Skip to main content
Advice for Homeownerswhite kitchens

What NOT to Do with Your Kitchen Island Design

By 12/05/2011November 22nd, 202122 Comments

So just to be clear, I am not a kitchen designer. In other words, if you need a new footprint, or you need someone to design your cabinetry, where your spices and cookie sheets will be stored, well I am not that person.


However, which colour? Which countertop? Floor? Which backsplash goes with granite? I’m your huckleberry!

In the literally thousands of homes I have been in, I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly and to save you from the latter, here are some thoughts on your island and what you should NOT do, so here goes:

House Beautiful

1. If your island is not designed to look like a piece of furniture similar to the one in the photo above, then DON’T paint it a different colour. You will simply draw attention to the fact that it’s totally dated.

2. If you are happy with the footprint (layout) of your kitchen, paint the whole thing white instead of ripping it out. And sometimes just taking out a dated, too small island and getting that piece re-designed can make a huge difference to the look and feel of your kitchen.

Spend the rest on decorating your house instead.

3. Do you have a dated smallish island and want to DO SOMETHING to it? 

See this island? Do NOT paint it to stand out unless you do this to it:


So look! Tiny, dinky island, turn it around, extend it with a butcher block top, some new legs and Ta, Ta Da Da! So brilliant.

After (via The Nesting Game)

4. Your island should be a square or a rectangle, the end.

You will NEVER see an odd shaped island, or one finished in drywall, in House Beautiful magazine. 

House Beautiful


Download my eBook, It’s All in the Undertones. If you have a computer, you can download my book!

If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk in, contact me.

To make sure the undertones in your home are right, get some large samples!

If you would like to learn to how choose the right colours for your home or for your clients, become a True Colour Expert.

Related posts:

Which Flooring is the best for your Kitchen; Tile or Hardwood?

Is White Worth the Extra Maintenance; Yay or Nay?

White is a Snob

When is White just Right?

49 pins


  • Stacy Naquin says:

    I definately love a white kitchen as well! I think as designers, we are so overstimulated all day long, that white is so peaceful, calm, serene after going cross-eyed perusing blogs and design magazines!!

  • Donna Frasca says:

    The kitchen island can certainly be awkward if not done correctly. IKEA has some great options for ideas. I’d like to redo my island and make it all butcher block – someday 🙂

    I love the Christmas cards around the kitchen door – I do the same!

  • Fantastic suggestions!!!!! Love that you pointed out the island color thing. I just recently saw a kitchen where that thought occurred to me. Now I’ll use it as a general rule. You always educate and I love it :). Have a great week!

  • Great ideas, Maria. You are always full of terrific suggestions – so many of them I have been able to use. My kitchen doesn’t have an island but a peninsula with a bookcase on the back – thought I was going to change it up to a sitting are, but have changed my mind as I love the storage.

  • Our kitchen is small, there’s just enough room for a tiny island. I like the idea for attaching legs to the side like in the photo from Country Living, it definitely gives it more oomph!

  • Thank you, Maria! So exciting to be a part of your wonderful blog. Cheers!

  • Amanda says:

    Maria, you are literally saving the world from bad design, one post at a time. I have been agonizing about what to do with my kitchen island in my new home I will move into next year, and once again, you are helping me to clarify this process. I will be emailing you in the near future with more details about my project so we can establish a quote. I feel like the universe has sent me your blog as some form of “design intervention”!!!

  • Yes… what ever happened to the “kitchen table” from back in the day? I love the simple black table from Ikea.
    Also that excellent industrial light fixture in the photo from House Beautiful. Very cool! Thanks for the post!

  • Ragan says:

    Excellent advice and I couldn’t agree more. I’m in the process of doing something similar for a client right now. Can’t wait to post the before and after photos!

  • Great post! I can’t even remember the number of dinky, worthless kitchen islands I saw while house hunting. My kitchen layout isn’t perfect, but at least my island is big and functional. 🙂

    PS I love Lauren’s new fabrics and I’ve pick a couple for some of the rooms we talked about! 🙂

  • regijoy says:

    suuuuuuuuuper duuuper…………………..

  • pretty pink tulips says:

    Always love your suggestions! The way my kitchen is fitted into my home…there really isn’t room for an island. But, I love seeing ones where they are done well.

    xo Elizabeth

  • Brenda Thomson says:

    Just want to thank you for the great choices you helped me make for my new house. The walls, floors and classic grey cabinets are in and look amazing. So many people are checking out the project and everyone loves the colours together. The counter tops and black splash are still to come but the huge shower in white subway tile is a dream and everyone that sees it wants one. It is so so simple but breath taking. Great, Job, Maria! I’ll send pictures when it is all put together.

  • shahnaz says:

    Amazing !!!!

  • Marija Peljhan says:

    I love this! We ripped out the penninsula in our home soon after moving in (thank you broken dishwasher!) and put in a HUGE island. Previous to the renovation we were supposed to eat in the kitchen, but everything was way too tight. I have six young children and we did not fit around the table, and why have two tables anyway? So we made our family room into the dining room, because it was bigger, and filled the kitchen with an island, so it is a working kitchen! Keep up the fantastic ideas!

  • Dominique Gross says:

    Love the blog and the the kitchen island guidance. We are in the process of painting our cherry cabinets from new construction 5yrs ago. We have birch hardwood floors, uba tuba granite, and were thinking of painting two colors in the kitchen. Top cabinetry we are thinking White dove Oc-17 and for the bottom cabinetry and island we were thinking London fog 1541 (both BM). What is your take on two tones in the kitchen?

  • Cherie says:

    We have a large eat-in kitchen with a round antique table, big enough to gather our children, their spouses and two grandchildren with us for a casual meal. We have a pretty bay window and two walls with lots of framed art. In the work area we have added a beautiful, high end butcher block island, which coordinates well with the cabinetry. Though small, this island serves many purposes and gives our older home an updated look. If we had decided not to get this island because it is small, we would have missed out. A small island can be just perfect, if that’s what the space calls for.

  • helene pokrywka says:

    I have white cabinets and black granite countetops and wood floors. I am trying to find white subway tile that is a clean white with out pink,grey, or yellow undertones but isnt too stark white.I would appreciate any suggestions.

  • Christina says:

    Hi Maria,
    Love this post and the beautiful images. A word of caution regarding pinterest. It in itself should rarely (if ever) be listed as an image source. There is usually an original site/blog/magazine that the image (such as the 3rd in this post) belongs to. Even if it’s not linked properly on pinterest, you can “search using images” via google in order to find its place of origin. That way you are giving credit where credit is due. Pinterest is a wonderful tool, but don’t let it stop you from truely sourcing your images properly. 🙂

  • Christina says:

    p.s. The origin on the 3rd photo is Traditional Home. The image can be found here:

  • susan says:

    help please. i’m reading about islands and so confused. i have a galley kitchen that opens to a 12×15 room. i thought of putting an island in this room- where you would enter the kitchen, but not sure if it will be the wrong decision.

  • Cindi says:

    Well like most things, it depends. A streamlined, modern kitchen doesn’t necessarily want to be over-detailed. And some kitchens aren’t configured like all your example photos where it’s a large visible presence from a great room.

Leave a Reply