How to Make a Small Kitchen Island Work for You

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You can make a small kitchen island work.
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A kitchen island offers a workspace perfect for meal prep or baking. With counter space uninterrupted by sinks, stove tops or awkward corners, you have plenty of room to spread out your ingredients and start chopping, measuring, whisking, kneading or any other task on the agenda. In many ways, even a small kitchen island is better than no kitchen island when your kitchen lacks any other convenient prep area. But if your kitchen island still leaves you wishing for more, a few organizational tips can make it work for you.

Maximize Under-Island Storage

One of the perks of a kitchen island is that you can put all of your essentials on the counter to have them within arm's reach while you work. But with a small kitchen island, you'll be cramped for room if you lay all of your materials out on the counter. Instead, keep items in arm's reach by storing them in drawers or cabinets under the counter. Fortunately, as Kitchen Design Concepts points out, extra storage is another major advantage of a kitchen island, so you should have ample opportunity to reorganize your kitchen and put frequently used items where they're needed most.

For example, dedicate a drawer to the knives and utensils you frequently use rather than storing them in a decorative countertop container or knife block. Storing spices and measuring spoons in a drawer will also allow you to grab what you need, use it and immediately put it away, keeping your main workspace clear.

Use a deep drawer as a temporary storage area for getting mixing bowls or prep containers out of the way as you fill them and move on to another task. You can even place wire cooling racks within a drawer and crack the drawer open to allow baked goods to cool without taking up your limited counter space.

Add Pull- or Fold-Out Shelf

Ever wish your small kitchen island was just a foot or two wider? While impractical as a permanent feature since it might block the traffic flow in your kitchen, you can certainly add a little extra space by adding an extension. This shelf can either fold up from the side of the island or pull out from underneath the countertop.

Best of all, adding a fold-up shelf is do-it-yourself friendly thanks to specialized folding brackets that screw into the island's frame and to the shelf of your choice.

Storing Stand Mixer on Shelf

A kitchen stand mixer makes baking a breeze, but it takes up a lot of room on the counter, especially when your workspace is small to begin with. Instead, store it on a pull-out shelf in a cabinet under the island. When you're ready to use it, simply pull out and up on the shelf to bring it to counter height, and then lock the brackets into place. This set-up works best when your island has built-in electrical plugs so that you do not risk tripping over a cord stretched across the kitchen.

Use Gadgets for Kitchen Island

Some kitchen gadgets can help you make the most of a smaller space. For example, you can install towel rods or paper towel holders on the side of the island as a space-saving measure while still keeping what you need within easy reach. Attach your tablet or phone to a sturdy clip-on holder to display your recipes without taking up precious counter space.

Use a food scrap catcher that hangs over the top of a cabinet or drawer to keep your counter space clear of all the bits and pieces you don't need instead of pushing them to the side. It's also cleaner than using a trash can since juices can't dribble down the side of the island when pushed over the edge. But who says you have to use this just for food scraps? Use several of these to easily scoot chopped produce out of the way until you're ready to add them to a dish.


Cathy Habas enjoys distilling even the most complicated home improvement tasks into bite-sized pieces. She believes in empowering homeowners one article at a time.

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