12 Kitchen Island Ideas for Small Kitchens — Trust Us, They're Good

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Image Credit: Paul Anderson for Hunker

When daydreaming about the best kitchen island ideas for small kitchens, chances are your limited square footage doesn't even cross your mind. You likely conjure images of a food prep center, a chic breakfast spot, and even a homework hub. After all, kitchen islands are meant to be as functional as they are stylish. And after decades of being popularized by designers as well as celebrity chefs, they're here to stay.


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For those of us in tight spaces, however, those island desires might seem futile, especially when every part of the room should not only feel useful but also be useful. Don't give up on your fantasies just yet, though. It's possible to create a convenient island even in a confined space or rental. And we're going to show you how.

These kitchen island ideas for small kitchens embrace form and function, fit well into the room, and often serve dual purposes. Feel free to use them as inspiration.

1. Divide and conquer.

Open concept floor plans are still living their best life in modern kitchen design. So to create a bit of division in your space, consider adding a kitchen island to the layout. The addition can create a hallway to help with home navigation. Plus, it will provide two unique spaces — one for cooking and dining and another for catching keys and corralling mail.

2. Play with texture.

Even in crisp white kitchens, there's always room for a little texture or rustic wood. This black and white beauty, for example, complete with a stainless steel hood, is polished and clean. But the center island in a neutral, unfinished wood gives the room a bit of kitchen hygge.

3. Fuse functionality.

Image Credit: Paul Anderson for Hunker

When you live in tight quarters, functionality is key. And the same principle applies to kitchen island ideas for small kitchens. Enter butcher block. Finding a wood island, or even embarking on a DIY island journey will give you a handy food prep space. Plus, it'll give you the perfect amount of farmhouse vibes.


4. Put it on wheels.

Don't underestimate the power of wheels, especially when you're short on space. A small industrial kitchen island, for example, can move around the room and have multiple uses. Roll it to the center of the room for dinner prep or glide it to the wall to serve as a coffee station. You can even move the island into a different room to use as a bar cart. If it's on wheels, the options are limitless.

5. Go bold.

Adding a punchy color to a kitchen island will bring interest to your small space. Plus, it's inexpensive. Think of your small kitchen island as a large piece of statement art. And if you're going to make a statement, go big or go home. Navy kitchens, for example, are all the rage among designers like Kristin Jackson of Hunted Interior. She chose a bold blue for this island, and it works.

6. Incorporate storage.

There are many kitchen island ideas for small kitchens that incorporate storage. But this slate gray island, designed by Steve McKenzie, conceals more than you might expect. McKenzie chose 13" wall-depth cabinets against 24" base-depth cabinets to cut down on the width while creating ample space for seven sets of dishes. Talk about a smart and modern storage solution.


7. Expand dining options.

Adding barstools to an island instantly amps up the small space seating, but why not sub a dining room table for a traditional bar-height island? Follow this designer's lead and use a farmhouse table with Louis XVI chairs for your own small kitchen island. Plus, parties always gravitate toward the kitchen anyway. Just host your friends there from the start.

8. Lean in.

Lean into your kitchen's aesthetic whenever possible. So if you have a contemporary home, go for a little contrast when picking kitchen decor. In this small kitchen, for example, the island seating is boho even though everything else has a bit of farmhouse glam. But, the black accents of these barstools complement the dark light fixture and polished look of the entire space.

9. Mix in marble.

While there are pros and cons with marble countertops, they are undeniably beautiful. In spatially-challenged rooms, in particular, a white marble island can add an airiness that other surfaces like wood can't always deliver. To immediately brighten your small kitchen, opt for a petite island with Carrara marble on top.


10. Match the room.

If you have a small kitchen with more length than width, find an island that mimics that narrow shape. Take this slim version from Heidi Caillier's Pacific Northwest Tudor design. It may not offer storage, but it keeps the floor space as open as possible. And as a bonus, you'll always want to keep an island as charming as this one free from clutter and kitchen appliances.

11. Think sleek.

When it comes to kitchen island ideas for small kitchens, size does matter. That's why we are smitten with this narrow island design by Bria Hammel Interiors. The chic installation gives the homeowners additional counter space without compromising the floor plan. Check out those drawers on the front too. We spy island storage!

12. Raise the bar.

One of the best ways to make use of a kitchen island in a small kitchen is to add seating. The design team at GordonDunning used a tall farmhouse table to give these homeowners just that. The charming furniture piece also feels light in the space, which is great for feng shui.


Nicole is an Atlanta-based columnist and lifestyle journalist specializing in women's interests, travel, people and interiors.