Space permitting, a kitchen island bench can give you the extra work space and storage that you need in your kitchen, but are unable to build into your current floor plan. A kitchen island bench can be big or small, round, square or rectangular in shape, and it can be fixed or portable, depending on whether you plan to have a sink plumbed into it or cooking appliance built in.
According to data collected by the Houzz 2018 AU Houzz Kitchen Trends Study, of the top three 'New Built-ins' in the kitchen, kitchen island benches are number one with 46 per cent of kitchen renovators opting for this design feature, followed by additional pantries or cabinets and breakfast bars. The same report found that the top three materials for kitchen benches right now are engineered quartz, laminate and granite.
What does every kitchen island bench need?
Emma Blomfield is an experienced interior designer and she says that size, powerpoints, storage and seating are integral to the success and functionality of a kitchen island table.
“Everyone seems to congregate around the kitchen island table, so it's important that you have enough room to fit everyone gathering around it. You’ll also need room to prepare food,” says Emma.
“If you love to cook and make delicious things, having powerpoints at the kitchen island bench is a must, especially when there is more than one cook in the kitchen,” says Emma. “It allows you to blend, toast or grind without interfering in the cook zone of the kitchen.”
“Because most people spend a lot of time congregating around the kitchen island tables, you need the right stools to sit on,” says Emma. “The right stool can make or break the finish on not only the bench top, but the kitchen, too. It also encourages the kids to jump up and grab a seat if you're busy in the kitchen.”
“Storage is always important, such as big drawers for pots and pans.”
What is trending in kitchen island bench tops?
Emma says she is torn between kitchen island bench tops, but loves tiles on an island bench.
“I love the colour and texture you can work with, but I also love concrete bench tops, as they now come in some beautiful colours.”
5 do’s and don’ts of kitchen island design
When it comes to getting the kitchen layout and the kitchen island design right, it pays to pick the brains of the professionals. The builders at Porter Davis have experience in home layouts and they have a list of five do’s and don’ts when it comes to kitchen island bench design.
- Opt for a wide island bench “Ample space is key for preparing food, cooking, entertaining, and dining at the bench on bar stools,” says Porter Davis, World of Style, Interior Designer Patrizia Romeo.
- Make a statement “If your sink and sink mixer are on the island bench, make these a feature. Achieve this by selecting a feature finish to your tapware, such as matte black, gunmetal or bronze tapware,” says Patrizia. “Include an undermount sink with a removable drainer for a more streamlined look (as a drainer will take up valuable bench space). If your appliances live on the island bench choose functional statement pieces.”
- Use contrast “The kitchen island table can be a complete contrast in colour and finish compared to the rest of the kitchen, but keep the flow continuous throughout the space.”
- Change up your benchtops “If you want your island to be a standout feature, provide a contrast stone benchtop colour different to the rear benchtop colours. Marble design benchtops are still popular and look chic,” says Patrizia.
- Add Storage “Include feature doors or drawers, or open feature shelves to the rear of the island bench. Not only does this look stylish, but it also provides extra storage space.”
- Watch your sink size “Don’t have a extra long sink, as this will take up much-needed bench space and limits how you use the island bench,” says Patrizia.
- Go wide “Don’t go for a narrow depth to your island, as this will reduce the size and the area which you have to work from. And you may not be able to use bar stools if too narrow.”
- Prioritise your workflow “Don’t forget to think about how you will move around the kitchen, and therefore the location of your cabinetry, sink, dishwasher and cutlery drawers in proximity to your kitchen island bench,” says Patrizia. “This will allow for an easy workflow when preparing and washing up.”
- Don’t go rogue “Don’t be afraid to experiment, but it needs to be cohesive with the rest of the kitchen. Put your personal touch to the space!”
- Design for your “Don’t copy your neighbour. Work out how the occupants of your household will best use your kitchen and bench space, then design accordingly.”
Kitchen island design tips
"The proportion of an island in relation to the entire kitchen is its most important feature," custom cabinetry designer Kevin Ritter of Timeless Kitchen Design told Better Homes & Gardens USA. "It dictates the flow and determines whether it's a comfortable space."
According to Reno Smart, in Australia you need a minimum of 1000 mm of floor space between countertops, such as between a kitchen island and your kitchen bench.
Interior designer Kristie Hill told Home Beautiful that "you'll never regret allocating space for a study nook in the design of a mid-sized kitchen for the inevitable pile-up of mail, keys, phones and chargers.”
10 inspiring kitchen island design ideas
1. Small and traditional kitchen island
This modern yet country-inspired traditional kitchen has a small, square kitchen island bench right in the middle of the work zone. This sort of island is great for creating an additional work space, or simple extra bench space to keep cooking utensils.
2. Kitchen island with built-in appliances
You can build your oven and sink into a kitchen island and leave the space on your kitchen bench for working space or storage. The beauty with this set up is that you can have two sinks goings, lots of work space and plenty of storage. It's also a great place to put integrated dishwashers or a wine fridge.
3. The butcher's block island
Perfect for country style kitchens or rustic home, a freestanding butcher's block kitchen island bench can be picked up and moved, but is traditionally made of a timber heavy enough to hold it's own against pushing, shoving and cooking. These can be as big or as small as you want, and can be added to any kitchen at any time.
4. Colourful and contemporary kitchen island
More suited to home with an eclectic or 'bachelor pad' vibe, this kitchen isn't afraid of colour. Experiment with materials and lighting if you want a similar effect in your home, and remember that sometimes less is more, that's why this sleek blue bench top and red plastic chairs work so well in a stark white kitchen.
5. Concept island
Design-led and contemporary, this kitchen plays with shape and dimension by having the kitchen set against a curved wall, the island has a plumbed-in sink that intersects with a breakfast bar. All of which combines to create a spacious, unusual and very functional kitchen layout.
6. Freestanding kitchen island table
If your home simply doesn't have the room or need for a full-on kitchen island bench, perhaps a freestanding kitchen island table is more your thing. It can act as additional workspace for cooking, as a breakfast bar or even just a location to open mail and chat to family members.
7. The breakfast bar
Bright, white, traditional and classic, this kitchen is spacious and modern with a touch of old world charm. Metallic fixtures and pendant lighting up the glam factor and the kitchen island bench is wide enough to accommodate a sink, appliances and still have enough room for people to eat at the breakfast bar and sit on stools.
8. kitchen island on wheels
Fancy a kitchen island that's big enough to store all your cookware but easy to move around? Then a kitchen island bench on wheels is the answer to your problem. Built to function more as a cupboard and workspace, this design can be moved around to suit the occasion or your lifestyle.
9. A kitchen island for storage and function
Only suitable for homes that have plenty of space in their kitchen, a huge kitchen island such as this one can incorporate a breakfast bar, open shelving for cook books and beloved dinnerware, as well as extra storage for pots, pans, appliances and a huge bench for extra workspace.
10. Small kitchen island bench
Just because your kitchen is small doesn't mean you can't have an island. A kitchen island bench without a sink is a great way to increase storage and workspace in an open-plan living area without having to do major renovations.