t-shape kitchen island with integrated dining table

9 contemporary kitchen island ideas

August 9, 2022

Kitchen islands provide additional surface areas, social spots and valuable storage. With so many styles and bespoke options available, it can be difficult to know how to incorporate one seamlessly into your kitchen layout, so before you take a trip to a showroom, take a look at these kitchen island ideas…

1. Small kitchen island

A simple prep island can be bijou in size but offer a focal point and act as a social hub for compact kitchens. These are often made up of 600mm deep cabinets with a simple 300mm worktop overhang, with at least 900mm of clearance around the perimeter. It’s a good way to zone open-plan spaces, providing a physical divide between the cooking area and living spaces.

small kitchen island ideas

Nova kitchen in Seagrass with worktop in laminate in White Marble, from £2,452 for an eight-unit kitchen, Magnet

2. Kitchen peninsula

If you have less room to work with, adding a peninsula to your kitchen design is a great way to create extra worktop space for food prep while also doubling up as a sociable bar area for guests. If you have an open-plan kitchen and dining room, it’s also an effective and simple way to divide the space visually.

kitchen peninsula in a neutral handless kitchen with blush pink bar stools

Howdens Clerkenwell Super Matt cabinets in Sandstone. POA, Howden

3. Ditch the dining table

If you don’t have oodles of space, integrate your dining area into your island design for a smart space-saving solution that’s ideal for informal mealtimes. This T-shape layout keeps everyone socially connected with the chef at the helm, whether that’s overseeing homework while cooking, or hosting dinner guests.

t-shape kitchen island with integrated dining table

Pure handleless kitchen in Dove White and Marina Blue with Calacatta Oro porcelain worktops. Kitchens start from £30,000, John Lewis of Hungerford

4. Kitchen island planter

An island planter is the perfect way to inject a bit of life and colour into your kitchen, as well as bringing the outside in. It doesn’t just look the part, it’s functional too – giving you space to grow fresh herbs with easy access while cooking, plus it can be switched up during the summer months to create a cool drinks trough when entertaining.

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kitchen island with planter for herbs

Cambridge cabinetry in Grey with Slabtech worktop in Copper Pearl and island unit in Richmond Grey Oak. Prices start from £2,292 for an eight-unit kitchen, Benchmarx Kitchens

5. Kitchen island lighting

A series of pendant lights over an island or peninsula not only provide a great source of light but also add another dimension of interest, colour or texture. Plan the positioning of your ceiling lights before you install them to avoid mistakes – you’ll want to hang them at least 75cm above the worktop. Odd numbers often look best, but it’s better to go for an uncluttered look – ideally leave a 75cm gap between each fitting.

kitchen island lighting: Drop Three pendant light from original BTC

Drop Three pendant in bone china in White, £439, Original BTC

6. Round breakfast bar

Adding a round breakfast bar is one of our favourite kitchen island ideas. It’s a great way to break up a linear kitchen, plus a circular design provides a sociable seating area that’s connected to the rest of the kitchen and provides optimum surface space. A contrasting material such as timber will add warmth and texture.

round breakfast bar on a kitchen island

Harvey Jones Shaker kitchen painted in Wimborne White by Farrow & Ball, with oak breakfast bar and granite worktop

7. Create contrast

This kitchen feels larger and brighter thanks to a clever use of colour – highlighting the island and more central units of the L-shaped design in a bold shade ensures the cabinetry feels less overbearing, with the wall cupboards and tall units on the outer edges painted white for a lighter feel. Another great kitchen island idea is a contrasting timber prep area, adding a practical workspace as well as warmth and texture.

kitchen island ideas: a worktop in contrasting colours or materials helps create zones

Stanton doors shown in Hartforth Blue and Porcelain; worktop is Eternal Serena Silestone and Iroko Herringbone Strata timber. Kitchens from the Relaxed range start from £20,000, Life Kitchens

8. Kitchen island with curved edges

Not all islands have to be rectangular – embrace curvaceous designs for a softer look that also provide better circulation space. Open storage drawers in a contrasting timber finish also break up the solid block of colour and add warmth to the space, as does the compact breakfast bar in the same material.

kitchen island with curved edges in a modern handless kitchen

Cambia Topaz kitchen in matt lacquer in Coral with black metal strip handles and walnut veneer timber drawers and top. Rational kitchens start from £10,000

9. Open shelves

Open shelves are a huge trend in kitchens, providing storage and room to display your best crockery or glassware. Make an island feel less monolithic by incorporating open-corner storage. It’s a great way to add a splash of colour and add personality, as well as providing quick and easy access to everyday items that see a lot of use, such as dinnerware, casserole dishes or even cookbooks.

concrete kitchen island with open corner shelving for casserole dishes

Urban kitchen in Concrete, prices start from £3,339, Symphony

What to consider before choosing a kitchen island

  • How much space do you have? The desired amount of room is approx. 1200mm between fitted cabinetry and the island, but it is important to bear in mind that extra floor space may be needed around areas like the hob, which typically experience high-traffic.
  • What do you need the space for? Islands are a versatile piece of furniture that can be designed to provide maximum efficiency when cooking. Whether it is additional food prep space, a hob, sink, extra storage or a social space for friends and family to sit and chat – or pitch in – while the chef gets to work, make sure you opt for an island that will work hard.
  • Freestanding or fitted? A freestanding kitchen island is great for a smaller or multifunctional space, where you might need to wheel it out of the way to make more space. A fitted island is ideal for larger kitchens and can incorporate appliances like a hob, sink or wine fridge.
  • Do you want a kitchen island with seating? If you want to create a social space, or a spot where the kids can do their homework while you cook, then a kitchen islands with bar stools will serve you well. make sure you leave enough space for people to pass while the stools are in use.
  • Kitchen island or peninsula? Similar to an island but attached to one wall, a peninsula works well in smaller spaces, or to help zone an open-plan space. A kitchen peninsula can also help keep guests, children and pets out of the cooking area. ‘For long and narrow spaces a peninsula would work best; for squarer spaces you can usually fit an island,’ says Emma Cowburn, senior kitchen designer at Harvey Jones.
  • How do you incorporate a hob? Hobs with built-in downdraft extractors look the part, but require underfloor ducting and housing within your island unit, meaning you’ll lose storage space. If you choose a ceiling extractor, a recirculating model is best as it doesn’t require ducting. If venting outside is required, a peninsula is often easier to work with.
  • Budget kitchen island ideas: ‘If you’re looking for a budget-friendly option, consider purchasing a pre-loved or ex-display island, says Helen Lord, founder at Used Kitchen Exchange. ‘These don’t have to match your exact requirements as can often be reconfigured/upcycled to create a bespoke look simply with a new paint finish and the addition of some new handles and hardware.’

More on kitchen design and kitchen island ideas

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A message from the editor:

Let us help you create the home of your dreams! Get ideas & inspiration from Good Homes every month, delivered direct to your door. Visit goodhomesmagazine.com/newsletter to sign up for the weekly Good Homes newsletter. Meet the Good Homes team at Ideal Home Show and be inspired by our on-trend roomsets.

~ Karen Walker, Editor, Good Homes