Island Inspirations

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Everyone knows the kitchen is the heart of the home, but what's the heart of the kitchen? I think a kitchen island can fit that role perfectly. It's the place where company inevitably gathers while meals are being prepared. And a kitchen island can create a welcoming sense to the space in a way that other countertop spaces can't do. A kitchen island is inviting, functional, and aesthetic. Plus, it's a natural place to gather.

My husband and I are currently in the middle of a kitchen remodel, and we've learned a thing or two about the world of islands as we've designed the kitchen of our dreams. By keeping a few tips in mind you can make an island work in almost any kitchen. Here are some things to consider when planning your space.


Color adds character like almost nothing else. What better place to do that than your island? Colors and islands are a perfect match because they work together as a natural highlight to your kitchen. Take a look at how this stunning yellow island invites you to sit and chat (maybe with a glass of Chardonnay!). The vibrant yellow mixed with the clean lines of the island's design make a huge statement.

Kitchen Island
Image: Better Homes and Gardens

My favorite thing about this next island is how simple it is. The island itself is tiny. There are no appliances built in, and it has minimal storage, but the island makes this kitchen. Its turquoise color and open design stand out in a delightful way.

Kitchen Island
Image: The Little Things via Apartment Therapy


If adding color to your island isn't your cup of tea, you can use unique seating as a more subtle way to bring in some personality. These red stools bring a cheery pop of color to the white island, and set the color scheme for the whole room, without being loud or overpowering.

Kitchen Island
Image: Midwest Living

And while these Amanda Nisbet stools are a even quieter with their transparent backs, their shiny bronze cushions and chunky metal rollers make quite a statement, again setting the tone for the room.

Image: Amanda Nisbet


Selecting lighting to compliment your kitchen island is a major decision because nothing spotlights your island like, well, light! That doesn't mean you need to play it safe with track or recessed lighting. Instead, I'm a huge fan of bringing in large, striking pendants to add a warm glow and visual appeal (and height) to the space.

I love the size and color of these bronze-lined lights. They remind me of oversized food warmers in a restaurant.

Kitchen Island
Image: Tria Giovan

And, despite their large size, these light-aqua lanterns feel celestial suspended above the crisp, white island. Very airy.

Kitchen Island
Image: Traditional Home

Choosing Your Island's Height

Once you've determined the function of your island (cooking, seating, storage, all of the above!), take some time to decide what counter height will serve you best. Thirty-six inches is standard for food preparation and seated table eating, but sometimes it's wise to have a portion of your island set higher. If you're going higher, the standard bar height is usually around 42 inches. Having a portion of your island higher can clearly define the eating space, and separate it from areas used for food prep.

Island Inspiration
Image: Palmer Todd

When we began planning our kitchen, our designer strongly encouraged us to consider sticking with a 36 inch island. Why? Well, we have two little ones running around the house, and she pointed out that a lower island height can be great for families with children, who tend to have a harder time getting into bar-height seating.

Island Inspiration
Image: Becker Architects Metro Home

Island vs. Peninsula (or an Archipelago?)

Depending on the size and layout of your kitchen, an island may not always work in your space. In some cases, peninsulas work much better (specifically in 'L' and 'U' shaped kitchen layouts), because they allow you to create more countertop and storage. In the following kitchen, a peninsula was clearly a wise choice because an island would have been too wide for the space, making the kitchen circulation cramped. The peninsula anchored to the wall creates extra counter space, storage, and seating without compromising space and flow.

Island Inspiration
Image: Aidan Design

I'll be back next month to share more of our kitchen design journey. In the meantime, share your island dreams in the comments below. What makes a perfect kitchen island? What have you learned in your own remodeling adventures?

1 Comment

  1. I loved all the ideas on islands and peninsulas. My husband and I are planning a reno to our kitchen, and want to include a peninsula, the problem is where to put it. The only place I can see is past the large window (72″ W,) do you think the look will be ok, or will it look out of place. Believe me, I have looked at every possible area of the kitchen, and this is the only possibility. Please advise.

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