Small Kitchen Island Ideas Small Yet Functional Island Designs

Adding an island to a small kitchen can maximize your available workspace and storage while adding style and functionality. With careful planning and creative designs, even the tiniest kitchens can accommodate a small island that makes cooking and entertaining more convenient. From movable cart-style islands to customized built-in islands with extension leaves, there are many smart small kitchen island ideas to choose from.

What to Consider When Adding an Island to a Small Kitchen

When incorporating an island into a small kitchen layout, there are some important considerations:

  • Available floorspace – Measure your kitchen to ensure there is enough room for comfortable circulation around a potential island. Islands should have at least 36-48 inches of space around them.
  • Traffic flow – An island should not obstruct main circulation paths. Ensure people can easily move from the kitchen entry to the stove, sink, and refrigerator without the island causing a bottleneck.
  • Functionality – How will you use the island? For extra seating? Food prep? Storage? Identify your needs to determine the best size, shape and features.
  • Work triangle – The island should form an efficient work triangle with the stove and sink. A distance of 4-9 feet between each elements is ideal.
  • Existing features – Take into account built-ins like columns and soffits that may impact placement. Also consider the location of windows, doors, and switches.

Small Kitchen Island Ideas

Here are some excellent small kitchen island ideas to maximize function and style:

1. Movable Kitchen Island Carts

Movable kitchen carts offer versatility in small kitchens. Rolling cart islands can be easily positioned where you need extra counter space and put away when not needed. Stylish designs like butcher block carts, metal utility carts or industrial carts on casters provide portable prep space and storage.

Look for cart islands with:

  • Locking casters for safety once positioned
  • Towel bars, knife blocks and spice racks for added function
  • Drawers, shelves and drop leaves to expand the surface
  • Durable, water-resistant finish that is easy to clean

2. Custom Built-In Kitchen Islands

For a custom look, build cabinetry to fit your small kitchen layout. Well-designed built-ins make use of every inch, incorporating shelves, cabinets, seating and cutting boards. With customized storage options, you can stow kitchen tools easily within reach.

Consider these features for built-in small islands:

  • Flip-up counter extensions for more surface area when cooking
  • Under-island cabinets accessible from both sides
  • Pull-out trash/recycling bin cabinets
  • Wide drawers to hold baking sheets, cutting boards and appliances
  • Shelves sized to fit frequently used ingrediants
  • Hidden outlets, lighting and appliances integrated into the design

3. Repurposed Furniture Islands

Give a vintage buffet, armoire or dresser new life as a small kitchen island. Look for solid wood pieces that can withstand heat, spills and daily wear and tear. Add casters for mobility and remove interior shelving if needed to accommodate stools.

When repurposing old furniture as an island:

  • Choose furniture with doors and drawers to conceal clutter
  • Sand and re-stain if needed to brighten up dingy finishes
  • Cut down overly ornate pieces for a simpler farmhouse style island
  • Customize with butcher block, pendant lights, or chalkboard paint
  • Add baskets, hooks and other storages aids to maximize function

4. Peninsular Kitchen Islands

Make use of narrow gaps between existing cabinetry and walls by installing a peninsular island. Connected on only one side, peninsula islands create a useful surface and boundary between kitchen zones.

Peninsular islands work especially well for:

  • Separating a kitchen from a dining or living area
  • Optimizing traffic flow in awkward L-shaped spaces
  • Defining the kitchen area in a large open concept room
  • Adding seating at a built-in breakfast bar

5. Floating Kitchen Islands

Ideal for minuscule kitchens, floating islands are wall-mounted counters that offer extra surface area without taking up floorspace. Floating shelves underneath provide a spot for baskets to corral cooking essentials.

Look for these features when incorporating a floating island:

  • Sturdy metal or wood brackets with at least 16″ depth
  • Waterproof finish that won’t warp or deteriorate over time
  • Easy access to outlets for conveniently plugging in appliances
  • Sufficient hanging space for dangling utensils
  • Open shelving to take advantage of vertical storage

6. Extendable Kitchen Islands

An extendable island maximizes your workspace when you need it without eating up valuable floorspace. Extension leaf islands have hinged or sliding countersections that pull out when required and tuck away when not in use.

Features to look for include:

  • Self-storing extension leaves of at least 12 inches
  • Smooth rolling extension slides or lift-and-store hinges
  • Overhang bars to lock leaves securely in place
  • Flip-up counter supports or leg brackets for stability
  • Base cabinets with large pull-out drawers for storage

7. Multi-Tiered Kitchen Islands

Incorporate different levels into a small kitchen island design to expand the usable surface area. A lower tier can provide space for stools and dining while the main counter height tier accommodates food prep and cooking tasks.

When designing a multi-level island:

  • Choose a table-height of around 36 inches for the lower tier
  • Ensure adequate knee and leg room for seating at the low tier
  • Use a standard countertop height of 36-42 inches for food preparation
  • Add at least 8 inches between the tiers for comfort and accessibility
  • Integrate the tiers into a cohesive style with matching finishes

8. Kitchen Peninsula Islands

Kitchen peninsulas are anchored to the wall or existing cabinetry on one end while remaining open-ended on the other sides. The open-sided design is less claustrophobic in a small kitchen.

Peninsula islands create handy space for:

  • Casual dining and additional seating
  • Food prep, baking, and cool
  • Added storage with lower cabinets and drawers
  • Displays like a bookshelf, glassware rack or shadowbox
  • Charging station, command center or tech lounge

9. Kitchen Island on Wheels

A wheeled kitchen island is a flexible option when floorspace is limited. Locking casters allow you to roll the island wherever it’s needed at the moment – near the fridge for food prep, next to the dining table for serving, or pushed aside when not needed.

Look for mobile islands with:

  • Locking casters that securely keep the island in place
  • Easy-grip handles for sliding smoothly
  • Ample storage with shelves, drawers and cabinets
  • Overhang or drop-leaf for extra surface space
  • Towel bar, knife block and other add-ons

10. Small Prep Table Islands

Simple small prep tables offer affordable extra counter space for food preparation tasks. Opt for a compact size that fits well in your kitchen layout without obstructing traffic patterns.

Features that boost functionality include:

  • Cutting board or butcher block top material
  • Seasoning tray to keep spices and oils handy
  • Towel bar or paper towel holder
  • Knife block for essential cutting tools
  • Wheels or casters for easy mobility
  • Shelves or baskets for storing prep items

Design Tips for Small Kitchen Islands

Follow these design tips to ensure your small kitchen island is both stylish and highly functional:

  • Choose finishes like stainless steel, lustrous white marble or quartz, and glossy tile for sleek, contemporary style in a small kitchen.
  • Incorporate one or two bold colors or materials into an otherwise neutral small kitchen island design to add interest.
  • Opt for stools instead of chairs to maximize leg room around a compact island. Stools with backrests offer ample comfort.
  • Utilize every inch of vertical storage space. Add shelves above the island and mount pot racks from the ceiling.
  • Include lighting in the island design, such as pendant lights or strips of under-cabinet lighting. This illuminates tasks and adds ambiance.
  • Select easy-close drawers, pull-out shelf racks and full-extension slides to take full advantage of interior island storage.
  • For casual family meals and homework, include built-in electrical outlets in an island with seating.
  • Add functional elements like a magnetic knife strip, paper towel holder, and hooks for handy small appliances.
  • Keep the island design minimalist. Drawer pulls should blend in seamlessly. Open shelving maintains an airy aesthetic.
  • Opt for convenience appliances like a microwave or fridge drawer to be integrated seamlessly into your small kitchen island design.
  • Create visual interest with varied heights, a recessed panel, or change of finish materials across different sides of the island.

15 Small Yet Functional Kitchen Island Designs

Here are some stellar examples of space-saving islands perfect for tiny kitchen spaces:

1. Black and White Bistro Island

This black and white movable island provides a pop of contrasting color as well as a convenient bistro prep space when needed. Slat shelves offer open storage and hooks for utensils keep tools organized and within reach.

Black and white bistro island

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2. Rustic Wood Kitchen Cart

The reclaimed wood, cast iron hardware, and vintage detailing on this kitchen cart lend a timeworn rustic appeal while the locking wheels and spacious cabinet provide convenience.

Rustic wood kitchen cart

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3. Bold Red Kitchen Trolley

Make a color splash in a neutral kitchen with a glossy cherry red kitchen trolley like this wheel-based island. Abundant storage includes shelves, cabinets and baskets so everything you need is close at hand.

Red kitchen trolley

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4. Contemporary Hanging Island

Wall mounted floating islands are perfect for truly tiny kitchens. This elegant design provides a sleek and airy minimalist look despite adding functional workspace and open shelving.

Hanging kitchen island

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5. DIY Butcher Block Island

This DIY island was created using an inexpensive lumber yard butcher block counter atop two stacked metal utility carts for a sturdy and budget-friendly prep space.

DIY Butcher Block Kitchen Island

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6. Scandinavian Style Kitchen Trolley

The natural pine finish, wooden knobs, and minimalist design give this slim rolling trolley a light and airy Scandinavian feel, perfect for small kitchens and apartments.

Scandinavian kitchen trolley

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7. Compact Breakfast Bar Island

This compact island fits in a small kitchen niche to provide a built-in eating bar and maximize prep space. The elevated counter enables easy reach to upper cabinets while keeping the floor open below.

Breakfast bar island

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8. Wheeled Butcher Block Island

This movable island pairs a classic butcher block counter with handy open shelving and wheels for a timeless, adaptable design. The spacious shelves corral cookbooks, meal prep ingredients and small appliances.

Wheeled butcher block kitchen island

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9. White Shaker Kitchen Cart

The white finish emphasizes clean lines and maximizes the brightness of this versatile slim rolling cart. Abundant specialty storage helps organize cooking essentials in a small kitchen.

White shaker kitchen cart

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10. Rattan Base Single Tier Island

The eclectic combination of the natural rattan base and sleek white quartz top give this petite island standout visual appeal. Easy mobility allows you to position it wherever you need an extra surface.

Rattan base kitchen island

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11. Industrial Pipe Frame Island

The exposed iron piping frame paired with a reclaimed wood countertop creates an urban industrial look, great for small city apartments. This island design can be customized to any size.

Industrial pipe island

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12. wheeled L-Shaped Prep Island

This movable L-shaped island includes ample prep space, open shelving, hooks, and wheels to create a functional portable peninsula perfect for small kitchen layouts.

wheeled L shaped island

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13. Black Granite Kitchen Cart

Sleek black granite adds striking visual contrast in this contemporary kitchen. The wheeled design can easily shift to where an extra surface or seating is needed.

Black granite kitchen cart

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14. Wall-Mounted Display Shelf Island

When floorspace is extremely limited, create visual interest and sneaky extra storage with a wall-mounted shelf island. Pretty display elements mask everyday kitchen necessities.