A lot of kitchens these days have either an island or a bar and that’s something which transcends style since there are a lot of fantastic designs to choose from and also a lot of interesting ways in which you can make your own kitchen look special with the help of custom furniture and accessories.
The kitchen island and kitchen bar are very similar to each other with one major difference: an island is a standalone countertop area while a bar is attached to either an existing countertop or to a wall.
That being said, a kitchen island with seating is not the same thing as a bar, even if it may seem like it. Check out some of our favorite island and home bar ideas below and identify the differences between them by yourself.
A kitchen can double as a space divider
A lot of times a kitchen island would serve as a separator between the kitchen area and the dining area or the living room. The same can also be said about a kitchen bar, although the circumstances, in that case, tend to be a bit different. This beautiful kitchen was a project by CVI Design.
Versatile designs can fulfill multiple functions at once
As we already mentioned, both a kitchen island and a bar can feature a seating and sometimes a kitchen island can even function as a bar even if technically it doesn’t fulfill the design conditions. This kitchen designed by Lisa Teague Studios is a nice example of how versatile these concepts really are.
There’s always alternatives for small spaces
You might be wondering when exactly it’s better to have a kitchen bar as opposed to an island. Usually, a bar suits kitchens which are long rather than square or small kitchens where a regular island wouldn’t fit. Of course, alternatives also exist, like this small bar-like table in this kitchen designed by Asun Antó of Coton et Bois.
A kitchen island or bar can add more storage to this area
Both an island and a kitchen bar have the role of adding storage and functionality to the space and providing extra counter space for various activities.
That’s why often the terms are used interchangeably or why certain designs tend to be hybrids with featured borrowed from both types. This is a kitchen designed by Joann Kandrac and Kelly Kole of Kandrac & Kole Interior Design.
A large island or bar also adds more counter space to the kitchen
Whether you opt for a kitchen island or for a bar, the idea is more or less the same: additional counter and storage space, the option to add seating and the opportunity to have a physical separator between the cooking area and the rest of the space which often includes the dining room and living area. In this example, the project was completed by The Design Studio.
It’s possible to have both a kitchen island and a bar
Given that the kitchen island and the bar are so similar to one another but at the same time they show clear differences in terms of design and structure, is there a point in having both?
Obviously, it all depends on the context. It has to do with how much space is available, the way in which it’s used and also the users’ needs and preferences. Check out this complex kitchen by Weber Design Group as an example.
Extra useful features can include a built-in kitchen and some storage
This beautiful coastal kitchen has a large and elegant island which functions a lot like a home bar. There’s bar stool seating on one side and a built-in sink and plenty of useful storage on the other. Three hanging pendant lamps complete the setup. This is a project by Stephen Alexander Homes.
An L-shaped bar helps to frame the kitchen in an open floor plan
A bar can neatly round up a kitchen and give it a complete and organized look even when part of a large open floor plan. A good example is this incredible kitchen designed by Mary McWilliams of Mary Mac & Company. The bar frames the kitchen and comes in the continuation of the countertop, creating a sense of privacy.
Hybrid designs allow you to have an island and bar combined
We mentioned before that hybrid designs which bring together the best of kitchen islands and home bars are possible and even desirable in some cases.
For example, studio Martha’s Vineyard Interior Design created this lovely setup where there’s a freestanding island with two different countertop heights. One side acts as a regular kitchen island while the other is a great bar.
Most islands can double as bars if you add seating on one side
Here you can see a very welcoming kitchen with this large island at the center that has bar stools on one side and a perfectly practical prep area on the other.
There’s a built-in sink which frees up more counter space along the main wall and a wide island countertop which gives a sense of completion. This is the creation of studio Jennifer Allison Design.
You don’t necessarily need a large kitchen to have an island or a bar
Interior designer Sarah Bartholomew shows here that you don’t need a very large kitchen in order to be able to add a home bar. In fact, kitchen bars are most common in rather small spaces which tend to be long and relatively narrow.
Two matching islands could potentially work in the right context
Studio Tracery Interiors gave this massive kitchen not one but two islands. The idea was to spread the kitchen along an entire wall and to frame it with two matching islands with seating. Each island can be used in a variety of different ways and for a variety of purposes.
Smaller islands and bars can still retain most of the functionality or a larger version
As you’ve seen, it’s possible to mix and match the features of a kitchen island and a bar and even to have more than one island/ bar if the space allows it. But what about smaller kitchens?
A lot of times a kitchen might seem too small for an island but often it’s a matter of perspective. We love this design by Blue Ladder Studio. It shows how versatile this whole idea is.
There’s plenty of ways to mix styles when designing your kitchen island
In this kitchen Studio Steidley has combined rustic and modern design elements to create a very pleasant and harmonious composition.
The island has a white countertop which matches the rest of the workspace as well as the furniture, with a wooden surface visible on the other side. The stools fit nicely under the counter and don’t have backrests which helps to ensure a fluid and open decor throughout this entire open space.
Bar stools that can fit under the island keep the area looking big and open
Choosing stools that fit underneath the kitchen island counter or under the bar is a nice idea, especially if the kitchen opens onto the dining room or the living area and you want to create a strong connection between these spaces. Take inspiration from this interior completed by Jenny Madden Design.
A kitchen island or a bar can have seating on more than one side
Usually, a kitchen island or a bar would feature seating only on one side but that’s not necessarily a rule you must follow, as very well exemplified in this beach house designed by Lindsey Cheek of Gathered. The countertop cantilevered a small bit on all sides, allowing bar stools to be spread across.
DIY kitchen island and bar projects and ideas
Changing the ambiance with a kitchen island makeover
Whether it’s intentional or not, the island is usually the centerpiece of the kitchen and an important part of what creates a certain type of ambiance in this part of the house.
With that in mind, an effective way to add a fresh touch to your kitchen is by giving the island a makeover. A change of color can sometimes do the trick. Check out the transition from black to to a lovely duck egg blue nuance featured on artsychicksrule for a bit of inspiration.
A small island with built-in trash storage
The size of the kitchen island is irrelevant when you include certain features in the design, like a built-in trash storage system for example. This design shared by shadesofblueinteriors definitely has plenty of cool ideas that you can borrow.
It’s designed to be compact and super practical and it looks beautiful as well. We really love this system because it’s super practical to just sweep everything right into the bin when you’re prepping or cooking food. It’s also space-efficient.
Turning a bookshelf into a kitchen island
If you currently don’t have a kitchen island or if you’d like to replace the existing one with something different, a super simple idea is to repurpose a bookshelf.
Look for one that has the size and shape that you’re happy with and the transformation will follow. Be sure to check out the project on littleglassjar to get an idea of what it takes to do something like this.
A wooden kitchen island made from scratch
If you have a good idea in mind of how the ideal kitchen island or bar looks like for you, building it from scratch might be the easiest and surest way to turn that into a reality.
Wood is probably the best material for this. It’s very versatile, easy to work with and accessible. Follow the tutorial featured on build-basic if you’re interested in attempting this project.
Make an island out of individual modules
Instead of building the island or kitchen bar from scratch, frame and everything, an easier option could be to make it out of existing individual modules.
You could put together two or three cabinet modules that have matching heights and that complement each other and then unify them with a countertop. That’s the idea behind the project featured on classyclutter so check it out if this sounds interesting.
How to extend or customize a kitchen island
Chances are you already have an island or a bar in your kitchen. It’s also quite plausible that you’re not 100% happy with the way it looks or with the functionality it offers.
Both of these things can be remedied with a little bit of effort from your part. On thriftydecorchick you can find some really cool and inspiring ideas on how you can make an island bigger, add more storage to it or give it a fresh new look altogether. It’s easier than you think but keep in mind that each project is unique and has different requirements.
Turning an old desk into a kitchen island
When you think about it, some furniture pieces are quite similar to one another. For instance, a desk is fairly similar to a kitchen island and some designs are better than others in this case.
This project from myoldcountryhouse shows how easy it is to repurpose an old desk into an island just by making a few changes like adding a new countertop and putting wheels on it. Of course, a fresh coat of paint really helps the transition too.