Smart Kitchen Island Ideas to Make Your Kitchen Stand Out

October 28, 2022 | Kitchen

A beautiful island completes the look of a well-designed kitchen. Make yours a favorite hangout and focal point with these eye-catching kitchen island ideas.


Did you know that more than half of homeowners who renovate their kitchens decide to add an island? Kitchen islands can give you more space to cook, extra storage, and even some additional seating. But how do you design a kitchen island that will work for your space?

There are a number of different ways you can customize your island to make it fit your needs. Read on to discover our favorite kitchen island ideas and start making your kitchen work a little harder for you.

Ditch the Levels

When you go into many newer homes today, you’ll find two-level bars and islands designed to serve as a breakfast bar. These high-top counters may seem like a fun way to divide your space and add some extra seating. But the truth is they can make your kitchen feel smaller and may reduce the workable space you have.

When you put in your new island, it’s a good idea to ditch the second level and keep your island one flat surface. You can still add seating, as we’ll discuss more later, but you’ll also be able to use that extra work space. And keeping your island one level will avoid visual obstructions in your kitchen, making the space feel more open.

Scale as Needed

Oftentimes, when we think of kitchen island decor ideas, our minds go to a piece about four feet by six feet, perhaps with a sink or a stove in it. But if you’re working in a smaller kitchen, there’s no reason your island has to be that big. You can have an island that’s just a couple of feet in either dimension that still provides extra storage and work space.

On the other end of the scale, if you have a very large kitchen space, you don’t have to limit yourself to a four-by-six-foot island. If you have the space, you can go almost as big as you want to (as long as you can get the countertop in the door). Make yourself an island big enough to dance a jig on or prepare a meal for twenty!

We Like to Move It, Move It

In some cases, your kitchen may be dynamic enough that a stationary island just won’t work. Maybe you live by yourself, but like to entertain often, and you need more space when people are over. Or maybe you need extra work space on your meal prep days, but more maneuvering room the rest of the time.

Putting your island on wheels can be a great way to make it more functional for your needs. For obvious reasons, this works best with smaller islands, but that’s no reason to limit your work space. Add some drop leaves to that puppy and make your kitchen the ultimate flex space it was born to be!

Shift Your Appliances

Once you know what your island dimensions will be, it’s time to turn your attention to the layout. If you’re planning to put an appliance such as a stove or dishwasher in the island, you’re going to want to be careful about where you place it. This is especially true if you’re planning to have a long island that spans multiple functional areas.

As a rule of thumb, you want to avoid putting your appliances in the same space as your entertaining areas if possible. So if you’re going to have seating on one end of your island, try to put your stove on the other end. This will prevent burns and help to delineate the different “regions” of your kitchen.

We’ve Got the Power

If you’re installing a stationary island, you may want to consider adding some outlets to it. Even if you don’t plan to put your stove in the island, outlets can be very handy for plugging in appliances and kitchen tools, as well as charging phones and laptops. Outlets can make your island more functional as both a cooking space and a gathering spot.

But wait, we hear you saying, where am I supposed to put outlets if I don’t have the vertical space of a two-level island? If your main goal is charging devices, you can add outlets to the wall under the seating area for easy access. If you want to plug in appliances, consider getting a pop-up outlet tower that you can push down into the counter when you’re not using it.

Light It Up

Another important factor to consider when designing your island is what sort of lighting you want. Since your island is going to be both a work space and a gathering space, you’re going to want to be able to see what you’re doing. And island lighting can be an excellent way to add a little style to your kitchen.

Pendant lights are a popular choice to put over kitchen islands, since they can provide excellent task lighting. You may also want to consider can lights used in conjunction with a more central flush mount light in larger kitchens. And while skylights over islands can be a great source of illumination during the day, don’t forget to add plenty of lighting to keep things bright after dark.

Add Seating Space

If you’re building a more spacious island, you’re almost certainly going to want to find a way to add seating space to it. Islands can be a great place for kids to do homework, friends to sit and chat, or even you to eat breakfast in the mornings. Even just a couple of barstools tucked under one end of the island can make it a great gathering place.

If possible, plan to extend your countertop out about fifteen inches on one side. This will provide enough knee space for guests to sit at bar stools or (depending on the height of your island) chairs. If you plan to have corbels under your island for support, you may need to add a few extra inches so your guests don’t whack their knees.

Go Chasing Waterfalls

If you want to make a more dramatic statement with your island, a waterfall countertop can be the perfect way to do it. Waterfall countertops extend beyond the top to spill down the sides of the island. Oftentimes, installers will match veining in stone or grain in wood to provide the illusion that one solid piece of material continues up and over the corner.

Waterfall counters are a popular choice with marble, quartz, and granite counters, since it creates a dramatic visual effect. This style will cost more money than a traditional counter, so keep that in mind when deciding on your budget. Waterfall counters also have a more modern feel to them, which can make them less suited for more traditional kitchens.

Consider Your Material

On the subject of marble and quartz, one of the biggest decisions you’ll need to make during your island design process is what material to use for your countertop. Island counters can be made of everything from stone and composite materials to wood, steel, and even concrete. Which one you choose will depend on your budget, kitchen island design ideas, and practical needs.

Natural stone and wood can provide a gorgeous classic look, but they do require routine maintenance. Composite counters, such as quartz and solid surface counters are more durable, but also more expensive. Industrial materials like steel and concrete can stand up to almost anything you throw at them, but they do create a more modern look.

Mix It Up

If you’re having trouble deciding between two different countertop materials, why not include them both? For instance, let’s say you love the functionality and natural beauty of butcher block, as well as the elegance and durability of quartz. Divide your island into two work spaces and use both counter materials!

Of course, this kind of blending has to be done carefully, and not every material will work with every other. This works best with large islands, where you have space to have different “zones” for your island. You may also consider setting one of your counter sections at a slightly different height to delineate the zones a little better.

Extend to a Dining Table

While kitchen islands are most commonly used to prepare food, there’s no reason you can’t use it as an eating space, too. If you want to create a little more of a blended feel, or if you’re tight on kitchen and dining space, why not fuse the two? Extend your island by adding a dining table to the end of it during your renovation.

It’s a good idea to keep your added dining table a separate piece that you butt up against the end of the island. You may want to choose a table with square ends so it will sit flush and feel like a more natural part of the island. Painting the table legs the same color as your island can also make it feel like one cohesive unit.

Divide an Open Space

Open floor plans have become more popular in recent years, and it’s easy to see why. If you have kids, you can keep an eye on them in the living room while they play and you prep dinner. If you like to entertain, your guests can hang out on the couch while you cook and still enjoy the conversation.

Your island can be a great way to divide an open space into separate zones while still keeping them linked. If you don’t have seating on the outside of your island, consider adding bookshelves. This can provide you with some additional storage as well as making the space on the outside of the island feel more like living space than like a fuzzy transition to the kitchen area.

Include Some Storage

On the subject of storage, your kitchen island is the perfect place to up your storage game. Of course, adding extra cabinets under your island can be a great way to bring more space into your kitchen. But you can also use the extra space your island provides to set up some creative storage solutions.

If you have a stand mixer, why not include a movable stand for it that folds down into a cabinet at the end of your island? Consider getting a top-load microwave that slides into your island like a drawer. Or store your trash cans and recycling bins in the island to keep them out from underfoot in the kitchen.

Use Glass

When you picture island cabinets, you may imagine an edifice of solid wood. But incorporating glass into your island can help to make your space feel lighter and more open. This can be especially helpful in smaller kitchens or spaces that are a little more crowded.

Replace the center panels of your island cabinets with glass and store some of your most beautiful dishes there. You may also consider adding glass cabinets with shallow shelves to the back of your island. This can be a great spot to display your favorite curios, as well as cookbooks and more decorative pieces.

Find More Kitchen Island Ideas

An island can be a great way to add more work space and storage to your kitchen. Whether you’re installing a small model on wheels or a behemoth with a waterfall countertop, you can find a layout that works for you. Remember to consider the lighting around your island, and don’t be afraid to mix it up when it comes to counter materials.

If you’d like to find more kitchen island ideas, check out the rest of our site at Michael James Remodeling. We are luxury remodeling specialists who are dedicated to giving you the best remodeling contractor experience you can find in North Georgia. Contact us today and start experiencing renovation the Michael James way.

Sleek kitchen with taupe cabinets, marble backsplash, and contemporary wooden bar stools

Schedule A Free Virtual Consultation

Call Today 770-599-2575