Kitchen island ideas – 20 ways to create a fabulous and functional feature

1. Make Waves With Fluted Details

Fluting around a kitchen island can be far more than just a decorative surface. In this relatively narrow kitchen by Australia-based Kitty Lee Architecture, ease of movement around the island was crucial and fluting served a practical purpose.

2. Use A Waterfall Edge For A Seamless Look

A popular design feature that will elevate any island unit, a ‘waterfall edge’ involves continuing the countertop seamlessly from horizontal to vertical. ‘Deeply veined marbles look particularly fabulous using this technique, especially if you source a slab large enough to allow the veining to flow right down to the floor,’ says Oana Sandu, lead designer, Blakes London. ‘It’s important to think about the flooring and how it will complement your choice of worktop, usually a contrast works best.’

3. Show Off An Island With Statement Lighting

Put a statement island firmly in the spotlight with thoughtfully selected light fittings that score highly on both form and function.

4. Use Mixed Materials For An Interesting Finish

When choosing the right sized island, do consider the impact is has on the countertop installation. ‘Joints can be really obvious on island units that are centrally positioned and designed to be noticed,’ says Graeme Smith, head of retail design, Life Kitchens. Islands longer than 11.5ft (3.5m) usually require two slabs of stone or quartz. ‘Adding timber elements such as chopping blocks or breakfast bars is a good way to mix materials while disguising joints,’ he adds.

5. Go Bold With The Choice Of Materials

A bold approach to materials can provide extraordinary results. Formed and cast on site by Kote London, this concrete island is a stand-out feature in an otherwise understated kitchen. ‘We wanted it to feel like a piece of art in the space,’ explains Stephen Nash, founder, All & Nxthing Interiors. ‘Rounding off all the corners improves functionality and flow, while helping to soften the look of what is actually a big and very practical island,’ he adds.

6. Try A T-Shaped Island For An Interesting Spin

A T-shaped island can avoid one of the classic kitchen island mistakes of going too small in a large room and missing the opportunity to accommodate a host of activities at the heart of the room.

7. Use A Floating Effect For Extra Interest

A cantilevered bar in solid walnut puts extra wow in this 5m long island conceived by Forbes Rix Design. ‘The floating effect was achieved using a steel box frame structure that was concealed under the countertop and between the cabinets, then bolted to the concrete floor,’ explain Andrew Hall, director, Woodstock Furniture. ‘Not only is it guaranteed to impress, but it also leaves more flooring visible, which boosts the sense of space.’

8. Incorporate Show-Stopping Fixtures And Hardware

Consider every element for a successful kitchen island design. ‘Islands tend to become the home theater of cooking, putting the cook at the center of the layout,’ says Graeme Smith. When all eyes are on the island at meal times, every part of it – from the breakfast bar to smaller details like the appliances and the hardware along with the kitchen island lighting ideas – need to be well-considered design-wise.

9. Create Island Seating With A Wraparound Countertop

‘Islands bring multiple functional benefits to the kitchen, but they can also help to add character to a design,’ says Smith. ‘Large format materials such as granite and quartz tend to work well for modern kitchen islands.’

10. Think Carefully About Walkaround Space

When considering island size, think about the space you’ll need beyond it. ‘Islands are an eye-catching feature in a kitchen but they can eat up a substantial amount of space,’ says Smith. ‘So when thinking about adding one into design, it is important to consider the available space and the circulation area around the island.

11. Mix And Match Your Storage Options

If storage space is at a premium in your kitchen, adding an island into the mix opens up a wealth of possibilities. Incorporate a mixture of cabinets and drawers to allow effortless storage for table and cookware of all shapes and sizes. You can also consider adding open shelving to display some of your most characterful kitchen essentials.

12. Add Curves

Soften a rectangular kitchen island design with a curved breakfast bar on one side. This Tom Howley kitchen island mixes different lines to create an elegant feature at the center of the room, and provides an inviting place for guests to sit.

13. 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 for breakfast bar ideas – like in this particular kitchen. If you love this neutral style, our white kitchen ideas will bring you more inspiration.

14. 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 island can be a handy way of doubling the amount of kitchen island seating within the same kitchen island size and creating a sociable cooking space.

15. Think Big

For fluting on a grand scale, look to Smallbone’s Icarus Collection for inspiration. Demonstrating the impact of outsized sculpting in the kitchen, this unique design nods to 1920s glamor via scalloped glass, rich textures and warm tones. A shimmering wash of brushed gold accentuates the curved oak cabinet fronts, while allowing subtle graining to shine through.

16. Go Long

If you're blessed with a lot of space in your kitchen, your kitchen island ideas 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.

17. Use It To Make The Cooktop The Center Of The Room

By putting the cooktop 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.

18. 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 kitchen. 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.

19. 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.

20. Work In A Dining Table

As well as extra workspace, one of the top modern kitchen island ideas right now is the addition of a dining table for a clever space-saving solution. Richard Atkins, Design Director at DesignSpace London, says: '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.

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