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Your Island Home: How to choose the perfect kitchen island

Kitchen islands are the perfect way to stay connected with guests and family while preparing meals.

Your Island Home: How to choose the perfect kitchen island

Juliet Taylor


March 24th, 2022

A kitchen island is a specific style of kitchen bench. It is freestanding, meaning it does not attach to any walls – quite literally an ‘island’ from the rest of your furniture. They are usually rectangular or square, and will often have stools for a breakfast bar.

A kitchen peninsula is much like a kitchen island, except that it will attach at some point to the counter lining the walls, making it not a freestanding unit but a semi-attached extension.

When designed correctly, a kitchen island can provide a huge amount of storage space in the prime location for access while cooking. It also means that you have more counter space for food prep: you can set up multiple stations across the kitchen for cooking, peeling, mixing etc.

This makes the risk of cross contamination even lower and it will help with organization as you will be able to clearly see (and find) everything you need while cooking.

Kitchen island designs started gaining popularity in European homes of the 1800s. The first permanent kitchen island was built in the 1930s, whereas before they were generally just portable worktables.

This kitchen island was designed to facilitate conversation between the guests and the host during meal preparation. That is one of the main appeals of kitchen islands, as it brings guests and family into the center of the action instead of isolating them at the dinner table and leaving the cook to themselves.

Kitchen islands can come in many different materials and styles. Natural stone is particularly popular at the moment, with marble seeing a resurgence alongside more industrial-chic materials such as granite and polished concrete.

With new developments in bench-top technology, hybrid bench-top styles and affordable alternatives like laminate have been developed to mimic the appearance of the more expensive materials. Marble, wood, and even stone finishes are all easily achievable with a laminate kitchen island table at a reasonable price. For a comprehensive overview of the best kitchen benchtop materials, see here.

You may be tempted to DIY this project. This is entirely possible if you have the necessary experience and the type of renovation you want to undertake is not too difficult.

However, creating a kitchen island from nothing is likely to be very challenging for an inexperienced DIY-er as issues like moving the sink or rerouting the pluming are complicated and difficult (not to mention potentially dangerous!).

The first thing to consider when deciding on a kitchen island is the material you will want. This should be influenced by the style and material of your existing kitchen, or if you are planning on a full renovation; the styles, colour schemes and finishes that you find yourself most drawn to in other kitchens.

Once you have some inspiration and a vague idea of what you want, you can start to plan the more pragmatic things like budgeting, contracting, designing the layout, dimensions, and acquiring the materials.

To help you get started on your kitchen island bench designs, here is a list of some of the best kitchen island bench ideas for inspiration.

Kitchen Layouts with Island: 5 Kitchen Island Table Ideas

5. Butcher block

Butcher block is a heavy-duty material usually made from laminate or hardwood. It is a popular benchtop material for kitchen islands due to its natural timber beauty and warmth. A butcher block kitchen island can add a hint of rustic elegance to an otherwise contemporary kitchen.

However, there are some maintenance requirements; it will need to be resealed at least once a year, and spills need to be cleaned up relatively quickly to avoid stains. With professional sealing, the likelihood of stains and scratches will drastically decrease.

4. On wheels

A mobile kitchen island is a great way to maximize the productivity of your home. Rolling the island away makes the cleaning process much easier. It is also a clever way to save space, as you can tuck the island away when you don’t need it.

Portable kitchen islands can also have multiple uses – you may want to repurpose your kitchen island into a bar or as a charcuterie platter holder during parties. Kitchen islands on wheels are also usually cheaper and smaller than their anchored counterparts.

3. Storage-smart

Choosing a kitchen island with lots of storage is a great way to cut down on visible clutter in the home without having to do a massive cleanout.

Kitchen islands are also very conveniently placed for storage, and if you organize your workstation to suit your cooking flow you may never even have to move from your spot at the bench to retrieve the things you need.

Cabinets tucked behind stools or laptop storage set underneath the bench-tops are great ways to improve both the functionality and aesthetic appeal of your home.

2. Freestanding

These are the most common form of kitchen island, and for good reason: they are easily one of the most beautiful designs available in modern kitchens.

A freestanding kitchen island adds a sense of structure to a room, sectioning off the cooking area while allowing whoever is cooking to still face the main rooms and participate in the action.

Traditionally, freestanding islands do not usually have seating – they stand alone as an instrument of the cook.

This gives them a sense of contained dignity and elegance, particularly when colour matched to the rest of the kitchen cabinets.

1. Breakfast bar

Freestanding kitchen islands with stools are often called breakfast bars. This is because they are perfect for the quick, informal meals that don’t require the length of the dining table for serving.

It is also the perfect place to catch up with friends and family before the start of the day, or as you prepare some sort of grazing plate.

A breakfast bar is one of the best possible uses of a kitchen island. You can combine all of the other aspects listed above to have a breakfast bar that is storage-friendly, durable, and aesthetically pleasing. You can find breakfast bars on wheels if desired!

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