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12 Great Kitchen Island Ideas

Customize a kitchen island to suit your personal style, and make it even more rewarding to cook and entertain

Written and produced by Debra Steilen
  • Werner Straube

    Why customize your kitchen island? To get exactly what you need to enhance the way you and your family live every day—and on special occasions. Your choices for size, shape, and countertop material are just part of the equation. Check out these inspired ideas for adding functionality and style.

    Shown: A graceful Kallista faucet overlooks a white island’s marble countertop and integrated sink. Slide the custom-size teak cutting board into place for food prep.

    Kitchen designer:  Mick De Giulio

  • John Bessler

    Furniture-Style Finesse

    Designer Joan Nemirow wanted to give her new kitchen more of a period feel. That’s why she designed this vintage-look island, a nearly 5x10-foot walnut cabinet inspired by 18th- and 19th-century English furniture styles. Outside, the island boasts burled walnut and decorative veneers. Inside, the island sports multiple storage drawers with adjustable pegs for safe china storage. The island’s teak top and stainless-steel sink provide functional work space.

    See a close-up on the next slide.

    Designer: Joan Nemirow

    Walk through this fab kitchen.

  • John Bessler

    Shapely Style

    Curved stretchers connect the island’s shapely fluted legs, partnering with the drop pulls and decorative veneers to enhance the piece’s furniture-style appeal. At ground level, the wide-plank flooring (a mix of reclaimed oak and chestnut finished in tung oil) echoes the warmth of the island’s richly varied tones.

    Designer: Joan Nemirow

    See the rest of this fab kitchen.

  • Susan Gilmore

    Layered with Charm

    Although new, this elegant kitchen exudes old-world character. Part of the façade? A grand central island that features a rich walnut stain, dual countertop materials, and furniture-style detailing. The two-tier center portion is topped with ogee-edged Capolavoro granite from Italy, gently curved on one side to accommodate dining.  A pair of butcher block-topped tables adds weight to either side of the island’s center section. Alternating stain colors—dark maple and walnut—give the butcher block tops a playful attitude.

    Designer: Amy Hendel

  • Werner Straube

    Colorful Character

    Robin’s-egg blue is homeowner Bridget McDermott’s favorite color. So it comes as no surprise that the 10x6-foot island in her new kitchen boasts that hue—a glowing contrast to perimeter cabinets painted white with a platinum glaze. At island’s end, two sets of shelves beneath curved aprons display pretty white dishes silhouetted against a blue background. Like the perimeter cabinetry, the furniture-style island sports turned legs and detailed toe-kicks, as well as cabinet doors with beaded detailing and geometric onlays. The extended cherrywood countertop creates a dining spot for three people.

    See the back of the island on the next slide. 

    Kitchen designer: Brad Lewis
    Interior designer: Jeffry R. Jones

    See more kitchen cabinets with furniture-style flair.

  • Werner Straube

    Perfectly Practical

    Turned legs and a cherrywood top—plus that robin’s-egg blue finish—give this island its upscale personality. But it’s the practical features that make it such a good kitchen helper. Up top, a stainless-steel sink from Franke Kitchen Systems partners with a gooseneck faucet and custom marble cutting board to facilitate food prep. Down below, the island includes a microwave oven, a warming drawer, pots-and-pans storage, and trash receptacles (far right). Everything is hidden behind cabinetry doors to keep the furniture-style façade complete.

    Kitchen designer: Brad Lewis
    Interior designer: Andrew Flesher

  • Emily Minton Redfield

    Fashioned for a Foodie

    You can’t help but notice the center island in Arlene Mead’s kitchen. Painted Benjamin Moore’s "Watermelon Red," the island pops against the soft green perimeter cabinets that line the room.  But for Arlene, a professional foodie who develops recipes and teaches cooking classes in her home, performance is more important than “pretty.” So this island includes a six-burner gas cooktop from Wolf, a prep sink, a trash pullout, built-in spice storage, and a generously sized butcher-block top from Boos Bros. Up to six stools fit around the island so students or guests can observe and chat while Arlene is cooking.

    Check out the built-in spice storage on the next slide.

    Designer: Dawn Bergan

    See more of this chef-friendly kitchen.

  • Emily Minton Redfield

    Always Accessible

    Spices are just an arm’s length away when Chef Arlene Mead works at the island’s gas cooktop, thanks to the island’s built-in shelves. The shallow shelves can be adjusted when Arlene changes out her inventory of seasonings. 

    Designer: Dawn Bergan

    See more of this chef-friendly kitchen.

  • Werner Straube

    Modern Influences

    This kitchen’s architectural roots are in the Roaring Twenties. But today the renovated room’s look includes a modern mix of materials—everything from steel-frame French doors to classic white subway tiles. Inspired by French farm tables, the white oak island (made by Custom Wood Craft) features turned legs and a honed Carrara marble top. Rattan baskets, rather than cabinets and drawers, help keep kitchen items organized. The herringbone floor is crafted from 100-year-old reclaimed, unfinished oak—adding a weathered texture to the neutral palette.

    Designer: Summer Thornton

    See more of this 1929 home.

  • Werner Straube

    Fresh Angles

    Designed by avid hosts Cam and Kathy Hagen, this kitchen accommodates crowds with panache. Part of its appeal? An L-shape island with dramatic waterfall edges—serving as a high-function focal point. The stylish surface—Fantasy Brown Quartzite—lends extra drama to the scene with color and texture variations that could almost double as art. The island’s angled shape puts a prep sink, cookware, storage, and a trash center within easy reach of the chef. A circular prep sink doubles as a bar sink for weekend gatherings. And on the side opposite the sink, a beverage refrigerator lets guests stay hydrated while steering clear of the main work zone.

    See another view on the next slide.

    See another island with waterfall countertops.

  • Werner Straube

    Ringside Seats

    The island’s extended quartzite countertop makes it possible for guests to sit and socialize with the chef.

  • Richard Leo Johnson

    Social Center

    Great food in a relaxed setting: That’s what you get when a kitchen design is inspired by a bistro where the chef interacts with the guests. The Viking range is key to this kitchen’s success, of course. But so is the combination island/banquette that allows food prep to coincide with conversation. The furniture-style island boasts a black-glazed finish, shapely legs, elegant end panels, and an Arctic Cream granite top. The leather-topped banquette and handcrafted oval table seat up to eight visitors.

     Design: Pamela Cook Plowden and Jeremy Tate 

    Browse our collection of banquettes.

  • John Bessler and Marco Ricci

    Fresh Mix     

    Part of a house in the Hamptons, this kitchen features a beachworthy mix of neutral tones that suit a location focused on leisure. White-painted cabinets frame the room, while the range hood, selected cabinet drawers, and the central island boast bleached rift-sawn oak that's the color of driftwood. The central island is topped with a built-up 2-inch slab of White Macaubas quartzite with subtle gray-tone veining. A Perrin & Rowe faucet adds sparkle above the Rohl sink. Birch “Constance” stools from Ballard Designs provide comfortable counter seating coupled with sunny views.

    See another view of the island on the next slide.

    Designer: Robert Bakes

    See more of this showhouse kitchen.

  • John Bessler and Marco Ricci

    Entertaining Personality

    Wine is stored in the island on pullout racks, which makes it easy for both the host and guests to access their favorites. The island is just steps away from twin refrigerators—each paired with freezer drawers—integrated into white cabinetry via rift-sawn oak panels. “When oak is bleached and stained ... it translates into a softly textured surface, appropriate to the ocean setting,” says designer Robert Bakes. And rift oak, with its linear grain, injects texture and a slightly more modern feel. I like to mix things up.”

    Designer: Robert Bakes

    See more of this showhouse kitchen.

  • Andreas Trautmansdorff

    Double the Fun

    Designed for a serious cook, this kitchen features two smaller islands instead of the single island it had before. "I always had to walk around the island to get from the sink to the refrigerator," recalls homeowner Linda Waks. Now, the path between the two islands allows for easier movement and more efficient work zones. The island closest to the range handles food prep, while the one closest to the breakfast room is used primarily for meals and snacking. Both islands are topped with a gorgeous blue-green quartzite stone with rich veining. They also feature X-motif trim on the end panels—a look that was inspired by the traditional home’s period styling.

    Design: Dee Dee Taylor Eustace and Francesca D’Angelo

    See the rest of this kitchen.

  • Werner Straube

    Sparkling Style

    Modern and traditional styles come together in this kitchen, where SieMatic cabinets display a mix of wood finishes and materials. Dark oak perimeter cabinets frame a pale island topped with Calacatta Gold marble, a sliding teak cutting board, and a graceful Kallista gooseneck faucet. The island’s eating bar features generously sized stools from Hickory Chair Furniture Company, perfect for quick meals or conversation with the cooks. A polished-nickel pot rack with light fixtures makes the island a well-illuminated focal point.

    Get a closer look at the chest on the next slide.

    Kitchen designer: Mick De Giulio
    Interior designer: Craig Steinhaus

    See the complete kitchen.

  • Werner Straube

    Countertop Chic

    Standing next to the island, this custom-designed chest provides a stylish transition from work zone to dining area. The piece is handcrafted from polished nickel and German silver with a mosaic tile top that adds subtle colors and textures to the mix. Linens and other tableware are stored in drawers accented with faceted crystal knobs.

    Kitchen designer: Mick De Giulio
    Interior designer: Craig Steinhaus

    See the complete kitchen here.