Types of Kitchen Islands to Inspire You

Most homeowners today take advantage of what was once merely an accessory: kitchen islands. A kitchen island extends the work and storage space beautifully in a kitchen, and might function as an entertainment center, repository of dishes, and breakfast area as well.
As an accessory, you might think a kitchen is non-essential, but it is truly not. If you are considering a kitchen remodel, you will do yourself a big favor by including one in your design.

However, kitchen islands come in many styles. They range from very simple to quite complex and from cheap to very expensive. In the most general sense, kitchen islands come in two categories: fixed (permanent) and movable (portable).
Fixed islands are permanent fixtures in the kitchen. Simple ones are simply a base cabinet riveted to the floor with a countertop, while complex ones may have a prepping, washing, cooling, and cooking facilities.

These tend to be expensive because they require plumbing and electrical setups, and they tend to be in larger kitchens as you cannot move them out of the way. This can be a problem if you have a tiny kitchen, where a movable island would be more practical.
Movable kitchen islands are more like carts, and often on wheels, although a kitchen table is essentially a movable kitchen island if they go to the center of the kitchen. Movable kitchen islands tend to be extensions of the working area or used for serving or cooking on the go. In some cases, movable kitchen islands serve as portable bars during parties.

You can break down fixed and movable kitchen islands into several distinct types. Below is a brief description of each. The one you choose for your kitchen will depend on your space, design, and needs.

Kitchen table

You might not think of a kitchen table as an island, but it is technically one. Any table you place in the middle of the kitchen may rightly be called a kitchen island, and serve many functions of one. The only thing it does not do is provide storage space. It is definitely readily available, as you can repurpose any table as a kitchen table.

In most homes, the kitchen table is the repository of unfinished projects, a place to hold informal gatherings, and frequently, as a breakfast nook. While it is movable, the kitchen table usually stays in place, as there is no real reason to move it.

Rolling carts

As mentioned earlier, some kitchen islands are on wheels, and the most recognizable of these is the rolling cart. You may have seen these in fancy restaurants offering desserts, or a portable cooking station for making salads of flambéing a dish.

In the home, the rolling cart may also have many uses. This is usually for prepping food away from the busyness of the kitchen, or as a temporary landing station for cooked food prior to service. It may also serve as a portable bar or a serving cart during parties.

In any case, a rolling cart is a simple structure, usually two levels of shelves, which may be stainless steel or wood, or a combination of materials. The cart rests on casters that may or may not be lockable. These are available ready made from many home depots or hardware stores, although you can certainly have one built specially for your kitchen. In some instances, you may even DIY a rolling cart with some old trays, a few pieces of wood or PVC pipes, and store-bought casters.

These are among the least expensive of kitchen islands, although industrial ones with several shelves made of stainless steel are quite pricey. Rolling carts are useful for both small and large kitchens, especially if you entertain frequently.

Double cabinet island

Base cabinets often serve as the base for a fixed kitchen island, and they usually come in pairs. The small kitchen island is two regular base cabinets set back to back, and topped with a suitable countertop material such as granite, marble, or engineered quartz. The small cabinet island is often quite small, no more than four feet in length, but you can extend that by adding more cabinets, or putting in an overhang.

The important thing for any type of cabinet island is the height. Unlike rolling carts and kitchen tables, people require fixed cabinet islands to be of working height. The standard working height in kitchens is 38 inches, and you can easily order RTA cabinets at that height.

You might also adjust the height of the kitchen island to fit your particular needs. For example, if you are in a wheelchair, you will want the island to be slightly lower and with a toe kick. If you are quite tall, you will want the island slightly higher.

The best thing about cabinet islands is the storage. You can order the type of cabinets you want, and even specify drawers or other special features to accommodate your needs. IT keeps your kitchen organized, and your things within easy reach.

Full island

A full island is a major element in the kitchen, and hardly an accessory as it occupies quite a bit of space. These tend to be somewhat longer, and function more as a perimeter counter than simply an extension of the workspace.

In most cases, full islands have durable countertops of granite, marble, or quartz as these will have a significant effect on the design and color scheme of the kitchen. Most full islands also have their own lighting, so that also draws more attention to the area.

Full islands also typically have a full sink, perhaps a cook top, and accommodations for small appliances such as a bar cooler, microwave, and coffee maker. A full island is often a self-contained area for food prep and service, so it is a very useful element in a large kitchen.

Double-tier kitchen island

The superstar of kitchen islands is the double-tier kitchen island, similar in structure to the bar area in restaurants. It is a full island with an extra level about 6 inches higher than the work top. Generally, full island countertops are 38 inches from the floor. In double-tier islands, the second level is about 42 inches. This is comfortable enough to stand up at with a drink, or sit down to using bar stools.


You should definitely consider adding a kitchen island to your kitchen when you have the chance. If you already have a kitchen island with a non-durable, you should definitely consider replacing the countertops with granite, marble, or quartz to make it even more functional.

Fairfax Kitchen Bath can help you with free in-home design consultation and quote for your kitchen island design and other remodeling concerns.
Fairfax Kitchen Bath services the DC, MD and Northern Virginia metropolitan areas. We are a Class A, licensed and insured contractor, registered in the Commonwealth of Virginia. We have a showroom in Fairfax, Virginia, which houses all our products.

We sell only top quality products for all your kitchen needs, ranging from top-brand kitchen sinks of all types, fixtures, cabinets, and countertops using natural and engineered stone slabs. We carry products from Schrock Cabinetry, Fabuwood, Silestone, Blanco, Kohler, and Mosaic Décor.

Contact us today to get free in-home design consultation and quote for your kitchen island. We guarantee you will love it for life!

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Sam Kazanci <br/><span id="position">Owner</span>

Sam Kazanci

Sam Kazanci is the owner of Fairfax Kitchen Bath Remodeling. He has experience to build and remodel the kitchen and baths with his team and the author of fkb blog: You can find Sam on LinkedIn and Twitter.