Cutting-edge Features Ramp Up Kitchen Islands

Mike Otto
Written by Mike Otto
Updated December 1, 2016
kitchen island with white cabinets
Adding a food prep sink to your kitchen island makes it easier for more than one person to work in the kitchen. (Photo courtesy of Mike Otto)

Adding a microwave oven, garbage disposal or prep sink can allow you to create your dream kitchen island.

Kitchen islands continue to be a major focus of kitchen design, where the family gathers and guests and friends hang out while visiting. 

Kitchen designs with islands can incorporate many convenient features that make food preparation easier. What are some bells and whistles you can include in your kitchen island design? Here are a few kitchen island ideas we have added over the years.

A kitchen island microwave oven

A below-counter microwave oven is a common feature of kitchen island designs. But if you don’t feel like kneeling down every time you want to nuke some popcorn, consider a microwave drawer for your kitchen island. The Sharp microwave drawer, for example, is a great option that keeps the microwave off the counter (and at a kid-friendly height).

Trash compactor

Trash compactors are not as common as they used to be in the home kitchen. But if this is an appliance you like, the kitchen island can be a good location to install a trash compactor. 

Garbage disposal air switch

A sink with a garbage disposal is a very useful kitchen island feature. But when installing a garbage disposal, where to install the switch can become an issue. An air switch — a low-profile countertop control — is a sleek option. You can even select a garbage disposal air switch that matches your faucet finish. 

Food prep sink

One of the great advantages to kitchen islands is that they allow two or more people to work in the kitchen without getting in each other’s way. A kitchen island with a second sink for preparing fruits and vegetables is a nice feature that prevents traffic jams at the sink.

Adding an outlet strip

Adding an outlet strip just below the countertop overhang is one of those kitchen island design ideas that is both sleek and convenient. These outlet strips allow you to plug in the blender, mixer, toaster oven or other items anywhere along the island, not just at outlets installed at the ends.

multi-level kitchen island
To maximize kitchen island storage space, the toe kick — the recessed space at the bottom of the cabinet — can be outfitted with a drawer. (Photo courtesy of Shaw Floors)

Toe kick drawers

Want a kitchen island with storage to spare? If you want to take advantage of every potential storage space, consider a toe kick drawer for your kitchen island. The toe kick — the recessed space between the bottom of your lower cabinets and the floor — can be outfitted with a drawer to hold little-used items such as baking trays and serving platters, or to store bottles of wine on their sides. There are even inserts that can turn a toe kick drawer into a pull-out pet feeding station.

Kitchen island lighting

Pendant lighting above a kitchen island is common, and can serve as a nice focal point. But when you’re thinking about kitchen lighting, consider island design ideas to further brighten the space, such as added LED accent lights. You can install these at the toe kick area near the floor, or under the countertop overhang, to define the space and give your kitchen island additional drama.

Cutting boards for kitchen islands

If you do a lot of chopping in the kitchen, you might appreciate a kitchen island countertop with a recessed cutting board. Or consider installing a heavy-duty butcher block countertop.

Pull-out table

Sometimes you need additional eating space, especially if your kitchen is small. Why not outfit the kitchen island with a pull-out table leaf? Because it tucks neatly back into the island when not in use, a slide-out eating table is a practical space-saver.

Kitchen island exploring

There are many other ideas that can be incorporated to create unique kitchen islands. I often get my inspiration from seeing how people are living in their space, what their needs are and discovering what their wish list might be. 

If you are thinking of a kitchen remodel, start brainstorming. Think of all features you might really want to include. Don’t worry if you can’t figure out how to make it work. Get your list down in writing and give it to a creative kitchen remodeler. They will know how to make your ideas come to life.

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