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The Old Vicarage 14 2

Kitchens with Islands

How Optimise Your Space

Take a look at how our clients have transformed their kitchens with islands into stunning culinary spaces. The island in most kitchen spaces can be the centrepiece, social hub, and focal point. Getting the right balance is key. Whether that is size, shape, colour or work surface, you must find the right mixture to turn your kitchen into a dream-defining space. It isn’t all about appearances. With size and space in mind, practicality is something very often overlooked. Are you a keen cook? Exquisite party hosts? Either way, you need your island to not only be visually stunning but it must also have a purpose. Originally, a kitchen island’s purpose was to be a divider between you and your guests. Your cooking space should be an uninterrupted haven for your culinary magic. This means that thinking of you and your family first is key. Create a design that suits the space that you need, and then you can think of guests afterwards.

cream island
Period English Cabinets in a Country House

What is your home lifestyle?

Before looking at more Kitchens with Islands, let’s take a look at you more closely. Your day-to-day life is the key to finding the right balance and purpose for your kitchen island. Do you have a large family? Do you have many social gatherings? Are you an eager cook or chef who needs room to be creative? Is the room solely a kitchen? Perhaps it’s a kitchen/diner? Or even an open-plan studio? Each of these items needs to be considered when determining the purpose of the island. Each aspect – shape, size, and colour – will be defined accordingly.

island with wine fridge
Period English design with Wine Storage & Fridge

What will the island mainly be used for?

Breaking down the purpose of your island, it can be designed to suit the following:

  • Cooking & Food Preparation 
  • Dining 
  • Socialising 
  • Storage

If cooking is your kitchen’s main purpose, consider how it can streamline your process. From chopping to kneading, ample space is essential for every culinary task

Dining requires seating. If you’re an “on the move” family, then start your design planning what seating you’d like and for how many. Different shapes can accommodate seating. Box seating, circular seating, bar stools, two tiers… you have plenty of choices.

Is your kitchen the hub of your family or friend group? Then you may want to think about how you, the host, need to separate yourself from your guests. This is done well with certain shapes but less so with other layouts.

Finally, storage. If you are limited on cabinet space on the walls or elsewhere then using your island for storage is essential. Think that certain shapes give you more room than others. Think that if storage is the main purpose perhaps shelves and other decorative ideas may not be best for you.

Weigh up what suits you, then move on to the design. 

island with seating
Shaker Island in a Georgian Property


The current island trend is to house appliances on your island. This is to free up space in other areas of the kitchen and allow a more blended feel to the design. Sinks, hobs, dishwashers and even wine coolers are being integrated into islands. Many kitchen designers will tell you that before you’ve even begun thinking about your kitchen design, pick the appliances you want. This way, they can be evenly balanced throughout the kitchen, and this could potentially shape the island and its necessary purpose.

kitchen island with ovens
Georgian-inspired kitchen with Integrated Oven


Truthfully… kitchen islands do not have to be symmetrical. Quite the contrary. You need to first establish your wall-based cabinetry, sink, appliances and other items that you have in mind. From then, you can start to think about what storage space and appliances you may need to include on the island. Once you have this, you can now start to think about shape. Depending on the room, there are several options for your island. A few of these are:

  • Rectangle Islands
  • Circular Islands 
  • L-Shaped Islands 
  • Fluid Islands

A rectangle island tends to blend with the symmetry of your kitchen design and room layout. If the room is square or otherwise; it may be best to stay with a rectangular design as other shapes in a smaller space may seem misplaced. If the room is a smaller size, it enables you to have more storage space with cabinets and drawers. If a shelf is on your mind, then simply have storage space beneath it and one shelf above. A rectangle island gives the ability to create more storage, and sometimes, that is not to be overlooked. The obvious benefit is you will have a greater chance of the island having less wasted space. No curvatures mean it’s easy to make every inch of the island storage if necessary. 

rectangle kitchen island
Rectangular Shaker in a Farmhouse

Moving away from tradition, circular and square islands are more popular now, than ever before. If you asked many of the top home-based chefs in the world, be it Nigella or Heston, they would all agree that a circular island is good for moving around the kitchen. If you like scooting around your kitchen and balancing an array of different chores, then a circular island may suit you. Having a circular island enables you to have a comfortable seating area, whilst separating you from your guests during cooking or entertaining. The only drawback may be its lack of ability to host appliances on the circular section. A small circular island could not typically hold appliances that other designs may allow.

irregular shape kitchen island
Irregular Barrel island in a Rural Property

An L-shaped island gives you the flexibility that perhaps other islands won’t. Many are designed to have six entry points which means that a busy environment allows the island to be used freely by a lot of people. No bumping into each other in the morning rush and reaching across others during the dinner party. It helps to also separate an open-plan room that has a dual purpose. A breaker as such that keeps a separation most open rooms need. Creating a stress-free space for you and your family. As with the rectangle design, it is also very useful for storage.

island with seating
Shaker with Bar in a Rural property

Taking the pros and cons of both rectangle and circular islands, why not consider a more fluid design? If your room doesn’t have a symmetrical shape or is even on a large scale, then having a fluid design is perfect for you. Create a bespoke shape that suits your needs. Narrow one end, wide the other. A fluid shape can mould to its environment and give the room a subtle yet room-defining look.


It’s easy to begin thinking about colour first before you’ve decided on the purpose and shape of your island. After all, it is the glossier side of design and the one that opens more debates. Once you have decided on both of those though, you can finally get down to deciding on your island palette. Ideally knowing your surface colour helps, but it isn’t essential. Does your island colour have to match your wall or floor cabinet colour? No. As we’ve said, it can be a room-defining feature so design it so. Certain colours work particularly well together. Pale floor and wall cabinets mix well with a darker island colour and of course vice versa. Take in your natural light, backdrops and floor and go for eye-catching. Dark on light, light on dark, it is an open choice.

blue island with marble
Shaker from a property in Farnham


When it comes to deciding on which island countertop to use, it simply comes down to personal choice. There are numerous misconceptions about the cost price between natural and manmade. Now, there is little difference between the two. It is also hard to tell the difference between the quality of both. It simply comes down to which design you like and which suits what colour scheme you want. Although Quartz is likely the most durable of options, it doesn’t mean it’s the best solution for you. All surfaces are now built to last, and with Granite and Quartz being the most popular choices for many, it is mainly down to their smooth unique look that can never be replicated.

modern kitchen island
Modern Kitchen Island with Marble Worksurface


Always keep in mind it is your kitchen. It should always be designed to suit you and those who frequently use it. To start with, think about height and size balance. Do you have children in mind? Then one half should suit you to be able to cook and prepare freely, the other designed with perhaps a seating section for others, commonly known as a Breakfast Bar. A popular solution to this is extending the panels on each side and having the surface overhang. This enables seating to be neatly tidied when not used, opening the whole island up for cooking or socialising. A boxed-in seating area that gives you more space.

barn kitchen island
Shaker with end seating from a Barn Conversion

Open Shelving

Another solution to creating an ergonomic feel is using open shelving on the island. This gives the island a more decorative feel but can still be very practical and purposeful. It enables uses for either additional dishes and kitchen utensils or even decorative items such as ornaments or flowers. Going one step further, design the shelves to balance out an array of cookbooks to create your very own kitchen library. To highlight this, why not change the colour of the shelf sections to highlight it. Shelves really can help to make the island seem more than just a piece of furniture.

modern kitchen island
Modern kitchen in The White Kitchen Company Showroom

For more kitchens with islands? Take a look at our blog. Or shop for cabinets on our Kitchen islands page.