Freestanding kitchens: 17 flexible ways to create a rustic look

Designing a freestanding kitchen? Get inspired by these lovely ideas

Freestanding kitchens: 17 flexible ways to create a rustic look
(Image credit: Future)

Love the look of a freestanding kitchen but not really sure where to start in designing your own? Well, we are here to help with these tips and ideas that will inspire you to create your own flexible spaces that's filled with character. 

From what layout to choose to where to find the best freestanding kitchen units we have everything you need to create a gorgeous space  in this guide. If you are after anything else kitchen related, make sure you head over to our kitchen ideas page for more advice and inspiration. 

blue cupboards in freestanding kitchen extension to 1700s new england farmhouse

(Image credit: John Gruen)

Once you have the practical elements sorted, like the layout you are going for and what you want to include, time for the best bit – making it your own. Below we have loads of ideas and inspiration so you can get decorating your freestanding kitchen.

1. Raid flea markets to furnish a freestanding kitchen

Freestanding kitchen in a Scottish kitchen

(Image credit: Future)

Mostly, it's all about the look. While fitted kitchens might seem like a better use of the space, once you have one, you’re committed to it – and it looks, well, fitted. With freestanding kitchens, the look is more relaxed, more individual, more original, and furniture can be moved around or even replaced if you find something that better suits the space. Old homes with their wonky walls can make fitting cabinets more difficult, whereas freestanding furniture works well.

Lending themselves to vintage furniture and flea market finds, freestanding kitchens can be a cost effective way of redesigning a kitchen and creating the perfect space. If you’re a fan of DIY or craft, you could really make the project your own by upcycling furniture that you already own and repurposing it for your lifestyle. 

If all your vintage finds need are a lick of paint, have a read through our step-by-step guide to painting furniture but if it's a matter of restoring old wooden furniture, we've got a guide for that too. 

2. Design your freestanding kitchen to suit your needs

(Image credit: Neptune)

A freestanding kitchen is very easy to design yourself. Some people will opt for a few fitted units, and supplement the kitchen with freestanding pieces – such as freestanding kitchen islands – over time. This is a great way to spread the cost over time if you're designing a stylish kitchen on a budget.

If you do design your own freestanding kitchen, try an online tool. Be sure to measure the space thoroughly beforehand, including where doors and windows are located.

Consider how the room is going to be used, too – is it a space for entertaining as well as cooking in? It’s also a good idea to write a wishlist of priorities, highlighting which aspects of the kitchen are most important.

3. Know what to include in a freestanding kitchen

(Image credit: Laura Ashley)

Larders are also becoming the mainstay of a freestanding design, to add to the traditional ‘cook’s kitchen’ feel. Companies are adapting these to include hideaway storage areas for kettles and toasters, for clutter-free worktops, or even fitting them with marble surfaces inside for pastry making or as hidden food preparation areas.

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Vintage Welsh dressers are perfect if you have a big enough space. The shelves can be used to display your favourite kitchenware, while the cupboards provide space to hide away clutter. 

Open shelving or plate racks can be added elsewhere for additional freestanding kitchen storage. Wood is a classic choice, but stainless steel versions create a low-maintenance, industrial look.

A moveable kitchen island or butcher’s block can be used to increase workspace as needed. When prepping food, a surface that can be moved from the sink to cooker can be very useful.

Accessories in freestanding kitchens include towel rails and chopping board trays, cleverly stored on kitchen island units. Wine racks are popular, too, to make this area of the room more of a hub for entertaining instead of being purely functional.

4. Go for country cottage charm in a freestanding kitchen 

Free standing kitchen with exposed brick wall

With their awkward angles and uneven walls, country cottages can benefit from freestanding kitchen cabinets which can be easily positioned to make the most of the space. Antique wooden pieces with their time-worn patina are a great complement to rustic timber beams and stone walls. 

Love this kitchen? You are going to love more of our traditional country kitchen ideas.  

5. Display on open kitchen shelves

White rustic cupboards in a free standing kitchen

(Image credit: National Trust)

 If you prefer fitted cabinetry, but like the relaxed look of an unfitted kitchen, a great compromise is to have fitted base cabinets, but to replace fitted wall cabinets with open shelving. Not only will shelves help enhance the feeling of space, they are a great place to display kitchenalia and pretty ceramics such as the Valleys to Headlands kitchenware from The National Trust.

If you are after more kitchen storage ideas, go and have a read through our feature. 

6. Add texture with a real wood design

Freestanding kitchen with wooden units

(Image credit: Laura Ashley)

For versatility over a kitchen layout, opt for freestanding units. Whether you need to create extra space for entertaining or simply fancy a new look every now and again, this unfitted Milton Oak kitchen island, £1,700, and Milton Oak drinks cabinet, £1,400, both from Laura Ashley, have a chunky real wood design perfect for an old farmhouse.  

7. Invest in a kitchen dresser

freestanding kitchen in a restored Georgian farmhouse

Thought to date back to the 17th century, the classic Welsh dresser has become a mainstay in freestanding kitchens. A timeless piece, it's worth investing in either a good quality antique version or new handmade version which will stand the test of time and can be passed down the generations. While the base cabinets and drawers offer ample kitchen storage for crockery and cutlery, the open shelves are ideal for displaying treasured pieces. 

If it's farmhouse kitchens you love, check out our dedicate feature of swoon worthy ideas. 

8. Go open-plan for a spacious freestanding kitchen

Open-plan freestanding kitchen

A mixture of stand-alone appliances and just two freestanding units helps create an open-plan kitchen that feels spacious; the homeowners cleverly created extra storage by converting a cupboard into a larder and choosing multi-functional bench box.  

9. Add a freestanding kitchen island

Free standing kitchen furniture in an cream and wood kitchen

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

Whether your kitchen is fitted or freestanding, a moveable kitchen island is a great piece of free standing kitchen furniture. A brilliant way to zone social and cooking spaces, they can be repositioned when extra space is needed, plus create extra workspace.

Get more inspiration with our kitchen island ideas.

10. Make the most of an awkward space in a freestanding kitchen  

freestanding kitchen furniture in a Victorian cottage

If you live in a old cottage, your home is likely to be filled with nooks and crannies that run the risk of becoming dusty, dead space. These areas are ideal for freestanding kitchens because yoy can use these spaces to slot in a small cupboard or place a tall dresser behind a door. If part of your kitchen is fitted, you can even paint your freestanding furniture to match, or leave it bare to create a rustic contrast.

Have a snoop around these charming cottages for more ideas. 

11. Use kitchenware to create a display 

freestanding furniture in a rustic kitchen

Kitchen storage doesn’t have to mean cupboards. You spend money on pots and pans, so why not have them on display? Create a rustic-style farmhouse kitchen by storing them on wooden tables with extra shelving underneath, or hang them in attractive displays on wall hooks. This will save on space, and your pots and pans will be closer to hand when you’re cooking.

12. Introduce the butcher’s block to a freestanding kitchen

freestanding kitchen butchers block

An old butcher’s block is the ideal item of furniture for a freestanding kitchen with a rustic or industrial feel. Butchers’ blocks can stand as an island in the middle of the room, or create another worktop or preparation area when pushed up against the wall. Paired with a couple of tall bar stools, they can even be used as a smart little breakfast table.

aga in period kitchen

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

You could also paint an old butcher's block the same colour as your kitchen cabinets to give it a more cohesive feel, almost like a built in island. We love the pale sage green of this block; try Farrow and Ball's Vert De Terre if you are after something similar. Make sure you take a tour of the rest of this gorgeous former mill keeper’s house for loads more inspiration. 

13. Wall mount cabinets in freestanding kitchens

(Image credit: Darren Chung)

If you are lucky enough to have a period home with lofty high ceilings then wall mounted plate wracks, individual cabinets and sheila maids mixed in with fixed cabinetry is a  great way to make the most of your space and give your kitchen a flexible feel. 

14. Choose a contemporary industrial style in a freestanding kitchen 

freestanding kitchen in a converted brewery

Whether you’re looking for a traditional decorating scheme, or trying to add a modern touch to your period home, reclaimed industrial furniture is the perfect way to add character to any space. With a freestanding kitchen like this you can mix antiques and modern additions seamlessly. If it doesn’t work, you can simply move the units around until it does.

For more industrial style kitchen ideas check out our gallery. 

15. Mix and match old and new kitchen furniture

Pairing fitted cabinetry with a few upcycled freestanding units is a great way to add a touch of unique style.  Try refreshing ornate old dressers with chalky furniture paint in a contrasting colour as done here. 

If you need any tips on how to paint kitchen cabinets, we've got a easy to follow step-by-step guide. 

16. Small kitchen? You can still go freestanding 

If you’ve only got a small kitchen, the obvious choice would be to maximise on space with fitted units, but this doesn’t allow for flexibility. Instead, a few well chosen, expertly placed freestanding kitchen cabinets can be a really clever use of the space. Make sure you’ve got room for everything you need, and if you find that there isn’t enough, just swap out a unit for something more useful.

For more tips of on designing a small kitchen have a read through our dedicated feature. 

17. Choose a practical freestanding larder

Pantry with doors painted in chalk paint

(Image credit: Benjamin Moore)

A well-stocked pantry is what kitchen dreams are made of. But you don't need to fork out a load of money for a bespoke, fitted version. If you think about it, a pantry is just a glorified cupboard with some spices and tins in it, so really any old cupboard can technically become a pantry. Choose a lovely vintage one with a few shelves (trawl eBay for a bargain), fill it with food and, just like that, pantry. 

We've got lots of practical pantry storage ideas too, to make sure you make the most of that covetable larder. 

18. Go for a minimalist look in a freestanding kitchen 

(Image credit: Neptune)

Freestanding kitchens are usually associated with tradition homes, and well clutter, the more the better because that's what this look is all about. And while we love that rustic style if you like the idea of going free standing in a more minimalist way that can totally work too.

They key is to pick simple freestanding kitchen units like a dresser or a kitchen island, keep the colour scheme minimal and still add character by having things on show, just curate it a bit more. 

Inspired to create your freestanding kitchen? Keep reading...

Pippa is Style Editor for Period Living magazine and spends many a weekend exploring the Cotswolds for decorating shoot ideas. A collector at heart, she is currently looking for a vintage cabinet to store her favourite wares.