The 7 kitchen island mistakes designers always avoid — and what you can try instead

Our pros share the kitchen island mistakes to swerve, and the solution for design success

A kitchen with a marble island with a black base, a bowl of tomatoes on it and four cream and wood bar stools around the left corner of it, two glass pendant lights on the ceiling, and cream cabinetry
(Image credit: Olive & Barr)

Knowing the kitchen island mistakes you shouldn't be making is key to utilizing this design feature properly, optimizing function, and banking on the beauty it can bring to your space. 

We've spoken to design pros to find out what mistakes you might be making and found out how to fix them. Skimping on storage, overlooking seating, and disregarding lighting are some of their no-go's which are easily remedied.

Having in mind what not to do is key to understanding why the best kitchen island ideas look so stylish and work so well.

Design pros say to avoid these kitchen island mistakes

Make sure your kitchen island styles are fab and are ultra-functional by paying attention to these no-go's.

Our pros have recommended solutions and corresponding buys throughout, which we have shopped in case you want to start fixing your kitchen island mistakes ASAP. From colorful small kitchen island ideas to more neutral options, we have plenty of inspiration.

The prices below were correct at the time of publishing this article. 

1. Ignoring electrical and plumbing needs

An angled shot of a white kitchen island wih two brushed brass bar stools underneath it and a gold chandelier and white shelves and walls above it

(Image credit: Cult Furniture)

This might not be the most glamorous kitchen island mistake, but it’s definitely an important one.

“Failure to address electrical and plumbing requirements during the island design phase can lead to costly mistakes later on,” says Jonathan Faccone, design expert and founder of Halo Homebuyers.

He explains, “If incorporating appliances like a sink, dishwasher, or cooktop into the island, ensure proper access to electrical outlets, water supply, and drainage.”

Once you’ve added these, Jonathan suggests hiding these fixtures with clever design and items such as the Sleek Sockets on Amazon that hide big outlets and replace them with a sleek cover and plug extension.

2. Lack of storage

A sage green kitchen island with drawers and cabinets on the side of it and glass jars and a vase of flowers on top of it, with white walls and wooden flooring above and below

(Image credit: Wren Kitchens)

One of the biggest kitchen island mistakes is focusing too much on the aesthetics of the design and forgetting about vital kitchen island storage ideas.

“Homeowners often underestimate the importance of storage when it comes to kitchen islands,” says Raf Michalowski, interior designer and founder of Meble Furniture.

He continues, “I believe an island can serve as a multi-functional space, providing additional storage for items like pots, pans, and utensils.”

Raf says it’s essential to incorporate enough cabinets and drawers into the island's design to keep clutter at bay. These Innerneed Bamboo Organizers on Amazon are perfect for tidying up plates and pans.

You can also incorporate kitchen storage ideas on top of the kitchen island, to make it easy to grab what you need while you’re cooking.

3. Not allowing enough space around it

A dark green kitchen with a dark green kitchen island with a wooden surface, drawers, and wooden shelves with bowls and books on the lower

(Image credit: Olive & Barr)

Not being able to use your kitchen island practically due to poor sizing is a big kitchen island mistake designers often see.

Jonathan explains, “A standard island depth of 24'' may seem sufficient, but it can quickly become cramped when you factor in countertop overhang, the space for small kitchen appliances, and room to move around. I always advise my clients to aim for at least 36'' of depth for their kitchen islands.”

This way, they have enough room to work comfortably while maintaining a visually appealing design. 

If you've already built your kitchen island, you can always extend it with kitchen island carts (this Yaheetech Kitchen Island Cart is Amazon's Choice).

4. Disregarding lighting

A kitchen with a white marble kitchen island with an indigo blue base, five black stools with wooden legs around it, three glass pendant lights hanging from the ceiling, and blue cabinets to the right

(Image credit: Higham Furniture)

Proper lighting is essential for brightening up the kitchen island and creating a welcoming ambiance. 

“Neglecting to incorporate adequate lighting fixtures can leave your island feeling dim and dreary,” says Nina Lichtenstein, principal designer and founder of Nina’s Home Design. 

She explains, “Use a combination of kitchen island pendant lighting ideas and task lighting to reduce eye strain and enhance the ambiance throughout the space.”

Nina also recommends using under-cabinet fixtures to add extra illumination, like these Mcgor Under Cabinet Lights with over 7000 five-star reviews on Amazon.

5. Oversized islands

A kitchen with a gray kitchen island with colorful vegetables on top and books on the shelf, two cream pendant lights above it, two large windows on the wall, and cream cabinets to the back

(Image credit: Simon Taylor Furniture / Darren Chung)

While it may be tempting to go big and bold with your kitchen island design, beware of falling into the trap of oversized proportions. 

Nina says, “An excessively large island can overwhelm the space, making it feel crowded and disproportionate. Just think of the time and effort it takes to navigate around it!”

Instead, she suggests picking a size proportional to the room which allows for sufficient circulation around the island. 

Get out your measuring tape (this Craftsmen Measuring Tape on Amazon is a great buy if you don't have one), map out the area you want to fill, and make sure to choose a kitchen island in line with this.

6. Overlooking seating

A kitchen with a marble island with a black base, a bowl of tomatoes on it and four cream and wood bar stools around the left corner of it, two glass pendant lights on the ceiling, and cream cabinetry

(Image credit: Olive & Barr)

If you're looking for kitchen island breakfast bar ideas or to create social gathering spot, overlooking kitchen island seating options can be a costly mistake. 

Nina explains, “Ensure that your island design includes adequate space for seating, whether it's in the form of bar stools (we like the vegan leather AllModern Nia Bar Stool from Wayfair) or built-in benches.”

She adds it’s key to consider the height and placement of seating to allow for comfort and easy conversations among guests.

7. Poor workflow

A kitchen with dark blue cabinets and drawers, a white oven with a bright orange pot, and a kitchen island to the right with a silver sink, chopping board, and a white worktop

(Image credit: Simon Taylor Furniture / Darren Chung)

One of the most common kitchen island mistakes is designing one that disrupts the kitchen's workflow. 

Raf explains, “Ideally, the island should enhance efficiency by facilitating tasks like food prep, cooking, and cleanup. Avoid placing appliances, such as the sink or stove, too far from the main work triangle.” 

Raf recommends considering the size, shape, and location of the island carefully before finalizing its design, as well as incorporating features like a prep sink (this Vccucine Bar Sink on Amazon is small space friendly) to improve its functionality.

Whether you’re designing your kitchen island or revamping your current one, it’s a good idea to remember these mistakes.

Nina finishes by saying, “By following these tips and troubleshooting mistakes, you can design a kitchen island with confidence that will be enjoyed for years to come.”

If you’re wary of making kitchen island mistakes still, portable kitchen island ideas are easier to fix than standing structures.

Eve Smallman
Content Editor

Hi there! I’m a content editor at Real Homes. I've been a lifestyle journalist for over five years, previously working as an editor across regional magazines. Before this, I graduated from Nottingham Trent University a degree in journalism, along with an NCTJ gold diploma. I love running, decorating my rented Victorian home, and discovering new cheeses. For Real Homes, I specialize in interior design, trends and finding the best viral buys.