The right small kitchen island should translate into the perfect food prep area while also matching your storage needs and existing layout. Don't settle for anything less!
We're used to picturing these central islands in the largest kitchens, but compact models can make your dream a reality even in settings where space isn't a luxury.
The trick is to optimize your kitchen's layout and stick to what you actually need from your new small kitchen island. After all, no point in wasting some precious floor space on additional stools or features that you won't actually be making the most of!
Instead, focus on looking for an island that matches both your needs and decor. Our interior design experts have come up with different small kitchen island ideas to help you find the right addition to your cooking area.
1. Create some contrast with the rest of your furniture
This is one of the most effective combinations from a decorative point of view: if your main kitchen furniture and cabinets are in a dark hue, complement them with a light-colored island (or vice versa, like in this balanced example).
This allows the island to pop against them, but you can still keep your palette consistent through its top surface or by choosing a shade that’s already present elsewhere.
2. Complement your small kitchen island with a rug
This is an excellent trick to reinforce your kitchen’s sense of coziness. We especially recommend introducing a patterned rug if the rest of your furniture and decor mainly relies on monochrome pieces.
Plus, a pattern is also a safer and more practical choice should you spill or drop something during food prep. Let’s face it: you wouldn’t want a monochrome white rug in that spot!
3. Add some comfy stools
If you like the sound of gathering around your kitchen island for breakfast or informal meals and drinks, you should definitely turn it into a table, too.
Depending on how much room you’ve got around it, you’ll just have to choose between a more flexible layout like in this example or some stools that can be tucked underneath the top surface to save even more space.
4. Focus on your food prep
If the main reason why you’re after a small kitchen island is that you need an additional surface for food preparation, don’t waste space and money on extra storage or features that you won’t be making the most of.
Instead, pick a compact but practical design that prioritizes this task. Consider a wooden model complete with a knife holder: hard-wearing, antibacterial, and delightfully rustic.
5. Decorate your small kitchen island
With their spacious top surface, some kitchen islands run the risk of looking a bit bare. So, we recommend decorating them like you would with a dining table.
While you still want to leave plenty of space for food preparation, you could easily add a beautiful centerpiece that helps the entire thing stand out, such as a fruit bowl or a pot of flowers.
6. Use it as a table in studio apartments
From apartments to open-plan settings, making the most of your limited space is key, which is why multi-purpose furniture will save the day.
Do you tend to eat on your own or with your partner? Then get two birds with one stone by choosing an island that also acts as a table.
If you occasionally have a couple of guests over too, just look for an extendable model.
7. Get creative with storage solutions
Be clever: figure out exactly what you need to store in it before falling in love with a specific small kitchen island, as some storage solutions will be more suitable for it.
For example, if you’re known for having the largest collection of recipe books, you might very well want to opt for a design that allows you to display them proudly.
8. Optimize the existing layout of your kitchen
Just because you can’t fit a traditional central island, it doesn’t mean that you must give up on your vision. You might simply need to tweak it slightly!
Instead of starting with the island, start with your layout: what opportunities do your walls and existing furniture offer?
For instance, this island saves space by being attached to a wall surface and incorporating some open storage on two of its sides.
9. Choose a kitchen island that showcases your sense of sophistication
Most kitchen islands involve some kind of storage. However, if you already have aplenty, you could choose to prioritize its design.
This elegant island with a dark wood finish, a marble surface, and clean lines is a prime example of how stylish these practical pieces can look.
10. Introduce even more wood
This material will instantly convey a nostalgic sense of coziness, especially when opting for natural rather than polished finishes.
If that’s the vibe that you’d like to create in your kitchen and already have some cabinets in the same style, your new small island can be your chance to reinforce it.
11. Turn it into a proper table
While some small kitchen islands are more suitable for quick meals, you can easily use yours in place of a traditional table if you haven’t got enough room for both of them.
In that case, you might need to sacrifice some storage space in favor of a wider top surface and to leave enough room for the right number of stools (take frequent guests as well as household members into consideration!).
12. Showcase your decorative flair
For a cohesive result, you should always choose your island in relation to the rest of your kitchen decor and palette.
This ornate design in the same color as the cabinets is an excellent example. If opting for an island with drawers, you could also match the existing handles or knobs in your kitchen.
This will translate into a consistent feel while actively reinforcing your chosen interior style.
13. Make it rustic
Want to turn your kitchen into that of the most delightful countryside cottage?
Rather than mass-produced and polished painted options, stick to raw and natural wood finishes: embrace cracks and imperfections, and consider choosing a salvaged wood piece that’s truly one of a kind.
To keep your kitchen looking cohesive, however, you still want to match the color of your other wood finishes whenever possible.
14. Complement your main hues
Your new island offers at least two chances to match your palette: the top surface and main body.
With the former, you can either opt for the same material and finish as your other countertops or match another element within the same room, like this wooden top in the same shade as the chairs.
As you can see, you could aim for a single-color overload through the actual body, too.
15. Add some stools that stand out
While cohesive chairs will add to your kitchen’s sense of consistency, we usually recommend choosing designs in a color that stands out against that of your island.
That way, instead of disappearing, your stools will steal the scene. For example, with a light-colored kitchen island, it’d be wiser to pick dark chairs and vice versa.
As you can see in this room, golden accents look particularly beautiful against dark backgrounds.
16. Create the perfect palette
If you want your kitchen to look like those you see on Pinterest or in showrooms, use your new island to complement your furniture style and your palette’s three main colors.
You can rely on different elements such as a separate chopping board section, cupboard knobs and drawer handles, the main design, and stools.
Enhance this cohesiveness by decorating your island and kitchen with small items in the same hues.
17. Make the most of open designs and storage
Worried that a bulky island will make your small kitchen look even more cramped? That’s a legitimate concern.
In fact, if it already feels too busy, we actually recommend opting for an open design.
Instead of blocking your visual flow, it’ll translate into a breezier look. You’ll still obtain some additional storage, too: it’ll just be an open shelf (or two) rather than traditional cupboards.
18. Focus on what you actually need
The right kitchen island for your needs and layout might not be a traditional kitchen island at all!
For example, if you’re really limited on space and need a top surface and some seating (but aren’t too fussed about storage), check out this creative and quirky idea.
It relies on an open design and allows you to tuck the stools underneath the top surface to maintain the narrowest layout.
19. Play with movable solutions
Whether that’s as a separate section or by opting for a cart-style island, a design with wheels can add a whole new level of flexibility to your kitchen.
It’s especially handy if you’re planning on using it to store some bulky kitchen equipment that you don’t utilize every single day and only need to roll out occasionally.
20. Consider a square and small kitchen island
Not all kitchen islands are rectangular! If you really need to save space, you should opt for a smaller square model like this stylish example.
You’ll still obtain a top surface for food prep and, in most cases, some storage. For instance, this compact square island includes a drawer and an open shelf for a couple of large pieces of equipment or multiple smaller items.
21. Make it long and narrow
If a traditional kitchen island wouldn’t leave you enough room to move around it comfortably, draw inspiration from this slim design.
Sure, you’d need to sacrifice some depth, but you’d still have a long top surface and some storage space without your kitchen looking too cramped.
22. Include some relevant appliances
Another way of optimizing your existing space is to choose a smart kitchen island: one in a design that includes at least one appliance.
While they’re not as common, you can actually find them for all kinds of needs.
Some examples? A small kitchen island with cookers and cooktops, an oven, a grill, a sink, a baking station, a built-in microwave, a drink cooler, and even a fridge.
23. Add some seating strategically
In small kitchens, consider choosing backless stools that don’t get in the way of your visual flow: the entire area will look more spacious, and you’ll be able to tuck them underneath the countertop whenever you’re not using them.
Still, if space is really limited, some layouts might work even better, like this kitchen island that allows you to store the stools underneath the actual surface, saving even more space.
24. Make the most of the right features
Appliances aside, sometimes it’s a smaller touch that can turn that new piece of furniture into the multipurpose island you need in your life.
So, how will you use it the most? For instance, when it comes to food prep, you might want to have a knife holder at hand or a roll dispenser, or you could choose an island with wine storage to display your bottles neatly.
25. Showcase the most aesthetically pleasing items
When opting for a combination of open and closed storage, be smart: hide the most utilitarian pieces of kitchen equipment behind your cupboard doors.
As for your shelves, get creative arranging and displaying your prettiest items on them, from glass jars to delightful crockery and colorful recipe books.
26. Make your kitchen cheerful
Most kitchens involve neutral hues, wood, or light-colored shades, but how about picking one that’s normally used as an accent?
For example, this captivating kitchen involves vibrant butterscotch yellow furniture with a central island in the same color.
You can then balance it out by choosing neutral items as accents or for your functional pieces, like the crockery behind these cupboard doors.
27. Choose a marble or granite top
While they’re more expensive than wood, think of these materials as an investment: they’re incredibly hard-wearing and durable!
Both marble and granite are elegant and aesthetically pleasing, guaranteed to complement or elevate the style of your entire kitchen.
From a decorative perspective, marble tends to be more versatile as it matches more palettes and interiors, but granite would be a better choice if you already have some countertops in that material.
28. Enjoy a multipurpose small kitchen island
Whether you have a studio apartment or are simply a bit tight on space, dual-use furniture pieces can be a truly game-changing choice.
Look at this island, for example: by blending a wooden top with an open design that’s more similar to tables or desks, it can be used for food preparation, to eat, or even to read or work from a laptop.
29. Focus on closed storage….
Here’s the thing with open shelves: it’s easy to end up covering them in clutter.
So, if you’re not sure you can commit to keeping them tidy, it might be worth opting for drawers and cupboards instead.
The latter are also a much more logical choice if you mainly need to store functional pieces and less aesthetically pleasing kitchen equipment.
30. … and experiment with multiple types
Small and large cupboards, narrow or wider drawers… Instead of making the mistake of just picking an island you like the look of, run an inventory of what you’re planning on storing inside it first.
That way, you’ll figure out exactly what type of storage you actually need, and you won’t be left with a big food mixer that doesn’t fit anywhere.
31. Keep it sleek and contemporary
In small kitchens, simple designs with clean lines can help you avoid a cluttered and busy result.
As for colors, white surfaces will amplify your room’s airy feel, especially if you can let plenty of natural light into your kitchen.
Other clever color choices include light hues and wood finishes, like in this contemporary example.
32. Figure out if you need a small kitchen island with outlets
If you’re mainly going to be using your new island for food preparation, you could probably do with a power outlet or two.
That way, you won’t have to worry about tripping over long cables that just about reach it from the other side of the room.
Some islands even include USB ports, which might be a handy addition if you’re also looking to use it as a breakfast table.