The kitchen island in your home serves many roles: It may alternate between a food prep space, a homework spot, an entertaining nook, and much more. So how do you ensure that this space is both functional and stylish (ie: sophisticated, not cluttered!) on a daily basis? We spoke with designers who chimed in with tips and tricks galore about choosing a centerpiece for your island based on its size, finish, and purpose. Keep reading for lots of detailed insight and get ready to create the display of your dreams.
Keeping a Kitchen Island Functional Yet Stylish
Of course, the primary purpose of your kitchen island is function, but in order to keep the space aesthetically pleasing, don't let it get too overwhelmed with gadgets. "Try to avoid cluttering your island with appliances, canisters or tons of decor items," designer Jamie King says. "If you can, keep those items in a pantry or on your opposing countertops, and let the island be the true workspace where you can do all your food prep and gathering."
And while it's fine to keep frequently used items on hand, there are ways to do so that appear sophisticated and intentional. "In my own home, I have a tray filled with items that I use frequently: salt and pepper mills, an olive oil decanter, pretty hammered gold measuring spoons, ceramic stacking measuring cups, and a white marble lidded container filled with seasonings," designer Amy Leferink explains. "Everything is very useful and handy, but also is very pretty and decorative."
What to Do If Your Island Does or Doesn't Have Seating
If your island offers seating, it will likely serve an even more critical role in your kitchen, designer Georgia Zikas says. "This means keep the decor to a minimum so kids and people can actually use the space. If you don't have seating at the island, you might be able to get away with a bit more styling, because chances are people are converging at a nearby kitchen nook or dining table." Not sure what size chairs to purchase? Designer Mary Patton offers this simple trick. "Start with the height of the counter and subtract 10 to 12 inches," she says. "That's where the seat of your chairs or stools should be for comfortable seating."
Styling a Large Island Versus a Small One
Below, the pros will share more details on decorating a small island versus a large one, but designer Eilyn Jimenez offers a few simple words of wisdom to keep in mind. "If a space is small, I always say less is more." And with regard to a large island, "It’s important to space out your items to help anchor the space," designer Sonia Damberg says.
Try These Kitchen Island Centerpiece Ideas
There are many routes one can go when styling an island, but the pros recommend different approaches based on size and style. Keep reading for a few of their top suggestions.
Create a Vignette on a Larger Island
The bigger your island is, the more space you have to get decorative. "Larger islands can take more items such as a vase with flowers, branches, or greenery," designer Brooke Wilbratte comments. She suggests then mixing in other elements such as cutting boards with olive oils and salts on top of them or pretty bowls filled with fresh fruit. Designer Jennifer Davis agrees. "I like to add drama on big islands," she says.
Keep Small Islands Pretty But Practical
Your island's functionality is always key but is even more critical when the surface area is small. "If you have a smaller island keep it simple with one pot or vase with greenery so you have as much counter space to work with," Wilbratte advises.
Think About the Sink
Some islands feature a built-in sink, and you won't want to neglect this area. "I like to keep a decorative marble or wood tray next to the sink with a pretty dish brush and stylish soap dispenser," Davis says.
Display Other Natural Elements
By no means are flowers and branches the only natural components you can display on your island. "We love to add driftwood, succulents, crystals, and sand in long containers," Wilbratte explains. "Whether your island is marble or metal, the warmth of the wood and greenery will compliment it."
Play to Your Countertop Style
Davis is a fan of contrasting decor to the island countertop finish—think "darker accents on a white countertop and white pottery on dark counters," she explains. "For butcher block, I love light colored pottery. Fresh flowers, plants, and herbs look good on any kind of countertop."
Designer Samantha Hammel chimes in with a few more suggestions based on island material. "On most quartz or marble islands, a large, wood bowl looks great filled with fresh produce," she offers. Jimenez agrees. "Marble pairs well with woods. The natural element of both finishes compliments their stark differences and make for stand-out materials to use in a kitchen island."
Wicker also looks beautiful with quartz, designer Andi Morse says. "The larger the island, the larger the tray. Mixing textures is key here."
Does your space lean super contemporary? Love a rustic look? Hammel shares a few more insights. "In a more modern home, a terracotta or ceramic bowl can be the extra touch an island needs, while in a farmhouse style kitchen, an aged wood dough bowl is a great accessory to fill with seasonal apples or pears."
And Don't Forget to Consider Your Light Fixture
Given that your island area may feature pendant lighting, you will want to take this factor into account when styling. "If you have hanging light fixtures over your island you should consider a low, long vase with greenery or flowers so they don’t fight each other," Wilbratte notes.