How to design a kitchen island

Kitchen featuring black and white islands with seating

Kitchen islands are so delightfully versatile: a place to chop vegetables, have a quick breakfast, stage far-too-silly photo sessions with your friends…

But apart from being ideal to dance on (just take your shoes off, lest you scratch the surface), they are incredibly practical, no matter the shape or size.

All that matters is that it fits your space and needs – so read on to get the lowdown on how to make it work in your home, fun times included.

Large kitchen island with metallic doors by Ledbury Studio

An island unit is a great opportunity for more storage – ideal to keep crockery or frequently used cooking essentials to hands. This design by Ledbury Studio features cabinets on the room-facing side, so they are easy to fully open, too. Kitchens from Ledbury Studio start from £50,000.

Okay, but do I need a kitchen island?

This is like asking ‘but do we need chocolate?’ – some people will say yes, other people will say no, and someone in the middle will tell you how awful chocolate is. (That person is wrong.)

What should guide you are your personal preference and your space.

Think carefully about what benefits it would bring, how it would fit into the design, and whether it’d leave you with enough space – at least 1m on each side – to walk around.

If you absolutely want an island, look at how you could make it work – for example by placing seating on one side instead of having a dining table.

But will it even fit?

Well, how large would you like your island to be?

Pastel kitchen in soft pink with white island

Even a small kitchen island can pack a practical punch – for example as a preparation area, such as in this design in East London, which features a worktop by Emily Marlin. Price on application.

The reality is that not every design needs to take up enough floor area to be a small room in itself.

A butcher’s block (which, handy, can simply be wheeled out of the way if not in use), for example, is a great alternative for a smaller space, as is a peninsula.

They take up little space but pack a practical punch, once more proving that yes, where there is a will there’s a way.

Also add a set of castor wheels, to free up space when needed. As I said, maximum practicality.

Which kitchen island designs are out there?

The size of your unit, as well as the layout of your space,  dictates its function and its look. Will it be an L-shape? U-shape? A peninsula? And will you have any appliances, be they integrated as a hob or freestanding as a food processor, on there?

 More traditional grey kitchen with pillar and colourful seats

When opting for a large island, why not use the opportunity to include seating too? To clearly mark different zones, opt for having different surfaces – such as in this design by Brandt Kitchens, where a difference in height also splits the seating area into an informal perch with barstools and a more formal dining set-up. Designs from Brandt Kitchens start from £35,000.

Either way, your design should be as large as possible and practicable.

If it’s too small you won’t get the benefit, but if it’s too expansive it’ll limit your kitchen’s usability and be more of a bother than anything else.

Remember, no matter how big your island will be, it’s key you ensure a good connection between any functional additions – for example a hob – and the rest of your kitchen.

And don’t forget you’ll need to run services such as water and electricity to it, too, if you want a hob or sink on the island.

You may also enjoy: Kitchen islands: which style fits you best?

How about the look?

The great news is that your kitchen island isn’t just versatile in its use – it can have its own look, too.

Of course, it could simply blend into the kitchen for a cohesive scheme. But you could also use the opportunity and make a design statement, for example with a bright colour, statement tiles, or by adding metallic elements.

Backlit island made from quartz

For a real statement, why not add lighting into your island? This design by Scavolini is made of Smoky Quartz Dark, a natural stone from Antolini’s Precious Stone collection, and backlit with LEDs. The cabinetry behind it is from Scavolini’s LiberaMente range, which is priced from £10,000. The island is price on application.

Adding a different worktop is also a good trick, as it helps zone your space.

And while your at it – and stepping away from the visual side for a bit – why not add a plug socket or some USB ports, too?

After all there’s always some device or phone that needs charging, plus it would make watching Netflix while cooking so much easier.

So, which one will you go for?


Featured image: Even in a small space, two islands might still be possible – such as in this design by Hammonds, where one serves as a casual dining area and the other as a preparation space, including a wine storage unit. Price on application.

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