Adding an island to your kitchen is more than just trendy: it’s a smart and efficient way to increase those much-needed counters, workstations, and even seating for your family. But just like people come in all shapes and sizes, so do kitchens, and trying to shoehorn the wrong type of island into your kitchen can cause many more headaches than it solves.
We looked back across the hundreds of installation jobs we have helped families with over the decades, and have come up with our top 11 kitchen island ideas. Each one has different attributes, pros, and cons; but we are confident that one of the islands on this list will be absolutely perfect for your home.
Consider the following designs:
Basic Built-in Island
The word “basic” in this heading is somewhat misleading. There are plenty of bells and whistles that can be added on to any island, including a rectangular built-in. Of all the kitchen island designs, the rectangular built-in is the one you will see most frequently. This island is a permanent installation, typically placed opposite your existing counters, and it accomplishes two main objectives: increased storage, and increased workspace.
The countertop portion of this island will be on a single level (usually the exact same height as your other counters) meaning it is more ideal for working than eating.
There are numerous styles and materials available to choose from when selecting a basic built-in island. These islands can be matched to your existing kitchen decor, or can be installed as part of an overall kitchen upgrade.
The ideal setup for any kitchen is to create what is known as the “work triangle.” This refers to the triangular path you would walk to get between your sink, refrigerator, and oven. Now, right away, you may have noticed that creating a triangle is nearly impossible for single wall kitchens. This is where a cooking station island comes in.
These islands are designed to increase storage and counterspace just like any other island, but they also include the additional feature of either a built-in oven, or a partial cooktop surface. Cooking stations can increase efficiency in a single-cook kitchen by creating a work triangle where there is currently none, or can allow for a second cook to join in during meal prep (without the two of you constantly bumping into each other.)
Cooking station islands are also helpful for those who run especially active kitchens. Those with a passion for baking will love having a second oven installed in their new island, freeing up their existing oven to prepare roasts, casseroles, or vegetables, while cakes and brownies are baked for dessert.
A cleanup station island can also help address the “work triangle” situation in the same way that a cooking station can. In this case, rather than adding additional cooking surfaces to your island, you are adding a sink, a garbage disposal, and typically also a dishwasher.
Many families find that a cleanup station is a wonderful addition to their kitchen, as it helps contain the typical kitchen mess to a designated area, meaning there is less overall cleanup at the end of each meal. The sink/disposal/dishwasher combo allows you to deal with dishes away from your food prep areas, and cooking surfaces.
Large families can also benefit from a cleanup station, as it can double the number of sinks and dishwashers available. No more dishes piled on the counter waiting their turn in the dishwasher. It can increase efficiency, organization, and lead to a beautifully uncluttered kitchen.
Two Tier Island
A two-tier island is a bit of a twist on the basic built-in. The idea here is that a single island will offer two different counter heights. This can accomplish one of several goals.
One option is to allow for expanded counterspace for meal prep and presentation, while also including a raised breakfast bar area that will accommodate stools for seating, and enough space for a few place settings.
Another option is simply to create two different counter heights to help accommodate more than one chef in the kitchen. If there is a significant height difference between the people responsible for the cooking, adding different counter heights can make a world of difference. Tall chefs will not be obliged to stoop quite so much, while shorter chefs will not be holding their arms in an awkward height to work on a too-tall surface.
Yet a third option is to create a lower counter area for an active workspace, and a higher counter top to act as a staging area. Baking ingredients, spices, utensils, and even your recipe cards can be kept safely out of the way while you are creating your next meal.
Three Tier Island
If a two-tier island was good, then a three-tier island can be great! These islands offer similar advantages to the two-tier island (such as a raised staging area, or differing counter heights to accommodate more than one chef), but then blend seamlessly into a dining table.
Imagine being able to plate up your meals and serve them at a dining table, without having to carry anything across the room. Connecting a dining table directly to a kitchen island leaves plenty of room for seating on three sides of the dining table, and makes for an incredibly efficient set up for food service.
The three-tier island can offer a really clever solution to kitchens that are somewhat short on space. By attaching the island and the dining area together, you are combining two very functional and necessary aspects of any kitchen, and therefore decreasing the amount of square footage needed to accommodate them both.
Butcher Block Island
Butcher block islands are ideal for kitchens with more than one cook – or more to the point, they are perfect for kitchens with a chef, and a sous chef.
Butcher blocks are wonderfully functional additions to any kitchen. These heavy-duty chopping blocks made of durable hardwood can replace granite, marble, or vinyl countertops, giving you a much more functional workspace without the fear of chipping or damaging the surfaces.
Adding a butcher block island to a kitchen can add some variety of character, while also preserving the look and feel of your more delicate countertop materials.
Entertainment Center Island
Kitchens are where we gather to prepare food, to share meals, and also to celebrate. You may notice that guests tend to find their way to the kitchen during parties. Why not create a space that makes it easier and more fun to cater to these guests?
Islands can be specially designed to house wine racks, beer taps, small refrigerators, icemakers, and glassware. In a sense, your kitchen island could easily transform from practical workspace, to cocktail bar whenever the occasion calls for it.
If you would like to expand the functionality of your kitchen so that you can more easily host social events, and entertainment center island may be exactly what you are looking for.
A movable Island is exactly what it sounds like: it is a kitchen workspace on wheels, that can easily be repositioned to meet the needs of the cook. A movable island can be rolled in for some much-needed extra space when preparing Thanksgiving dinner, but then rolled away again once the Thanksgiving guests begin arriving, to create more overall space in your kitchen.
Strangely enough, movable islands are popular both in small kitchens, and very large kitchens. The main advantage of the movable island in a small kitchen is flexibility. When you are short on space, it can be very difficult to commit to a permanent installation. The movable Island allows you to wheel out the extra workspace when needed, and wheel it away if it would encumber traffic in the kitchen.
In very large kitchens, movable islands are popular because they simply allow cooks to take fewer steps between work surfaces. Rather than installing an overly large island, you can include a small movable one. This way, if you need extra workspace up by the sink, you can bring the island over to that area of the kitchen. Later on, if you need extra space by the oven, you can move the island that way.
Irregular Shaped Islands
Islands are a great way to help define the perimeter of your kitchen, but what if your kitchen isn’t exactly set up in a square or a rectangle? Irregular shaped Islands can be custom made to help fit any kitchen.
Triangular islands are often popular in L-shaped kitchens, and “C” shaped or “U” shaped islands can sometimes be found in one wall kitchens. The kitchen island has come a long way from the “permanently installed rectangle” design. If you are looking for something unique to fit your kitchen, get in touch with a contractor to talk about some of the amazing options available.
One of the best features of any island is its potential to add extra dining space to your kitchen. This often comes in the form of a breakfast bar, where stools are lined up along a counter, creating enough space for a few place settings.
A variation on this very popular set up is what is called “hidden seating.” These islands look very much like a typical breakfast bar, except for the fact that the eating space extends a little further than normal. This allows any stools or chairs to be pushed completely under the island when the breakfast bar is not in use.
This design is especially helpful in keeping kitchen pathways open. Having chairs or barstools poking out into foot traffic lanes is not ideal. However, by creating a small space where the chairs can be tucked away, it creates a more organized look, and allows for more foot traffic.
Kitchen islands are generally thought of as smaller, “sister spaces” to an existing countertop. While this is usually true, there is no hard and fast rule about the size of a kitchen island. Supersized islands are becoming more popular, especially for those living in homes with open floor plans, or living in loft style housing.
An oversized island can more than double the available counter space in your kitchen, while also acting as a perimeter for a kitchen without clearly defined boundaries.
As you can see, there are many different kitchen island ideas for you to select from when designing your new kitchen. Of course, the most important part of any remodeling job is a trustworthy experienced contractor.
Planet cabinets has been helping families in the Chicago area design their dream kitchens for several decades. Be sure to check our online catalog, or visit our beautiful showroom to see some examples of what we can do for you.
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We look forward to helping you build an amazing new kitchen.