitchen island ensure you plan it well. Before you begin you need to consider the cost (materials can be expensive), space constrictions in tight kitchens, and appliance placement (some kitchen islands require special wiring and plumbing). Speaking to a professional kitchen fitter will help you understand whether a kitchen island is a good idea in your home.
On that note, take a look at some of our favourite kitchen island ideas…
Muted and minimal
A kitchen island is a great way to add more countertop space, as well as an extra spot to dine. If you’ve got dark kitchen cabinets, why not create a style statement by choosing an island in a different shade?
• ‘Luna’ kitchen in matt midnight by Magnet Kitchens
Keep it colourful
A rivetingly colourful kitchen never fails to impress. Spice up your space with a burst of colour, such as red, orange or bright blue. It’s the perfect way to make a statement.
• ‘Contour’ kitchen in spectrum coral colour from Wren Kitchens
Make space for a sink
If you’re dreaming of a kitchen island, consider making space for a kitchen sink. Providing a more functional layout, it will give tons of extra counter space — making it easier to get those chores done.
‘Incorporating a sink into your island unit will maximise storage potential and help to ease your cooking and preparation process,’ says Naomi Dean, Furniture and Showroom Designer at Harvey Jones.
‘This will also add a sociable aspect to your kitchen, especially in a kitchen-diner, allowing you to easily communicate with guests whilst cooking.’
• House Beautiful Westbourne kitchen at Homebase
Don’t forget bar stools
Bar stools for kitchen islands have become an ever increasing trend, with hundreds of different styles available. From stylish gold to on-trend wicker, they are fundamental to the overall look of the room.
• ‘Relaxed Look’ kitchen with ‘Carbon’ and ‘Chalk’ paint from Life Kitchens
Leave enough space for food prep
An island is a great addition to any kitchen that is in need of a practical central focal point. If you have the dream to use your kitchen island for food prep, ensure you factor in enough counter space. Potted plants and cookbooks will make it look pretty, but they’ll quickly eat up your surface space, especially if you have lots of kitchen gadgets.
• ‘Relaxed Look’ kitchen with ‘Hartforth Blue’ and ‘Porcelain’ paint from Life Kitchens
Don’t be afraid to make a statement with block colours. If you’re brave enough, why not match your kitchen island to kitchen cupboards — it will tie everything together seamlessly.
• ‘Vivid Look’ kitchen with ‘Regiment Matt’ paint from Life Kitchens
A high gloss kitchen island is ideal for anyone looking for an ultra modern design. Perfect for creating the illusion of extra space, gloss is as practical as it is stylish.
• See more from the House Beautiful Bermondsey kitchen at Homebase
Leave enough space around your island
Size is vital when planning your kitchen island scheme — especially if you’re a little tight on space. It sounds obvious but make sure you can move around the island with ease. If you’re incorporating seating, it could be worth leaving extra room behind the chairs.
Build a storage base
One of the biggest appeals of a kitchen island is the additional storage it provides. Whether it’s ample cupboards or a whip-smart wine fridge, don’t forget to think about how you can cleverly maximise your kitchen island.
• ‘Dunham’ kitchen in grey from Magnet Kitchens
Planning is key
‘Although a practical choice for kitchens, an island should be considered carefully before the final design is chosen,’ explains Ben Burbidge, Managing Director at Burbridge Kitchen Makers.
‘You should look to maximise the internal and worktop space but don’t be tempted to make the overall dimensions too big as it could dominate or restrict movement around the kitchen. If you want to include appliances or sinks make sure you can accommodate the required plumbing or electrics.’
• ‘Somerton’ kitchen in baltic green and brushed brass from Burbridge Kitchen Makers
Think carefully about your surface
Wondering what surface to use for your kitchen island? Marble is best suited for a classic kitchen where work surfaces are respected with care, while quartz and granite used in their entirety work well to give a seamless finish.
‘Larger islands may require a joint, so there is the opportunity to experiment with the design and choose a complementary material, colour or thickness,’ advises Graeme. ‘Adding timber elements such as chopping blocks to a breakfast bar can be a good way to subtly zone an island whilst also disguising the joints.’
READ MORE: Everything you need to know about kitchen worktops
Bring the outdoors in
Green kitchen islands are the best way to bring the outdoors in, while also adding a natural look. A surefire way to add character, we’re big fans of this smart green space.
• Shaker style kitchen in ‘Roman Leaf’ from Wren Kitchens
Switch things up with unconventional shapes for your kitchen island design. Unique shapes like curves will highlight your personality, while also adding character.
• ‘Arbor’ kitchen from Harvey Jones
Light it up
From small pendants to statement shades, there are lots of ways to brighten up your kitchen island. If it’s a space where you’ll be preparing food then opt for bright task lighting, however if you’re dreaming of creating a spot to unwind then consider something softer.
‘Pendant lighting is an elegant addition that will bring an extra layer of interest to the kitchen’s design,’ says Graeme. ‘The low hanging bulbs will offer extra light for everyday tasks without overwhelming the space.’
• Clear glass pendant, £215 from Fritz Fryer
READ MORE: Kitchen lighting ideas for the hardest-working room in your house
‘Islands play an essential part in functional kitchens providing a handy area to prepare food, store extra equipment or even sit and eat,’ explains Naomi.
‘By including an island or breakfast bar in the kitchen design also helps to create a partition between kitchen and living space. This will help define areas of the room without closing in the kitchen or blocking off the rest of the room.’
• Large spangle pendant from Pooky
Install a hob on your island
Want to maximise your island? Make your cooking area the centrepiece of the kitchen by installing a hob and extractor fan within your kitchen island. Not only will it allow you to be more sociable as you cook, but it will save on vital surface space, too.
• See more: the House Beautiful Camberwell kitchen at Homebase
Make a statement
We’re crushing on this dark green kitchen island, which has a rather impressive display of pots hanging above, which also saves on additional storage space.
‘When it comes to designing a kitchen island, more and more homeowners are opting for a statement look, either through the use of painted cabinetry or a wow-factor worktop with vibrant colours,’ says Laura Davie, Marketing Manager for Cosentino UK.
• See more from Cullifords
Bring a touch of farmhouse chic to your kitchen with a rustic-style island. Natural materials, such as European oak, is great if you’re looking for a design that will stand the test of time.
• ‘Tavole’ kitchen collection from LochAnna Kitchens
Go for an unusual shape
Don’t be afraid to buck the trend and opt for something less traditional. We love this kitchen island idea from Wren Kitchens – the varying levels are great for family cooking and the design itself adds interest.
• ‘Milano Elements’ slate and copper kitchen island from Wren Kitchens
Consider a moveable kitchen island
A moveable freestanding island, which can be used as a convenient work table and meal table, is great to consider.
‘A moveable island is valuable to those who need furniture to act as a preparation-based room divider during the day and pushed aside at night to make way for entertaining,’ say Life Kitchens.
• ‘Haddon’ in charcoal and burnished bronze from Burbridge Kitchen Makers
Choose a small freestanding design
No space? No problem! You don’t need a massive kitchen for an island. For a small kitchen island, there are tons of compact styles available, including this cool grey design from Cox & Cox. It provides space to sit and it’s brilliant for providing extra storage for cookbooks, plants and utensils.
• Mette Island Unit, £1,375, from Cox & Cox
‘Island units also offer the opportunity to add a different colour scheme to your kitchen,’ adds Bella Glenn, design expert at Benchmarx Kitchens and Joinery.
‘Why not use a different shade to surrounding cabinets, such as pairing dove grey with carbon, or even a completely different colour to really give your kitchen that “wow” factor?’
•’Arbor’ kitchen from Harvey Jones
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