Anne Haimes Interior Design
long galley shape kitchen island interior design

Kitchen Island Tips and Ideas

Kitchen design is complex. Should it be functional, with plenty of sideboard space for food preparation? Will it double up as a dining space and need an inviting and homely feel? Or is a stylish kitchen the main priority – with a focus on open-plan design and modern lighting? 

Kitchen islands fit perfectly into any design. This guide looks at how to transform your kitchen with an island feature, for any size, space or interior design style.  

What is a kitchen island?

Kitchen islands are a common feature in modern interior design – a freestanding cabinet or worktop placed in the centre of the kitchen, with open space around it for easy access to appliances and cabinets.  

Kitchen islands perform several functions – a place for seating, a food preparation station, extra storage or a dining area. They enhance your kitchen space by adding a sleek and stylish look, while also creating a charming, welcoming environment. 

They have become especially popular in the last few years, with homeowners opting for open-plan kitchen interiors. Islands offer an elegant way of breaking up space, as a stylish alternative to a traditional dining table. 

What types of kitchen islands are there? 

The most common styles of kitchen island are galley, L-shaped, U-shaped and circular. Choosing the right shape to complement your kitchen design depends on its desired function and the space available. 

  1. Galley 

This is the most popular kitchen island shape. A simple square or rectangle, it offers versatility – offering storage space, ample worktop capacity and the opportunity to build in features like a washing-up station. They are sleek, stylish and fit easily into most kitchen plans.  

  1. L-shape 

A variation on the galley shape, L-shaped kitchen island features offer greater versatility. You can include a workstation or bar, along with a seating area, while also having plenty of extra storage space.  

However, these designs can take up more space than their alternatives, so it’s worth measuring your kitchen and even creating a floor plan to make sure you’ll have ample space to move around.  

  1. U-shape 

U-shaped kitchen islands are modern, highly functional and ideal for kitchens where space is at a premium. They also allow for plenty of drawer space, natural seating arrangements and can act as a workstation for preparing food, cleaning or even enjoying some evening drinks.  

In terms of design, U-shaped islands can be sharp or rounded – with sharp designs proving more suitable for use as a workstation for cooking or washing up.  

U-shaped islands can take up extra space, though, and are often designed to be the main centrepiece, so keep that in mind.  

  1. Circular 

These islands can be a complete circle or semi-circle shape, depending on your preference and the space available. Circle kitchen islands are ideally complemented with seating space, creating a modern breakfast bar vibe. 

Semi-circle islands are more suited for use as a workstation, as well as proving useful as a seating area. 

Why should I get a Kitchen Island? 

kitchen island, dining room and kitchen design

Kitchen islands can be tailored to your needs, the design of your kitchen and the space available. Many homemakers choose to add a kitchen island as they provide extra surface and storage space, a modern dining area and the ability to add functional features like cookers and a washing up area.  

Use a kitchen island to offer a roomy cooking or washing station or to create a welcoming social dining space. Seating around the island gives family and guests a place to relax over drinks or food. If adding the feature leaves your kitchen feeling cramped or limits your cooking space, an island may not be for you.  

The minimum free space needed to install a kitchen island is around 1-metre x 1-metre (40 x 40-inches). Most island models will be around 80 x 40-inches and 36-inches in height. This is the first thing you should consider when designing a kitchen island for your home.  

If you have a low ceiling, a kitchen island may not be ideal. Remember, you’ll need lighting fixtures above the island, either as task lighting for food preparation or ambient lighting to create an inviting dining space. These require ample space above the island.  

Also, consider the layout of your home interior. An open-plan design benefits from a kitchen island, as it serves as a natural connector between the kitchen and living room.  

If you have a closed-plan layout, a kitchen island may make the room feel cramped, and traditional side worktops may be preferable.  

There are plenty of ways to make use of your kitchen island. Consider whether you’d like to include a sink, a cooking station, or maybe even a bar area.  

Certain kitchen island models lend themselves to different tasks and others may limit your options. For example, if you plan to add an indent for a sink or workstation, an L or U-shape is recommended.  

For a breakfast bar with an inclusive seating arrangement, consider a circular or U-shape. These provide a social seating layout, with diners able to fit naturally around the shape of the island at breakfast times. 

If you plan to add seating to your kitchen island, there are plenty of options to suit any environment. High stools create a bar atmosphere and also don’t take up too much room. This brings the kitchen and living area together and creates a sociable vibe.  

These aren’t particularly comfortable for those sitting down for long periods, though. Instead, conventional chairs with back support are ideal for sociable evenings in or drinks with friends. These are more suited to a hollow kitchen island, with space to store the chairs underneath.  

large kitchen island with mustard chairs

Storage space is key for kitchen islands in space-saving homes. Consider built-in storage, offering a sleek design and providing space for kitchen utensils or even books and small ornaments in stylish homes.  

If you’re after something a little bigger, choose an island with drawers or cupboards, ideal for keeping utensils and even building in your kitchen appliances.  

The role of kitchen lighting shouldn’t be overlooked. It applies the finishing touch to any atmosphere or design and brings your kitchen island to life. Make your kitchen island the centrepiece of your kitchen by adding lights directly above, shining down on it invitingly. 

The perfect lighting fixture for your kitchen island is a pendant light – creating a sleek look and providing a complete light source, covering the whole area.  

Recessed or track lighting overhead also works well if you have a low ceiling. 

Kitchen island countertops should match the other surfaces in your kitchen. As a general rule, you should recreate a similar material and colour scheme. 

Neutral colours are commonly used in kitchen designs – whites, blacks, greys and browns. These shades rarely clash, allowing homemakers to mix and match them more freely. However, if your kitchen is bold and colourful, you’ll want to keep the theme consistent.  

Try to stick to shades of the same base colour – for example, if blue is the main colour, combine colours like navy, royal and sky blue, so colours don’t clash – this can make kitchens feel loud and takes away from the desired relaxing dining environment.  

In some cases, contrasting colours can work well together, though. Classic examples of contrasting colours include yellow and blue or red and green. 

black and white kitchen island