The Center of Attention: Kitchen Island Ideas for Every Space

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The Center of Attention: Kitchen Island Ideas for Every Space

Design by Veronica Campbell of Deane Inc.

According to a story on, statistics compiled by the National Association of Home Builders reveal that 76% of homebuyers consider a center island in the kitchen an essential element. Wow, right?

As kitchens have transitioned from that place for cooking into the place in our homes where we spend most of our time, the amount of space allocated to the kitchen has increased. And whether it’s for preparing food or dining – or both – a center island is very much the center of attention in many kitchens. So not only do practical aspects need to be considered when designing an island, its looks also need to be worthy of its prominent placement.

If you’re planning a new kitchen, there is a good chance you are contemplating including a center island. Here are some things to consider as you begin the design process:

Size & Flow

A center island is, in virtually every instance, anchored to the kitchen floor. Unlike a vintage butcher block table or industrial-style stainless prep table, it isn’t something you’ll be able to move out of the way if you’re hosting a large party. Will this work for how you tend to use your home and your kitchen? If not, a less permanent structure may be a better option.

The same story on cites 36 to 48 inches as the optimal amount of clearance needed on each side of a center island. But if you desperately want an island, can you live with a sufficient – rather than optimal – amount of space on one or two sides? When determining what sufficient means to you, keep in mind certain non-negotiables such as oven door clearance (typically about 24 inches) and cabinet door clearance. A refrigerator with French doors and a freeze drawer requires less clearance than a single-door-style one.

new england kitchen design

Design by Jean Siemasko of Siemasko + Verbridge.

Let the shape of your kitchen determine the shape of your island. This is typically more space efficient, and the room will look more balanced overall. In the photo above, the nearly square island works well within the dimensions of the space. Below, a lean, elongated island is a perfect fit for the room.

kitchen design inspiration

Design by Janet Hesselschwerdt of Metropolitan Cabinets & Countertops.

What to Include

Storage and a countertop are pretty much givens in a center island. Beyond that, the amount of space available will certainly be a deciding factor in what added functionality you opt for, as will how you use your kitchen. When remodeling, rather than building a new home, the cost and feasibility of running power and plumbing into the middle of the room are also considerations.

In the kitchen above, a small hand sink has been added to the center island. If the island is likely to be where you handle food prep, having a sink right there will save countless steps. Below, the island includes a sink as well as a built-in microwave, and a wine chiller.

kitchen island design

Design by Jill Muldoon of Kitchen & Bath Details.

Look closely at the island in the kitchen below, and you’ll see that it includes a cooktop. If you often entertain at home, this can be a great option, as it allows you to face your guests while cooking. Because it doesn’t require gas, an induction cooktop may be a better choice for some kitchens. For ventilation, there are two possibilities: a down-draft system or a hood. Down-draft ventilation slides down into a pocket in the counter when not in use. While there are many, many beautiful hoods available, they may overwhelm a space when used over a center island.


Whatever your preferred design style – contemporary, traditional or transitional – the look of the center island will work beautifully at reinforcing your kitchen’s aesthetic appeal.

kitchen design new england

Design by CW Design.

In the kitchen above, the island is a warm wood tone while the perimeter cabinets are white. This “two-toned” look works brilliantly at really highlighting the island. It also adds visual interest. When paired with vintage-style half-moon drawer pulls, the mid-tone stain on the island gives the space a transitional look. The sleek lines of the island seen below lend a contemporary edge to the kitchen.

Design by Veronica Campbell of Deane Inc.

As you begin planning your kitchen, try utilizing online platforms such as Pinterest and Houzz to hone in on want you really want and need from a center island. These saved images will help your designer determine what will ultimately work best in your new kitchen.

Happy planning!

All photos via