At Builders Surplus, we specialize in full kitchen design, among other things. Our kitchen designers are often asked by clients what the best way is to create a contrasting kitchen island that will fit with their space. Obviously, there is not just one right answer. It will all depend on your design style, cabinet style and color choices. Because of the increasing interest in designing a contrasting kitchen island, I have decided to put together a list of some of my favorites, discussing why they work and how you can achieve a similar look.
While there are an endless amount of combinations that you could use to contrast your new island with your existing or renovated kitchen, I will go over what I believe are the top 10 ways to achieve a stunning contrasting kitchen island. These can be considered no matter what style or color palette you’ve chosen.
Top 10 Ways to Create a Contrasting Kitchen Island
1. The Bold Color Contrast
While the cabinet style and countertop stay the same, painting or purchasing cabinets of a different color for your island can do wonders for creating the beautiful contrast you’re searching for. In the example below, the orange island and blue accent chairs are the complete focal point of the room. Without those elements, it would be a somewhat sterile looking white kitchen.
2. Industrial Style Contrast
Despite what some might think, the industrial look can mix with virtually any style. Stainless steel is a popular appliance material, which goes in kitchens that range from traditional, to coastal, modern to country. The same goes for a stainless steel or industrial style island. This can give your space the look of a professional kitchen, or just the utilitarian aesthetic that you’ve always wanted. In the image below, you’ll see how the rustic/vintage/farmhouse style cabinets mix perfectly with the stainless island.
3. Mini Island
Sometimes, bigger isn’t always better. Whether you have a large or small kitchen, a miniture island can be the perfect way to get the island look, useable prep space, and contrast you’re looking for without cluttering up an otherwise open space. This is a perfect solution for apartment or condo kitchens as well. They can be solitary or moveable, the choice is yours. Whether you choose to match the cabinets and countertops in the rest of the kitchen, you will still have a lovely contrast.
4. Unexpected Makeshift Island
The unexpected makeshift island is definitely one of my favorites! It gives you the chance to have a little fun or get creative! Take the photo below for example. The huge slab of wood with the live bark edge just screams unique! You won’t see an island like this in 99% of homes, which is what I love about it. These homeowners weren’t afraid to take a chance, and I think it really paid off. I’ve also seen things like sewing machine table islands, tree stump islands, and even car parts underneath a countertop! Step out of your comfort zone and see what amazing things you can create.
5. Contrasting Countertop Island
While this is a much more tame contrast from the previous example, this is a great way to create a contrasting kitchen island but still play it safe. Whether you have granite, marble, quartz, butcher block, or concrete countertops, you can find another countertop to contrast appropriately. It can be as simple as choosing a different color or style of your existing countertop material. If you have light wood countertops on the rest of your kitchen, choose a really dark stain for the island. If you have white marble, go with a shiny black for your island. Do you have quartz? Well lucky you! The options are endless. Try a lime green or marvelous magenta from Silestone to make a serious POP! Or, mix materials. Wood and concrete look amazing; industrial, farmhouse, rustic chic. Honestly, wood will match virtually anything. Below is a marble and wood mixture, which is a simple change to bring a great contrast.
6. Old World Style Mix
Whether your old world style is rustic, shabby chic, vintage, french country or primitive, these gorgeous, character filled styles can be an amazing compliment to a brand new look. It can make your high end traditional kitchen seem more down to earth, or add a touch of warmth to what might be an otherwise cold space. Old world style is all the rage right now, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. People have a soft spot in their hearts for nostalgia, and that is what this style evokes. It’s a personal favorite of mine, and if you’re not ready to commit to a full room, an island could be the perfect place to start!
7. Waterfall Effect Island
The “Waterfall Effect” is a gorgeous design element in which solid surface countertops cascade on either side of the island or countertops themselves, reaching the floor. This creates a flowing visual look and almost instantly makes any island look more sleek or modern. Waterfall counters are also known as ‘risers’, and the trend is extremely popular right now. While it does evoke a more contemporary feel, it is not strictly limited to solid surface or modern style kitchens. I have seen wooden waterfall counters in country style island that do look fantastic! It is simply a more polished look. Using this effect on your countertop definitely creates the contrasting kitchen island you’re in search of.
8. Moveable Kitchen Island
The moveable kitchen island is about more than just contrast, it’s about function. Rolling kitchen islands are great for small kitchens, as they are typically smaller in stature. They allow you to use it in so many different ways, as well. You can use it as a prep space, a dining space, a wet bar, a dish hutch, a condiment or appetizer bar, and so much more! If the party moves outside of the kitchen, you can wheel it where ever you move, to the living or dining room, even onto a deck or patio! Even if your rolling island is the exact same material, color and finish with the same countertop, just the fact that this is a moveable piece with multiple uses gives it a lovely contrast in your kitchen.
9. Multi-Level Island
The multi-level island adds a layer of visual interest that a typical kitchen island just doesn’t have. A multi-level island can have a lower pullout area for prep, an upper eating area, or both. Another way to add contrast, even in a single level island, is to have your island heigh at a different level than your countertops, lower or higher. However, the multi-level island is the best way to achieve the contrast, in my opinion. Generally, multi-level islands will always be custom made.
10. Textured Kitchen Island
Texture is one of the best ways to add visual interest in general. Where the island is concerned, you can do this through stone or wood, and potentially other things as well. Wood is a great way to add texture, especially if there is no other trace of it throughout the rest of your kitchen. Wood is a slightly more subtle texture compared to that of stone, which is why I’ve featured it below. You can do stacked stone, ledge stone, pebble stone, brick, or white washed brick. No matter what you choose, it will lend that ‘something special’ to your space. If contrast is what you’re looking for, contrast is what you’ll get! It can make any style look more natural or earthy, without taking away from the original design aesthetics.
As you can see, there are a variety of ways to create a contrasting kitchen island. While these are my top 10, it is in no way a comprehensive list. There are so many ways to find contrast, you just have to have some imagination and not be scared to take a risk, big or small! I can promise you, it will be worth it. Happy Remodeling!
If you have any interior design or remodeling questions, feel free to comment and we would be happy to help you in your renovation journey!