Ellen Kurtz kitchen island design

What Island Style Is For You?

When it comes to designing or renovating a home, there are so many choices — choices you wouldn’t have even thought you’d have to consider. What edge profile do you want on your countertops? Should you cut your paint by 50 percent? What color grout lines should you choose? And how about that kitchen island?

These, and all of the other minute details that demand your attention, can seriously keep you up at night. So the last one — the seemingly straightforward question of choosing a kitchen island  — should be a relatively easy process. Right?

Well, it can be… if you do your homework first. 

The good news is there are a surprising number of options out there. The bad news is there are a surprising number of options out there.

The key is to find the right style and shape for your kitchen in particular, taking into account how you use the room and how the space lays out. 

But, again, this doesn’t have to be a frustrating task. With the right research, you should be able to learn pretty quickly what kitchen island style is right for you.

In this blog post, I plan to run through some of the most popular kitchen island styles and their pros and cons. Hopefully, this will help you in your decision making process.

Remember, we are thinking about style AND function here. The most beautiful kitchen designs are ones that not only look great, but work great too.

ellen kurtz kitchen island design
Design by Ellen Kurtz Interiors


This is the most traditional kitchen island style and arguably the most functional. It works for just about any sized kitchen, creates good flow in the room, and has options for stool seating, storage, you name it. You could choose to put your sink here or keep the surface completely unencumbered, devoting all that countertop space to food prep and serving. In other words, this is an extremely versatile set-up. This is an especially good choice if you have an open space floor plan. If you have a tricky kitchen layout, one of the other options might work better for you.  And remember, this straightforward design doesn’t have to be boring. Experiment with a bold paint color for the base, or maybe splurge on a jaw dropping quartz countertop. Your island often serves as a focal point in your kitchen, so this is an area where it’s worth spending a little extra money and thought on the overall look. 

Two-tiered Island

A two-tiered kitchen island is great for adding visual interest and dimension to your space. Functionally, it has a very specific set of purposes: food prep on the lower level, and eating on the upper level. This style would be perfect for empty nesters who find themselves eating more casual dinners, or even families with teenagers who like to park themselves in the kitchen where all the action is. The downside of this set-up is you do get less overall work space, so if you are a serious chef (or just wanna-be chef), this will probably fall short in meeting your cooking needs.

ellen kurtz kitchen island design
Staging project by Ellen Kurtz Interiors


If you lean toward unique and custom looks, this island style may be for you. A beloved antique or farmhouse table might be just what your kitchen needs for that extra special touch that puts your own stamp on the space. And you can rest assured that none of your neighbors or friends will have anything like it. These pieces also tend to be less bulky than other island styles. So those are the benefits. On the flip side, you will probably find most of your options here lack storage space. And most people I know just love finding ways to squeeze extra drawers or cubbies or even wine racks into their kitchen island. You will also need to consider the durability of whatever piece you choose. 


The L-shaped island is definitely a luxury, but needs to have a big enough kitchen to accommodate it. It also might impede the flow of your space, depending upon layout. Navigating around a larger island can definitely feel cumbersome to many people. But there are also some pretty big pluses with the L-shaped design. The amount of cabinet, counter and seating area that you can achieve with an L-shaped island is pretty amazing. And this design is nice for a bigger kitchen because it can move with the space, ensuring your perimeter cabinetry and appliances are never too far out of reach. You can even consider putting an appliance or two within this type of island. It really is wonderful, when it works for your space and your needs. This shape would not work as well for an open concept kitchen area.


Circular islands are definitely eye-catching, and speak to a certain era and style. Some people love them and some people hate them. So if you go this route, know that you are

kitchen island design
Image from

making a statement. These islands pack a lot of punch when it comes to seating and storage, as well as prep space. But it might not be the most efficient storage space, given the curved structure. These might be great for an open floor plan, given the lack of defined spaces. They would not work very well in smaller or more angular kitchens.                                                           

Cart Island

A rolling cart is perfect if you have a smaller space and/or are worried about costs. These pieces are extremely versatile, and can be rolled wherever you need them in the moment. In some ways, that makes them a chef’s dream. But they don’t have much surface area for prep work, and usually the storage space is also lacking. Also, you may find yourself dealing with hassles like stuck wheels (or wheels that refuse to lock!). So you’ll have to decide whether the conveniences and cost-efficiencies outweigh any inconveniences that might come up. This might be a good option for condo or apartment living. As a bonus, it could also double as a drink cart!

Ellen Can Answer Your Kitchen Island Questions

Ellen Kurtz kitchen island design
Design by Ellen Kurtz Interiors

Now, those are some of the main categories you will encounter when island shopping/planning, but know there are other options out there as well. And once you choose your island style, you’ll want to give some thought to other considerations, such as paint colors or wood type, hardware and any custom details and/or storage. My clients often underestimate just how many decisions come into play when designing a new kitchen or home! But that’s where a good interior designer can help lighten the load. I’m always happy to help my clients sort through all of these different options and find the most perfect match for them. In fact, it’s what I love most about my job! So don’t hesitate to reach out if I can help you with your next design project or remodel.