Kitchen Island Ideas, Designs & Tips

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Design Concept

A kitchen island can dramatically transform your kitchen's functionality and help you meet your design objectives. Whether you are looking for a more streamlined cooking space or an area to entertain guests, a kitchen island may be the resource that you need.

With the right layout, your kitchen will be so much more than a place to prepare basic meals. Instead, imagine a place where you can set up a bar, host parties, and entertain your friends. If you would like, your design approach can help you transform your kitchen from a workspace to a social place.

When you're done cooking, you can use your kitchen island as an extra seating area or surface to display food. If you need extra seating, set up a few matching bar stools. Keep them in the kitchen when you need them, and move them to a storage space when you need more room to cook and move around.

Once you have the right setup, you'll just need to work with lighting and decorations. Then, you're ready for any occasion, party or event. Why go out to eat when you can keep the crowd happy at home?

Several temporary and permanent options are available for people looking to install a kitchen island. If you prefer a permanent kitchen island, you should expect to spend at least $1,000 in addition to plumbing expenses. Island carts are available for around $500. Foldaway kitchen tables are available for less than $200.

You can install a kitchen island as part of your remodeling strategy, or you can look for a less permanent option if your budget is smaller or if you want to sample the design before investing in a more expensive plan. Whatever you choose, a kitchen island can give you the potential to transform your space into a more functional, social, and fun area where you can do more than just cook.

How to Find the Right Kitchen Island

Kitchen islands aren't for every type of space. For the most part, a kitchen island will only work in a medium to large-sized area. In a small and otherwise cozy space, installing a kitchen island will lead to a cramped and chaotic look and feel. With too much going on, your kitchen will feel uncomfortable. You won't want to cook or hangout there; instead, you'll avoid it altogether.

If your kitchen is too small, you may want to forego the idea of an island. Love what you already have, instead. Imagine bumping into a counter every time you cook or try to move between your sink, refrigerator, and counter.

For the most part, kitchen islands work best in a space that is shaped as a U, L, or G. Usually, it is best to place them in the middle of the room.

If your kitchen is on the smaller side but big enough for a kitchen island, you may want to consider a portable butcher block or kitchen cart. These options provide additional spaces for food preparation and storage, and they do not require a substantial amount of space. You can even purchase mobile kitchen islands that are designed to function as bars. When you need more space in your kitchen, you can move your kitchen island to the garage, outside, or into another room.

No matter which option you choose, play it safe, and invest in a kitchen island that matches the rest of your décor. If you anticipate any redecorating or remodeling projects in the near future, you may want a kitchen island in a neutral color such as cream, light brown, or black, especially if you haven't planned your color scheme and design objectives.


When it comes to using your kitchen island, your imagination is the limit. Invest in some bar stools, and use your kitchen island as an additional eating or snacking space. Use your kitchen island as a special cooking area for the kids. Display your appetizers and entrees on the kitchen island when it's time to eat. Throw a party, and use your kitchen island as a bar for people to drink alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages. If you have young kids, you can even set them up to hang out with you and do some arts and crafts projects while you cook.

Some people will incorporate a miniature refrigerator into the kitchen island's design. By removing the lower cabinets and installing a fridge, you can create a separate space for storing beverages. Some people will even keep their kitchen islands with beverage refrigerators in an area outside for a patio bar.

You can even optimize your kitchen island for specialized cooking. You may want to install a flat stove for a teppan grill if you are a fan of Japanese food, for example. A second kitchen sink can help you wash your pots and pans efficiently, since it will be easier to do dishes. For example, you can thaw meats and do dishes at the same time. With a second sink, two people can do dishes simultaneously, so your chores will be done faster.

Other ideas for your kitchen island include trash compactors, butcher's blocks for a large cutting space, recycling bins, and a garbage disposal.

Plumbing & Electrical Wiring

If you plan to install a sink or garbage disposal, you will need to make sure that you are able to configure your plumbing and electrical system. Make sure that you are able to accommodate lines for tap water and waste water, and be prepared to install these systems under your floor. Depending on the material that you use for your floor, you may need to commit to an extensive and expensive remodeling project, so be prepared, and consider working with a plumber to make sure that it's possible to add a plumbing system to your kitchen island sink.

You'll need to install a plumbing vent, a pipe network that carries gas outdoors through your roof, in order to make sure that the pressure within your kitchen island remains equalized.

If you want to avoid the outside venting option, you can use an air admittance valve, which is controlled by gravity.

Last Updated: January 19, 2012
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About Ritika Puri Based in California, Ritika Puri has worn a number of professional hats ranging from blogger to quantitative researcher, martial arts instructor, and cartographer. No matter what she does, she loves to write and specializes in topics related to home improvement, personal finance, and business. She writes regularly for's Financial Edge section, and her work has appeared on SF Gate, Yahoo! Finance, and The Chicago Sun Times Online. She holds a B.A. from Claremont McKenna College and an M.A. in Demographic and Social Analysis from the University of California at Irvine.  

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