11 Simple Ways to Style a Kitchen Island in 2023

Modern kitchen with navy blue island stools sharp white work tops and brass taps and pendant lights

Organisation, comfort, and elegance – done right – are all guarantees when investing in a kitchen island. What’s more, it’s also achievable for smaller kitchen spaces too. Island units are the next practical step towards creating additional functional space within your kitchen that can be personalised to meet your needs.

Before styling a kitchen island, you’ll want to fully understand what you need to achieve from the available space. Whether it’s an intimate setting for date night, designed as a feature piece for your kitchen, or a spot for your children to complete their homework, kitchen islands are versatile and can perform a wide range of tasks.

How to Style a Kitchen Island

1. Consider what it will be used for

The beauty of kitchen islands is that they have multiple uses aside from additional surface space. Whether you’re keen to decorate it like a show home, invite guests over for lavish dinners, or use it as a communal family space, you’ll find your kitchen island can cater for a range of requirements.

Those wanting to use it as a dining space will benefit from surfaces, such as marble or quartz, that are easy to wipe down and clean. For diners who appreciate more leg room, allow your countertop surface to overhang slightly from the unit. This ensures a comfortable seating position whilst eating.

If show home décor is closer to what you’re looking for, you’ll want to consider what functionality your island unit should have. Aside from decorative features, such as candles or vases, island units can be fitted with basins, stove tops, and cupboards to help maximise space within your kitchen. In fact, adopting these features can produce a more elegant and luxurious look.

2. Reflect your personality and aesthetic

No matter the design, your kitchen island unit must work for you and your family. Once you’ve determined how the space will be used, you can start to investigate a range of colours, surface materials, and design features that suit both your personality and your home’s aesthetic.

Low-maintenance countertops, such as granite, suit those with busy lives, leaving an easy option when it comes to cleaning. Although granite can be more expensive than other countertops, it offers a durable and functional option for your kitchen. These can be beautifully paired with contrasting colours throughout your kitchen cabinets or on the base of the unit. Additional features, such as storage space and room for seating, might also be considered here.

Those aspiring for a more relaxed feel will also benefit from low-maintenance countertops, but might choose light reflective colours and textures to increase the sense of space. Installing functional applications, such as a stovetop or basin, offers even greater convenience for those with limited kitchen space.

3. Review your kitchen layout

Kitchens come in all shapes and sizes; even walls aren’t a barrier, especially as open-plan kitchens offer even greater space. If you’re considering investing in a kitchen island, you’ll first need to review the amount of room you have in your current kitchen. This can lead to exciting renovation projects, where a full reshuffle means you’re able to get the most out of your kitchen.

If you have a small kitchen, an island unit could still be a great addition. As well as providing extra storage and countertop space, you’ll also change the dynamic of your kitchen but without a huge renovation project. Kitchen islands aren’t one size or shape, though most tend to come in a rectangular form, meaning they can easily be adapted to fit your kitchen.

4. Choose contrasting colours or neutral designs

Beautiful kitchen island

Your kitchen island design should reflect your personality and functional needs. That’s why many choose contrasting colours for their units. Stylistically, a kitchen island can juxtapose the colours of your cabinets or provide a classy contrast between its base and countertop surface. Slick colour schemes tend to include a dark and light mix, such as grey against white, or black against marble.

Alternately, more neutral colour palettes can create a smart, elegant kitchen design without the need for contrasting colours. Utilising creams, whites, or shinier surfaces will allow natural light to propagate around your kitchen. Universally, light reflective surfaces and colours benefit both larger and smaller kitchens, but you’ll certainly feel the difference more in smaller spaces as it opens them up further.

5. Pick a suitable a countertop surface

Functional kitchen island

As part of your colour scheme, you’ll also need to consider the type of countertop surface that best suits your needs. Fortunately, most surface types can be designed in a way that either gives them darker or lighter tones so they can be adapted to suit any colour palette. In fact, laminate countertops can be repainted, allowing them to keep up with any additional renovation projects in your kitchen.

Depending on your needs, quartz countertops can be pricey, but are also 100% stain resistant, making them an easy, low-maintenance choice for kitchen island units. On the other hand, you’ll never have a more unique countertop design than marble. As a visually striking material, no two designs are ever the same. However, you’ll need to factor in additional care and resealing for marble countertops.

6. Select light fixtures and fittings

Positioning a light fixture above your kitchen island adds an additional spotlight to the unit. It can also help to lighten dark surfaces, which is especially helpful when you’re eating or preparing food. Quirky light arrangements also further accentuate the character of your kitchen. Many choose to fit multiple lights above their kitchen unit, often embracing rustic designs such as wood or metal, also known as pendant lighting.

For a more understated look, you can simply use a single light fixture here, with ample lighting located elsewhere throughout the kitchen space. There is still the option to dress up or down if you choose to make a new statement. Contour strips underneath the countertop also highlight the cupboard and shelving space, whilst offering a striking design. The possibilities are endless.

7. Remove the clutter

Integrating cupboard units and shelving into your kitchen island is another way to get maximum use from every available inch of space. Not only does it remove clutter from your worktops, but it also frees up the space inside your kitchen cabinets too. You’ll be able to hide away untidy items that can otherwise clutter your kitchen such as appliances with long electrical cables, with the opportunity to showcase more homely items including cookbooks and herb racks.

8. Include decorative displays

Bowls of fruit, fresh flowers, or smaller succulents can easily make your kitchen island pop. Bursts of natural colour add an additional layer of contrast within your kitchen that look visually appealing. Likewise, a touch of green perfectly complements wood and earthy tones too, while houseplants, such as the spider plant, can even minimise the need to dust.

Of course, decorative displays can be adjusted to suit the time of year, family celebrations or holidays. A mismatch of pumpkins and squash is excellent for Halloween, with daffodils a timely display choice around Easter. Ultimately, your decorative displays allow you to showcase the best of your creative talents.

9. Consider island extensions

Do you have more space around your kitchen island that is yet to be unlocked? From bar areas to an integrated table, your unit can be adapted to suit your needs. Adding a seating area at the end of the unit creates a sense of elongation within your kitchen, alluding to additional space and comfort. Doing this further enhances the level of practicality your kitchen island offers.

Kitchen islands can provide similar benefits to an ottoman at the end of a bed. This is ideal for areas with limited storage options, such as smaller houses or kitchens. It’s also a great option where some of your kitchen island is taken up by appliances, such as an oven, or has been designed more as an intimate seating arrangement. Wine racks, shelving units, or cupboard space act as a great extension to any kitchen island.

10. Mark out your seating arrangements

Kitchen island and stools lit with soft lighting

Kitchen islands are just so versatile. They can be used for anything from food preparation to family activities and are an ideal replacement for a dining room table. Ensuring overhang on your chosen countertop immediately means there’s comfortable seating space for yourself, your family, and guests. It also guarantees enough legroom for those eating at the kitchen island.

Even if you’ve chosen an extension for seating, it’s worth checking that the area doesn’t feel cramped or uncomfortable. Once this is complete, you can start putting the finishing touches into your kitchen by selecting the types of chairs or stools required. It’s possible to match these with your colour scheme or create a daring contrast.

11. Add your finishing touches

Sometimes, it’s the final details that really finish a look. There’s nothing better than a satisfying coordination of colour schemes and textures throughout a kitchen. That’s why every small detail is so important. Investigating finishing touches, such as displays, cabinet or draw handles, and lighting really pull together a look. Cohesion between handles and lighting fixtures are often the signature look and cherry-on-top when it comes to kitchen design.

Whether you’re looking for a rustic look, a homely feel, or a completely futuristic style, this will all be confirmed as the last draw handle is installed and the kitchen island display is refined.

Looking for support with renovation and kitchen design?

At KNB, we are experts when it comes to kitchen design and inspiring ideas. As well as a range of kitchen island units, we’re able to support you in creating your bespoke, dream kitchen. Take a look at our brochure or contact us today.