Kitchen Island Ideas: Tips to Upgrade Your Kitchen

If you have a kitchen island or peninsula in your home, then you know just how essential it is to your everyday life. It’s likely the place where family and friends gather for meals, snacks, late-night conversations over wine, early morning coffee, and much more. 

Aside from functionality, its central position is also something that makes the kitchen island a critical design feature. Something as simple as a fresh coat of paint that’s different from the color of your cabinets can add some personality to your kitchen — and the kitchen island ideas don’t end there. 

If you’re looking to give your kitchen an upgrade while on a budget, we’ve got the top kitchen island ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

Let’s dive in!

1. Add Some Color

colorful kitchen cabinets

When it comes to kitchen island ideas, expanding your color palette will never get old. This is because there are so many hues and shades to choose from to complement your kitchen and make your kitchen island stand out.

Here’s a quick overview of how you can play with color on your kitchen island:

  • Go a few shades darker or lighter from your cabinets and counters for more visual interest
  • Opt for a bold pop of color for a more dramatic effect
  • Add color to certain areas, such as the kitchen island trim or ends
  • Pair the island with bar stools or chairs of contrasting colors

When it comes to color, there are no limits. Best of all, painting and repainting your kitchen island is very affordable, which means you can start over if you don’t like the initial results. 

2. Try Some Wood

If you’re looking for a lighter and more natural look, you may want to consider matching the faces of your kitchen island to your flooring (if you have wooden floors). Of course, this works with tile floors as well.

If you’re doing a full kitchen renovation that involves wood flooring, you’ll want to consult with your contractor to see if they can use the leftover flooring for your kitchen island. If you’re on a budget, a wooden laminate wrap will do the job of bringing the warmth of wood into your kitchen!

3. Opt For Wainscoting

If the island in your kitchen is considerably large with a “chunky” feel to it, you may want to consider wainscoting for a sleeker and more refined touch.

Wainscoting is considered a classic and traditional treatment for walls. It was originally used to help support more fragile walls and contribute to a home’s overall durability. Now, the wood paneling is used as a decorative accent on varying home surfaces, including the kitchen island.

If you want to give your kitchen a more cottage-inspired look or even a more contemporary appeal, wainscoting is an excellent option to consider.

4. Style it With Furniture

kitchen furnitures with luxury design

Your kitchen island may already be everything you need it to be down to the color and trim. However, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do to polish it off as the central focal point of your kitchen.

This is when you’ll want to consider introducing stylish furniture into the mix — and this usually refers to kitchen island seating such as chairs and bar stools. Look for chairs or bar stools that use materials and accent hardware that will allow them to make a bold statement while still complementing the island.

5. Embellish With Molding

Many homeowners like to give their kitchen islands a more furniture-like appearance as an upgrade. This can easily be done by embellishing the island’s faces as well as its corners with molding. 

Molding can give your kitchen island a more elegant aesthetic, which is primarily sought after by those who dream of having a transitional kitchen and home. Molding helps to create a more cohesive design as it effortlessly blends luxury and comfort. 

Molding is also a great long-term investment as the transitional style is always high in demand!

6. Bring in an Island Cart

Sometimes updating your kitchen means tearing something down and starting over completely. Or, maybe you just have an empty space where a kitchen island should be installed. Either way, bringing in an island cart may be your answer. 

An island cart is essentially a free-standing kitchen cart that’s large enough to serve as a prep space and dining space. The typical island cart will be made of stainless steel metal with a butcher’s block, marble, or granite top. You can also find these carts made from wood.

Some come with drawers and wheels, while others have an open space beneath that can easily act as a storage space. Your options are virtually endless.

If you’re leaning towards a more industrial aesthetic or chef’s style kitchen, an island cart is the perfect centerpiece. 

7. Try Out Salvaged Materials

vintage kitchen island

Another great option for updating an existing kitchen island is by giving it a vintage twist using salvaged materials. This can also play into the industrial aesthetic as well as a rustic aesthetic, depending on the materials you find or prefer to use.

To find these materials, look into:

  • Vintage, thrift, or salvage stores for materials
  • Salvage yards and lumber yards for distressed wood, metal sheets, etc

You can also ask your kitchen contractor for any excess materials they have on hand from other renovation projects.

8. Install LED Lighting

Sometimes all it takes is a soft glow to illuminate the way. If you already have everything you could possibly want in a kitchen but feel like the space could use a little more oomph, you may want to think about installing a few LED lighting strips

LED lighting installed on the underside of your island counter — at the base or throughout — can bring a more modern element that brightens up the entire space (literally and figuratively). LED lights can also add the perfect ambiance for a romantic dining table if that’s what you’re looking for as well.

More importantly, it doesn’t matter whether you have recessed lighting, pendant lighting, or a mixture of both. LED lighting strips will complement your existing lighting scheme no matter what.

9. Get Optical With Mirrors

One way to make a bold statement is to create the illusion that your kitchen island is floating away, so to speak. This is done by using mirrored fronts.

Mirrored fronts can help hide bulky cabinets and make your floor seem as if it’s running on forever. They’re also more versatile than you might think, as mirrors can add either an antique charm or a type of retro elegance to an otherwise modern kitchen.

Best of all, you can create your own mirror finish using glass paint and a splatter brush. Not only is this more budget-friendly compared to mirrored fronts, but it adds an artsy appeal to the entire aesthetic.

10. Upgrade Your Hardware

Just like upgrading to new bar stools, upgrading your kitchen island’s hardware can provide your kitchen with the refresh it needs.

When upgrading the hardware, you’ll have tons of options to choose from between finish and style. You can opt for all-new hardware from the store, or you can save a few bucks by grabbing the furniture paint of your choice. 

Just remember to add some dummy drawers or door fronts to get the full effect.

11. Hang Eye-Catching Fixtures Above

spacious kitchen with light features

Another simple upgrade that can really liven up your kitchen island space is adding oversized or multiple hanging light fixtures. 

If you have a small kitchen island space, you can add one incredibly large pendant as a statement piece. For medium to large-sized kitchen islands, you have tons of options, from bare glass bulb pendants to natural materials. You can mix and match your elements, such as stainless steel and concrete, play around with height, cluster pendants together, and much more.

If you have recess lighting, don’t worry. Pendant lighting has a way of complementing your space and adding value rather than getting in the way.

12. Think About Shelving

Open shelving is an excellent way to create dimension within your kitchen island space. You can add floating shelves to the faces of your kitchen island or have them installed in a way that makes them appear to be carved into the island.

Shelving allows you to really set your kitchen island apart as you can place anything you want on it, from cookbooks to fruit bowls to art. You can also change up the decor as often as you’d like, making shelves another versatile option with no downsides.

13. Curve Away

Who says a kitchen island has to be a straight-edged rectangle or square? 

If you’re starting from scratch and are opting for an open floor plan, choosing a curved (think: half-moon-shaped) kitchen island can really add another dimension to a basic kitchen space. Changing the entire shape of your kitchen island is especially beneficial to the area’s functionality if you like to throw dinner parties and need room to move around!

There’s so much you can do with a kitchen island, no matter how big or small the space. All you need is the right contracting team to guide you and get the job done to perfection. That team is JC Construction — call us today to schedule a consultation so we can hash out the details of your dream kitchen!