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20 Small Kitchen Island Ideas That Actually Make Your Space Look Bigger

You'll never see your bar cart the same way again.

Headshot of Medgina Saint-ElienBy Medgina Saint-Elien
kitchen islandpinterest icon
James Merrell

Attempting to live out your Ina Garten kitchen dreams in a tight space can dash your hopes of celebrity-chef stardom. Instead, go off the script and add a kitchen island to your tiny kitchen! Despite popular belief, there are small kitchen island ideas that don't cramp your style and can serve as a workstation for stress-free meal prep.

Ashley Macuga of Collected Interiors says, "I know that I am bringing up a taboo topic, but when space is at a minimum the kitchen peninsula is often the most efficient way to create workspace and countertop seating too. Not to mention extra cabinet storage for utensils, placemats, and maybe a small wine fridge too!"

While the debate on kitchen islands continues, make the most of your kitchen layout by celebrating the island for all it can do. One of the best kitchen islands is always the star of the show, drawing guests in to nibble on snacks before a dinner party or storing your impressive stack of cookbooks. Plus, it provides additional seating for hosting family or answering emails in the morning. Whatever you need them to be, these multifunctional pieces of furniture can hold your mail, make room for your favorite espresso machine, and display your beloved pots and pans. If you're doubtful that your small kitchen can squeeze one in or are too nervous to install it into your home, don't worry. We've found unique kitchen island tips that can change your mind, from a rolling kitchen island on wheels to a counter-height table you can move out of the room when you don't need it. Read on for small kitchen island ideas from designers who will inspire you to optimize your compact space.


Glossy Tiles

black kitchen island
Studio Helder

Designed by Studio Helder, this striking kitchen is completely covered in glossy tiles by DTile, a company that manufactures curved and specially shaped tiles. It straddles a unique line between retro and futuristic with a small kitchen island that juts out for when you want to pull up a barstool for breakfast.


WFH Station

small kitchen islands
James Merrell

This whitewashed wood island with a marble top is the kitchen MVP. Designer Ellen Kavanaugh optimized it with extra outlets on the side to help when someone's working from the barstool and needs a little charge or prepping dinner with a food processor.


Rustic Table

kitchen with wood island
Molly Culver

Shannon Eddings of Shannon Eddings Interiors chose to skip adding upper cabinets in this Texas countryside kitchen since the lower cabinets are efficient and the pantry was ample. "We added a small maple island for an extra worktop space. This makes what is a pretty compact space feel more open while being anchored by the handmade island," she explains.

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Black Granite

kitchen island
Nathan Kirkman

Don't be afraid to mix materials. This Chicago kitchen contrasts the absolute black granite countertop on the island with pale wood in a leathered finish. The gray cabinets are topped with a Silestone counter in subtly veined Pulsar.


Family Zone

white kitchen island
Nicole Dianne Photography

If you're a small family in a small space, you need somewhere for the kids to color while you multitask. You can keep your eye on a toddler or two and prep lunch or dinner at this peninsula.


Upcycled Materials

blue kitchen island

Finnish brand Durat is known for its cheerful, colorful composite that's made of 30 percent recycled plastic. This material is as durable as it is vibrant, and it can be used to craft countertops, sinks, shelves, and even cabinet fronts, as seen here.

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Homey Lighting

marble kitchen island
Lisa Romerein

Enter the kitchen island lamp, ready to add a romantic and effortless glow to your cook space and help you create an unforgettable dinner scene, especially when paired with a slim marble island. Make sure you choose a style that balances size and aesthetics, like the geometric ceramic version in this serene space designed by Benjamin Dhong.


Bold Paint

green and white kitchen
Dustin Halleck

The moment Chicago-based designer SuzAnn Kletzien laid eyes on Benjamin Moore Hunter Green paint, she knew it was the missing piece to the renovation of this Lincoln Park kitchen. "The color was so vibrant, deep, and rich, it drew me into the showroom entrance," she recalls. "I couldn’t keep my eyes off it."


Candelabra Lighting

kitchen with chandelier
Jean Liu Design

Balance modern living with classic French country style by installing new light fixtures above an efficient and simple layout. In this kitchen by Jean Liu, the island introduces rustic-meets-dainty details, like the antique candelabra chandelier.

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Bar Cart

green kitchen floor and brown bar cart
Savage Gibson

Kitchen too small for an island? Use a bar cart instead, and push it against the wall when you aren't using it. It can provide a small amount of extra counter space when you're cooking a lot—and a little bit will do the trick.


Patterned Runner

small kitchen island
Leanne Ford Interiors

Leanne Ford laid a runner under this makeshift kitchen island to warm things up and give it a nice frame. It also adds a bit of contrast in color while still complementing the blue cupboards, barstools, table frame, and appliances.


Subway Tile

small white and black kitchen
Nicole Hollis Studio

Here's one more reason to love subway tile, brought to us by Nicole Hollis Studio. Lay them horizontally to cover every last inch of space, from the backsplash to the range hood, to help the space feel wider. Park your kitchen island for prepping dinner, and you're all set.

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Multipurpose Ledge

kitchen island in studio apartment
Tara Striano

No space? No problem. In this 400-square-foot apartment, a console-style wood table acts as a kitchen island, breakfast bar, and workspace.


Open Shelves

J.L Jordan Photography

Bethany Adams of Bethany Adams Interiors loves the versatility of a kitchen island to prep, dine, or host. "Pay close attention to the size and scale of the island—you don't want it to look wedged in. In small kitchens, I like to use an island that is open underneath (like this marble-topped one from Crate & Barrel) so that the room appears more spacious and open," Adams says.

BUY NOW Crate & Barrel French 55" Kitchen Island


Antique Objects

french country kitchen
Bjorn Wallander

This kitchen is the perfect balance of formal and laid-back thanks to designer Annie Brahler's skillful layering of antiques. The gilt mirror, chandelier, and decorative accents on the vintage demilune cabinets add frill and pomp, while the reclaimed wood columns ground the room with an air of history and resilience. It's the island upgrade your kitchen's missing!

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Corner Seating

black and white kitchen island
Madeline Harper

Anastasia Casey of IDCO Studio used every inch of space to optimize storage without making the kitchen cluttered. If you don't want a busy counter, use floating shelves to keep your favorite kitchenwares on display.


Double Islands

blue kitchen island
Tamara Flanagan

Why have one kitchen island when you can have two? Instead of one large island, this space is broken up by two smaller back-to-back islands. The symmetry is aesthetically pleasing, and they also add so much functional value.


Complementary Accents

white kitchen
Trevor Tondro

Designer Mallory Kaye modernized the kitchen of this ranch house while also letting the original architecture shine. She paired sophisticated finishes with functional fabrics and a smart layout to withstand the wear and tear of young children and work hard for family living. Above the kitchen island, the custom adobe-style plaster hood draws the eye up, as does a skylight stretching along the room’s width and bathing it in natural light.

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Industrial Lines

industrial kitchen

Super-sleek yet also cozy, this kitchen designed by Studio DIAA blends farmhouse elements like rustic wooden stools and blond shiplap ceilings with industrial materials for a balanced whole. The skylight and task pendant provide optimal light for cooking.


Slim Footprint

long slim kitchen island
David Duncan Livingston

This kitchen island is really more of an oversize console table, but it does the job and looks perfectly to scale for this space. Burnt orange cabinets are unexpected and add a rustic touch to a kitchen. We love how the insides of the hand-forged iron lanterns were painted white to reflect more light onto the kitchen island.

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