7 Custom Kitchen Island Ideas and Needs to Consider for Your Kitchen Renovation
(As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Posts on Robyn’s French Nest may contain affiliate links. You can see our full disclosure details here.)
If you are considering custom kitchen island ideas, check out these 7 elements. You’ll find these important details helpful for your kitchen! Keep reading to the end for other great kitchen renovation projects, ideas, and DIYs too!
Kitchens…you probably either have a love or hate relationship with yours, am I right? I feel so blessed to love my kitchen, but not until it became a complete and total gut and renovate operation.
Before we get started, though, thank so much for hopping over from Simply 2 Moms today. I love their kitchen project and in fact, all of the kitchen blog posts today are just so fun to see!
For my regular subscribers, thanks for being here too! I am finally sharing more details about our custom kitchen island. Some of you have been asking for a long time and I’m finally getting it from my head to your screen!!!
Creating a Custom Kitchen
When we purchased our 1970-built home, the kitchens and bathrooms were the top priority. Not only for the aesthetics and functionality, but also for the complete disrepair. However, we were on a budget and we really wanted to “do it right the first time”. At the same time, we had to find some creative ways to get the look we wanted for the budget we could afford.
There are so many aspects of our complete kitchen renovation that could each easily become their own blog post. In addition to knocking out two walls, we raised the ceiling, and moved the appliance locations. We also replaced the flooring, installed all new cabinets, countertops, and lighting. To say the least, it was no small feat!
However, for the size of our house, the kitchen is relatively small. After a lot of consideration, we chose to keep the size but totally change the structure and layout for optimal functionality.
Personally, I am a big believer that function has little to do with size and everything to do with how you design and set up the space!
One non-negotiable to me was a large kitchen island.
Today, I’ll share the fun details behind our custom kitchen island ideas and how we made decisions on the many variables of such a large custom piece. I’ll also share how it functions so beautifully for us, 5 years after our kitchen renovation!
Is it cheaper to build or buy a kitchen island?
I’ll start with one of the most asked questions. For the large size we wanted, we saved thousands of dollars by working with a local builder for our custom kitchen island ideas. Working directly with a builder allowed us to make every single aspect of this piece work really well for us. In addition, every single inch of the 12 foot long kitchen island functions really well for our varied family needs.
If you are considering an open kitchen island that is more of a piece of furniture, utilized for countertop purposes but not needed for specific storage, there are many great options available for pre-made purchases. However, if you are counting on your kitchen island for optimal storage and size, definitely check into custom kitchen island ideas. A custom kitchen island can also offer more for organization and functionality.
If you have the skills to build your own piece or an opportunity to work with someone locally, that is definitely my first recommendation!
Because no kitchen renovation is complete without a good before and after, here you go!
You can immediately see that opening up the kitchen, as well as adding a large custom kitchen island, completely transformed our kitchen into the heart of our home.
I affectionately refer to our kitchen island as Grand Central Station!!!
7 Custom Kitchen Island Ideas and Needs to Consider for Your Kitchen Renovation
How do you design a kitchen island?
I highly recommend the following 7 considerations for your custom kitchen island design. Even though every kitchen is a little different, these basic custom kitchen island ideas will help you narrow down the specifics that you need for this piece to work the best for your kitchen.
Additionally, every kitchen needs to function a little differently for your family’s specific needs. Planning ahead for how you want your kitchen to ultimately function for you and your family on a daily basis is a game changer!
Start with these 7 considerations and custom kitchen island ideas.
#1: Custom Kitchen Island Ideas for Everyday Functionality
Before you can really determine the design of your kitchen island, it is worth asking and considering: How do you want your kitchen island to function for you on a daily basis?
Because of the galley style of our kitchen, I knew that I needed our kitchen island to be able to provide a lot of countertop surface. Let’s just say, when it comes time to make Christmas treats, we use every Inch of it, too!
I also knew that I would use our kitchen island often for buffet-style serving. Whenever we have guests, we usually serve buffet style and all of the food goes right here on the kitchen island.
Since our kitchen doesn’t have a ton of cabinetry or drawers, storage and organization was also a huge factor to consider with our design. I knew that I essentially wanted our kitchen island to house our “pantry”, as well as all larger kitchen items like pots and pans.
Kitchen islands aren’t just for food-related needs!
In addition to food and regular kitchen use, I knew that the kitchen island would be a popular spot for homework, breakfast, after-school snacks, and a general landing place for alllll the things. I wasn’t wrong!
Besides needs for our kids, I also knew the kitchen island would be a place where I would likely wrap Christmas presents, assemble party decor, organize school treats, and a host of other things that a long surface area can allow.
Thinking through all of those varied (and perhaps seemingly random) tasks helped us to really determine all of the things we needed the kitchen island to do for us.
Tip: Create a list where you and your family can all add things that you think you’ll use the kitchen island for in your home. No task is too small or menial. Look for commonalities of function and combination of tasks that require various elements, such as size, shape, and style.
#2: Consider the size for your custom kitchen island ideas.
We spent a LOT of time discussing the size of our kitchen island with our contractor. For us, it really boiled down to a few key aspects:
- Allow standard spacing of 42 inches between a kitchen island and kitchen cabinets
- Allow room for the laundry room custom bi-fold doors to open (and still easily walk through) (And yes, our laundry room is in our kitchen! I actually love it!
- Consider the traditional “triangle” in a kitchen from the sink to the stove to the refrigerator. I’ll chat more about why we did NOT go with the typical triangle.
- Consider the adjacent spaces and how the kitchen island will look from those angles.
- Consider seating (we left an overhang on the ends since our kitchen is narrow and simply could not allow for seating on the side.)
- Remember that while your kitchen island shouldn’t overwhelm your room, it also should not underwhelm the kitchen either. I’ve seen so many kitchens that erred on the side of “space” and the kitchen island just feels too small of a scale for the overall room.
- What do you need your kitchen island to do for you? Make sure you consider all aspects of your list from #1 and allow as much room for meeting those needs and wishes as possible!
Most people have to make compromises in their renovations.
Depending on the size and space of your home, as well as your budget, you may have to make several like I did! Ideally, I would love for the kitchen island to be about 10 inches wider and maybe one foot longer.
However, it meets our needs very well. Sticking with the general footprint of our home saved thousands and thousands of dollars for our budget. At the same time, it meant that I could not widen the kitchen. That extra one foot would have cost probably $30,000. Definitely not worth it, especially considering our custom kitchen island actually functions perfectly for us!
You may have to make some concessions and compromises in your kitchen renovation. However, that doesn’t mean that with some creativity, it can’t still become the kitchen of your dreams!
#3: What is the best shape for a kitchen island?
There are two elements wrapped up in answering this question. First of all, the shape must fit the layout of your kitchen. Secondly, your personal preference really weigh into this a lot.
Unless you are building your home from the ground up and have a flexible blueprint, the shape of your custom kitchen island is likely somewhat determined for you. Otherwise, you may be gutting your kitchen and have a large budget for renovating the surrounding spaces. In that case, your custom kitchen island ideas can include a variety of shapes.
Generally speaking, however, my opinion is that your kitchen island should be a shape that allows for the maximum functionality for your family and the best workflow around the space.
Non-traditional kitchens can work too!
Once in awhile, I am asked about the lack of a traditional working triangle in my kitchen between the sink, stove, and refrigerator. You may have to also revisit some of the traditional “must haves” for kitchen design and weigh the pros and cons for your own space.
For me, it is very simple to go to the refrigerator side, set out my ingredients, walk around to the stove side and prep on the kitchen island, then turn around and put it in the oven or on the stove. It’s just not a big deal like it might be to some people.
That’s exactly why I say personal preference really plays a large role here. Some people might have opted for a small kitchen island in our space or even a peninsula at one end. For us, this is what gave us the most benefits and conveniences!
In short, the shape of your custom kitchen island needs to provide the maximum amount of “pros” for your needs. Weigh out all the options and don’t get too hung up in what everyone else says the design should be!
#4: Include storage options in your custom kitchen island ideas.
Even though our kitchen island is a bit unconventional, the storage is beyond wonderful! It can be extremely helpful to talk to friends who have a kitchen island. Ask them what works and doesn’t work, what they love and don’t love! Because I asked around, I was able to get some extremely helpful ideas for storage and organization in our kitchen island.
First of all, the back side of our kitchen island looks like inset cabinet panels. They are actually doors that swing open to 10 inch deep shelves. These are SO PERFECT for pantry-style storage. We all know that the the stuff in the back gets lost or unused anyway, right?!
In fact, I have our kids put the groceries away and pretend it’s our little grocery store. Pantry and food items are organized by type and always in the same sections so we can all easily find things.
Plan ahead for your storage and organization needs.
Tip: The height of the shelves was measured to specifically fit our cereal containers and stacked cans. If you’re having a piece custom built, measure the things you know you use and have it built to match. It makes organizing so much easier!
The front side of our kitchen island has six very large drawers.and 3 smaller ones. The smaller drawers are perfect for cooking utensils and school water bottles. The larger drawers hold pots, pans, dishes, plastic ware, and table linens.
Your storage needs and preferences will differ from mine. However, I don’t know anyone that doesn’t love a well-thought out kitchen. Take time to measure, sketch, re-measure, stack and line up essential food items and dishes to get the optimal organization for your custom kitchen!
#5: Consider seating in your custom kitchen island ideas.
While seating can be convenient at a kitchen island, it isn’t feasible or even practical in every space. Since we had a lot of length to work with, yet not width, we allowed enough overhand at each end for two backless counter-height stools. This seating is very convenient and is used daily.
Some kitchens simply may not have enough space for seating at the island. However, be creative in your thought process. If you’re building a custom kitchen island, are there any solutions you can use to add even a little seating?
Here are a couple of quick ideas:
- Can you take out one drawer bank to allow overhang for seating at even one end?
- Can you make the drawers/shelves on one side a little more shallow to allow seating on the other side?
- How will seating affect the work flow around the kitchen and kitchen island?
- Do you have other convenient seating in the kitchen? If so, perhaps the storage in the kitchen island is more important than additional seating.
How deep should an island be for bar stools? How far should an island counter overhang for stools?
These are great questions and ones I definitely had to look up! While designers say to leave a minimum of eight inches, we opted to go with a 12 inch overhang at each end of the kitchen island. Since I had flexibility with the length, I could allow that extra space so that the counter-height stools would side all the way underneath.
#6: Custom kitchen island ideas need to include plumbing and electrical solutions.
While plumbing and electrical can be convenient in a kitchen island, I happen to think people can get a little hung up there. It took me some time to convince our construction team that I really did not have a need for any plumbing or electrical in my kitchen island. Ultimately, it saved us thousands of dollars. Additionally, it made permitting much easier for all the codes required for kitchen renovation.
(Note: Codes and permits differ greatly between states and counties. However, in any renovation project, I strongly recommend you become familiar with the codes and permit needs. If you want to avoid any complications in the future if you try to resale your home, it must meet code.)
Understand the codes and laws for renovating!
DIY is wonderful. However, I personally know people whom have gotten into a bind when they went to sell their home because they just did the work themselves and did not get proper permits to meet code requirements.
Back to that plumbing and electrical…again, this just needs to suit the space and function you need for your kitchen. It may be worth the extra dollars to have those conveniences. Then again, you may be able to save a lot of time and money for your kitchen renovation if your layout doesn’t ultimately require the custom kitchen island to have water or electric.
#7: Consider lighting needs as part of your custom kitchen island project.
As you think about your custom kitchen island ideas, function, and desired aesthetic, make sure to consider lighting too! In most cases, pendant lighting looks beautiful over a kitchen island. While you’re doing your renovation, take time to make sure the electrical wiring is set up to center your lighting over the kitchen island.
Because our kitchen is so long, we opted for double pendants. Depending on the size and space of your kitchen island and overall kitchen layout, you may choose one, two, or even three kitchen lights!
Tip: Consider the lighting in adjacent rooms and make sure your kitchen island lighting complements and works well with the other lighting. A statement or two with lighting is wonderful. However, some lighting needs to be the complementary pieces and just blend in!
Here are a variety of some kitchen island lighting options that I love:
- These simple glass pendants have a timeless look.
- I love this vintage school house style!
- For a long, more narrow shape, this is a great option!
- This French Country style is always so beautiful!
- These woven lights are trendy right now and so pretty. I love the texture and openness they bring to a kitchen space!
How do I design a kitchen island?
My answer is simple. Design it for YOUR home and no one else’s! You will want it to fit your style, your storage and organization needs, and your specific kitchen space.
I hope these suggestions have given you a little inspiration as you reflect and plan on the best custom kitchen island for your own home!
You’ll enjoy all of the before and after kitchen projects from this blog hop too! Even if you’re not making any big changes in your kitchen, just seeing all of the spaces sparks my creativity for little things I can do to make my own kitchen more fun and inviting.
Next, hop over to Kristin at White Arrows Home. Just wait until you see this amazing Kitchen project!!!
Don’t forget to visit all of the kitchens on today’s blog hop for some great inspiration!
Inspiration for Kitchen Updates
How to Update a Kitchen with Cherry Cabinets // Simply 2 Moms
7 Custom Kitchen Island Ideas to Consider // Robyn’s French Nest
Updated Coffee Bar For Cozy Mornings in the Kitchen // White Arrows Home
Kitchen Updates that Make a Huge Difference // Pasha is Home
Small Kitchen Updates to our New Construction Home // Truemans Treasures
A Beautiful Cottage Style Kitchen Makeover // Peacock Ridge Farm
How To Wallpaper A Backsplash // White Lilac Farmhouse
Designing a Tiny Cottage Kitchen // A Life Unfolding
A Tale of Two Kitchens // Dabbling and Decorating
So much great information and everything is so beautiful. The kids looking in the oven is adorable.
Thank you! They love making things!
Robyn, this post is chock-full of fabulous kitchen ideas. Your island has always been a favorite of mine and to learn all about it today, was so informative. Thank you.
Thanks Ann! Renovations can be so overwhelming so I hope this will help people with their kitchen islands!
Robyn, I have always admired your choice of island. If I was remodeling an older home, I would do something none conventional. Love your recommendations.
How do you affiliate the weight of pots and pans in the drawers, ie, drawer slides, pulls,hinges, etc?Thanks
That’s a really great question! The drawers are wood on wood, so no drawer slides…just lots of wax!
The pulls & hinges are heavy duty to help out with everyday use.
Thanks for asking!
Such great tips. Your island is AMAZING! I love it. Happy hopping with you today.
I absolutely love your kitchen island! I love how you style it for all the seasons! So fun hopping with you today Robyn!
These are great tips, Robyn! I’ve jotted down some ideas to help in designing our little fixer upper’s kitchen!