Design Your Kitchen Island Paradise

Dreaming about your own private island? No, not in the Caribbean: in your kitchen! The kitchen island has become a very popular architectural feature that enables more versatile cooking, cleaning, storing, dining and entertaining options.


The old kitchen table and chairs took up lots of valuable space if nobody was eating. Adding a kitchen island provides more functional elegance for the busiest room in the house. Working and playing in the kitchen is better when you own an island!

First of course you need enough space to make it work. Will you still have a functional “work triangle” for efficiency? It’s always a good idea to think about function first. Form and style come later.

Start from the top

What will you use the island for, more specifically, the surfaces? That will determine what kind of materials it will be made of. Kitchen islands are multifunctional and customizable so for what purpose will yours be used?

  • Food prep
  • Grill or cooktop (induction cooktop is best, to prevent burns from hot surfaces)
  • Breakfast bar with a toaster or toaster oven
  • Buffet area when entertaining
  • Wet bar with sink

kitchen-surfacesThere are many options for surface materials, from matching the other counter tops, to complementing them: marble, granite, butcher block, quartz, Corian, wood or stainless steel, or a combination of these. There are even glass island tops that are lit from within.

A strong, versatile foundation

Then there is the island base or foundation. Here’s where most of the functionality is built in, which may include:

  • Dishwasher
  • Appliance storage or “garage” with a pull-down door
  • Shelves for cookbooks
  • Mini-fridge or ice maker
  • Display space with glass doors for crystal or china
  • Wine rack and/or wine “captain” (cooler)
  • Built-in microwave or warming oven
  • Pull out drawers for utensils, large serving pieces, or table linens
  • Vertical slots for sliding in baking sheets and trays
  • Pull down or slide out bins for trash or recycling
  • A drop leaf for even more work surface or dining area on demand

Other features to consider include overhead ventilation such as a hood and fan if you’re tucking in a cooktop or grill (how about a beautiful copper piece?), or you may need task or overhead lighting for food preparation. For a small prep or bar sink, you’ll need plumbing inside the island, and electrical outlets if you plan on using appliances such as a mixer, blender or toaster oven on top.

“No matter where I serve my guests, it seems they like my kitchen best” goes the old adage, so why not give them a ringside seat? Make your island a multi-tasker for entertaining with an overhanging tabletop so guests can pull up a seat, or use it as a breakfast bar.

Pull up captain’s chairs or bar stools and figure on about 16 inches of counter overhang, plus a width or “elbow room” of 24 to 30 inches for each seat. Then allow for anywhere from 35 to almost 60 inches of room behind the seats for pulling them in and out comfortably.

You should also be able to move through the “aisles” between the island and countertop and major appliances easily—even when doors are opened.

Center of attention

The style of the island should blend in with the rest of the room, of course, but even here there are many options, from a sleek, contemporary stainless with stone, or a more rustic reclaimed-wood look.

You could paint bead board white and top it with a chunk of butcher block for an island with a simple cottage feel.

kitchen-island-traditionalFor a classic, traditional kitchen, an elegant furniture look with carved legs and feet, architectural molding and decorative corbels supporting the overhang area can be beautiful. Or build a one-of-a-kind piece by repurposing a large antique vanity or a buffet table.

Short on space? Consider a compact, portable island on wheels or casters. With drop-leaf panels you can practically double the surface space once they’re flipped up.

Don’t forget the finishing touches. Stylish door handles and drawer pulls that complement the rest of the kitchen cabinetry are the “jewelry” of this functional architecture.

To spotlight your own private island, consider trendy pendant lighting, available in a wide variety of looks and finishes including colorful, one-of-a-kind, blown-glass globes.

All these ideas may sound like brainstorming and maybe that’s the way to start your “island paradise” dreaming. With the exception of available space, there are almost no limits to how an island can transform your kitchen into the work and play space you’ve always wanted.

The professionals at 3W Design can help you create your own “island paradise” in your kitchen with a signature island as its focal point.

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