The kitchen island concept has transformed the way we use the hub of the home. Family-friendly, practical and comfortable to use, today’s work tables, islands and butcher’s blocks often act as the centre of operations – allowing movement around the room. With enough space to work and transfer hot food with ease, this enables the cook to prepare meals while facing and interacting with others at the same time.

When planning the layout, allow for enough walkthrough space between the wall cabinets and island – at least 90cm if possible, to avoid doors and drawers clashing when opened. If space is limited, then a circular design may be the best option, with no sharp corners to knock against. An island can create a practical space divider between the kitchen and adjoining dining or living area. Consider a contrasting colour or work surface material to add impact.

Kitchen island design advice

Designer Matt Podesta defines the ultimate island layout

  • Use the island or central table for a specific purpose. I often position the hob and sink on an island, as it then becomes a more sociable, friendly space, with room for both cooking and entertaining.
  • If the island is longer than two metres, try to include a waste-chute and prep sink, or at least make sure these are adjacent to your cooking and chopping space, otherwise you’ll spend too much time walking around the island.
  • Consider using different materials to define the areas, such as natural oak or ash for the cooking and prep areas, perhaps with a granite or slate work surface, and painted cabinets and a different work surface for storage areas.
  • Remember to specify enough sockets and charger points at the design stage. It’s not ideal to retrofit extra services.

1. Grey tone

This stylish grey island has an overhanging worktop that can be used as a quick breakfast table, as well as creating extra space for food preparation. It also incorporates the kitchen sink, freeing up space on the main worktop, and around the hob, for cooking.

magnet

Leighton Grey Shaker style by Magnet with breakfast bar, from £228 for a 60cm base cabinet

2. Handmade range

This handmade island from Chalon is the centrepiece of the room. Rather than it simply being a practical cooking station, it has been turned into a feature with spotlighting from above and accent lighting around its base.

chalon

This work table from the handmade freestanding range by Chalon is priced from £4,000, hand-painted in the firm’s own colour range

3. Big table

This storage packed kitchen island is actually freestanding, rather than fitted, and allows for a flexible cooking space. If you don’t want to commit to a fixed kitchen, a freestanding unit is a cost effective way of getting the same practicality and look, but it can be moved to one side to create more entertaining space, or can be removed easily if you are redecorating.

christopher-peters

Large island work table with multiple drawers and open lower shelf, shown with oak top and slatted base, in a distressed finish. About £3,500 depending on size from Christopher Peters

4. Classic design

This stylish white island not only creates extra worktop space, it can accommodate three bar stools for a quick and easy place to sit for lunch or a coffee. The extra wide island is also perfect for entertaining, as your guests can sit as the food is prepared, without taking up work top space.

higham

Woodcote kitchen with island, around £28,000 for similar, Higham Kitchens

5. Oak unit

For a rustic look in a traditional-style kitchen, go for an oak island like this one. With it’s marble worktop and intigrated gas hob it is still a practical, modern unit but with a classic country look.

podesta

Large island unit in oak, with honed Carrara marble work surfaces, teamed with surrounding cabinets in satin-finish painted tulipwood, from £30,000 for a kitchen, Podesta

6. Perfect panels

Not all kitchens have space for a rectangular island at their centre, and you don’t want the space to end up looking cluttered. The alternative is a circular island like this one. It offers extra work and sitting space, without encroaching on the worktops and cupboard doors around the edge of the room.

rencraft

Hand-painted units with Costa Smerelda granite work surface on this curved, tongue-and-groove panelled island, which includes seating, from £16,000, furniture only, Rencraft.

7. Double island

If you’re designing your kitchen from scratch and aren’t sure how you want the space to look, consider a multiple island design like this, from Smallbone. It creates a professional feel and will guarantee that your space stands out when you entertain.

smallbone

The new Brasserie kitchen from Smallbone can incorporate double island layouts, shown with a bold blue paint finish, from £40,000 for a kitchen

8. Bright details

A simple kitchen island with plenty of storage is the perfect way to add a practical work space to your cooking area, but it could also be used to add personality to your kitchen. This simple, country-style space is filled with colour and creativity, simply by painting the centre island a soft pink shade.

harvey-jones

The Original kitchen by Harvey Jones includes details such as beading on the door panels, from £18,000 for a kitchen

9. Bespoke kitchen

If you’re planning having a kitchen hand made for your space, you have a great opportunity to create luxury. This bespoke kitchen is filled with grand accents, including the marble topped and beaded island at it’s heart.

woodstock-1002x748

Bespoke classic kitchen with a marble-topped island and hand-painted, framed and beaded cabinetry, from £30,000 for a kitchen, Woodstock Furniture

10. Storage space

This kitchen contains a mix of country and modern elements, from the granate worktops to the traditional units. The kitchen island is filled with storage, and combines a curved section, with a rectangular breakfast bar area.

john-lewis-of-hungerford

Shaker kitchen with in-frame cabinets painted in Blossom and Earl Grey, with granite worktops and a curved-end island unit. Open shelves create striking and practical storage space. A painted 60cm base cabinet is £700 at John Lewis of Hungerford.

11. Wonderful worktop

This freestanding island has practical shelving beneath and plenty of storage drawers. The worktop is quartz, a hard wearing and resistant surface that will last a lifetime and always looks stylish.

martin-moore

This island from Martin Moore & Co’s English collection has a Caesarstone quartz work surface and is painted in Mouse’s Back by Farrow & Ball. From £35,000 for a kitchen

 For more inspiration take a look at our gallery of 16 kitchen diners

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