A kitchen island can come in many shapes and sizes and perform a variety of functions. So before you go with a basic rectangle design — not that there’s anything wrong with that — consider how the following designers approached this hardworking kitchen feature.
1. Z-Shape With Multiple ZonesDesigner: Adriana SolmsonLocation:
New York CitySize:
600 square feet (56 square meters); 30 by 20 feetHomeowners’ request.
The homeowners are wine producers and skilled cooks. They wanted an open-floor-plan kitchen that would integrate cooking, entertaining and a large amount of storage. Island.
Complex, almost Z-shape design with specific working areas. The west end, near the cooktop, is a prep surface with cabinets and lighting hanging above. The long countertop in the middle is used for cooking complex dishes. The cabinets below, on the south side, store vacuum sealers, hand mixers and other appliances. The north side has large glass drawers that store and display china. At the east end is a bar counter with seating.Find a kitchen designer to create the island of your dreams
Other special features.
Custom cabinets in an oak stain. Laminated glass backsplash. Quartz countertops. “All the drawers and doors have easy-close hardware, and we integrated all the pulls, allowing the owners to lean against the cabinets without the discomfort of hitting exterior pulls,” says designer Adriana Solmson, who used Houzz photos for inspiration for this kitchen design.Designer tip.
“Listen to the owner’s requests, let function always dictate form, and keep it simple,” Solmson says. “Uh-oh” moment.
“When I went to my cabinetmaker’s studio and saw the size of the island, over 20 feet long, I felt sick to my stomach, literally,” Solmson says. “I thought maybe the size was incorrect. And even though I knew it was correct, I thought it might have been too large for the space. Once they started installing, I was reassured it was just perfect and it was going to look magnificent.” Cabinets: Inner Gaze Furniture Design Shop for counter and bar stools
2. Open Table-StyleDesigner: Summer Thornton Design Location:
400 square feet (37 square meters); 16 by 25 feetHomeowners’ request.
Restore the contemporary-style kitchen to its prewar classic design but keep it fresh, bright and airy. Island.
Table-style island made of mahogany, stained in a custom color and sealed with a low-sheen lacquer. “Whenever possible we try to avoid built-in islands,” says designer Summer Thornton, who used Houzz images for inspiration. “They look bulky, heavy and boxy, and our work is more focused on creating lighter-feeling spaces. So instead of cabinet-base islands, we’re often designing islands that look more like a table with open space beneath to allow light to pass through and a more open appearance. Yes, we still have built-in drawers, and we often will use baskets or a bottom rack to store pots and pans or meet other functional storage needs, but we can create something with a much lighter feel.”
Other special features. Brass-and-glass shelving. Custom range hood.
Designer tip. “Open shelves further lighten a kitchen and help it to feel more like the rest of the home — less bulky and more open,” Thornton says. “We also hid a dropped soffit above the cabinets and concealed the register with brass grates. It created a beautiful aesthetic and still allows airflow for heating and cooling in the home without any visible mechanicals.”
“Uh-oh” moment. “Getting an island this large up an elevator was definitely something we thought about and planned ahead,” Thornton says. “It came in as sections. The top, the legs and the base were transported on top of the elevator cab and then assembled on-site. When the finely finished wood top is sitting on top of an elevator cab, I often hold my breath and pray.”
Kitchen island fabrication: Lagormorph Design
3. Concave- and Convex-Sided With Integrated Dining Area
Designers: Nowell Vincent Interiors (cabinetry) and Debby Herber of Finishing Touches (interior design)
Location: Cheyenne, Wyoming
Size: 380 square feet (35 square meters)
Homeowners’ request. A kitchen with textured elements, refined beauty and a breakfast area big enough for the whole family.
Island. A 4-by-10-foot concave- and convex-sided design with integrated seating on one end. The color is On the Rocks by Sherwin-Williams. “Traditional fluted panels mixed with a combination of door styles gave just enough variety,” designer Nowell Vincent says.
Other special features.
Quartzite countertops. Marble mosaic tile backsplash laid in a herringbone pattern. Custom range hood. Hutch cabinet with patinated metal inserts. Zinc-topped dining table. Designer tip.
“Work with prideful craftspeople,” Vincent says. “Find your tribe of local artists and engage them in the early start of the process. They know their scope of artistry and will help you elevate the vision and unique solution for your client.”Hood and metal hutch inserts: Raw Urth Designs
Tom Johnson of Hyde Park RenovationsLocation:
220 square feet (20 square meters)Homeowners’ request.
Keep the existing kitchen layout while replacing the brown cabinets and updating the beige walls to create a brighter space. “We came in with white cabinets, white countertops; forced light in with LED lights and glass; and added some interest in the backsplash,” designer Tom Johnson says. Island.
The island is around 9 feet, 4 inches in length with one end offset at a 45-degree angle, and is constructed of thermo-structured surface (TSS), an engineered product that has the look and feel of wood. The homeowners wanted to keep the existing hand-scraped wood floor, so they and Johnson kept the same angled island design as the original, to save money that would have gone into floor repair or moving electrical and plumbing. “There is no wasted space,” Johnson says. “The island features the sink and faucet, dishwasher and pullout trash can while still seating four comfortably.”Other special features.
Porcelain countertops. “With porcelain you get very vivid patterns while still sharing stain- and heat-resistant qualities that make quartz so popular,” Johnson says. Designer tip.
“Find ways to incorporate current finishes into your new space,” Johnson says. “It could be flooring, paint or even wall art.” “Uh-oh” moment.
“This was our first time dealing with porcelain countertops,” Johnson says. “What we thought we were supposed to do from a bracing standpoint was incorrect, and we had cracking along all the edges. Ultimately, we removed all the countertops, switched countertop fabricators, purchased three new slabs and eventually got a beautiful install. Finding a fabricator who is comfortable cutting and installing porcelain is key. While it was a costly setback in terms of time and [money], we learned a lot and are excited about doing porcelain again in the future.”
5. With Curved Seating AreaDesigner:
Sasha Lanka of Westward HomeLocation:
518 square feet (48 square meters), including a butler’s pantry and breakfast areaHomeowners’ request.
This couple with four young children asked the designer to open and reorganize their compartmentalized kitchen and create a more modern, cheerful layout. Island.
A 9-foot design with a curved cantilevered Carrara marble countertop that has seating for four. The countertop has a custom edge detail to “make it feel just a bit more like furniture,” says designer Sasha Lanka, who used Houzz photos to communicate ideas with her client. The island also includes a prep sink, two refrigerator drawers for drinks and snacks, and customized storage for pots and pans and arts and crafts supplies. Other special features.
Grasscloth wallpaper. Handmade backsplash tile. Original oak flooring, restained a dark custom color. Designer tip.
“Kitchens can easily feel sterile, so we papered the walls in grasscloth to add warmth and texture,” Lanka says. Cabinet paint: Dove Wing, Benjamin Moore
6. Compact, Tiered and DetailedFinisher: PMV Custom FinishesLocation:
Sturgis, MichiganHomeowners’ request.
Refinish the existing cabinetry, including an island with shag carpet on the back side. Island.
The design features paneled sides and back (finished in a conversion varnish in Dior Gray by Sherwin-Williams), detailed corbels and a two-tier countertop. Other features.
Patterned backsplash tile that runs from countertop to ceiling. Refinished perimeter cabinets painted in Mountainscape by Benjamin Moore. Designer tip.
“Since we work with refinishing existing kitchen cabinetry, it is important for us to take into account all existing surfaces along with any items that will be updated,” project manager Jessica Smyrnios says. “We always encourage our customers to select their cabinetry colors in their own home so that they can see how their color selections will look in their natural lighting with all existing surfaces.”
7. Oversize and Square With Integrated Cutting BoardDesigners:
Shea Murdock, Kara Kortyohann and Derek Magee of Murdock Solon ArchitectsLocation:
New York CitySize:
250 square feet (23 square meters)Homeowners’ request.
A new kitchen layout that would maximize space for entertaining and flow between rooms. Island.
The large rectangular white oak island emulates the shape of the mullion-free skylight, which was inspired by artist James Turrell. The island features open storage, appliances and an integrated cutting boardDesigner tip.
“The decision to embrace the existing skylight was big,” architect Shea Murdock says. “We juxtaposed the skylight with a neutral mass of the kitchen island below.” “Uh-oh” moment.
“Lighting the island was a challenge,” Murdock says. “We didn’t want light fixtures obstructing the view, so we placed light fixtures on the roof to shine into the kitchen. At night, our skylight looks as if it was lit with moonlight.”
8. Extra-Long With Dropped Baking StationDesigner:
Carol Hasler of Kitchen VillageLocation:
Mount Prospect, IllinoisSize:
328 square feet (30 square meters); 20½ by 16 feet
Bring back their 1960s ranch home’s original vibe but add modern conveniences.Island.
The 130-by-45-inch island includes a quartzite countertop with a dropped pastry-rolling area at one end and seating for five at the other. “The daily functions were divided into school lunch prep, daily meal prep, pastry prep and informal family eating area and homework space,” designer Carol Hasler says.Other special features.
“My favorite details in this kitchen are the midcentury modern touches that brought the original vibe back to this home,” Hasler says. “The pendant lighting, the island stools, the brushed-bronze decorative hardware and the wonderful wave tile really completed the project.”Designer tip.
“I always recommend that clients pick their countertop material first before settling on a specific white paint for their cabinets, as it is much easier to find a paint color to blend or complement your countertop material than vice versa,” Hasler says. “Uh-oh” moment.
“The 24 hours that we obsessed with matching the wood floor stain to the sunken living room was probably the most stressful,” Hasler says. “A previous refinisher thought the stain was either Early American or English chestnut, but neither came close to matching the rich color of the sunken living room. Fortunately, our very patient refinisher was willing to show us the art of mixing in ratios so that the final choice could be reproduced in large quantities. Ten sample areas later, perfect match.” Pendant light: Daphne, Mitzi by Hudson Valley
9. Rectangular With L-Shape Bar CounterDesigner:
Lisbeth Kanestrom of Milima DesignLocation:
San Carlos, CaliforniaSize:
512 square feet (48 square meters); 36½ by 14 feetHomeowners’ request.
A bigger, fresher kitchen with more workable space, six bar stools (one for each grandchild), a TV and flat-panel cabinet doors for easy cleaning. Island.
The design has white oak base cabinets in a natural stain, quartz countertops with a counter-height (34-inch-high) area and an L-shape bar-height section with stools. Designer Lisbeth Kanestrom used this ideabook
containing Houzz products and photos to help plan the kitchen design.Other special features.
Integrated countertop griddle. Powerful custom range hood. Designer tip.
“The previous kitchen was only 8½ by 14 feet, but we convinced the homeowner to use the family room as well,” Kanestrom says. “I turned a bedroom next to the kitchen into her family room and opened up that space by removing the door.”Stool: Vega, Linon Home
10. Large and Square With Storage Drawers Designers:
Rodney Palmer of Cornerstone Architects
(architecture) and Glynis Wood Interiors (interior design)Location:
295 square feet (27 square meters) Homeowners’ request.
A modern, not cold, bold cook’s kitchen Island.
The island is 5 feet, 6 inches by 7 feet, 10 inches and prioritizes storage over seating. The countertops are Absolute Black leathered granite. “The island’s solid, geometric massing contributes to an overall monolithic kitchen design,” architect Rodney Palmer says. Other special features.
Satin-glass backsplash. French white oak flooring. “Utilizing a limited materials palette and incorporating a refrigerator with no handles and built-in coffee maker kept the bold, clean design throughout the space,” Palmer says.Designer tip.
“Dark kitchens can work with the right lighting and adjacent materials,” Palmer says. “Once the homeowner decided on a dark kitchen, the design was accommodated by enlarging the kitchen window to add light. Staying with a dark backsplash kept the monolithic feel of the space.” Wall paint: Chantilly Lace in satin finish, Benjamin Moore
11. Compact and Square With Attached Raised Walnut Seating AreaDesigners:
John Borofka of Walnut and Oak
and Johnathan Kurth of Traditional Urban BuildersLocation:
300 square feet (28 square meters); 20 by 15 feetHomeowners’ request.
This kitchen is in a spec house designed as a collaboration among John Borofka, architecture firm Citizen Design
and Traditional Urban Builders. The team wanted to create a modern, warm statement kitchen. Island.
The island is composed of two sections. A more standard 4-by-4-foot section features storage and a built-in microwave. A 6-by-3-foot walnut peninsula extends outward from the island toward the dining and living space. “By using real walnut, we bring an element of warmth to the otherwise white-and-steel modern kitchen,” designer John Borofka says. “We made the piece heavy and solid with a 3-inch profile, but left the interior space completely open. Light now flows through the piece from the large sliding glass doors and into the house, and views to the outside are unobstructed.”“Uh-oh” moment.
“At one point, the countertops on the island were replaced, and the new countertops were slightly lower than the originals that we based our dimensions off of,” Borofka says. “We had to carefully adjust the height of the piece to ensure a level and smooth transition from one surface to the other.”