The kitchen island has become a staple and desired statement piece in homes everywhere. It typically sits at the center of the room and oftentimes serves dual purposes, such as a breakfast bar and an extra storage unit.
There are an endless amount of styles, designs, materials and colors to choose from when building a kitchen island. Your initial instinct should be to select a look and size that’ll mesh well with your current kitchen design. See examples of different kitchen island styles and a DIY tutorial for how to build your own kitchen island.
The plan is the most important part of a successful DIY project, especially when you’re talking about constructing a kitchen island. Your first order of business is to consider what function your island is going to play. Is it food prep, informal dining, cooking or asthenic appeal? Given the amount of real estate a kitchen island takes up, it’s important that it’s serving a function.
Next, determine the size that’s going to work best in the space you have available to you. Taking measurements and settling on the placement of your kitchen island are key tasks you need to complete prior to assembly. In addition to size and placement, think about how your island will provide storage solutions in your kitchen. A few possibilities include wine storage, deep cabinets or open shelving.
Most likely, your kitchen island will function as a workspace throughout its lifetime, so you’re going to need dedicated lighting. Recessed lighting and pendant lights are two popular options for illuminating your island. If you desire an island devoted to cooking, then you’ll also need to install proper ventilation for your cooktop.
Now that you have your plan mapped out, let’s execute on it. See steps for how to build a basic kitchen island. Along the way, I’ll show you examples of various styles for consideration.
Step 1: Gather Measurements
Start by getting the height right. The dimensions that make islands most comfortable, useful and pleasing will depend on the type of seating (if any) you desire. According to This Old House, “A 28- to 30-inch-high counter works best with a chair; a standard-height 36-inch counter is served best by a low stool; and a 42- to 48-inch counter requires a bar stool.”
If no seating is required, then at minimum, an island should be 4' long and a little more than 2' deep. This isn’t counting the space you’ll need to take into account for moving and working around the island.
Step 2: Collect Tools & Select Materials
Below is a list of tools you’ll need to assemble your island.
- Measuring tape & pencil
- Base cabinets (amount and size based upon your structure design)
- Roughly four pieces of wood for the toe kicks (the baseboards of your cabinets)
- One countertop
- One sheet 1/2" medium-density fiberboard (MDF) for back panel
- Cordless drill
Step 3: Assemble Cabinets
Start by putting together your main cabinets. Assemble the base cabinets according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Step 4: Build & Secure the Toe Kick
Construct the toe kick as a separate box. Be sure the measurements of the box match up with the blueprint of your island. Grab your screws and secure the cabinets on the toe kick box. At this time, you’ll also want to attach your cabinets to each other with screws.
Step 5: Attach the Countertop & Doors
Finally, place and secure your countertop over your base cabinets. Also, attach your doors using the hardware that was included in your purchase.
Now that you’ve assembled your structure, it’s time for the fun part of the project! Pick out the color of paint or finishing you’ll be applying to your island and gather extra-fine sanding pads, oil-based primer and semi-gloss oil-based paint (tinted to a color of your choice). Take a deep breath because you’re done and now it’s time to admire your work of art.
I want to end by making it clear that there are many variations of kitchen islands. Every homeowner will have their own preference of a design and style, and that’s OK. Feel free to add drawers instead of cabinets or make it a portable island on wheels. That’s what makes this particular DIY project so unique!
If you don’t have a kitchen island and are up for a little DIY challenge, then this project is for you. You’ll save money and feel a sense of accomplishment when it’s complete. Above all, remember to stick to the plan and enjoy the process!
For more DIY furniture building, please see How To Build A Bookcase.