How to choose a functional kitchen island – design ideas and tips

by Kremy

how to choose kitchen island pros cons types

How to choose a functional kitchen island? This may sound like an easy question as many people find this piece of furniture exceptionally useful and practical. It is true that in modern home design, islands have become a must. If you already have one, then you know from personal experience that this is a place for entertaining, cooking, talking, having breakfast in the morning or a glass of wine in the evening, it is also an additional storage space, so there are many pros of having a kitchen island. However, if you plan a renovation and want to add an island, you need to follow some basic principles which will help you make your kitchen more functional and better looking.

How to choose a functional kitchen island – what do you need to know?

modern kitchen island with seating and storage shelves


When it comes to home interior design size matters and we all know that. It is much better to have more living space and modern home construction features open space plan which combines different functional areas. Having a functional kitchen island even in a small room is not impossible and there are many creative designs which utilize limited spaces. There are some important considerations that you need to know when planning the future layout of your kitchen. You need to maintain the recommended minimum distance of 100 cm (3 feet) between the “island” and furniture located along the walls. This will leave enough room for free movement. It is good to know that the minimum length of the island according to the laws of ergonomics is 120 cm (4 ft), width is 60 cm (2 ft), and height is 85 (2,7 ft) cm. An island with such dimensions will look harmonious only in a spacious room. A small kitchen with a large piece of furniture in the center will appear even smaller.

modern kitchen ideas island with seating design dining space

What makes a kitchen island functional? Some homeowners prefer to use it as a dining space, while others prefer additional equipment and arrange several functional zones on the countertop, for example:

  • a sink and cooktop with a compact working area in between;
  • area for small appliances – : toaster, microwave, coffee machine;
  • food preparation area.

Technical parameters, connections and supply – this is, probably, the most difficult and expensive part of the installation. If you have to move water, gas or electricity supply, it has to be done by the local codes and you need to have all the necessary permits. You will have to take care of high-quality waterproofing of the floor and the sewer pipe so make sure you calculated these costs in your renovation budget.

large island with open shelves kitchen design ideas

Do not miss the opportunity to use the space under the countertop where you can place a built-in small fridge, dishwasher, oven, wine cooler, open shelves for kitchen utensils or a collection of cookbooks, food storage cabinets, drawers, etc. The space above the island can also become functional. A pot rack will be a convenient place to store pots and pans.

Keep in mind the “rule of the triangle” between the refrigerator, sink and stove. Each of the elements should be at a minimum distance from each other and it is most convenient if the distance from the sink to the refrigerator is 120 – 210 cm (4 -6 ft), to the sink 120-180 cm (4-5 ft). There should be no obstacles like chairs, tables, decorative floor compositions standing on the passageways. A kitchen island helps create the perfect working triangle.

functional kitchen island with cooktop and sink

Appearance and materials vary significantly. There are many designs which blend the island harmoniously into the overall interior by using similar materials and common style. Yet, there are numerous examples and brilliant designs where the kitchen island is used as an accent and adds color, texture and visual interest to the interior. It is your personal taste and preferences that will determine which way to go.

How to choose a functional kitchen island type for your home?

contemporary kitchen island with seating gray countertops in white kitchen

By definition a kitchen island is a freestanding piece of cabinetry that is placed in a kitchen and surrounded by free space and when you want to choose a functional kitchen island for your home, you need to have a clear idea for the size and the purpose. How are you going to use it? Do you need additional storage space, dining space or work surface? Deigns vary significantly which is great since you can have a custom made piece of furniture, which will meet all your requirements. Here are some tips and ideas for the different types:

Kitchen island with storage space – cabinets, drawers, open shelves, is one of the most popular designs. You can store all the necessary utensils and maintain perfect order in the room. There are beautiful models with glass cabinet doors which partially display dinnerware or other beautiful accessories. Very often such islands are used as additional food prep surface or dining space and are equipped with seating. For small kitchens, you can add wheels and move the whole island from the center of the kitchen when you do not need it.

functional kitchen island with shelves and storage cabinets

Double-tiered kitchen island – usually those are models with a breakfast bar. Bar counters are widely popular because they are beautiful and comfortable. Such models usually combine two of the main functions – cooking and eating, and at the same time they separate them since the area is divided. One of the advantages of such designs is that bar counter may well become an extension of the working area, and shelves and cabinets will be conveniently located in its lower part. The advised height for a bar top is 42 inches (110 cm) and you will need high chairs. The con is that the cooking space is reduced. Unlike flat surface countertops where you can extend your food preparation area into the eating area, with a double tiered island this is not possible.

Kitchen island with sink is a design that many homeowners choose as this is a convenient and functional way to use the countertop surface and owners are able to wash the dishes next to the working or dining area. It may be a challenge to install such an island, as you need to have all piping correctly done by a professional, which will add to the cost. However, the opportunity to equip a kitchen island with a maximum of functions usually justifies all investments.

kitchen furniture ideas island with stove and open storage shelves

Kitchen island with cooktop – this is another popular design. You transfer to the island not only the sink, but also the cooktop and make it a fully functional, real center of the kitchen. It will be the place where food is cooked while the housewife is chatting with guests and family. Again, this type of islands comes with the problem of electricity or gas supply, which runs under the floor and you will need to check the local requirements and get permits for additional laying of gas pipe.

Kitchen island with built-in fridge, freezer or oven is the perfect design for rooms with enough space for storage cabinets where you can keep dishes, pots and pans, but with insufficient space for household appliances. Building in a stove, a freezer, a wine cooler, a microwave oven will make the island your best assistant in the daily cooking. In this way you will save space in the kitchen and install additional household appliances without losing countertop space. If you have already moved the drain and water pipes for the installation of a sink, you can also place a dishwasher.

Kitchen island with folding counter is a design suitable for small spaces. You can use it as an additional space for food preparation and extend it when guests arrive for dinner. When planning the design of such an island, you need to remember that there should be enough space around it when the folding part is in use.

Functional kitchen island ideas in modern homes

beautiful island with seating and open shelves

How to combine functionality with style? The island should be not only convenient, but also attractive. There are numerous ways to do that and you will see fantastic functional kitchen island ideas in the gallery below which also look absolutely great. You can highlight the island with the help of the original facades, a beautiful countertop different in material, pattern or color from the rest of the cabinets and countertops. When choosing a style and color, the main thing to remember is that the kitchen island still remains a part of the interior and should be in harmony with all other elements.

You can choose a different shape and go for an oval or round island. Another options is a standard square or rectangular shape covered with a round or oval counterop. In this way you will have drawers and shelves in the base or install household appliances. An oval or round island is safer as there are no sharp corners. In addition, the rounded shapes visually take up less space, and your island will not look as massive as square or rectangular ones.

Find your inspiration for a kitchen remodel and adding a functional kitchen island in your home?

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