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On the surface, a kitchen island is just surplus countertop space, a place to prep food or drop your keys and mail when you walk in the door. But below that, the massive structure should provide two things: seating and storage. The former is handy on an everyday basis: You can cozy up here with your morning coffee, sit down to do emails in the afternoon, or treat it like a dining table and entertain at night. Incorporating ample drawers, cabinets, and shelves is a no-brainer if you’re working within a tight footprint. These five cleverly designed kitchens show how to squeeze the best of both worlds in your space, no matter the size. 

Combine It With a Table 

round dining table and round islandPin It
Photography by Jef Jacobs; Design by Dries Otten

Its shape might be unconventional, but this round island, designed by Antwerp, Belgium–based architect Dries Otten, fits more than you think. For starters there’s a cooktop on the surface, and the main structure has hidden doors all around it for holding cookware. When you want to dine, just pull up a chair to the table, which has been conveniently placed under the countertop edge. Bonus: You don’t have to splurge on a giant slab of stone with this two-in-one solution. 

Be Discreet About It 

dark green kitchen islandPin It
Courtesy of Naked Kitchens

If you don’t want anyone to know that you’re storing things within the island, hide the cabinet doors under the lip of the countertop where the barstools are. Take the secrecy a step further by scrapping shiny hardware and doing cutouts for handles. 

Carve Out a Nook for Your Cookbook Collection 

blue giant islandPin It
Photography by Tessa Neustadt

Open shelves aren’t just for high places. Leaving one side of your island completely exposed allows you to easily access cookbooks or, if you’re Helene Henderson, freshly picked fruit and vegetables from the garden.

Simplify the Shape 

white and wood islandPin It
Photography by Stacey Van Berkel; Styling by Susan Johnson Smith

A long, narrow structure like the one in designer Kara Cox’s home can still offer up the best of both worlds. Steer clear of fancy drawers in a tiny space and just stick with large cupboards and simple stools so there’s still plenty of room for people to walk around. 

Tack On a Console Table

table attached to islandPin It
Courtesy of Studio McGee

Kitchen islands that look like pieces of furniture is one trend Shea McGee doesn’t want to see go away just yet. The Utah-based designer almost always incorporates some sort of end piece on her islands. In a lot of cases, these look like console tables or buffets that have been attached to the end. The addition allows you to achieve a more layered, lived-in look by offering space to display found objects or extra dishware. 

See more stories like this: 
Kitchen Cabinet Layouts Aren’t as Puzzling as They Seem
You’re 3 Steps Away from Your Most Organized Kitchen Cabinets Yet
7 Small Kitchen Islands for Food Prep, Storage, and Every Step in Between

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