Kitchen islands with seating: design ideas for the whole family

Kitchen islands with seating ideas

Picture pro-style chef tables, cosy banquettes, and breakfast bars with counter-hight stools – gone are the days of the humble island, used just as food preparation space.

The island has truly evolved into the heart of the kitchen, equipped with cooking or cooling appliances, extra sinks and taps, storage and, our topic of discussion today, stylish seating.

So, if you love hosting or have a big family – or both – and an island is top of your wishlist, we’ve got plenty of design ideas, which prioritise extra seats, lined up for you. Let’s take a look, shall we?

1. Banquette seating

When you go out to dinner and you’re offered a table or a booth, what would you choose? I’ll put my hand up first and say the latter. “Most people will choose a booth – why?” Peter Humphrey, design director at Humphrey Munson, asks. “Because they’re so comfy! These are cosy spaces tucked away from prying eyes and ears – almost conspiratorial in their design really,” he says. And I couldn’t agree more.

Kitchen design with neutral units and central island with seating, upholstered in green fabric with dark wood table and green chairs.
New Deco collection hand-painted in Grey Moonstone, with Mist Quartz worktops, by Martin Moore. Kitchens start from £55,000.

Wouldn’t you wish to have a cocooning spot for enjoying breakfast in the morning or hosting friends and family in the evening? Well, a banquette bench might just be the missing piece to your kitchen. Seamlessly integrated as part of the island design, the beauty of this solution is that it can be completely customised to your style and way of living – from aesthetics to functionality.

Classic kitchen design with large island that features a banquette, chunky wood table and green leather chairs.
Nickleby cabinetry in Wellington and Lock & Load, price on application, Humphrey Munson. Photography: Paul Craig.

“In terms of design, the versatility of the banquette area, be it round or rectangular, offers homeowners options that align with their specific preferences and crucially the spatial dynamics within the room itself,” explains Paul. “In terms of material selection, practicality is paramount. We always recommend performance fabric for banquette seating, emphasising its ease of cleaning and maintenance. This proactive approach ensures you won’t regret your choice, especially during those inevitable moments when spills occur.”

Colourful design with wood and pink units, decorated with brass handles, a booth for dining and wood flooring.
Bespoke kitchens by The Main Company start from £25,000. Photography: Chris Snook.

2. Chef’s tables

Do you want your guests to be in on the cooking action? Then, you’ll love the chef’s table-style island. The idea behind this design is to have your friends or family in close proximity while you’re preparing dinner. They can simply be sat on one side of the island enjoying a drink or nibbling on starters as you’ve got your chef hat on, on the other side. This, of course, works especially well in open-plan rooms where you have enough space to accommodate this design.

Modern neutral kitchen design with wood island, rattan chairs, brass accents and pendant lights.
Buttered Toast oak flooring from the House Nine collection, £88.21 per sq m, Chaunceys Timber Flooring. Photography: Robin Quarrelle.

When it comes to the look of your island, let your creativity run free and seek advice from your kitchen supplier, too. For example, the worktop edge on the seat side can display curved detailing to focus the attention even more on the cooking. Or you can opt for a half-table solution made from a different material to your island, which can appear to levitate. “This type of installation offers an ultra-social option as the curve makes it easier for guests or family to see each other as well as the cook on the other side of the island. It can also become a distinctive design feature,” advises Julia Brown, design director at Mowlem & Co.

Chef table for entertaining guests with four bar stools.
Serenity kitchen painted in Little Green‘s Loft White by Molwem & Co. Prices start from £44,000.
Classic design with chef's table in the centre of the room, which has four bar stools upholstered in grey fabric.
The Butler collection in Tansy and Stormy Sky, from £25,000, Tom Howley.

3. Split-level kitchen islands

Islands with multiple levels are gaining popularity – picture low-level or bar-style tabletops and elevated breakfast bars. With the help of this solution, you can combine cooking, dining and socialising into a single design. “Creating a split-level island makes the seating area a lot more ergonomic – feet can be placed on the ground in proper posture, rather than being perched on a bar stool,” says Graham Robinson, head of design at Halcyon Wigmore Street.

“This increases the functionality of this seating area – allowing it to be used as a main informal dining space or a place for study whilst still being perfect for entertaining. We love to use mixed materials when creating these designs, it enhances the creativity and longevity of the design and brings individuality to the space,” adds Graham.

Split-level design with units on one end and a dining table with chairs on the other end.
“At this project in Ealing, we organically wrapped the seating area in this beautiful natural wood, so it feels like it’s growing from the island,” says Graham. Halcyon bespoke contemporary kitchens start at £45,000.

4. Bar-style islands

If you want to prioritise worktop space and ensure you’ve got extra storage too, then a classic rectangular kitchen island with bar stools hanging around one side can help you do just that while also ensuring your family or friends have a place to sit close to you.

Depending on the size of your island, it can accommodate between four to six chairs, which is perfect for larger families or groups of friends.

Green design with Shaker units, white worktops, white sink, brass tap, handles and lights and rattan bar stools.
Handmade Shaker kitchen, from £10,000, Olive & Barr.
Open-plan kitchen design with wood island, which features drawers and bar stools.
Kitchen by Sheraton Interiors featuring Caesarstone surfaces.
Modern kitchen design with white cabinets, marble worksurfaces and black stools.
Aldana in Light Grey and Graphite, price on application, Stori.

5. Compact kitchen islands with seating

Short on space? No worries! A simple worktop overhang can accommodate one or two chairs where you can enjoy a cuppa with your guest. Or you could even add a freestanding table on wheels at the end of your island along with a couple of bar stools, which can easily be moved out of the way when not required.

In terms of design ideas, you can use the same worksurface to create a seamless look or opt for different materials, such as marble and brass, to visually zone the cooking and social areas.

Glamorous design with metallic island, mirror splashback and pale pink units.
Urbo and Metro bespoke kitchen by Roundhouse. Architecture: Marguerite Murdoch Architects. Photography: Mary Wadsworth.
Dark kitchen with a mix of materials, red stool, marble worktops and oversized pendant lights.
Large Phane Prismatic pendants, £459 each, Original BTC.

6. Kitchen islands with seating tailored to your lifestyle

Ultimately, your kitchen island with seating should cater to your needs. You can incorporate a spacious worktop overhang for little ones to enjoy breakfast in the morning or do homework in the evening, complete with pop-up sockets for powering devices; a compact booth for reading your favourite book, or a mix of seating solutions that reflect your way of living.

For example, before the renovation of the kitchen pictured below, the homeowner used to have a table and chairs where she would enjoy her morning coffee with a view. So, during the design process of the new space, Barty Rowland, designer at Kitchens by Holloways, wanted to ensure she still had a dedicated spot where she could sit and enjoy her morning ritual, so they’ve integrated a compact bench seat within the island. Pretty and practical!

Green design with multi-functional elements such as banquette seating, bar stools, storage, appliances, sink and tap.
Design by Kitchens by Holloways, price on application.

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