A kitchen is often considered to be the hub or the heart of a home. It's where people tend to congregate during gatherings, discuss the highlights of the day, do some meal prep, and, if you have space, eat dinner. But oftentimes countertops are limited — that's where an island comes in handy. Kitchen islands also offer extra storage to stash culinary essentials, and they can even make great bonus worktops. That's a lot of convenience, right? Well, it can get even better with a two-tier kitchen island.
A two-tier kitchen island is constructed just like a traditional island, with a countertop and a second level that is oftentimes used for dining. Typically, one tier is bar height (42 inches) and the other is counter height (36 inches), which means you can be busy preparing a gourmet meal while your family and friends sit at the breakfast bar. Having another place to sit comes in handy if you entertain often, and it's just the thing for casual meals, too. Additionally, it separates the kitchen space from the eating space, while adding some visual interest, too.
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The cons? It's probably not the best option if you are looking for a clean design for a modern kitchen, as the extra tier will interrupt the visual flow. Another factor to consider, especially if you're a homeowner working with a tight budget, is that it might cost more to build-out or install than a traditional island in your new kitchen.
With all of that in mind, here are 30 two-tier kitchen island design ideas that will help you make the best decision for your culinary headquarters.
1. Create distinction with an espresso wood finish.
A two-tier kitchen island design can be treated the same way as a standard island: You don't have to be matchy-matchy with the materials. The base can look very different from the countertop, something that'll bring instant visual appeal to any cook space. For instance, in this setup showcased by International Granite and Stone, the marble-inspired quartz countertop looks spot-on with gray wood finishing on the lower tier and dark espresso on the upper tier.
2. Plan for tons of seating.
Two-tier kitchen islands are a good choice if you desire an eat-in-style design with lots of seating. Skip the formal meals at the table and gather up for brunch or a laid-back dinner at the island. This all-white, farmhouse situation by Lauren of Deluxe Design Studio was seemingly made for impromptu meals.
3. Try an unexpected shape.
Although a two-tier kitchen island tends to have a classic shape, you can try something a bit more unique by placing the second level alongside the counter instead of in front of it. For example, in this beautifully designed cook space by the team at Pavonetti Architecture, the different tiers sit side by side, creating a waterfall effect.
4. Echo the color palette.
As with all kitchen island ideas, you should consider your overall color palette. In this space by SV Design, the two-tier design mirrors the calming light gray and white hues seen throughout.
5. Don't forget storage.
If your kitchen island idea doesn't include storage, it should. It's a bonus opportunity to stash away all of your beloved culinary must-haves that don't fit anywhere else, as proven by this two-tier design by Bria Hammel Interiors as showcased on HomeBunch.
6. Make it luxe.
Just because a two-tier kitchen island has tons of functionality, that doesn't mean it can't be elegant. To create a luxe look, we suggest mixing a gorgeous espresso wood base with a marble countertop. It's a combination employed in this culinary space, showcased by Urban Electric Co., and we just can't get enough. Complete the look with a pair of bell jar pendants and upholstered barstools.
7. Punch it up with color.
We're always down for a pop of color, especially when it comes to kitchen island ideas. And this two-tier, farmhouse design by Layla from The Lettered Cottage is no exception. She chose "Heather Gray" by Benjamin Moore for the base, which pairs beautifully with the white quartz countertops, light wood accents, and the patterned tile backsplash behind the stove.
8. Match the base to your cabinets.
To really create a cohesive look in your kitchen, match the color of your two-tier island base to the rest of your cabinetry. Sarah Richardson Design went all-in with blue in this fresh kitchen.
9. Include some beadboard paneling.
10. Give it a rustic vibe with a wood countertop.
Whether a kitchen island is two-tier or not, a wood countertop is the quickest way to add warmth and a little texture. The natural wood counters pair perfectly with the navy-blue color used on the cabinet base in Jess Ann Kirby's kitchen.
11. Carve out extra cabinet space and shelving.
Two tiers can give you a little extra bonus room to incorporate shelving, as proven by this charming island design crafted by the team at CliqStudios. Follow the interior designers' lead and slip in a single cabinet and some open shelving for cookbooks, wine bottles, and more.
12. Ponder three tiers.
While you may already have a two-tier kitchen island, you can actually add a third, as evidenced by this culinary space from Sarah Richardson Design. The customary two tiers provide a seating area and prep space, while an unexpected third tier that's off to the side provides extra cabinet space and a spot to display servingware.
13. Drop it low.
Two-tier kitchen islands don't have to bar height. Take notes from this Scandi-chic design spotted on The Design Chaser by Nordiska Kök and drop the second tier down to table height instead. We love how the chairs match the color palette perfectly and almost blend into the island.
14. Embrace a sleek look.
Perhaps your kitchen has a minimalist, modern feel from top to bottom. In that case, get inspired by this culinary space from Charles R. Stinson Architecture + Design and put in a sleek, streamlined two-tier island that will work well in an open concept layout.
15. Maximize the cabinets.
If you want to get the most cabinet space for your buck, don't forget to include them all around your two-tier kitchen island, even right underneath the breakfast bar, if you like. It's a tactic that the team at Humphrey Munson successfully employed in this kitchen design.
16. Make the second tier very subtle.
If you're looking for a two-tier kitchen island design that is a bit more subtle, opt for a shorter tier. Brayer Design shows us how it's done in this minimalist cook space flaunting sleek, clean lines and a crisp white palette.
17. Add glamorous flair with brass details.
Even though a two-tier island is a bit more traditional, that doesn't mean the entire kitchen design needs to follow suit. Tracy Lynn Studio gives the classic feature a glamorous mid-mod makeover with the help of navy blue paint, marble countertops, and a room full of lustrous brass accents.
18. Consider attaching a table.
For the second "tier" of your two-tier island, why not attach a table? It truly sets the stage for a proper eat-in kitchen, as proven by Higham Furniture in this blue and white cook space.
19. Go for an industrial look.
Whether you desire a unique shape for your kitchen island, or you'd prefer a peninsula, your two-tier arrangement should be whatever works best for you. For example, in this industrial setup, the priority is counter space for meal prepping. As a result, the second tier is appropriately located off to the side, wrapped in stainless steel for a seamless finish.
20. Make it pop with reclaimed wood.
If you'd like to level up the aesthetic appeal of your two-tier island, look no further than reclaimed wood. Score a few planks of wood at a salvage shop to make the back panel of your island pop, alongside well-loved wooden bar stools. Lauren of Deluxe Design Studio opted for this rustic look in her culinary space and we wholeheartedly approve.
21. Go coastal.
If you've been waiting for an opportunity to add additional coastal flair to your kitchen, let this navy blue setup by Emily of The Wicker House inspire you. With the help of bright white, rattan barstools flaunting a tropical print, a few extra leafy greens, and a pair of white woven pendants, this two-tier island makes the perfect spot to sip frozen daiquiris all summer long.
22. Go very linear.
You can make your two-tier island look more like a modern art piece than a functional design feature. In this kitchen spotlighted by Katrina Chambers, a waterfall-style table connects to a streamlined island showing off extra shelving underneath to display a few cherished pieces.
23. Build it yourself.
If you'd like to replace your current, standard island with a two-tier version, but you want it to have a personal touch, consider challenging yourself to a DIY project. Follow this tutorial from Tylynn of Bitterroot DIY to make over your kitchen on a budget.
24. Put the end of the island to work.
Most two-tier islands have the second, bar height tier at the front. However, to shake things up, you can always add that tier to the end, as seen in this kitchen by The Main Company. It's also a great spot to place a butcher block if you'd find that handy.
25. Stick to all-white.
To truly reinforce the airy palette of an all-white kitchen, stay consistent when it comes to your two-tier island. A cohesive color scheme will guarantee that the new addition blends in seamlessly with the rest of the culinary space, just like it does in this oh-so-airy setup by Kelly Nutt Design.
26. Match the backsplash.
There's one thing to remember about a two-tier kitchen island — it's bigger than a standard-size island, which means the color you choose to splash on it could make it stand out even more. So why not embrace the opportunity? Go bold in your kitchen and match your island to an equally vibrant backsplash, like this cook space by Susie Maddox Interiors.
27. Make it the centerpiece.
Whatever the theme of your kitchen, the island is a way to further anchor the look. For example, the subtle farmhouse-meets-rustic vibe showcased in this culinary space by Grace Blu is underlined by the reclaimed lumber base of the island's second tier and a trio of industrial barstools.
28. Add a cooktop.
To genuinely put the counter of your two-tier kitchen island to work, consider including a cooktop on the first tier. The team over at Nick Lee Architecture chose this route, making the central design feature in this cook space especially functional.
29. Mix and match materials.
While there is nothing wrong with a two-tier kitchen island that just blends in, we are also fans of designs that stand out, too. Follow the lead of this modern kitchen by Arent & Pyke, and mix and match materials. The end result? A visual treat that feels both balanced and interesting.
30. Give the two-tier treatment to a peninsula.
Two tiers aren't just relegated to stand-alone islands. You can also add a second tier to a peninsula, if that's what you're working with in your kitchen. The idea works especially well for those working with a small space.