Best Kitchen Islands

Updated July 2020
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

50 Models Considered
7 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
140 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best kitchen islands

Last Updated July 2020

Are you considering a kitchen remodel because your counter space is limited? Unfortunately, kitchens are one of the most expensive rooms to update — sometimes to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars. For a cost-effective solution that is construction-free, consider investing in a kitchen island.

On average, kitchen islands add two to three feet of additional counter space to your room. For the home cook, that precious extra space can make food prep easier and more enjoyable. It can even grant you the space to set up small kitchen appliances, such as a toaster or food processor, rather than storing them in a cupboard and hauling them out for each use.

Kitchen islands also expand your storage space. Many have cupboards, drawers, or cubbies. Some have dedicated compartments for spices or cutlery. If it’s in your budget, you can explore kitchen islands equipped with compartments to install drink coolers, wine chillers, or ice boxes.

In this buying guide, we introduce you to the world of kitchen islands, focusing on the best and most popular designs so you can find the right one for your home.

Store pantry staples like sugar, flour, and breadcrumbs in your kitchen island. They’ll be easy to reach when you prepare baked goods on the island.

Key considerations

Taking measurements

A kitchen island can help maximize your counter and storage space, but in so doing, it will take up some floor space. Before you buy, measure the area where you intend to place the island. Make sure there will be enough room for you to walk comfortably around the island and that the doors of nearby cabinets and drawers will have enough clearance.

Size and shape

Most kitchen islands are rectangular or square. Not only does this make them versatile enough to fit most kitchens, it also helps them blend in aesthetically. More often than not, the sides will run parallel to existing counters for a seamless, styled appearance.

In terms of actual dimensions, most kitchen islands are 18 to 30 inches wide. Length is what varies the most among them. Smaller islands stretch between 18 and 25 inches long. Mid-size islands are closer to 30 inches long. The biggest kitchen islands tend to be anywhere from 32 to 48 inches long. 

EXPERT TIP

An extra- long or oversized kitchen island could also serve as a buffet in a dining room.


Staff  | BestReviews

Materials

Counter

The counter of a kitchen island the place where you can prep food and stash small appliances may be made of wood, granite, or metal. While all of these materials look nice, some are better than others in terms of functionality. 

Wood: Counters made of wood typically use high-quality oak, maple, walnut, or cherry. Well-made designs are gap-free, and each piece of wood is properly aligned. You can cut food directly on these materials, but bear in mind that softer woods are susceptible to nicks. As a result, many people still use cutting boards on top of them.

Granite: Granite is known for its aesthetic appeal and durability. It’s an incredibly low-maintenance counter material; simply wipe it clean. Granite counters stay cool, making them ideal for meat and pastry preparation. It’s recommended to use cutting boards on granite counters, as granite can dull your knife blades.

Metal: Metal counters are often seen in commercial kitchen settings. However, they have also made their way into residential kitchens. Metal kitchen island counters are typically made of heavy-gauge galvanized stainless steel. This material has a sleek industrial appearance and is easy to clean. Unlike wood and granite, you can cut food directly on a metal counter.

Base

Wood: The typical kitchen island base is made of wood. Oak, pine, and cherry are among the most popular options. These materials are durable and withstand the test of time, but they also cost a pretty penny.

MDF: Some kitchen island bases are made of medium-density fiberboard, or MDF.  While MDF resembles real wood and is significantly cheaper, it’s lightweight and can be somewhat flimsy. Note that some kitchen islands have a genuine wood exterior with inner shelving made of MDF.

Metal: A handful of kitchen island bases are made of metal, many of which boast commercially inspired designs. More often than not, these islands have metal legs. They have a minimalistic, modern appearance that may look out of place in a more traditional kitchen.

EXPERT TIP

You may wish to invest in a specially made cutting board that covers half or all of your kitchen island counter. Contact a carpenter or artisan woodcrafter to inquire about a custom piece.


Staff  | BestReviews

Standard features

Basic storage

While they vary in appearance, all kitchen islands offer basic storage. Simple designs may have a couple of wire racks to hold produce, whereas more involved islands may have a sophisticated system of cabinets, drawers, and cubbies. Many have modular storage options that allow you to adjust shelf height or location.

Cart vs. traditional base

A cart island is one with wheels. If portability appeals to you, this may be your best bet. These products typically come with swivel caster wheels that lock. Because a cart can easily be moved, it’s easy to clean the floor beneath it.

A kitchen island with a traditional base is heavy enough to stay in one place. It may require permanent fixation to the floor. It may sit directly on the floor or rest upon small, stout legs.

Premium features

Towel rack

Some kitchen islands have a towel rack. The rack may be made of wood or metal, and it may have double dowels to hold several towels at once. Depending on the design, the towel rack may be removable so you can customize it as you like.

Drop leaf

A drop-leaf kitchen island is incredibly versatile because it can give you additional prep space and also serve as an expandable eating area. Simply pop up the leaf when you need it. Keep in mind that the leaf may not have the same weight capacity as the center of the kitchen island, so it’s best to place only lighter items on it. 

Cutlery storage

Kitchen islands with cutlery storage have dedicated drawers for knives or other silverware. These drawers are often lined with a scratch-free material like felt to protect the blades. Some cutlery drawers are divided into sections or molded. These keep knives in place so they don’t shift when you open and close the drawer.

Beverage features

If you enjoy entertaining in your kitchen, consider an island with beverage storage features. Many islands have an integrated wine rack that can hold 4 to 16 bottles. 

If you’re willing to invest in a kitchen island that doubles as a premier beverage station, you’ll be impressed with the options out there. High-end models have specialized compartments designed to accommodate the installation of wine coolers, beverage chillers, and even ice chests.

EXPERT TIP

When your kitchen island isn’t in use, make it a focal point with a vase of flowers or basket of fruit.


Staff  | BestReviews

Kitchen island prices

No matter what your budget is, there’s a kitchen island that fits it. You could spend anywhere from $60 to $2,000, which is a big range. Let’s look at the particulars.

Inexpensive: Smaller kitchen islands with modest storage capacities cost $60 to $250. These are mostly cart styles, but you’ll also find some traditional islands with fixed bases in this category.

Mid-range: Kitchen islands made with better-quality materials cost $300 to $1,000. These are made of quality wood or granite. They frequently have more premium features, such as specialized storage compartments or a drop leaf.

Expensive: High-end kitchen islands cost between $1,000 and $2,000. These islands have the design and quality of top-notch cabinetry. In addition to their aesthetic appeal, they often have dedicated compartments where you can install a mini refrigerator or beverage chiller.

Tips

  • Wipe it down with the right products. Clean your kitchen island on a daily basis with the right products. Wood counters often require different products than granite or metal ones. To prevent damage, check the recommendations made by the manufacturer.

  • Use organizers inside cabinets and drawers. Maximize your storage potential by choosing cabinet and drawer organizers for your kitchen island. 

  • Install a small wine rack. If the base of your kitchen island is open, you might be able to secure a small wine rack to it. 

Make sure you have adequate lighting above your kitchen island to illuminate it. You might need to upgrade your lighting fixture or invest in bright LED light bulbs.

FAQ

Q. Can I install caster wheels on a traditional kitchen island?
A. It depends on the size and weight of the island. It may not be feasible for larger islands, but smaller islands can often be converted into carts. It’s a relatively straightforward DIY project, especially if you have a basic power drill on hand.
 

Q. Can I use an outdoor island inside my kitchen?
A. Yes. You can also choose from a variety of islands that are designed for indoor and outdoor use. Many carts in this category have metal detail and stone or tile counters. They fit well into kitchens with rustic, country, and industrial-inspired decor. Outdoor carts with darker metal detail also match wrought-iron baker’s racks and wine racks. 
 

Q. Do kitchen islands come assembled?
A. Not always. Some basic kitchen islands require assembly, which tends to take an hour or so. Larger islands often require assembly, too, as the assembled version is simply too large to fit through a door or up a staircase. 

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