An island is a statement piece in any kitchen, serving a functional purpose as well as creating a focal point.
An island can transform your kitchen into the social hub of the home. Create a new seating area, give yourself more counter space and create a place that’s perfect for entertaining. However, there are a lot of things to consider to ensure it ticks all your boxes.
If you have an open plan space, you may also find a kitchen island useful as a natural separator between your kitchen and living/dining area. This can also be made social, as someone in the kitchen space can prepare food on the island while looking out over the rest of the room.
Planning your kitchen island
Before you start styling, you need to plan the dimensions and placement of your kitchen island to ensure it’s suitable for the size of your space.
What is the best size for a kitchen island?
There is no one-size-fits-all for the perfect kitchen island. What’s important is that you find a size and shape that works for your kitchen.
If you have a large kitchen then the world is your oyster. A big island will fill an otherwise empty expanse of floor space and allows you to position your key appliances closer to each other by installing a sink or hob on your island.
If you have a smaller space, around 6ft x 3ft is a comfortable size for an island. If you have to go any smaller than 4ft x 2 ft then it’s advisable to avoid an island altogether, as it will probably be more of a drawback than a useful addition to your kitchen.
How much overhang do you need for a kitchen island?
Most islands require a slight countertop overhang to ensure diners have plenty of legroom when seated. 12 inches is the ideal rough size for an overhang, but the clearance around the island is your first priority. This means your first task should be to measure the space around your planned island, to ensure you have enough space between your island and countertops to maintain open walkways.
You should always leave at least 4 feet between your countertops and island, even if this means having a smaller island overhang.
Choosing a shape
Consider what shape you want your kitchen island to be. A rectangular island is a classic, timeless option that will never go out of style. But you may want to consider a slightly curved or circular island to create a more unique centrepiece.
When it comes to choosing colours, you have slightly more freedom with your kitchen island than cabinetry due to the simple fact that they aren’t as dominant in your kitchen. While you’ll still be partly led by the colour scheme in the rest of your kitchen, there is potential to be a little more imaginative with your island.
Matching cupboard units
If you want to keep it simple, matching your kitchen island to your cabinets and worktop is the obvious choice. This way everything coordinates, and you’re left with a clean, classic look that fits seamlessly. This is particularly well suited to small kitchens, where consistent use of light, neutral colours will help to open up the space and make it feel airier.
If you have different coloured upper and lower cabinets, keep it consistent my matching a dark colour on your base cabinets and kitchen islands, while keeping a light colour on your upper cabinets.
Contrasting cupboard units
If you want some more variation in your kitchen colour scheme, try contrasting your island with the other cupboards. This works particularly well with monochrome, where you can play with black, white and grey across counters and units to make a big impact.
You could also contrast the colour of your cupboard units, with a lighter or darker shade of the same colour on your kitchen island, or play with texture by introducing a wooden island.
Kitchen island worktops
When it comes to choosing the worktops for your new kitchen island, you have a few different options – depending on how you plan to use your island.
For a cohesive, seamless feel, you can choose worktops that match the rest of your counters. You may choose to use one single worktop style if you have used a statement colour on your island or cabinets, to prevent the space from feeling too loud or busy.
Alternatively, contrasting worktops can create a great statement piece – great if your island will be used primarily as a social space, rather than for food prep.
The degree to which you contrast your worktops is entirely up to you. You may choose the same material, but in a different colour to your main worktops for a clear contrast that doesn’t feel too far removed from the rest of the space. For example, choosing a rich wood island worktop to contrast with light oak counters.
If you really want to make a statement, choose a different colour and material. For example, using marble for your kitchen island worktop to add a touch of luxe to an otherwise neutral or dark toned kitchen.
In a neutral modern kitchen, an island is the ideal opportunity to add in a splash of statement colour. Think mustard yellow, bright blue, emerald green – the possibilities are endless!
Bring the look together with matching splashes of colour around the kitchen; well-placed touches like toasters, splash backs or vases can all be used to accessorise a statement coloured island.
Whether you go bold or stay neutral, a contrasting island is a great way to add a focal point to the space and play with your colour scheme.
A common use of a good-sized kitchen island is to take advantage of the base unit for extra cupboard space.
This is easiest if you’re not also trying to use your island as a breakfast bar, but if you do have a dining section, simply split the two areas.
The most practical approach is to use one side, usually the side of the kitchen where you do most work, for storage, and the other side as a breakfast bar. You could also install cupboard doors on the ends of your units, or curving elegantly around the corners of the island.
Drawers can also be installed all the way around your kitchen island, remembering to leave space for legroom if you’ve chosen to add seating. A slim set of drawers installed below the counter overhang on a breakfast bar also provides a useful storage place for dining utensils.
This means diners can have easy access to cutlery and napkins, without having to get up and enter the rest of the kitchen.
Open shelving doubles as a handy storage solution and an imaginative styling tactic. Alcoves for shelves cut into the island are an eye-catching feature, and can be used to neatly store kitchen items, or decorate with vases, cookbooks and ornaments.
One of our favourite kitchen island ideas is to install a second small fridge, especially in a large kitchen where you may find yourself making too many trips to the main fridge.
It’s perfect for commonly-used ingredients like fresh produce and salad. If you have a breakfast bar you could use it for storing quick breakfast and lunch snacks. Or if you love entertaining, this would be the perfect place for a wine fridge.