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Small Kitchen Island: The Unexpected Helper In Kitchen Remodeling

By on Sep 17, 2014
Small Kitchen Island: The Unexpected Helper In Kitchen Remodeling

When it comes to creating more counter space in a small kitchen, few think of adding an island. Most homeowners assume kitchen islands are luxurious additions that only exist in big kitchens. Fortunately, this isn’t true.

Today I’m going to debunk the myth.

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In fact, there are many small, yet functional kitchen islands, whether stationary or mobile, on the market. Even though the smallest island will still take up a big part of your precious square footage, it forces you to keep your tiny kitchen well organized. Moreover, an island can offer extra space for storage, food prep and even dining, maximizing the efficiency of your small kitchen. Hence, having an island in the small kitchen is indeed a BIG help, especially for the holiday season. 

However, not every small island will work well in your tiny kitchen. A wrong island design will not only make your kitchen look cramped, but also break up your workflow. Below are a few tips on how to choose the best small kitchen island.

Don’t Obstruct the Work Triangle

Unless you have a galley kitchen, most small kitchens, either U- or L-shaped layouts, should be able to fit an island. Most homeowners prefer placing the island in the center of the kitchen to keep everything within reach. Nonetheless, before doing so, you must make sure your center island doesn’t interrupt your work triangle. After all, you’ll want to avoid bumping into your island when shifting from the stove to the sink. 

To ensure a smooth cooking process, you should leave at least 36” around your island. If you have a really small kitchen where your island must cross into your work triangle, it should be no more than 12”, says NKBA.

Don’t know how to set up a kitchen work triangle? Consult your local kitchen remodel pros.

Small Kitchen Mobile Island

Increase Flexibility with A Mobile Island

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So, what if you live with a tiny galley kitchen but still need an island as an extra workstation (let’s say during the hectic holiday season)? While a permanent, built-in island won't be an option for you, you should consider a mobile island instead. Mobile islands usually come with locking casters, allowing you to place it wherever you want. When it's not in use, just roll it away and store it in a pantry.

Best part yet is that you can also use this portable alternative as a buffet table. I bet that’ll come in handy for your next book club.

Let Your Island Do Extra Work

Most elements designed for small kitchens can do double duty and kitchen islands are no exception. In addition to providing extra surface for food prep, an ideal island should fulfill other roles as well. In most cases, small kitchen islands will also serve as a storage solution by offering additional shelves or cabinets. If you love cooking but always run out of chopping space, an island equipped with a slide-out cutting board will surely come in handy.

Still have extra space in your kitchen? Squeeze in two bar stools and you can immediately turn your small island into an eat-in dining area.

Customized islands with unique features are gaining traction as well. You can install electric outlets and get bonus space for a Keurig, toaster or blender.

Small Kitchen Island With Solid-Colored Surface

Choose the Right Island Style

While an island can increase functionality in a small kitchen, it may also lead to clutter if you pick the wrong style. As a result, I recommend choosing an island that features a streamline design. Stainless steel islands, for example, can help add a clean and sleek look to your small kitchen. If you want to maintain an airy feel in your tiny space, choose a solid-colored surface for your island countertop. Too many patterns or colors running around your kitchen will make it look small.

Debating between open or closed island storage options? It’s totally understandable. Although open shelves can visually expand the look of your small kitchen, they create clutter if you fail to keep them tidy. On the other hand, closed storage options, like cabinets, are good at hiding clutter. Yet, the bulky look of cupboard doors could make your kitchen look crowded, not to mention those doors may hamper foot traffic.

So, why not choose an island that offers a combination of open and closed storage? This way, you’ll have space to hide your ugly cooking utensils while keeping your small kitchen visually spacious.    

Think Outside of the Traditional Island

Normally, you can find an ideal island from your local kitchen outlet. However, some homeowners may encounter tricky kitchen layouts that make it difficult to find a matching island. If you are among them, don’t fret. Search for a small, narrow desk, bookshelf or console table. As long as they can fit in your kitchen, you can always use any of them as a substitute for a traditional island.

By simply swapping out the surface with your favorite material, your custom island will definitely live in harmony with your small kitchen.


Having an island in your small kitchen can become a reality. As long as you follow these tips, you are sure to find the perfect island that will not only make your meal prep faster, but also make a big statement in your small kitchen.

No room for a small kitchen island? Maybe it’s time to remodel your kitchen.

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