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5 Smart Ways to Upgrade Your Kitchen Island

Whether it’s a stylish pop of color or a handy way to stash essentials, a kitchen island is one of the most versatile and recognizable elements in any cook space. Depending on its size, shape, and function, an island can add seating for dining, extra prep surfaces, or a place to store cookbooks, glass canisters, and other decorative items that might otherwise clutter up your countertops. If you’re ready to upgrade your kitchen island, consider a few smart and creative upgrades that will not only give your heart of the home an instant refresh, but also boost functionality for years to come.

1. Consider the back of your island.

Many homeowners forget to think about the back of their kitchen island when designing it, but rethinking this part of the space can help make an existing island more functional for busy households. The 2022 Houzz Kitchen Trends Study found that doing work is the top activity at islands for 1 in 5 renovating homeowners, so if you often find yourself chopping veggies or doing other cooking tasks on your island, it’s worth considering creating storage solutions for task-specific tools (like peelers or graters) and even appliances like a microwave or dishwasher.

2. Use deep drawers rather than cabinets.

While it’s possible to build an island with cabinetry, it’s usually much more cost-effective—and space-efficient—to use deep drawers. These spaces allow you to reach things that are tucked away in the back of your cabinetry without having to crouch down, making them the ideal choice for storing heavier items. For a more sleek look, you can even add dividers to keep your drawers organized.

3. Rethink the seating arrangement.

Adding seats to your island isn’t just a good idea for seating, it’s also a great way to make your kitchen more inviting for friends and family to gather around while you cook. Rather than opting for conventional table-height chairs, which can feel cramped and uncomfortable, you can easily accommodate a few barstools by tucking them into the end of your island where they’re out of the way but still easy to access.

4. Keep the “business” side of your island streamlined with drawers.

For a kitchen designed for two chefs, Velinda Hellen Design made sure this island was loaded with plenty of storage to house both the couple’s extensive cookware collection and ingredients. To do so, she installed Semihandmade DIY shaker fronts painted Sherwin-Williams Riverway on the work side of the island and a series of drawers on the other side. The business side of this island features seven inches of depth, which is enough room to tuck away larger, frequently used pots and pans while displaying pretty linens and jarred dry goods on the open shelves for display.

5. Add a fun pop of color.

While white remains the most popular shade for kitchen cabinets, a bold color on the island can add personality and be an easy way to refresh your kitchen in just a weekend or less. The rich navy of this island, which sits alongside a bright white cooktop and cabinetry, helps the eye focus on the prep space without making the room feel small or dark. Plus, if you change your mind on the hue, a fresh coat of paint is an inexpensive fix for a quick upgrade.