Looking for a design feature to make your home more user-friendly and ready for entertaining? A kitchen island might be just what you’re missing. Not only can they be tailored to kitchens of almost every size and layout, but islands can also transform the way you use your cooking, dining, and living spaces. Whether you incorporate seating, storage, or lighting, they’re an incredibly versatile feature that can be personalised to suit anyone’s interiors.
In the guide below, we’ve put together some of our favourite kitchen island ideas to help you get the most out of your home. We’ll cover:
- Functions of a kitchen island
- Kitchen island dimensions
- Kitchen island design ideas
Functions of a kitchen island
The beauty of kitchen islands is their versatility, so there are a whole host of ways they can enhance both the look and usability of your home. Whether you use yours to add extra seating in the form of a breakfast island or create a new cooking station with plenty of workspace, below we’ve shared some of our favourite ways to transform your kitchen with an island.
Multi-level kitchen islands lend themselves particularly well to seating, as they allow you to experiment with worktops at different heights. This means you can create an island that has a waist-high surface for chopping and preparing food, but also features an elevated section to accommodate a built-in breakfast bar. Just be sure that your kitchen island has the correct dimensions to fit a set of bar stools or dining chairs underneath, so that you can enjoy meals and coffee breaks comfortably. Adjustable bar stools are also a smart choice for your kitchen island breakfast bar, as they allow your guests to achieve the perfect fit, no matter how tall or short they are.
Installing a kitchen island with seating is also a great way to blend your kitchen into your living and dining areas. This is particularly useful if you live in an open-plan home and need to create multi-functional rooms that flow into one another. If you’re redesigning your interiors to create a more fluid layout, be sure to check out our guide to open-plan living to discover more design tips and inspiration.
If you often find yourself over-filling your cupboards or battling with cluttered work surfaces, a kitchen island can provide you with some much-needed storage. Even if you originally wanted an island to use as a breakfast bar, you won’t regret incorporating some hidden cupboards, drawers, or shelves into your design. This way you have extra space to store utensils, frying pans, baking trays, and any other cooking essentials that you want to keep tidy and out of sight.
Features like exposed shelving can also help break up your island and create some easy-to-reach storage, which is particularly useful for smaller kitchens. These exposed shelves are a great place to store plates, cookbooks, or pieces of home décor like small vases or ceramics to add a pop of colour and personality to your kitchen. Especially if you use your island for cooking and preparing food, this is also a very convenient place to store everyday items like knives or chopping boards. To discover even more innovative storage solutions for your kitchen, be sure to check out our utility and pantry range. Here you’ll find specially designed pantry shelving, laundry units, and vertical storage solutions from German kitchen manufacturer Schüller.
And if you want to make your island a truly stand-out centrepiece, a ceiling-hung rack directly above it will grab attention while providing extra storage. Whether you go for a minimalistic metal rack to hang saucepans and utensils, or a natural wooden frame with shelving for plates and decorations, these are ideal for a statement island.
Another popular way to use a kitchen island is as a designated cooking area. If you like to get creative in the kitchen then you’ll know that extra counterspace is always appreciated, and an island is a great way to achieve this without having to extend your kitchen’s footprint. You may even opt for a butcher’s block kitchen island if you’re a real foodie, as these sturdy, high-quality pieces allow you to prepare food directly on the worktop.
It’s important to take the layout of your kitchen into consideration when installing an island for cooking purposes. For instance, you’ll want your oven, fridge, and hob to be close by to transfer food easily, but not too clustered together so that your cooking area is no longer ergonomic and user-friendly. Some larger islands even have appliances like sinks and cookers built into their design, so that everything you need to make delicious, homecooked meals is within arm’s reach. This is why kitchen islands are great for those who like to entertain: they can really open up your kitchen and allow hosts to socialise with their guests while they cook, without the separation of a dining room.
If you intend to use your island as a cooking space, it’s also wise to install ventilation like an extractor hood to help absorb any moisture and unwanted aromas. Our range of Wave extractor hoods are particularly ingenious, as they combine technology with style to create beautiful accent pieces ready to suspend above your kitchen island. Available in finishes like copper, steel, and leather, these hoods look like stunning pendant lights while serving the practical function of an extractor fan.
You can even get kitchen islands with discretely hidden extractor fans built into them. This removes the need for a large over-hob extractor, opening up further storage or decorative space.
Kitchen island dimensions
There are a wide variety of kitchen island sizes to choose from, making them a versatile option that’s open to every home. The size you opt for will of course depend on the amount of space you have available in your kitchen, as well as the layout of your worktops, cupboards, and appliances.
However, there are a set of standard kitchen island dimensions that most designs follow in order to be ergonomic and user-friendly. If you plan to use your island mostly for cooking, the recommended height is 36 inches, as this allows you to stand and prepare food comfortably. On the other hand, islands that will be used as a breakfast bar or casual seating area can be slightly higher at around 42 inches, to accommodate furniture like bar stools. So, depending on what you plan to use your island for, the dimensions may vary — and of course, you can enjoy the best of both worlds by installing a multi-level kitchen island that seamlessly combines your dining table and cooking area.
In terms of width, most simple kitchen islands are around two to three feet wide, which tends to provide enough counter space without feeling too imposing. However, if you want to install a hob, sink, or any other kitchen appliances (or add seating), you’ll want to allow yourself around six or seven feet to work with. To make sure your small kitchen remains practical and user-friendly, it’s also wise to leave around two to three feet of space between the island and the rest of your countertops (and around five feet to make it wheelchair accessible). This way, you won’t feel cramped when cooking or entertaining.
Small kitchen island ideas
If you’re working with a compact house or apartment, you’ll be aware that space is your most valuable commodity. And while you may be concerned that it would take up precious floor space, when done right, you can actually get even more out of a small kitchen with an island.
For example, if you have a one-wall or L-shaped kitchen, an island can house everything from a sink, oven, and stovetop to an additional seating area — all while occupying a relatively small footprint. It’s also wise to incorporate plenty of storage space into a kitchen island, whether this is through cupboards, drawers, or shelving. This will help keep your worktops free of clutter and maximise the counter space you have available. You may also benefit from staying within a lighter, more neutral colour scheme to help a small island blend in with the rest of your kitchen worktops, cupboards, and appliances. An abundance of dark colours can make a small kitchen feel a little enclosed, so make the most of smart lighting design and a carefully chosen colour palette to help brighten the space and make it feel bigger.
Kitchen island design ideas
The island you choose will of course depend on practical factors like dimensions, but also on your own personal design style. For example, a waterfall kitchen island is a popular choice for many homeowners, as it adds a sleek, contemporary look to any kitchen or dining area. These tend to be made with marble or quartz rather than laminate, and the worktop flows seamlessly from the counter to the floor. As a result, they’re generally better suited to higher budgets and homes with a modern, minimalist aesthetic.
Looking for more interior style tips like this? Check out our dedicated kitchen design guide.
There are a host of different home aesthetics to choose from, including eclectic, rustic, industrial, vintage, and much more. So, whatever finish, style, or material you opt for, below we’ve covered two crucial design aspects you should always keep in mind when installing a kitchen island.
Lighting is a crucial aspect of interior design, and one that should never be overlooked or neglected. Balancing out the sources of natural and artificial light in a home can make a huge difference to the overall look and feel of each room, and so the same level of attention should apply to any new additions like an island.
One of our favourite kitchen island lighting ideas is the use of pendant lights suspended above the worktop, sink, or breakfast bar. These statement lights help to create a focal point in your kitchen or dining area, and can elongate a small space by giving the illusion of higher ceilings. You might choose a single, eye-catching pendant light that speaks for itself, or another great way to experiment with this feature is by layering multiple fittings at different heights. This adds depth and an eclectic touch to your kitchen that your guests are sure to love.
Not only are pendant lights an undeniably stylish addition to any kitchen, but they’re a practical choice too. This is because, when suspended directly above a kitchen island, they act as task lighting — the direct light needed for certain tasks like cooking, reading, and any other intricate job. You could opt for light fittings with dimmer switches to help your kitchen island feel more versatile. This way, you can transition from using practical task lighting while you cook to softer, ambient lighting for enjoying an intimate dinner at your breakfast bar. Wall lighting can also help to brighten up kitchens with small windows or a lack of natural light.
If you’re looking for more lighting design inspiration, be sure to check out our range of Leyton lighting. Here you’ll find a wide choice of ambient, task, and accent lights to help transform your kitchen and dining spaces as well as the bedroom, bathroom, and living room.
As the focal point of the kitchen, you can be creative when picking out the colour and material of your island. For example, if you already have a white kitchen, opting for an island in a contrasting shade can add a pop of personality to your interiors. You can then tie this together by adding home décor within a complementary colour palette, such as crockery, wall art, kitchen appliances, or houseplants. However, if you have a small kitchen, you may decide to stay within a lighter, more neutral colour scheme to make your island look brighter and less imposing. Coordinating the island with your pre-existent flooring and cabinets helps to create a coherent look that blends together seamlessly, making this style a great choice for compact spaces or those with limited natural light.
You may also use your island to achieve a particular design aesthetic. For example, if you want to create a rustic farmhouse kitchen, then a solid wood worktop would be the perfect addition to your island as the focal point of the room. Alternatively, if you prefer a modern, sleek aesthetic for your interiors, quartz stone or glass worktops will instantly add a luxe feel to your island breakfast bar. Our Systemo worktops are available in a wide variety of colours, materials, and finishes, so whatever design style you’re into, we’ll help you find the perfect fit for your home.
We hope this guide has provided you with some innovative kitchen island ideas. If you’re redesigning the rest of your kitchen and dining area, we have a huge range of premium kitchens from German manufacturer Schüller, as well as their designer brand next125. Here you’ll find high-quality Systemo worktops in a variety of materials and styles, ranging from laminate and ceramic to natural solid wood and quartz stone. We also have a beautiful living range from Italian brand Colombini Casa, as well as our stunning Pelipal and Leonardo bathrooms. So we can help you find premium interior features for every room in the house.
For more tips and home inspiration, be sure to check out our blog where we publish detailed articles like our German kitchen guide and our best design ideas for hidden offices. You can also use our online portal to find a retailer near you, or even better, come and visit our impressive showroom in Hexham.