Are kitchen islands outdated? Kitchen experts reveal how these perfectly practical designs will never be passé

Kitchen islands have been a popular fixture in home kitchens for decades. With their spacious countertops and storage options, islands provide additional prep space and serve as handy gathering spots for family and friends. However, some wonder if the classic kitchen island is starting to feel dated. Are these once-trendy fixtures now fading out of style?

Kitchen design experts say that properly designed and styled islands are still highly desirable and functional elements in today’s kitchens. While tastes may be shifting somewhat, kitchen islands themselves are not becoming outdated. These seasoned pros share insights on how to keep islands fresh, practical and timeless.

Why Kitchen Islands Remain Timeless

Kitchen islands offer benefits that never go out of style. Here are some key reasons these kitchen centerpieces remain eternally popular:

Added Preparation Space

Islands provide extra countertop real estate for chopping, mixing and prepping food. This supplementary surface area is ideal for busy cooks and avid home chefs. Islands are multi-functional spaces perfect for food prep as well as serving buffet-style meals.

Social Gathering Place

A kitchen island creates a natural spot for family members or guests to gather, chat and keep the cook company. Curved islands with bar-style seating provide even more hangout space. Islands help make the kitchen a more social, inviting environment.

Storage Solutions

Kitchen islands integrate storage in the form of shelves, drawers, cabinets and racks to corral cookware, utensils, bakeware and more. This frees up storage space elsewhere while keeping essentials within arm’s reach.

Design Flexibility

Islands can be customized to match any kitchen layout, storage needs and style. They come in an endless array of sizes, shapes, finishes and configurations to suit diverse tastes. Islands have nearly limitless design flexibility.

Value Addition

Real estate experts agree kitchen islands add value and appeal to a home. They create a spacious, functional look that today’s buyers want. Islands make kitchens more livable and enjoyable.

With this winning combination of form and function, it’s easy to see why professionally designed kitchen islands stand the test of time. Their inherent practicality and versatility ensure they will never be outdated.

Current Island Design Trends

While the basic kitchen island will always remain relevant, there are some emerging trends giving these pieces a fresh, contemporary look:

Natural Materials

Eco-friendly natural materials like wood, marble, granite, quartz and stone are growing in popularity. Islands made from reclaimed wood, in particular, feel organic and sustainably sourced. Concrete is another on-trend material that looks modern.

Simplicity & Minimalism

Clean, simple lines and minimal ornamentation feel current and sophisticated. Unfussy islands in muted, neutral hues keep the focus on beautiful materials and craftsmanship. Less is more.

Curves & Soft Lines

Sleek curves, rounded corners and elliptical shapes replace boxy, geometric islands. Softer lines feel organic and inviting. These shapely designs often feature delicate legs rather than bulky base cabinets.

Multi-Level Islands

Islands that incorporate different height levels, steps and tiered sections are on the rise. These customized designs maximize every inch and allow for varied functions. A section for seating can be paired with a standard height prep area, for instance.


Homeowners are opting for highly customized islands that reflect their tastes and lifestyles. Unique sizes, shapes, colors and materials are being incorporated. Personalized details such as glass cabinet fronts, hardware flourishes or specialty legs can infuse personality.

Blurring Work Zones

The borders between kitchen zones are fading as islands integrate sinks, appliances, lighting and seating. Islands act as multi-functional command centers rather than solely extra prep space. They blend tasks and streamline working triangles.

Outdoor Orientation

Indoor/outdoor living is a major trend, with many new builds and remodels incorporating wide openings to patios and backyards. Islands are being thoughtfully placed to engage with the outdoors. Weather-resistant materials allow islands to span both interior and exterior worlds seamlessly.

While still anchored in their classic design, today’s islands reflect evolving tastes with these sleek and modern updates. The most current kitchen islands feel fresh and contemporary while remaining forever functional.

Are Kitchen Islands Outdated? Experts Say No!

With islands incorporated into over 50% of today’s new kitchen designs according to the National Kitchen and Bath Association, it’s clear these fixtures are still decidedly in vogue. We asked four top kitchen designers from across North America for their insights on the enduring relevance of thoughtfully designed islands. They unanimously agree properly planned islands will never be outdated.

Jean Stoffer, Stoffer Design Co., San Francisco CA

“Absolutely not! An island is often the heart of the kitchen, providing essential prep space and storage as well as a place for gathering. Islands can be whatever you want aesthetically. I design customized islands daily that perfectly reflect my clients’ style vision. The key is focusing on quality materials, thoughtful details and multifunctionality. Invest in design and an island will remain forever fresh.”

Mike Garcia, Divine Kitchens, Miami FL

“I think islands are more popular than ever due to their versatility and how they enhance livability. New open floor plans mean kitchens are less closed off, so islands help delineate kitchen space while not totally separating it from living areas. Islands keep kitchens feeling open and current. I’m designing more personalized islands than ever tailored exactly to my clients, from a marble-topped beauty to a rustic wood piece. Well-made islands suit families’ needs for years to come.”

Lindsey Avery, LA Design Co., Austin TX

“If an island is thoughtfully designed for both aesthetics and functionality, it will never be outdated. Too many islands look like an afterthought rather than an integrated part of the full kitchen design. Islands shouldn’t impede workflow but rather enhance it while providing character. A kitchen island is akin to a work of art – a showstopper that also functions flawlessly. I always start island design early in the process to get it just right. These anchors should mirror overall vision and style.”

James McDonald, ModernSpaces, Vancouver BC

“I think the popularity of open floor plans keeps islands highly desirable. They help delineate kitchen space without totally closing it off from living areas. New technologies allow so many customized options, too. I’m incorporating great features like electrical outlets, concealed trash bins and temperature-controlled drawers into islands. Smart islands reflect how we live today. When designed thoughtfully, they will stand the test of time and never feel dated.”

Key Elements that Keep Islands Classic Yet Current

So how can you ensure your kitchen island has enduring style? Leading designers recommend focusing on these fundamental elements:

#1: Thoughtful Placement

Island placement is paramount, dictating traffic flow and function. Be sure sightlines are unobstructed from other zones like living rooms. Allow for proper appliance clearance on all sides. Incorporate at least 42 inches of walkway space around the perimeter. Placement should enhance working triangles not hinder them.

#2: Adequate Surface Area

Lacking adequate surface area is a common island mistake. A minimum of 25-35 square feet of countertop space is ideal, allowing multiple users to prep simultaneously. Built-in seating requires even more area. Maximize surface footage to make your island as functional as possible.

#3: Smart Storage

Incorporate storage specific to your needs like drawers for utensils, cabinets for pots and pans, shelves for cookbooks, slide-out trays for spices, etc. Drawer dividers, roll-out shelves and other specialty inserts keep items organized. Catches keep contents secure during use. Don’t overlook vertical storage for items like cutting boards and trays.

#4: Multi-Tasking Elements

Look for ways to make your island multi-functional. Add seating, lighting, electrical outlets or even specialty features like warming drawers or ice makers. Incorporate details that reflect your cooking and living style. Enhance usefulness with personal touches.

#5: High-Quality Materials

Durability and ease of maintenance should guide material selection. Look for water- and stain-resistant natural stone like granite, quartz and marble, or enameled woods that withstand daily wear and tear. Soft-closing hinges and smooth-glide hardware also stand the test of time.

#6: Timeless Over Trendy

Choose finishes and materials that emulate classic style not fleeting trends. Options like white marble, butcher block and subway tile have perpetual appeal. Shun overly ornate/kitschy designs that will feel dated fast. Seek out true artisans for exquisite workmanship.

#7: Design Cohesion

Your island should feel like an integral part of the overall kitchen design, with cohesive finishes, hardware and style details. It shouldn’t look like an afterthought. Make sure your island reflects your kitchen’s overall aesthetic vision.

By thoughtfully incorporating these essential elements, your kitchen island will have enduring style and purpose for many years to come.

FAQs: Common Island Questions Answered

Still have some questions surrounding kitchen islands and their continued relevance? Below are answers to some frequently asked questions:

Are kitchen islands still in style for 2023?

Yes, absolutely! Kitchen islands remain one of the most desired kitchen features. Surveys show over 50% of homeowners remodeling kitchens opt to add or replace an island. Their versatility and functionality explain their sustained popularity year over year.

Do you need an island in a small kitchen?

Even small kitchens can often accommodate a scaled-down island, provided sightlines are unobstructed. Allow for at least 42 inches of clearance on all sides. Small kitchen islands maximized for prep space and storage can greatly enhance workflow and function.

What is trending more – Peninsula or Island?

While both remain common, kitchen islands are installed in new and renovated kitchens far more frequently than peninsulas according to industry research. Islands’ spacious surfaces and seating options give them broader appeal. They also work with nearly any layout.

Are two islands better than one?

In some larger, open concept kitchens, two islands can make sense by providing differentiated functions and segments of space. For instance, one island could offer seating and casual dining while the other houses the main food prep area and cooking surface. Two islands must be very thoughtfully orchestrated.

Should an island match the cabinets?

Cohesion is key, so islands typically incorporate cabinetry that complements the rest of the kitchen. However, an island can be a good opportunity to integrate a different texture, material or color to add interest. Just ensure finishes still coordinate.

What is the most popular island size?

The most common island size is around 6 feet long by 3-4 feet wide. This allows seating for 3-4 along with ample food prep zone. Exact sizing depends on kitchen dimensions and layout. In general, bigger is better when it comes to islands, so maximize usable surface area.

How much overhang should an island have?

An overhang of 10-15 inches on each side is ideal for seating. Bar stools should align ergonomically with the overhang depth. Allow 26-28 inches of leg room clearance from the inside of the island to prevent banging knees. Overhangs must accommodate proper appliance access.


Kitchen islands show no signs of going out of favor. Their inherent practicality and flexibility ensure they remain highly sought-after kitchen elements. When thoughtfully designed and customized, islands can suit any style or space.

Leading designers agree properly planned islands will never be outdated. Their enduring popularity is a testament to how essential islands are for creating kitchens that cater to modern lifestyles. They seamlessly blend beauty, utility and comfort when done right.

Rather than fading away, today’s islands reflect emerging trends like eco-materials and soft curves that keep them fresh. Personalized islands speak to homeowners’ individual tastes. Technology allows for more customization than ever.

Focusing on smart placement, generous surface area, purposeful storage and high-quality materials are secrets to creating a timeless island with lasting functionality. Islands with these cornerstones will serve as the stylish, efficient hearts of kitchens for generations to come.