Kitchen islands have long been the hallmark of a serious cook’s kitchen. They don’t just offer extra storage, they offer much needed extra worktop space. In many kitchens, they also offer extra seating, generally in the form of bar seating. If your kitchen has the room, an island can turn it from a decent working space into a real workhorse.
As kitchen islands have become more popular, so have the diverse ways in which they are positioned and used. Nowadays, you can find anything from ovens, farmhouse sinks, microwaves, and even built-in espresso makers in a kitchen island. That’s to say nothing of pop-up appliance garages, trash bins, electrical outlets, and even wine refrigerators. If you can dream it, it can be incorporated into your island.
Islands do take up a lot of valuable kitchen real estate, so it’s important that they function well, and it’s always a bonus if they look great too!
Whether you’re building from scratch, remodeling, or just interested in what to look for as you tour homes you want to buy, it’s a good idea to do some research and find out just what the current looks and trends are for kitchen islands. We’ve compiled some of our favorite kitchen island looks — they’re just what you would hope to find in your dream home!
1 – Full kitchen length
Yes, we could call this one a long island (wink, wink). Full-length kitchen islands fill the entire center of a U-shaped kitchen. This kitchen is a perfect example of how much extra space, storage, and seating can be created with this look. In this case, upper cabinets have been completely eliminated because of the unbelievable amount of storage space offered by a full kitchen length island.
2 – Double island
Sometimes you love your kitchen island so much you just want to clone it! This double-island look is perfect for open plan living, especially for corner or L-shaped kitchens. You simply add a second island where a closed-off one-room kitchen might have a second wall. This way, your living space stays open and the whole family can interact no matter what tasks they may be performing, but you still get the extra storage and workspace an extra wall of cabinets and countertops would offer. It’s a win-win!
3 – T-shaped island
This island is exactly what it sounds like! Rather than a rectangle or square, this island has a peninsula that shoots out of the middle. This is the perfect way to incorporate open bar-height seating, or a traditional breakfast bar, without having to give up any space under the counter on the island itself. It’s also a great choice for square or oddly-shaped kitchens to maximize storage space. Not to mention that this look is simply stunning!
4 – Contrast wood
Sometimes a kitchen island offers a great chance to add new textures or tones to your kitchen. This particular island does that beautifully. The white cabinets on the outer walls of the kitchen are contrasted with the rich grayish wood of the island to create a contrast that makes the island’s seating area seem even more cozy and inviting.
5 – Square island
Yes, it really is hip to be square. This eye-catching island shape works to create lots of extra storage and work space. Ideal for anyone who bakes, makes candy, or puts up lots of preserves, this wide-open stretch of extra countertop space is really only possible with this unique island shape. This clever design has included cabinets even on the posts and under the seating area. This is how you maximize your storage space!
6 – Butcher block
If you’ve dreamt of having butcher block countertops but have been concerned that they won’t work well for your whole kitchen, your kitchen island can help you get the best of both worlds. When you create a butcher block countertop on your island but use hard surfaces like marble or granite on your other countertops, you create specialized work zones that can help make your time in the kitchen more efficient.
7 – Furniture-look island
If you feel like the built-in cabinet look of most kitchen islands makes them feel too matchy-matchy or worry that your kitchen will seem too cookie-cutter, consider a kitchen island that looks more like a piece of furniture. These islands are often available at a fraction of the cost of traditional built-in islands, and come in a wide variety of sizes. They can offer the extra workspace you need while giving an interesting contrast to your other cabinetry.
8 – Mini
You may think you need an enormous kitchen with lots of extra space to house an island, but you can actually have the looks and convenience of an island in a standard sized kitchen with a mini-island. We call them mini, but that doesn’t mean they’re small! These islands offer extra work space and functionality without requiring a lot of extra real estate.
9 – High contrast
Trend alert! This look is a favorite with kitchen designers, but it’s easily accessible for any homeowner with a paint brush and a bit of a flair for the dramatic. Simply take your kitchen island and paint it in a color that contrasts highly with the rest of your kitchen cabinetry for a look that will fill the neighbors’ hearts with envy. Here a bright blue-teal is used to fabulously brighten and add character to this lovely white cabinet filled kitchen. Note how the restrained palette in the rest of the room, including the stainless steel appliances, help set off the beautiful blue centerpiece that is this high-contrast island.
10 – Multi-surface island
We love the aesthetics of a multi-surface island. This look can be achieved with a wide variety of surfaces, but here we see the absolutely fab combination of butcher block and white marble. Other possible material options are tile, granite, or stainless steel. Not only does this make for a jaw-droppingly beautiful visual combination, this is a choice that offers incredible function.
11 – Three islands
You’ve seen one kitchen island. You’ve seen two kitchen islands. Prepare yourself for the ultimate three island extravaganza. This is a chef’s kitchen if we’ve ever seen one. Three separate islands are the perfect choice for those who cook for a big crowd or who take on big kitchen baking or canning projects — or for those with other dietary needs that demand specialized work spaces, like kosher kitchens. This dreamy white marble, white cabinet, and light wood kitchen shows off the amazing versatility of three islands and how they can be broken up into work stations with sinks, butcher blocks, and extra bar seating. Wow!
12 – Room defining island
This kitchen shows how an island can be used to help define space, using a second island in a sharply different cabinet color and countertop surface to help differentiate the kitchen from the rest of the living space. We love the use of contrasting texture in the wood top to show that this island marks a transition into a new space.
13 – No seating island
It’s easy to think of bar-height seating as almost a necessity with kitchen islands, but it absolutely isn’t. If you just want the convenience of more countertop working space and more storage, you can drop the seating area altogether. This is a great chance to use your island for appliances like an under-counter mounted microwave.
14 – Stone slab
We’re used to seeing kitchen islands rendered in wood or wood materials, but they can also be an excellent place to showcase other textures as well. This island is clad in the same stone slabs as the countertop and gives this chic modern kitchen real gravitas and luxury. It also functions beautifully in a kitchen, using surfaces that are easy to clean and sanitize.
15 – Reclaimed wood
Eco-conscious home owners have long used reclaimed wood to bring rich wood tones to their home in beautiful and hard-wearing ways. That’s certainly the case here with this reclaimed wood-beam island built to add extra countertop workspace along with bar-height seating space for dining. Rather than a built-in piece, this look can be added to an existing kitchen or purposely chosen for a new build or remodel.