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Kitchen island ideas to add wow factor

Design inspiration for creating a big impression in a new scheme

By Hugh Metcalf | 23 October 2020

Beloved by chefs and home cooks alike, an island brings functional benefits to the kitchen. At a most basic level, it provides a worksurface for food preparation with storage beneath. Many go further and include appliances, a sink, seating and even an extending tabletop. But to gain the maximum design impact, you’ll need to think creatively about the materials and features you use. Take a look at these kitchen island ideas for ways to ensure your island is truly the centrepiece of the space.

1. Pick a colour

It may be a simple idea but it’s no less effective for that. Plan the colour scheme of your new kitchen and choose a shade for the island that contrasts with the wall colour and the rest of the cabinets. You can go subtle, such as specifying the island in a deeper shade of the background hue. Make a bigger impact with a contrasting colour or even a combination of colours. How about a monochrome scheme? An all-white island set against rustic wooden cabinets? A deep green island with bronze-effect wall and base units? There are so many possibilities.

A kitchen in a barn conversion showing a blue island unit in an otherwise white painted scheme.

A blue island by Martin Moore stands out against a white scheme.

2. Use modern materials

One of the most stunning kitchen island ideas is to use innovative materials to standout effect. Solid surfaces such as Corian, Dekton, Silestone and Hi-Macs come in a huge number of colours, as well as stone-like finishes. They are ideal for use on vertical and horizontal surfaces, creating an island that looks like a monolithic feature carved from a single slab. The material forms drawer and door fronts, and can be heat-moulded to create a seamless sink as well as join-free side panels and worksurfaces.

3. Exploit overhead space

Decorative lighting, a sculptural extractor or eye-catching suspended shelving hanging over an island will draw attention. All of these options also have a useful functional purpose. So, you get double the value from your choice. In fact, a beautiful extractor can also include lighting to triple its value. Take a look at Elica for ideas. In this design, the island hob has a downdraft extractor, so that ingredients can be kept close at hand on the hanging shelves.

Kitchen island ideas showing a green kitchen island with metal and glass shelving suspended from the ceiling

Overhead shelves focus attention on the island. Kitchen, Day True.

4. Include tech innovations

Look out for moveable worksurface systems. They feature hidden rollers that enable the surface to slide back to reveal sinks and inset hobs and to extend as tabletops. It’s a clever way to add some adaptability to your island. This is especially useful in an open-plan space, where you may wish to hide some of the functional aspects of the kitchen from the living and dining areas.

Close-up of the Motion worksurface from Eggersmann that moves outward from an island unit to create a tabletop

The Motion worksurface from Eggersmann slides back and forth.

5. Go freestanding

A freestanding island comes with several benefits for your space. It has a more relaxed, country-kitchen look than a fitted version. As the floor beneath can be seen, a freestanding piece helps to make a small kitchen appear bigger. You could move it around, if you wish. And, you can sit comfortably on a dining chair tucking your legs beneath the surface without having to perch on a bar stool.

A country style kitchen with a freestanding island unit at the centre.

Charlecote freestanding island from Neptune.

6. Gain a place to perch

From worksurface overhangs to raised breakfast bars, there are a wealth of options for creating a seating area at your island. Consider a different material to demarcate the space for dining from the space for food prep and you may just keep the family’s clutter at bay.

Dark blue fitted kitchen with large island including a breakfast bar with barstool seating at one end

Fitted kitchen with breakfast bar island by Roundhouse Design