Your Guide to 6 Kitchen Island Styles

By Sam Ferris

There are plenty of reasons to include an island in your kitchen — extra storage, seating and workspace, for example. But there are also several reasons why you might want to choose one island shape and style over another. This guide to six popular kitchen island styles will help you determine which one is right for you.

1. L-Shaped

This type of island can ebb and flow with the shape of your kitchen or fill in the blank space with more storage and prep space.

Pros. L-shaped islands tend to be large with correspondingly generous storage. Their sprawling design ensures that workspace isn’t crowded, a huge perk for households with avid chefs or more than one cook. You won’t have an issue finding room for bar-style seating. If you aren’t a fan of clean lines, L-shaped islands bring some intrigue to the table.

Cons. While L-shaped islands may be larger and provide more prep space, they aren’t exactly open-concept. They can chop up your kitchen design, which can hamper efficiency during meal prep. The shape may be too spread out for some homeowners, and it doesn’t always maximize storage space since corners tend to decrease accessibility.

2. Galley

With fewer frills and a straightforward design, galley islands are built to be workhorses. They can be a good fit for any type of kitchen layout, assuming that there’s enough space for one.

Pros. Often considered the quintessential island design for open-concept kitchens, galley islands ensure that your space has flow and remains efficient with their streamlined design. They usually maximize storage space because there aren’t any corners or curves. Appliances and stored items are always accessible. The design also favors bar-style seating.

Cons. Yes, galley islands are simple and efficient, but some homeowners may think they’re boring. They certainly won’t wow the eye unless they’re larger than life or have an intricate exterior. Sometimes they’re too small to comfortably fit an appliance, which can create problems with your layout.

3. Circular or Curved

If you’re looking to add personality to your kitchen layout, a circular island may be for you. The design can go full circle or feature a half-moon.

Pros. Circular and curved islands add an interesting visual dynamic to kitchens. They’re a go-to option if you don’t want a run-of-the-mill island design. Like L-shaped islands, they’re packed with prep space. There’s more than enough room to operate during meal prep. Circular designs can incorporate expansive seating areas that leave enough room for four-plus guests to comfortably eat and socialize.

Cons. Prep and storage space aren’t always efficient with circular islands. Your counter is spread out and curved, which can limit the way you cook. Storage units can be harder to access in some designs (they may be underneath a countertop overhang, for instance). Plan on wasted storage space unless your cabinets are customized to include creative options.

4. Furniture-Style

An unconventional choice, furniture islands can make your kitchen feel like your home’s premier hangout spot. Wide-ranging options can include a custom piece designed by a local carpenter and an antique table or chest of drawers.

Pros. It doesn’t matter if it’s custom-built, an age-old heirloom or store-bought — a furniture piece adds character to your kitchen. It’s one way to put your personal touch on your space and make it your own. The detail and decorative nature of the furniture will catch the eye of guests. These pieces usually aren’t bulky and fit seamlessly within your kitchen. Open-style designs can create fine displays for your decor.

Cons. Furniture pieces weren’t always built for storage, so that antique you had to have may not hold much of your cookware. There’s also the issue of durability. Older pieces may not last in the hustle and bustle of a modern kitchen. Wear and tear can take their toll. Furniture tops can’t take a beating the way granite or quartz can.

5. U-Shaped

U-shaped islands may be a chef’s dream. Three walls of cabinetry and appliances are enough to increase the efficiency of any kitchen.

Pros. Both highly functional and spacious, U-shaped islands are perhaps the largest and most accommodating. Extra storage space? Check. More workspace? You got it. Room for seating? There’s even that too. They can house more than one appliance if they’re big enough. You may not have to leave your island when you’re prepping food.

Cons. Their sheer size can also be the U-shaped islands’ biggest downfall. Some homeowners may find cooking and cleaning less efficient and may hate going the distance from one side to the other. These islands are bulky and can close off your kitchen from the rest of your home. The double corners will sacrifice accessible storage space unless they feature a Lazy Susan or swing-out device.

6. Rolling

No room for a built-in island? No problem. Rolling islands are a convenient alternative. You can whisk them around as you roam your kitchen and then tuck them neatly aside when you’re finished cooking.

Pros. Rolling islands are the crème de la crème in versatility. A godsend for smaller kitchens that lack adequate prep space, they can function as a worktop, food tray or a spare surface to place your ingredients. Depending on their size, they’re easy to stow and move. Best of all, they’re extremely affordable compared with cabinetry

Cons. Whipping up meals on wheels isn’t for everyone. Rolling islands are compact, which simply won’t work for some homeowners, even ones who are short on space. They can be a hassle to roll out during meals or to store. Bigger designs may be hard to move for some homeowners. They offer little to no storage.

The 5 Layers of a Well-Lit Kitchen

Develop a layered lighting plan to create a functional, adaptable and illuminated kitchen

By: David Warfel

When planning a lighting scheme for a client’s kitchen, I like to think about cake. Let me explain. On my birthday, a red velvet cake always comes my way, and it includes four layers with a cherry and icing on top. Just like that cake, a well-lit kitchen should also have four layers for different lighting needs. I call these light layers: “doing,” “knowing,” “feeling” and “changing.”

“Doing” lights help you perform manual tasks like prepping and cooking in the kitchen. “Knowing” lights help you navigate your way around a kitchen. “Feeling” lights make a kitchen feel inviting and comfortable. “Changing” lights help you adjust to the time of day and set a desired mood. And finally, the cherry and icing on top are all about adding decorative fixtures that let your personal style shine.

Layer 1: Lights for Doing

Your kitchen lighting scheme should start with creating a functional workspace. Adding lights where you need them the most, such as above countertops, sinks and cooktops, will let you perform manual tasks in a bright and safe atmosphere. We need light to see what we’re doing, especially when using sharp knives and high-temperature burners. You want to protect your fingers, so getting this layer right is important. In the kitchen above, note the strong lighting over the cooktop and the pendant lighting above the countertop. LED lights mounted underneath cabinets are also a great way to add functional lighting to your kitchen.

Layer 2: Lights for Knowing

Designers call it “ambient light,” but it is really just a layer of light to help us know where we are and where we are going. Recessed “can” down lights are a great option here because they light up the floor and bounce light off cabinet fronts to create a bright, well-lit space. Adding toe-kick lighting underneath cabinets and islands is also a great way to help prevent stubbing toes at night. Wall sconces are another way to provide the ambient lighting that can help you better navigate your kitchen.

Layer 3: Lights for Feeling

Showcase lights, also known as accent lights, all have one thing in common: They help a space feel more inviting and comfortable. Whether you use illuminated cabinets, chandeliers, sconces or pendants, showcase lights should be visible from wherever you stand or sit in the kitchen. That way you’ll get the benefit of this feel-good lighting at all times. Showcase lights might also help you perform functional tasks in the kitchen, but their main purpose is to draw attention and make a room feel complete.

Layer 4: Lights for Changing

As the sun changes location in the sky, lighting needs inside the kitchen change as well. During the day, natural light from windows might be all the lighting your kitchen requires. But at night, you’ll want your kitchen brighter for cooking meals and more dramatic for entertaining guests. Adding dimmers to your kitchen lighting is key for setting the mood.

Keep in mind that our eyes require more light as we age. So if you expect to stay in your home for awhile, you might want to add more lights than necessary now so you’ll have them later.

Cherry on Top: Decorative Light Fixtures

The fun part is choosing decorative fixtures that look at home in your kitchen, like this barn-style sconce in a country cottage. Think carefully about your personal style and kitchen design and then determine whether the light fixtures you choose can add any of the other layers of light needed.

Not keen on decorative fixtures? Choosing to minimize visible fixtures is also a valid style choice ideal for streamlined modern designs. You may want to highlight something else, like the backsplash in this kitchen lit by concealed LED strips.

How to Find Your Kitchen Style

If you’re planning to remodel your kitchen, here’s how to find inspiration and start narrowing down your choices.

By Rebekah Zaveloff

When most homeowners embark on a kitchen remodel, they spend endless hours collecting inspiring kitchen photos. But this doesn’t necessarily help people figure out what they want, and it can even cause confusion. The tough part of the process is learning to narrow down the options and home in on what you want your dream kitchen to look like.

Gather Inspiration

Collect images. You may not be able to see it at first, but a pattern will show itself. You may find that a whole bunch of your kitchen inspiration images may need to be added to an ideabook for a future farmhouse or weekend getaway, but don’t skip over them just because they don’t relate to this project, save them for later.

Don’t edit yourself (yet). Don’t make yourself nuts from the get-go by trying to edit as you collect. I really believe in collecting with reckless abandon first and editing later. Editing yourself while you gather inspiration can be challenging and stifling for creativity.

Organize (but only if you want to). It’s OK to be unorganized and even a little messy with your photo categorization. If you’d like to organize your photos in your ideabook, then you’re a step ahead of us, but for those who don’t, don’t sweat it. There’s time to go back to your photos and label them later.

Start looking for a pro. This can be a great time to start noting the professionals who are responsible for the designs you like and looking for a design professional you might like to interview. For some homeowners, the right thing to do is hire a professional out of the gate and have him or her help you through this inspiration-gathering phase. Some homeowners even hand this off completely to a designer, and it’s the designer’s job to listen, interpret, and collect inspiration for the client and bring it back for approval.

Categorize Photos

Once you have a fair number of inspiration images to work with, go back through them and put them into loose categories.

You can categorize by style: Maybe you seem to fall on the fence between vintage and modern. Or maybe you find that you have a bunch of images of kitchens with dark wood floors. You can create a collection dedicated completely to islands or kitchen banquette seating. Consider creating an idea book for lighting, one for wallpaper, and any other details you’d like to single out. For now don’t think about why you like things, just that you do or don’t.

Edit Your Selections

Go back through your ideabooks and see if you still respond emotionally to the images within. If it’s been a while since you started gathering inspiration and you’ve looks at hundreds of spaces, your taste might have changed without you even realizing it. Ruthless editing can help clarify things. You’ll look at a room and say “Why on earth did I save that photo?” If you can’t remember and it doesn’t speak to you any longer, ditch it. See how easy that was?

Collect Images With Intention

Now that you’ve collected at random, categorized and edited, go back through all your saved photos and review images for specific items. Look only for glass-front cabinets, industrial hoods or island lighting, for example, not at the image as a whole. You might not like all features of a room, but one element could be exactly what you want.

When working with a client — often more than once during a project — I pull inspiration images and say, “Don’t look at the wall color or the cabinet style. Just look at the hood.” Or “look at the way the crown molding transitions around the beam and hood” or something very specific like that. Make a note beneath a photo with an element you like and edit your photos again.

How to Choose a Kitchen Sink Size

By Jennifer Ott

In addition to choosing the best materialmounting typenumber of bowls, and bowl depth for your kitchen sink, you also have a range of sink size options. An extra-wide kitchen sink will obviously give you more space for food prep and cleanup, and you might prefer it over the confines of a smaller sink, but bigger sinks typically cost more and can take up valuable real estate in a small kitchen.

Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t worry. We’ve pulled together kitchens that feature various sink sizes, along with tips to help you figure out the perfect sink size for your cooking and cleaning needs.

1. Size Your Sink to Your Kitchen

It may seem obvious, but if your kitchen is on the smaller side, consider installing a smaller-width sink. An oversize, triple-bowl model would have overwhelmed this charming but compact loft kitchen. The more modest-size, yet still deep, the single-bowl apron-front sink is large enough to accommodate most kitchen tasks, but it isn’t a space hog. Countertop and base cabinet storage areas are likely to be at a premium in a smaller kitchen, so a smaller-width sink will improve overall function too.

2. Size Your Sink to the Window Above It

Homeowners often install a kitchen sink beneath a window, preferably a window with a nice view. But some homeowners overlook how these two elements work together. That’s not to say your sink and window need to match widths exactly, but it can look odd to have a super-wide sink set below a skinny window and vice versa.

3. Size Your Sink to Be a Focal Point

If you choose to go with an extra-wide sink, you’re going to have a difficult time disguising it. My advice is to take the opposite approach and make your wide sink a focal point. Repurpose an interesting salvaged sink or consider an unusual material, like copper.

4. Size Your Sink to Your Budget

This might also be obvious, but it’s all too easy to fall in love with a huge, gorgeous, apron-front sink only to find that it’s priced well above what your budget will allow.

Installing all top-of-the-line materials, fixtures and appliances in a kitchen doesn’t make sense for everyone, so it’s helpful to strategize on where you’re going to spend money and where you can save.

Personally, I’d rather splurge on my countertops or kitchen floor than the sink. After all, you can get a perfectly good 20-inch-wide stainless steel undermount sink for less than $200.

5. Size Your Sink Based on Your Needs

If you’re an avid cook who prefers hand-washing dishes to running the dishwasher, a large divided-bowl sink with an integrated drainboard is a great option. The wider sink allows multiple people to work at the sink without getting in each other’s way, and that built-in drainboard makes the business of draining and air drying dishes less of a wet mess.

A sink this size will require an extra-wide sink cabinet and will take up quite a bit of space, so it’s best for a generous-size kitchen.

If you need a hand with prepping meals or cleaning up, consider installing two single-bowl sinks instead of one extra-large sink. A configuration like this allows two cooks to work together, and because these sinks are set apart, traffic jams are less likely.

If you have space and budget for it, a three-sink setup is nice for a multi-cook household that does a lot of entertaining. The separate sinks allow several people to work in the kitchen simultaneously. None of the sinks needs to be exceptionally large. One main sink can handle bigger tasks and the others can be sized much smaller. Of course, this configuration has the potential to be costly due to the duplicate plumbing fixtures and installation fees.

6. Consider Fun-Size Sinks

I love these linear sinks. While it’d be difficult to wash dishes in one, they work just fine for fetching a glass of water or dumping out abandoned drinks when the party’s over. You can also fill one with ice and stash cold drinks in it, a nice alternative to keeping an unsightly cooler in the kitchen or having guests rummage through your refrigerator for a cold one. And it doesn’t take up much space on the countertop.