These Modern Kitchen Islands Give 'Form Meets Function' a Whole New Meaning

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A modern kitchen is equal parts streamlined and refined. And oftentimes, located right in the center of it all, you'll find an island — a freestanding fixture that can serve a whole slew of purposes from an extra workspace and bar seating to storage and an appliance hub. Granted, of course, that you have the square footage to accommodate the luxurious addition.

When it comes to designing an island with modern style in mind, consider the hallmarks of the aesthetic — think clean lines, polished textures, and minimal frills — and allow that to inform your design. Seeking a little inspiration? We sourced an array of modern kitchen islands that not only marry form and function with effortless cool, but also show just how diverse the overall setup can be.

1. Consider a waterfall countertop.

This Austin home is proof that a modern kitchen island isn't always as simple as black and white. The waterfall countertop made from Caesarstone™ sits against light pink cabinetry, which not only matches the rest of the built-ins and integrated refrigerator, but invites charming definition to a sleek, open space.

2. Less is more.

Flat panel cabinets make regular appearances in modern kitchens, thanks to their streamlined and clean appearance. And the cook space in Studio McGee's Avenues Modern project is a prime example of how to do them well. To complete the look, note how space has been carved out for seating as well as cutout cabinet pulls to fit with the minimalist theme.

3. Make it two-tone.

Emily Henderson's Scandinavian-inspired mountain house kitchen takes modern style and gives it a bucolic twist. The matte black coloring of the island contrasts the rustic cabinets and stands in as the focal point in the room. A pared-down palette (white, light brown, and black) helps keep the focus on the island and ties everything together.

4. Take a moody turn.

We're always in favor of switching things up and this dramatic cook space from Simo Design is serving us all sorts of inspiration. The blue stone countertop offers just the right splash of color while the dark paneling below adds depth and intrigue. Consider this a lesson in going monochrome and making it work.

5. Rethink traditional shapes.

Not all kitchen islands are created equal and this concrete design from German architectural firm Mar Plus Ask is proof. Modern style often incorporates futuristic themes, where classics are reimagined in totally different builds. Here, the central fixture is both functional — with a spacious countertop and deep basin sink — and aesthetically pleasing thanks to a non-traditional silhouette.

6. Turn storage into a moment.

Built-in storage is a staple of most kitchen islands but this sleek version flips the script on tradition with open shelving that is perfect for anything from dinnerware to cookbooks. Topped with natural granite, and shelves to match, the overall finish is simple yet sophisticated.

7. Put your island to work.

While good looks are important, a modern kitchen island should be more than just a pretty face. Consider investing in a design that comes with a cooktop, oven, or both. The dwellers of this light-filled home in Vienna did just that, as well as added an array of drawers on one side and open shelving on the ends to display various culinary objects.

8. Amp it up with color.

Most modern kitchen islands tend to follow the same formula — a boxy and streamlined design sans any frills —but the architects of this Brooklyn townhouse had something different in mind. The stylish table setup features brass pulls and a decadent emerald green backdrop (to match the rest of the space), that lends a bold pop of color and a hint of art deco pizzazz.

9. Toss in a sink.

A modern kitchen island with an integrated sink is a great way to continue to be a part of the action, whether you're entertaining or it's just a typical night at home. Plus, it beats having to stare at the wall while doing the dishes. This sophisticated design by Studio Black features a single-sided waterfall countertop and vertical paneling at the base, which helps visually extend the height of the island.

10. Factor in seating.

If you're looking for a modern kitchen island that can double as an extra tabletop, follow Studio Matsalla's lead and go for one that incorporates bar seating. The most important step here, if you're building from scratch, is to carve out space for your legs. Regardless of the type of countertop you're going with, make sure it extends well over the base.


Anna is a New York-based writer and editor with a penchant for travel, design, and interiors.

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