Kitchen Island Design 101

Kitchen island photo credit: Michael Kaskel
October 5th, 2022

They say no man is an island, but at Bentwood Luxury Kitchens, we are firm believers that most kitchens can benefit from having an island. The kitchen island is a desirable element in today’s kitchen designs and takes its rightful place at center stage in the room. This “must have” component is equally important to formal entertainers and casual families since it is the perfect place to gather around and be social.  

Key Considerations When Planning Your Kitchen Island

Werner Straube

Every kitchen project begins with a vision and answering a few key questions. When designing the kitchen island, a couple more questions need to be asked including:  what size will work in your space?  What is the desired function of the island? What storage needs can the island fulfill? And what style and materials do you prefer? 

working side of kitchen island
Wade Blissard

In reviewing kitchen layout options, look for ample circulation around the kitchen island. A good rule of thumb is to plan for a 42-48-inch walkway clearance from appliances and perimeter cabinetry for ease of kitchen traffic.   

kitchen island orientation
Werner Straube

The orientation of the island within the overall kitchen design is based on the amount of clearance you need. The kitchen island is normally centered on a focal wall such as the Range Wall or Sink Wall.   

Kitchen island
Michael Kaskel

Since everyone gathers in the kitchen, having a couple of seats at the island is a perfect choice, especially when entertaining.  Smaller islands provide intimate conversation zones accommodating 2-4 counter stools, and corner seating creates that natural cozy space.   

seating at kitchen island
Wade Blissard

Larger islands usually have seating across the back and often embrace that restaurant feel with stylish counter stools.  

Sometimes, no seating around your kitchen island is the best option.  This is especially true for compact kitchens like city condos, where an island offers valuable landing and workspace.  

Kitchen island
Padgett and Company
Buffet serving from kitchen island
Werner Straube

Buffet serving is another reason to skip the seating around the kitchen island.  Having a dedicated serving space is great for busy family kitchens and hosting casual gatherings.   

double kitchen islands
Tim Murphy

For truly expansive kitchen spaces, you might consider including two islands—one for a dedicated workspace and the other for seating and entertaining.   

The Working Side of the Island

working side of kitchen island
Wade Blissard

When planning your kitchen island, think everyday function and efficiency.  It is prime real estate that supports how you prepare a meal, serve food, entertain guests, and how you organize your kitchen.  

working kitchen island
Treve Johnson

Current island design preferences include a large central sink, dishwasher, pull-out trash, and under-counter microwave drawer.   Normally, the working side of the kitchen island supports the Range Wall or cooking zone.  The great news is that, while there are certain rules, the ultimate design of any island is the homeowner’s preference.  

How About Some Additional Storage? 

island storage
Werner Straube

At the forefront of every kitchen designer’s mind is how to make the most efficient use of the space. Often there is an opportunity to add cabinetry storage to the end of an island. This provides easy access to vases, appetizer plates, and other serving ware ready for entertaining.

Visually Speaking

Kitchen island
Aimee Mazzenga

The kitchen island is an opportunity to express your style through cabinetry door style, material, finish, and many luxury details. This counts for both small and XL size islands.  

island leg detail
Werner Straube

Furniture Inspired 

As shown here, utilizing furniture details like a decorative leg, crafted finish, and luxury hardware create a custom island just right for your kitchen.   

Stone Countertops  

For stone countertop options, a Bentwood Dealer can lead you through premium countertop choices, right for your home and lifestyle. Luxury stone selections include marble, quartzite, granite, and semi-precious stone.   

stone countertop
Werner Straube
stone countertop
Werner Straube

To add visual interest, fabrication details such as builtup countertop height, decorative edge profiles, and waterfalling material to the floor are always worthy of consideration. 

Decorative Metal 

metal detailing
Werner Straube

A current trend in kitchen design is incorporating decorative metal into kitchens and the island is no exception. Here custom metal screen panels and footrail for a home bar island offer both function and visual interest to this contemporary design.  

mirror-polished stainless steel
Werner Straube

Including mirror-polished stainless steel was both luxurious and strategic for this narrow Modern kitchen design above.  

Custom Wood Beauty  

wood kitchen island
Traci Connell

Luxury Wood elements add warmth to the kitchen and offer visual impact. Here a custom kitchen island is enhanced with natural walnut material and the waterfall edge detail showcases just how dynamic the use of wood can be.    

built-in walnut cutting board
Werner Straube

A builtin walnut cutting board is convenient but also adds that warm detail as shown in this Contemporary Island design.   

This beautiful custom walnut end grain countertop/integrated cutting board was designed for a home chef and includes built-in knife storage, trivets, and green waste capture. This element provides a visually striking contrast to the painted cabinetry.   

integrated cutting board
Eric Elberson

In Conclusion

Kitchen island
Eric Elberson

As you can see, there is no shortage of beautiful designs for kitchen islands from these luxury residences across the country.  No need to use the same cabinetry material and finish as perimeter cabinetryThe same goes for countertops, as a contrasting countertop makes for a lovely composition Add some decorative lighting and stylish counter stools and Wow!  We see the kitchen island continuing to be relevant in kitchen design well into the future.   

Planning Your Kitchen Project

kitchen remodel
Michael Hunter

When it comes to your kitchen project, either new construction or a remodel, there are many considerations that consistently produce the best designs and outcomes. 

Here is useful checklist for kitchens that include a kitchen island 

  1.  Work with a professional who can offer the best design for your space including proper clearances and circulation for your kitchen island. 
  2. Place order for appliances once your kitchen design is finalized as there are still some supply chain delays with fulfillment. 
  3. Locate all power outlets, especially on the kitchen island. At Bentwood, we finish our outlet covers to match custom cabinetry to avoid unsightly visual occurrences. 
  4. Confirm decorative lighting in your kitchen plan.  Verify proper sizing and placement of pendants that will hang over the island as a key focal element. Additional fixture lengths may also be needed depending on your lighting selections.   
  5. Consider Bentwood Luxury Kitchens as your cabinetry provider. You, your family, and friends will be spending a lot of time around that kitchen island so buying quality custom cabinetry designed for your space will set you up for a fantastic future.  

Find Inspiration Near You

Inspired to update your own space?  Click here to find your closest authorized Bentwood dealer. We’ll connect you with a designer in your area and get started with your vision right away!

Not quite ready to begin a project? Look through our gallery to find inspiration and discover the beauty of Bentwood.

Article Name
Kitchen Island Design 101
The kitchen island is a desirable element in today's kitchen designs and takes its rightful place at center stage in the room.
Design Inspiration, Exclusively Bentwood, Kitchen remodeling
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