Kitchen islands have become one of the most requested features for home buyers when searching for a new home. While they have been a staple in kitchens for several decades, older kitchens do not usually have them and may or may not have space to accommodate one.
I will focus on the space without an island, but in need of one. Naturally, a galley-style kitchen affords little or no space for such a feature, but if there is space enough for a temporary island, I suggest one one on casters that can be pushed aside or into another room when not being used.
I have made a portable island for a client using a common wire rack storage unit found in any home center. An adjustable one that is close to counter height of 36 inches is perfect, but you can alter it somewhat if you are taller or shorter, making it a comfortable working surface for you. The wire rack will have at least one lower shelf, which is great for additional storage. This type of island can be a baking center: keep the mixer on top and baking supplies below, i.e., baking sheets, mixing bowls, tools and the like.
The top can be a simple hardwood cutting board; for my client, I used one from IKEA; it cost about ten dollars. I had my husband rout out four circles that would fit over the four poles that made up the vertical structure of the rack and the cutting board fit perfectly over the top, making a great work surface.
Adding a towel bar and/or some hooks on one end is a good idea, for convenience and as a place to keep pot holders as well. This rack, now cart, is easy to move about and has actually changed purpose from its first intended use.
There are many kitchen islands on the market today to choose from, so the choice can be difficult. First, make sure it will suit your needs, and fit your style. If you have room for a heavy based island, great, but if your space is more confined, look for something with less visible weight to it: something with more slender metal legs instead of heavy turned wooden legs.
You might take a walk around your house and see what you have that could be converted into an island. I did this exercise to see if there was anything that I could use; and I did, indeed, find a table that would serve well as a kitchen island. It is currently in my office, holding my printer as well as my case of Dunn-Edwards paint sample library. It has a shelf, where I keep extra printer paper. There is a drawer for ink cartridges, staples, and the like. This table has followed me for many decades and it is by no means a “pretty piece”. It has served as a desk for my daughter in her junior high days; and I think spent some time in the garage, collecting nothing more than dust.
As a kitchen island, I would paint it a bright color, add some locking casters and perhaps another shelf to elevate it from its desk height of 28 inches to a counter height of 36 inches. Finally, I would add a top to serve my needs, perhaps have a piece of granite or marble cut a bit larger than the surface of the table, but balanced for stability, or have a stainless steel top made for it. I would add a towel bar and perhaps some hooks for hanging necessary large utensils. Keeping large pots or mixing bowls could free up some storage space inside my cabinets.
Take a look around your house and see what you could use to make a kitchen island or additional work space.