10 Hardest-Working Kitchen Islands

Whether maximizing space or making a dramatic statement, these savvy islands are kitchen essentials

Miranda Crowell
1 / 10

Customize on a budget

To create this kitchen island, the homeowners combined two Ikea cabinets with a custom shelving unit. The workhorse island has plenty of closed storage for pots and pans; the shelving unit (at the far end of the island) holds a microwave, and at the bottom, built-in dog bowls. The Lyptus wood butcher block extends as a bar lip for extra seating.

More: See the rest of this space-saving home

2 / 10

Double up on surface space

In a family’s Washington lake house, this kitchen island nestles right up to a reclaimed-wood bar, which is long enough for a lineup of weekend guests or kids. Stainless-steel counters with a raised marine edge keep spills from reaching the end-grain wood floor. Lighting, Schoolhouse Electric.

More: See the rest of this lake house

3 / 10

Make it party-ready

A semicircular kitchen island is an inherently friendly design, providing room for multiple cooks to work while guests sit at the bar and chat. It also gives the kitchen a softer and more open feel.

More: See the rest of this dream kitchen for entertaining

4 / 10

Make every inch count

This kitchen is part of an open main room on a houseboat, where space is at a premium. In addition to the cooktop, the small but mighty kitchen island includes custom spice drawers, a pullout chopping block, and shelves for cookbooks.

More: See the rest of this space-savvy houseboat

5 / 10

Don’t be shy

A sweep of color on a kitchen island brings instant personality to a room that’s often cold and utilitarian. The brick red paint on this island looks particularly sophisticated in the context of the dark-wood surfaces and stainless steel appliances.

More: 10 ways to redecorate with paint

6 / 10

Build to last

This Oakland, California, kitchen serves as the prime hangout spot for a family of six. To make sure the kitchen island held up to all the activity, the homeowners chose materials—laminate drawers, quartz countertops, and plastic bar chairs—that are virtually indestructible.

More: See the rest of this family-friendly home

7 / 10

Give it a large footprint

This airy, industrial-style kitchen is cupboard-free—making the kitchen island an even harder-working piece. Shelves along the end hold dishes, and the extra-wide surface provides enough room for both cooking and socializing. The electric-blue legs bring a modern element. Island designed by Chadhaus.

More: See the rest of this family-made vacation home

8 / 10

Make it a showstopper

For this kitchen island, designer Brian Paquette chose a custom blue concrete tile. The bold choice makes the island as much a decorative piece as a functional one, and helps it tie into the open living space. He offset the cost of the tile by using affordable quartz instead of marble for the countertop. Tile by Kismet.

More: See the rest of this dramatic home design

9 / 10

Repurpose beautifully

The kitchen island in this Venice, California, home is made from reclaimed Douglas fir, installed so the grain runs horizontally. The counters are recycled concrete (typically made from the rubble of demolished concrete structures), a durable surface that also gives the room a modern feel.

More: See the rest of this sustainably designed home

10 / 10

Mix materials

For this oversize kitchen island in a California ranch house, the homeowner, an architect, mixed white quartz countertops with rustic wood strips left over from the floor. The result is an island that balances cool with warm, and acts as a perfect bridge between the kitchen and the rest of the great room.

More: See the rest of this rustic-modern ranch house


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