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I Heart Kitchen Islands

Confession: I love kitchen islands like Joanna Gaines loves shiplap. When we remodeled our current home, I centered the entire kitchen design around the island; I imagined it being the heart of the home, as they say, and that’s exactly what it has become. The kids do crafts and homework there, friends sit on the stools to chat and have a glass of wine while I cook, and on occasion, our family eats there and talks about our days.

The before/after of our current kitchen!

That being said, when I’m designing a kitchen, if there is ANY way to add an island, I’m going to do it! But sometimes, it takes a little creativity to make it fit. There are also almost endless possibilities in the design and function of an island, so it’s important to imagine how it will be used and what functionality you want built in.

If you’re hoping to add an island to your kitchen, here are a few options to consider:


For me, there is so much possibility and potential for an island, that really, the only time I’d go with a small and basic island is when I’m extremely limited by space. Sometimes, you just can’t make a kitchen bigger.

For our Dorrance Flip, I squeezed a 24” wide island into the space. Theoretically, you could have something even less wide, but this still gave typical drawer and cabinet space to the future owner, while providing nice, additional work space.

The waterfall countertops add a wow-factor to this skinny island in our Dorrance Flip.

Alternatively, a great way to add some character to an existing space, is to add a furniture piece that can second as an island or a simple butcher block stand. Even an “island cart” may serve the needed purpose. The kitchen island below from Crate & Barrel is beautiful!

Image via


Perhaps one of the most popular options for a sit-in island is one where you can put stools all along one side (opposite where the cooking and prepping would take place, naturally). For this type of island, the base or footprint of your island will be a different size than the workspace, as your counter will need to have an overhang of at least 12” (even better if you can get an 18” overhang).

The island in our Meadowhollow renovation. See more pictures here.


Another option for seating at an island is to have one side of the island open for stools on 3 sides. This is a great option for a larger kitchen where the majority of the workspace (oven, stove, sink, fridge) is concentrated on one side of the kitchen. This type of seating arguably lends itself to better conversation as family or guests can look each other in the eye as they enjoy the company. I’ve also installed this type of island when a client gets rid of their dining room in order to enlarge their kitchen; this end of the island then becomes more like a dining table than just a short-term seating option.

(Photo courtesy Cabinets by West End Cabinet Company)

(Note: I'm hoping to get a good picture of my client's island soon. Stay tuned!)


Some islands are one expansive countertop with lots of room to prep and serve, while others have a more utilitarian use by having a sink or stove built in. Sometimes this is a matter of practicality (there is really no other place for the sink or stove to go in the kitchen) and other times a matter of preference (perhaps the owner doesn’t want their back to the rest of the house or their island-company when cooking or washing dishes, or maybe there is a view to die for so you orient everything in the kitchen to face that direction as much as possible).

(Photo courtesy of Studio McGee )

If you go with this option, be sure you plan for plumbing (including gas if you have a gas range) and electricity to make these functions work. You will also want to think through how wide your island is; it may be unwise to include a stove in your island if the island width is equal to the depth of the stove and you want island seating (no one could sit there for fear of injury!).


For all of these options, you should think through practical storage options. Even a small island cart lends itself to specific storage solutions (Are there hooks for dish towels or utensils? Are there shelves to maximize the height of the cart?).

Here are some storage options to consider:

Adding a bookshelf to store cookbooks like this one designed by Durrett Homes

(Photo courtesy of

Adding a pullout trash drawer. Depending on the layout of your kitchen, the island may or may not be an ideal spot. Remember to think about your workflow as you go about designing your dream kitchen.

Wine coolers or beverage refrigerator add an extra, hospitable and practical touch to your island.

More photos of this gorgeous kitchen here.

Two-sided access to your island can maximize storage space, if you have the space to include it. We designed this 4'x9' island we designed with plenty of storage! This island is a mix of utility (notice the slide-in range), storage, seating, and absolute beauty! ;)

Kitchen islands really are so fun. They're versatile and can be worked into virtually any space. And maybe what I love about them most is that they have a unique ability to transform the kitchen into the heart of the home.

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