If the kitchen is the heart of the home, the island plays a crucial role in the functionality and the style of your kitchen and sets the tone for the rest of your home as well. Why settle for a standard kitchen island when you could have one of these instead?

1. Open shelving adds visual lightness and allows for ample bar seating.

Photo: purehavenhomes/Instagram

“I have too much storage in my kitchen,” said no one, ever. That’s the beauty of open shelving in your island. Not only do you have the opportunity to store more gadgets and trinkets, you can enhance your décor by displaying items that support your theme. And open shelving lets you neatly tuck stools underneath, providing lots of seating. 

2. Handcrafted kitchen island legs create architectural interest while supporting a countertop overhang.

Photo: cottagesandbungalows/Instagram

Adding detail to the legs makes your island look more like a piece of furniture. The possibilities are endless too: turned wood, square columns, ornate carvings, fluted details and more. Make sure that your color and material choices match or complement your cabinetry to create a more cohesive look. 

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3. Budget-friendly removable decals add personality to a builder basic kitchen island.

Photo: miss_rusticarrow/Instagram

You can really make your kitchen island pop by applying decals. Pick a dramatic color or pattern to create bold contrast. Remember there is typically a lot of moisture and grease in kitchens, so be sure to clean and dry the island well before applying your decal. Measure- and then measure again- before cutting. Start on one side and apply slowly, pushing any air bubbles out along the way. 

4. A kitchen island with a custom, pull-out dining table makes hosting large get-togethers a breeze.

Photo: jamiebellessa/Instagram

If space is at a premium in your kitchen area, you may feel like you have to choose either an island or a dining table. With a space-saving solution, you can have both.  This is even more useful if you have limited counterspace, as the table top can function for extra prep space as well. Depending on the design and size of your island, you could also incorporate slide-out seating, like benches, that can be put out of sight when not in use.  And having your table on wheels means you can dine wherever you’d like.

5. Maximizing island storage allows you to ditch upper cabinets altogether.

Photo: countrysally/Instagram

Forgoing upper cabinetry gives you more real estate in your kitchen for other uses, like displaying artwork or having more windows in the walls (who doesn’t like to look outside when doing dishes?). If you can design your island to have ample drawers and pull-out cabinets, this is easily done. Maximize your storage space by using in-drawer organizers for pots and pans, cutlery and tools. 

6. An integrated cutting board made from butcher block provides plenty of space for chopping vegetables.

Photo: etchandivydesign/Instagram

Having a built-in butcher block cutting board is genius. It’s easy to clean and adds detail to your décor, meshing well into a number of different kitchen aesthetics. Not only that, you don’t have to search around for a cutting board- or find somewhere to store it either.  

7. Peek-a-boo storage cubbies allow you to display cookbooks, servingware and decorative objects.

Photo: nufloors_saskatoon/Instagram

Storage cubbies with easy access are a smart addition to your kitchen island. Not only are they decorative, they provide easy access to your go-to islands. It’s also the perfect display case for your cookbooks, which are an accessory unto themselves. 

8. Choosing a contrasting color or material for the island amps up interest in an otherwise all-white kitchen.

Photo: joineryanddesignco/Instagram

All-white kitchens are all the rage but using your island for color contrast is becoming more popular, no matter your color scheme. Think rich, tone-on-tone woods, black and white, or a color a shade darker or lighter from your cabinetry for a more subtle effect. 

9. A round kitchen island topped with marble and detailed with cane webbing dares to be different.

Photo: workstead/Instagram

Who says kitchen islands have to be rectangular? What should really determine your island shape is the best use of the available space. Ensure there is comfortable clearance to move around your island. So go round, oblong with an extended peninsula, square or even take two islands and run them either parallel or perpendicular to each other for most versatility. 

10. An attached dining table at a lower elevation offers a laid-back vibe.

Photo: aimeestylist/Instagram

As a rule, levels add dimension and visual texture in home décor. In this case, extending the island with a lower dining table in a different material adds contrast and also clearly delineates zones for cooking, prep and eating.  

11. And finally, an L-shaped island with built-in banquette seating is the ultimate luxury.

Photo: mowlemandco/Instagram

Built-ins are not only swanky, they are intelligent space savers. Indulge in rich upholstery and fabrics, to elevate the look. This L-shape delivers some clean lines in a crisp contemporary kitchen, but you can suit a number of different aesthetics simply by swapping out your banquette coverings. 

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