Skip to main content

21OAK may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

11 Ways to Get More Out of Your Kitchen Island

We covet kitchen islands for various reasons. At the top of the list is that we want to furnish our kitchens with a multifunctional centerpiece. Besides tying a kitchen together, a kitchen island can be used for many other activities and uses. It serves as the meeting place or watering hole, so to speak, for families and friends before and after dinner. It keeps kitchen clutter at bay, as well. Frankly, it’s the ultimate combination of aesthetics and function.

Do you want to discover how you can utilize your kitchen island to its full potential? Here are 11 ways to get more out of your kitchen island besides using it as a dinner table. If you don’t have one already, here are the reasons why you should invest in one.

Please note that the standard height for kitchen islands is 36 inches, states Bob Vila. But if you want to use the island for seating, opt for one that is at least 42 inches tall.

large kitchen island
Mark McCammon/Pexels

Use it for storage

Kitchen islands don’t just differ in material, size, and shape. A crucial factor is what type of storage a kitchen island offers. Install a pull-out trash can system inside your island so you don’t have to display freestanding garbage cans in your kitchen. This one in particular is 14.38 inches wide, 22 inches deep, and 19.25 inches tall. You can also install pull-out drawers like this one from ClosetMaid for storing pots and pans. It measures 5.25 inches high, 11 inches wide, and 20 inches deep. Alternatively, you can remove cabinet doors and leave the pull-out drawers exposed for easy-to-reach dishes, utensils, condiments, and/or spices.

Cooking and prep surface

This one is a given, but if you don’t already do so, use your kitchen island as a prep area — cutting vegetables, kneading dough, mixing sauces, etc. Save the counter space next to your range for latter steps in your recipe. You can also keep knife sets and cooking utensils here for easy access.

kitchen island appliance
Chait Goli/Pexels

Housing small appliances

If space permits, use your kitchen island for holding smaller appliances like coffee makers, toasters, water heaters, or mixers. It’s also the optimal space to display your brand-new cold-brew maker or quirky gadgets like this vintage movie theater popcorn maker. Bonus: These help keep guests entertained and well-fed.

Designated breakfast nook

Counter stools or a bench will work to transform your island into a breakfast nook. If you entertain frequently, opt for adjustable stools like this modern swivel stool that ranges from 28 to 34 inches in height and is 15 inches wide and 15 inches deep. On the other hand, you can neatly tuck a dining bench under it when not in use if the island bottom is deep set and empty. This wood bench from Birch Lane Heritage Shop is 24.25 inches tall, 33 inches wide, and 9 inches deep.

Homework station

If you have appropriately sized chairs or stools, a kitchen island also doubles as a homework station. Escape distractions in your bedroom or living room and get work done — with plenty of snacks within arm’s reach. However, if your kitchen has dim warm lights, invest in quality lighting to avoid eye strain. Consider this modern LED pendant light to illuminate your kitchen island without expending excess energy.

using kitchen island as an office
Compassionate Eye Foundation/Steven Errico/Getty Images

Makeshift office desk

Like with homework, you can get distracted when you study in a familiar spot every day. Make your kitchen island your new no-interruptions work space. Allocate an empty drawer for office supplies and electronics. Additionally, install additional outlets for charging electronics and avoid unsightly wires or cords. Consider this smart pop-up power outlet, which also includes USB ports for direct connections. Note that it is not compatible with larger electricity-powered items like microwaves.

Arts and crafts table

Kitchen islands are easier to clean up than carpet floors or whole rooms. Divert children to your kitchen island to contain messes effectively. Kitchen islands topped with smooth surfaces like quartz and stainless steel are easiest to maintain. Note that granite, marble, and wood require more upkeep. For starters, these surfaces need to be treated regularly with oil to protect them from acids in food, heat, stains, and scratches.

family enjoying time in kitchen
Maskot/Getty Images

Family game night area

Hold weekly game night sessions on your kitchen island table. The concentrated light from your kitchen pendant or hanging light makes this well-lit area perfect for board games and puzzles. It also feels more intimate than sitting far apart in the living room, making family gatherings more memorable.

Entertaining guests before dinner

Most party conversations happen around kitchen islands. Guests naturally congregate here while waiting for food before dinner, sipping drinks, and making conversation. Keep guests comfortable by providing chairs under the island and appetizers on top. The extra space can also be used for displaying cooked dishes and holding stray wine glasses.

Dishwasher holder

Installing a dishwasher in your kitchen island is practical. It saves space compared to a freestanding dishwasher, and it conceals the washer when installed on the interior side of your island. On the other hand, a compact countertop dishwasher can also stay perched on top of your island. Making room for a dishwasher on your island might mean seeking professional renovators.

Extra sink

An extra sink in your island provides extra room for washing dishes, produce, and hands. This helps keep dishes in check and makes cooking prep more efficient. Keep in mind that installing a sink usually requires plumbers, not to mention that it’s a semi-permanent project. So unfortunately, if you’re under a contract that prohibits renovation, consider other decoration ideas.

If you aren’t convinced by now about the mighty kitchen island’s worth, there’s one last thing to note: Kitchen islands are underrated. Yes, most people want one, but their full potential is rarely unlocked. Whether storing pots, pans, or recycling bins, or hosting family board game nights, a kitchen island’s use is numerous and invaluable.

Editors' Recommendations

Deb Goncalves
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Deb's work has appeared on Moms, Babygaga, and WorldAtlas. When she's not working (that's hard to say about a Capricorn), she…
How to keep oak kitchen cabinets from looking out of place in a modern kitchen
Transform your outdated oak kitchen cabinets for a luxe, modern design
Modern kitchen with red oak cabinets and white countertops

Oak kitchen cabinets are a staple in many traditional homes. Their earthy tones and elegant appearance have placed them at the top of the ladder, making them one of the most beloved cabinet materials in recent decades. While this wood has stood the test of time in interior design, keeping an oak-heavy kitchen from looking out of place in a redesigned home can be challenging. Oak cabinetry often caters to traditional decor, making it hard to implement these gorgeous tones and textures into a more modern or contemporary space.

If you’re a modern enthusiast who wants to maintain the traditional oak cabinet look without creating a tacky design, then we have the tips for you. Here’s how to dress up your kitchen to balance modernity with traditional oak cabinets.

Read more
This simple change will make your bathroom feel ultra luxurious
Here are some creative ways to hang your bathroom towels to enhance your space
Rolled towels and plant in bathroom

Whether you’ve recently updated your bathroom or you’re looking for a few quick and easy ways to give it a refresh, there’s one little change you can make that could have a big impact on the look and feel of your bathroom—your towels. Changing colors, replacing worn or threadbare towels with new and plush ones, and even changing the way you fold and display your towels all have an impact on how your bathroom looks and how it makes you feel.  

Gather those scrawny hand towels and remove the damp towels your kids have strewn across the floor. This is how to hang towels in a bathroom to elevate the aesthetic of the space.

Read more
This 2023 kitchen design trend adds an organic feel that homeowners are craving
Oak wood cabinets are the '70s revival homeowners are loving in 2023. Here's why
Kitchen with black cabinets and dark wood inspired by midcentury design

As we kick off into a new year of home design, 2023 shows us that sometimes the best inspiration comes from the past. This year, homeowners are craving organic and natural pieces. So, it should come as no surprise that a prominent trend for 2023 is transitioning your outdated kitchen cabinet design to dark wood cabinetry.

Not widely used in kitchen interiors since the 1970s, this trend brings a bit of nostalgia while also suiting the modern interest of adding organic-looking materials to the home. If you want to learn more about this trend and what it could do to benefit your space, then we have everything you need to know.

Read more