A quick confession: we love all our kitchen cabinets, but if we had to pick a favorite spot in the heart of the home, it's all about the island. There's just no denying that this free-floating prep-and-storage superhero is the centerpoint of any functional family kitchen—quite literally, since it's smack-in-the-middle of the action. (And that goes double for when you're hosting houseguests—ever notice that cocktail parties always seem to gravitate toward the island, no matter what?)
Islands might be a relatively new fixture in the scheme of kitchen design, but they've (rightly) earned their place in the pantheon. And while the islands of the past may have been carbon-copies of the cabinets on the perimeter of the space, this new class of islands isn't shy about standing out. From contrasting countertops to bold and colorful cabinets to styles that look more like a treasured piece of heirloom furniture than something you'd find in the millwork aisle of your local hardware store, we're head-over-heels for these chic, show-offy island styles.
Click through to see our favorite showstopping islands (and pick up a few tips for your next home remodel, too).
Mix It Up
While we've been loving the multi-pendant look over islands for a while now, we suddenly realized something: there's no rule that says all your pendants need to match. This sleek space by sKout incorporates a playful visual touch by mixing up the shape of the coordinating white pendant lights overhead—and the effect is totally enchanting.
Try a Trend (or Two)
This kitchen does it all—thanks to a showstopping island that perfectly juxtaposes a sleek and modern waterfall countertop trend with more traditional coastal details like deep blue beadboard. The longer we look at this space, the more enchanted we are by it—it manages to check so many on-trend boxes without feeling "trendy", and creates a one-of-a-kind result that pulls from so many stylish influences.
Go For Luxe
Take a cue from your favorite baubles on your next kitchen remodel: agate-y countertops go as beautifully with brass details as your favorite semiprecious stones coordinate with your favorite gold earrings. The finishing touch to complete this glam composition? A delicate gold chain, of course—in the form of pendant lights.
Try High Contrast
Wallflowers, beware—this kitchen is designed to stand out. High-impact black and white finishes with plenty of texture all complement the main event—an unapologetically bold black and white island that adds an absolutely jaw-dropping element to this monochromatic space.
Think of Modern Camouflage
By selecting an island base material that mimics the natural wood tones of the floor, this corner kitchen achieves a look that's airy and modern without sacrificing any prep space. A bold black and white marble with a slight apron edge appears to float on this neutral wooden base, making for a midcentury modern magic trick of sorts.
Add Some Eclectic Elements
It's often said in design circles that if you truly love something, you'll find a way to make it fit in your home. Sure, normally this adage is passed around about less-permanent pieces like a throw pillow or rug, but we think it's equally applicable in the kitchen. Case in point: if you told us that a single kitchen could incorporate brass, patterned tile, a dark wood-effect backsplash, deep grey-green countertops AND white cabinets, we'd be skeptical. But here, it's harmonious. The bright pop of white lower cabinets on the island keeps the dark hues from weighing the space down, and the brass hood draws the eye up. Unexpected perfection.
Bring in the Old
If you thought scene-stealing veined countertops could never work in a more traditional setting, think again. "Opposites attract" is alive and well in this space, where beautiful paneled walls in a muted sage green hue provide a stunning backdrop for a bold black and white centerpiece in the form of a bold kitchen island. We're smitten with the result.
Try Coastal Contemporary
Take notes—this space is a masterclass in achieving a beachy, coastal-inspired space that feels modern and fresh. The millwork on the island's base is an artful nod to classic styling, while the sleek, high-sheen countertop is decidedly modern (and adds some welcome reflective surfaces to the space). In short? This kitchen is a breath of fresh (beach) air.
Exaggerate the Edge
A high-impact, but surprisingly versatile way to make your island the centerpiece of your next kitchen remodel? Create an exaggerated apron edge. While it's not a complete counter-to-floor followthrough like a waterfall edge, it adds visual weight (and plenty of style points) to your island.
Think Out of the Box
Stop the presses—we've found our dream kitchen. House of Hipsters schooled us all with this breathtaking striated island, fitted with a custom brass inlay. The rest of the kitchen is simple by contrast, letting this island act as a true centerpiece—and we can certainly see why.
Bring in Rustic Vibes
If you've been noticing more and more islands that feel like furniture pieces lately, you're not alone. Rich woods—whether classic or midcentury-inspired—shaped into distinctive silhouettes that remind us of our favorite credenzas have been popping up, and we love the cozy, lived-in look that they bring to the table. This piece, with cut-out handholds, is particularly chic—and introduces some welcome contrast to this gleaming white kitchen.
Mix Masculine with Feminine
Worried about striking the right balance in the kitchen? Just take your cue from this sophisticated space. Dark cabinets with strong geometric lines feel sturdy and masculine, while a gorgeous slab backsplash veined with muted rose and wine hues brings a feminine, jewel-like accent that makes a stunning (and stylish) juxtaposition. The common ground? Brass accents are something everyone can agree on.
Add a Pop of Color
Not only is creating a "contrast island" a savvy decor move, but it's practical, too—because it's among the easiest things to change out over time in a kitchen. This space stays within a neutral, bright white palette for the cabinetry, countertops, and even walls, but the pop of deep blue on the island sets it apart. And when trends change to another "It"-color, it's an easy fix. A simple coat of paint and maybe a new pair of pendant lights can transform the heart of the home in a weekend or less.
Lean into Midcentury Details
This kitchen is a midcentury modern dream, with all the beautiful wood tones, the unique light fixtures, and the avocado-green upholstered dining chairs. But the detail that caught our eye the most is a subtle—yet genius—one. Look closely and you'll notice that, beneath the drawers, the island is fitted with a cute cubby space for a crate or basket. We love this idea for so many reasons—we could picture stashing awkwardly shaped kitchen tools in there, or even using it to store root veggies or other pantry staples in a pinch. Long story short, we expect to see more clever cutouts like this in the future.
Add Some Fun
Oceanic blues + bright polished brass + fun geometric tile = a sun-drenched space that feels like a day at the beach. Accentuate your space by picking a hue for your island that's in the same color family as your tile or window treatments, and then dial is up a notch—the deeper or more saturated the shade, the more it'll pack a punch when guests come over.
Try a Two-Toned Kitchen
Another "contrast island" riff we can't get enough of—this retro-chic olive tone pairs perfectly with light wood and a dark, textural backsplash for the perfect moody-meets-midcentury vibe. Leather cabinet pulls complete the less-is-more look.
Bring in the Brass
If you can't get enough of the brass trend (*raises hand*), why stop at brass fixtures or a brass hood over the stove? This dreamy, dramatic kitchen takes it a step further with a brass-edged countertop on the island for maximum impact. If you ask us, it's the perfect double-take inducing detail to make all your houseguests jealous.