Have you thought your kitchen needs a little more counter space? Have you ever dreamed about updating your current fixtures to get the most out of your kitchen? Are there posts about beautiful kitchen remodel on your social media feed, but you think, “—that could never be my house!”
When you take a step back, you may find that your dream kitchen design might not be as far out of your reach as you might initially think. However, the first step to getting the most out of your current kitchen is figuring out how to utilize all the available space best. You can add more counter space to your kitchen even if you’re not ready to take the jump into home renovation just yet. Figuring out if a kitchen island can help you solve some of your current space problems is easy!
There’s a lot to learn about, even the simplest of kitchen renovations from kitchen island ideas, kitchen décor ideas, and how to map out a floor plan when deciding on a new island. By following this handy guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about kitchen islands and design.
Whether you consider it a want, aesthetic, or need, a kitchen island can add a lot to your home for functional reasons. When there’s more counter space, you have more places to work on your favorite hobbies.
Cooking and baking are often just the starts of all the hobbies you can practice in the kitchen. If you like to dry your flowers or meats, mix your lotions, or even make candles, you probably do it in the kitchen.
Many of these great hobbies need a good amount of countertop space to do. Adding an island is the best way to create a focal point, hide clutter, and make meal prep easier while keeping your kitchen layout. But what exactly is a kitchen island?
Many people don’t know exactly what’s considered an island or a peninsula when talking about kitchen islands. A kitchen island is a freestanding piece of furniture with a top surface that’s safe for kitchen use, though it may or may not have cabinets.
A kitchen peninsula extends the existing cabinetry, creating an extra arm of the kitchen counter.
The key difference here is that the counter cannot be connected to the existing infrastructure to be an island. It may not lay directly in the center of a room, but it cannot be attached to other cabinetry pieces or walls. If this is the case, then it’s called a peninsula.
The first step in choosing how you’ll go about your kitchen remodel, and thus when considering the addition of a kitchen island, is how much time and money you have to dedicate to this project.
If you don’t own the home you’re currently living at; you should get approval from the homeowner before doing a major kitchen renovation. And you should only consider it if you have an agreement to buy the home after your lease terminates, as some renters do.
Beautiful luxury materials, like marble countertops, should be for your home, not someone else’s.
Minor and Major Renovations: Making the Right Choices
At some point, you’ve decided if you’ll be taking on a major kitchen renovation project or if you’re going to stick with a smaller kitchen island idea.
With a minor renovation, you’ll have to consider:
- Updating small fixtures
- Buying new towels or rugs
- Refinishing existing cabinets
- Adding racks or shelves for simple storage space
- Better if you are on a tight budget
For major renovations, you will also have to consider:
- Replacing appliances for stainless steel appliances
- Installing new cabinetry
- Considering new light fixtures
- Changing the current appliance layout
- Better for larger budgets
These are a few among the many other decisions you’ll have to consider depending on how extensive your renovation will be. In either case, a kitchen island is not outside of design possibilities. You can even turn a dining room table into a kitchen island.
If you want to maximize your floor plan to get more usable kitchen space, there are two central kitchen island ideas to keep in mind—but we’ll get to that later.
Picking the Right Place and Size
Once you’ve decided that a kitchen island is suitable for your kitchen renovation, you’ll have to make plans that detail exactly where you’ll put your island and how big it will be. More exact calculations should be done later when you hire a contractor or before you begin building yourself.
Plan it Out
You can figure out a new layout using a sketchpad or room designing software available online in this early planning phase. This can give you a basic idea of the shape you’d like your island to be.
Conversely, you can also use construction chalk, which easily wipes away to draw directly on your floor. This can help you get an idea of what an island would look like in your space and how your kitchen island idea will affect the flow of your kitchen.
This is just the initial planning phase. If you’re unsure of your idea or need help designing your major or minor kitchen remodel, think about contacting some experts. Kitchen interior designers and contractors often offer designing services.
They are there to help you through this process, all the way up to project competition.
After the scope of your project has also been decided, you should decide on what kind of kitchen island you would like.
There are two significant kinds of kitchen islands, though they each come in a wide variety of forms and styles. The first is a built-in fixed kitchen island; the second is a mobile or furniture-style island.
These options have benefits, but the best choice will depend on your specific needs and situation.
Fixed Cabinetry Kitchen Islands
The first option to consider is a fixed cabinetry-style kitchen island–the most custom kitchen island. This is the kind of kitchen island that likely comes to mind when you think of one. These can be made to look like a wide variety of furniture pieces and can fit any style when different kinds of materials and trimming are used.
In short, this option is better if you:
- Want to make a more significant investment in your kitchen remodel
- Kitchens where there is a lot of extra unused space
- If you need additional permanent seating in your kitchen
- If you want to install custom features in the kitchen design
The best feature of fixed-style kitchen island ideas is that they add a permanent and substantial value to your home.
These are more costly to make, so adding more personal style to your kitchen through the island can add more value to your renovation. Making this piece unique but fitting to the kitchen and home style will give it more weight in the long run, even though it may come with extra costs in the present.
A designer or contractor better executes the fixed kitchen island idea. Especially if you plan on adding new electronics, fixtures, sinks, or other appliances like a stove, leave electrical and plumbing work to professionals to avoid costly accidents and mistakes.
Freestanding or Mobile Kitchen Islands
The second option to consider is the freestanding kitchen island. As it sounds, a freestanding kitchen island is a piece of furniture you bring into your kitchen that has a kitchen-safe countertop you can work on. This piece can sometimes be completely mobile, like a cart on wheels or somewhat fixed, as in a heavy piece of furniture with a counter on top of it.
This option is best if you:
- Have a limited budget or time
- Don’t wish to remodel the kitchen fully
- Don’t wish to destroy your floor
- If you have limited space
- If you don’t own your current residence
- If you want extra prep space
While this option won’t allow you to raise the value of your kitchen with a permanent fixture, it is still an excellent way to increase the amount of counter space in your kitchen. It won’t cost nearly as much as installing new cabinets, and it will give a lot of mobility, especially if you go with a mobile kitchen island idea.
This option may seem less custom than a fixed cabinet-style kitchen island. However, there are still many options, finishes, sizes, and styles of mobile islands. You can even choose to refurbish another piece of furniture that you can turn into a kitchen island, making the piece as unique as you are. It’s also great for a neutral kitchen island design.
By utilizing a mobile countertop, you can also continually update the style of your kitchen at a much lower cost than it would take to correct the cabinetry in the fixed style.
Understanding Your Kitchen Layout: How to Maximize Space for Ample Storage Space
You may want to preemptively consider how to make the best use of your kitchen space before consulting with a designer. Or, if you’re going the DIY route or picking the best freestanding island option, you’ll also have to consider these factors. To do this, you’ll need to understand how much space you have in your kitchen to decide how large your island could be based on this information. You’ll also have to determine the location of the island.
To find the best size for your new kitchen island, you’ll have to balance your limitations and wants. While you may want to go with an oversized island design for more entertainment possibilities, it can become a hazard in your kitchen if there isn’t enough space for you to safely walk around it.
If you choose not to install a fixed cabinet-style kitchen island, this will be easier to consider, as no installation will be necessary. However, you should still select a new island that will provide easy access. In any case, you should avoid investing in a kitchen island that is too cumbersome.
Leaving Walk Space
The first thing to consider is how much walking space will be left around the perimeter of your new kitchen island. As a rule of thumb, you’ll want to leave at least 36″ of walking space around all sides of the island. This allows enough room for two people to walk past one another quickly and for someone to work on a stove safely.
How Big is Too Big?
If you have an entire room to install a large island design, then you should do it if that’s what you want! As long as there is enough space to work and walk around the island safely, there should be no limits on how large it can be.
However, an excessively oversized countertop will be challenging to work on. And an ample space in the center will be primarily unreachable. This can be an excellent place to display fine plates decorative bowls or use for other kinds of display. However, if you’d like more usable breakfast bars, another option, like multiple island counters, may be best for you.
Calculating Maximum Size
First, measure the length and width of the entire space in your kitchen. From each side, take in at least 36″, as mentioned before, as walkway space, and the remaining number you have is the maximum size of your kitchen island.
Leave more space for walking if you can, and account for another 18″ on each side of the island if you want to make room for people to sit comfortably. This will add entertainment space for ample seating and space to walk around it.
Instead of going large, think about diversifying the cabinet heights. This can help you maximize your cooking space while avoiding an overly cumbersome piece of furniture that makes it harder to use your kitchen instead of easier.
This is an excellent option for both fixed and mobile kitchen islands. At the same time, you may need a certain countertop height to work on when kitchen prepping. However, you may also require the countertop to be higher or lower for those who want to sit down at it. Having a lower drop-down counter is especially good if you have small children that need shorter stools to sit on. Keeping these sections at different heights can also add drama and increase the functionality of the counter.
If you have a mobile kitchen island, purchasing several smaller carts or tables can help you achieve this effect, offering more surface area and more storage possibilities.
The Right Countertop
This may seem like a strange time to bring up the physical countertop that will be installed in your major or minor kitchen renovation.
Countertop size will play a significant role in how much space your counter takes up. Often, the kitchen island base will not contain the entire countertop area. This depends on the kind of style that you choose.
If you have a kitchen island idea that includes a sitting area, you’ll have to decide if the countertop is freestanding or include extra storage under or beside it that supports the counters’ wait.
The important part is to understand which design choice you will choose. This will allow you to account for any extra handover that might impede your walkway. An easy mistake to make while calculating the size of your new kitchen island is only accounting for the size of the base and not for the amount of the countertop that will extend from it.
A professional contractor will help you keep this information in mind and ensure that any overhanging countertop is accounted for in the design and building process. Also, decide if you want the countertop edges to be sharp or if you’ll have rounded edges.
Plus, they can help you if you’d like to mix materials. You may want white marble in one section of your kitchen and a reclaimed wood butcher block for prepping food elsewhere.
Big Kitchen Island Ideas–Making a Usable Space
The very point of kitchen remodeling is to make the kitchen more beautiful or functional. Make sure to pick the best countertop space solution that will fit your needs and budget. But understand that each choice comes with its own set of benefits. And this list has not been exhaustive.
Working with a design team can help you pick the best kitchen island for you, whether that means choosing an antique mobile cart for your cottage-style kitchen. Or having an ultra-modern sleek kitchen décor with an equally elegant kitchen island. You may want an innovative solution if you have a particularly large or oddly shaped kitchen.
It may make more sense for you to go with a style that includes more than one kitchen island. To maximize the amount of storage and seating, you may want to have several workplaces. If you cook a lot or have a lot of tasks going on in the kitchen, you may want to have more workspaces than usual. By dividing up a single large kitchen island into two or three, you can allocate more room to your different passions.
On the other hand, this style can also allow you to use your kitchen for multiple purposes at once. Your children may use it as a work or eating space all while someone else cooks or bakes, with little interruption to the other.
Choose to mix and match your design ideas, depending on your needs. You could have a more oversized, fixed kitchen island and a smaller mobile island that you can use when you need, and store away in a garage or use elsewhere in your home when it’s not required. This versatility can increase the kitchen’s functionality while saving you on cost and inconvenience.
How you style your new kitchen décor will depend on the scope of your renovation. Major renovations will mean that you can make significant changes in the aesthetic of your kitchen. Contemporary kitchen décor can completely change how a space feels, even if you don’t want to invest in a large-scale kitchen remodeling project.
There are many ways you can freshen the look of your kitchen décor to make the most of your new kitchen island. Much like considering how large of a kitchen remodeling project you want to take on, choosing to restyle your kitchen can be a large or small project.
Keep in mind some simple tips for updating your kitchen and things you should keep in mind even when looking for a larger kitchen remodel.
Updating Current Fixtures?
You don’t have to knock down walls and replace all your appliances to complete a kitchen renovation. Doing small renovations can add new life to the kitchen you love without completely overhauling it. Making minor changes every once in a while can also help your kitchen stay updated and keep it feeling fresh every few years.
Consider how you can make minor updates, like:
Adding new knobs to match the new kitchen island. Over time, the knobs and handles of the cabinetry can get loose and worn down. Old knobs can make doors look older and more worn down as well. By replacing them every five years, you can subtly update your kitchen’s look while keeping the hardware up to date.
When you add a new addition to your kitchen, like in one of these fixed or mobile kitchen island ideas, you should consider it an excellent time to update the little details, like knobs. This will help to incorporate the new addition more seamlessly.
Choosing a different style altogether. A mobile kitchen island can be a great way to add a new flair to your kitchen. If you have a modern kitchen, then a worn but pale wooden accent can completely change the feeling of the space, from ultra-sleek to urban chic. A pillar style or cart type kitchen island can add this shift of aesthetic and are cheaper and easier to replace or refinish than standard fixed cabinetry.
Using different materials in the same color can blend the differing kitchen accents into a cohesive design.
Antique hunting. Another great way to change your kitchen style quickly is to find new items that can subtly or majorly shift the look of your kitchen. Antiquing is a great hobby and can open you to a whole host of aesthetics that you may not otherwise encounter.
This can allow you to find antique doors that can become countertops when preserved in hardened resin. Antique dining table tops can become unique furniture style kitchen islands as well.
Or you can even find varnished hooks for hanging pots to increase storage space in your kitchen, among other finds that can change the look of your home while also improving its functionality.
Planning an entire kitchen?
When you go about picking a new kitchen island, you may have also decided that the rest of your kitchen is also in need of refurbishing. This is a large project, but when done well can increase the value of your home, adding to the value of your investment in it.
When choosing a style for your kitchen remodel, don’t be afraid to make a bold statement with your kitchen island. Choosing bright colors for your island can make it a center point of the room. By choosing muted colors instead, you’ll make bold designs in other places stand out more.
Having a “found furniture” feel to your kitchen island can also give it a Moroccan style elegance which is very popular.
What is functionality?
For whatever you use your kitchen for, whether you own an at-hope baking company or have a household bustling with several children, you will need your countertop and countertop space for many things.
Sometimes it’s a desk for doing homework. Sometimes it’s a meeting place for your family and friends. Other times it becomes a field for cooking experiments, both successful or not. The list of ways you can use your kitchen quickly becomes endless.
When so much responsibility lies on the shoulders of a single room, make sure you have a clever storage idea to compact space better. When you decide to get a kitchen island to increase the amount of counter space in your kitchen, you want to ensure that it suits your unique lifestyle and needs.
These factors will need to be at the forefront of your mind while making design choices.
Consider if you want easy-to-clean surfaces for heavy use areas or more ornate fixtures that suit your sense of style more. Finding the balancing point between these two desires will help you make the best design choice possible.
Don’t forget about Storage
One significant design flaw in most kitchens is a lack of storage. While making design decisions about kitchen décor, you may forget about storage, as many homeowners do!
Adding a new kitchen island can be a great way to address these concerns with deep drawers and wide cabinets. Choosing to build a fixed kitchen island is a great way to add a lot of storage. Adding cabinetry and shelving are easy to install under the countertop while still leaving space for people to sit comfortably.
Mobile kitchen islands can also offer you more storage though they might not be as customizable. Adding hooks inside a cart can help you store pots more effectively. Adding in low shelves on a converted table can also offer you a layer of storage space for books, towels, and pantry items.
Think of all the reasons you’ll need seating space for your new island countertop. This is another factor to consider in your planning phase when initially deciding on the width and length of your potential kitchen countertop.
While adding a bar area to your new countertop is a great way to add more living space to your kitchen, you must also account for how much room it takes to seat several people comfortably. When looking at the maximum space you have available, be realistic about how many can sit counter-side.
To do this, you should account for at least 24″ of space for each person. On top of this, you must also consider the proper height of the countertop. If you have small children, you may want to consider having an island bench seating where they can safely access without the fear of falling. This is when the multi-level design approach, as discussed earlier, is a great design option to consult with a kitchen designer or contractor.
Having the Right Chairs
Finally, you have your custom island. It’s time to consider the final kitchen décor finishes that truly finish your new kitchen island. This includes small soft furnishing finishes, including towels, rugs, and bar stools that will tie together your new design.
But on top of these smaller items, if you’ve decided to make a seating or bar area next to your kitchen island, you’ll have to pick the perfect bar stools to go along with it. They can’t be too tall or short, as they will make it uncomfortable for anyone to sit and use the countertop space.
If this is the case, you need to pick the best colors and fabrics to finish your space. Do you want backless stools or seats? More comfortable seating with soft materials will be better for children or family meals.
Wooden stools look natural and are great for neutral kitchens. Metal bar stools will bring a sleeker look or give a country room a modern twist. They will also be easier to clean.
With all this information under your belt, you can start designing your new kitchen island idea! However, you may still need some inspiration. With today’s technology, this is easily obtained from online sources. Social media posts, online blogs, and even ideas from the homes of your friends and family are all inspirations that can better shape your vision for your own home.
Take the time to contact a designer with your inspirational photos as a reference to help them understand your vision. In the end, this ensures that you get your unique perspective on your dream kitchen.
Make the Most of Your Kitchen Remodel
A good kitchen renovation will significantly increase the value of your home, especially if you plan on reselling it soon. However, if you’re looking to update an existing kitchen, then a kitchen remodeling project may be just what you need to fall in love with your kitchen again.
When considering all the kitchen island ideas offered here, think about how an island will improve the usability of your kitchen—giving you new eating and working space where there was just empty floor space before. By carefully designing your kitchen to match your other kitchen décor, your recent remodel will seamlessly work with the existing features and become the beating heart of your home once more.