DIY Kitchen Islands
Build | Kitchen | Room Makeovers

Ultimate DIY Kitchen Island Guide: How to Save Big with these Kitchen Island Ideas

Wondering if you can make a DIY kitchen island? Find out how you can save big with these kitchen island ideas. Also, check out our post on how to update your kitchen for less than $400.

Do you ever notice that whenever you have company over that everyone always ends up in the kitchen?

In our first home, I couldn’t stand our kitchen. It was extremely dated, and everything was painted blue – the walls, the cabinets, the trim. And, this was well before painted cabinets became trendy. 

Every time we had people over, everyone always ended up gathering here, even if I had all the food in the dining room.

Whether we like it or not, kitchens really are the center of the home.

If you are looking to improve the look of your kitchen with more than just a little paint, DIY kitchen islands are a great way to add more charm, more space, and more function to your kitchen.   

Can you make your own kitchen island?

Yes! Kitchen islands are just storage space and a countertop. A lot of times DIY kitchen islands are made from built-in cabinets or carts. Any DIYer should be able to handle these! 

DIY kitchen islands only become more challenging when you want to install extra utilities, like stoves, dishwashers, or sinks.  

Depending on your DIY kitchen island dreams, budget, and experience level, you might choose to make a portion of the project yourself and then get a contractor involved for any gas or electrical work. 

DIY Kitchen Islands

Is it cheaper to build your own kitchen island?

Yes! Building anything on your own is likely to be a lot cheaper than buying pre-made or having it custom designed. 

That’s not to say that there aren’t some factors to consider before embarking on your DIY journey. 

Cost of Store-Bought Kitchen Islands & Custom-Made Islands

The costs of kitchen islands vary greatly depending on your needs. If a rolling cart-type island is all that you’re after, you can buy one for under $300. Basic stationary kitchen islands with only cabinets and a butcher-block countertop, on the other hand, start at $500. 

If you’re going to opt for a customized remodel, expect to shell out anywhere between $3,000 and $10,000. 

Why So Expensive?

Variation in costs depends on factors such as size, shape, materials used for cabinets and countertop, as well as additional features and appliances. 

For instance, adding a sink, electrical outlets, or a cooktop to your design plans without having existing lines in the area of your new kitchen island will drive up the costs significantly. Projects that involve electrical, plumbing, and work with gas lines also require permits for the same. 

Cost of Making Your Own DIY kitchen islands

DIY kitchen islands of the basic cabinet and countertop variety, like the kind we discuss in this article, come up to only a fraction of the costs mentioned thus far. You can expect to finish even a fairly large kitchen island for $500 or lower when making it from scratch. 

You can save a ton of money this way!

Inexpensive Kitchen Island Ideas 

Use Base Cabinets

Making your DIY kitchen island from cabinets is one of the most straightforward ways to do it! 

Base cabinets are usually of a standard height and depth. This means they’re almost sure to match up with the rest of the cabinetry in your kitchen. 

The fact that each unit comes separately means you get to customize your storage the way you like. Drawers, cabinets, racks, and whatever else you may desire – all you need to do is arrange them, attach them to each other using nails, and construct a frame around them to ensure that they stay put. 

DIY Kitchen Islands

Use Bookshelves, Rolling Carts, Or Other Furniture 

You can use bookshelves for the best of a DIY kitchen island, rolling carts, or any other piece of furniture. 

One of the best parts of a DIY kitchen island is the opportunity it brings to breathe new life into old pieces you’ve got. A simple rolling cart, an old bookshelf, or even a disused school desk can all be made into beautiful kitchen islands with enough time and effort. 

Reworked rolling carts make great DIY kitchen islands for small kitchens. 

Use an Existing Wall or Pony Wall

Another creative kitchen island idea is to tear down an existing wall of the kitchen to about half its height and then use the remaining portion of the wall to support a new island. 

This way, you’ll be visually expanding the space of your kitchen while still keeping it separate from the adjacent rooms. 

Customization Options

You can style your kitchen island however you like. Do you want it to be one with the rest of your kitchen decor? Or stick out like your kitchen’s pièce de résistance? It’s up to you!

You can use any of the above ideas and then add some character with the below countertop, siding, and trim options. 

Adding a countertop

There are so many options to choose from when it comes to countertops. The look you wish to achieve and how you plan to use your countertop are the two main deciding factors when it comes to making your choice. 

  1. Low-Maintenance Options 

For low-maintenance options, consider non-porous materials like glass, stainless steel, ceramic tiles, or quartz for your countertop. These materials don’t need regular upkeep like butcher-block and concrete does, but can look just as good. 

  1. Concrete  

Concrete can be dyed in a variety of colors and poured to take on almost any size and shape. It can also be inlaid with different materials like glass, metal, stone, and even seashells. It really is the most flexible when it comes to design. 

It’s important to seal the concrete after installation, or else risk staining it every time you chop vegetables on it! When discussing the matter of chopping, note that using knives directly on concrete countertops will dull them out over time. 

It also does well to be extra careful with glassware on concrete tops, because they do tend to shatter easily if dropped. 

Concrete countertops can be DIYed!

  1. Butcher-Block  

Butcher-block countertops, on the other hand, are significantly cheaper than concrete and are also easier on knives and glassware. 

With their warm tones, they tend to lend a more “country farmhouse” feeling to a space. You can also choose to go deeper in color by staining it. Note that paint is not recommended for countertops due to its utility. 

It’s important to seal all kinds of wood work as well, including butcher-block countertops. 

Butcher block countertops cost only around $20 to $60 per square foot, including materials and installation. 

DIY Kitchen Islands
  1. Additional Ideas

Another option with adding a countertop is to get creative with it. Why not use an old door for a counter? Or make a “penny countertop?” You can even use special contact paper to create a marble countertop! This would be perfect to use in tandem with an upcycled piece of furniture.

Option of Adding siding 

If you would like to add special siding to your kitchen island, consider both shiplap and beadboard. Then choose the one that fits your aesthetic needs best. 

You can opt for individual panels where you will be doing the paneling yourself. Another option is primed panels, where the panels come pre-attached. 

Both come with their own benefits and challenges so make your choice based on your specific requirements. 

Adorning with Decorative elements

Make your vision for your kitchen island a reality by using decorative elements to add more character! Below are a few ideas:

  • Molding
  • Trim to cover up the pedestals or casters
  • Corbels and posts to hold up the countertop
  • LED strips to highlight the “floating” aspect of your island
  • Faux cabinet doors
  • Hardware (or parts of unique furniture) of your choice
  • Furniture legs or feet

As far as design goes, you can choose to make your freestanding cabinet merge with the rest of your kitchen for a subtle look or stand out in contrast for a more dramatic effect. When you are making it yourself, the sky’s the limit! 

Placement of the DIY Kitchen Island

Below are the answers to a few questions on the placement and space of your DIY kitchen island.

Do I have the space for a kitchen island?

A kitchen island needs to have enough counter space to be useful for your needs. It also needs to look right in its surroundings, as well as leave enough space around it for people to move around easily. 

How much space should I have around the island?

Every kitchen has “activity zones.” These include the food storage areas, like the refrigerator and pantry; the food preparation area; the cooking area, which would be where you keep your stovetop; and the waste disposal area, AKA your trash can. 

Your new kitchen island needs to take up space in a way so as to not interfere with your kitchen’s natural workflow. This means that activity zones need to remain within 4-8 feet of each other even with an island in between. 

For universal design, which accounts for people with disabilities and for people who use wheelchairs, leave about 48 inches on all sides of your counter. 

DIY Kitchen Islands

What is a good height for a DIY kitchen island?

Standard counters are 36” tall. However, for counters where you expect to be rolling and kneading dough, 30” might suffice. This is because it’s easier for most people to apply downward force at this height. 

Remember that the higher a counter, the less overhang it requires for seating. So, if you have a small kitchen but still want to build a kitchen island with a couple of seats, consider making that portion of the counter taller – say 42” (bar height). Add some bar stools and you’ve got a whole vibe! 

How easy is it to move a kitchen island?

Kitchen islands with casters are super easy to move around. Most are small too, usually measuring no more than 36 inches. Just be sure to check that your flooring does okay with wheels before investing in this type of kitchen island.

Built-in type islands do not move. However, if slight movement is something you wish to account for in your stationary kitchen island design, use rubber bushing below your pedestal. Also, opt for lightweight materials over heavier ones like concrete and stone. 

Additional DIY Kitchen Island FAQs

What is a floating DIY kitchen island? 

The terms “floating kitchen island” and “portable kitchen island” are often mistaken to be the same. In actuality, portable kitchen islands are those which can be moved around on account of being mounted on casters. 

Floating kitchen islands on the other hand, whether portable or stationary, are identified by appearing to hover over the floor. 

They are designed to look like they’re suspended in the air by setting back the pedestals that hold them up. This makes them invisible at eye level. 

Another way to achieve this look is by using materials that make the pedestal area of the kitchen island match the flooring and contrast with the cabinets above. This tricks the eye into skipping past the pedestal!

In the case of portable kitchen islands, hide the wheels by either covering them or placing them deeper under the island.  This, if done right, can mimic the look of a floating built-in piece. 

Is it possible to DIY a kitchen island with seating?

Absolutely. In order to incorporate seating in your DIY kitchen island, you’re going to need to design it keeping in mind where you want your countertop to overhang. This is so that there is space for knees and feet! 

How you support this overhang is another thing to figure out. If you’re opting for a sturdy frame to support your countertop, you can choose to make it in an I-shape so that your cabinets are on one side and your seating on the other. 

Or, build it in an E-shape to accommodate both seating space and cabinet space on the same side, with nothing on the back of the cabinets. It all depends on your kitchen’s size and shape constraints.

Another option is to support your overhang with posts. This can make an interesting design element while creating open space beneath it to store seats, and legs while sitting down! 

Remember that you need about 24” in length per chair to allow for comfortable sitting at a kitchen island. 

Advantages of DIY kitchen island 

  1. More Space To Work 

What initially looks like a lot of counter space for food preparation, can end up seeming to shrink as time passes. 

Before long, a new space for cutting, chopping, and peeling located right at the center of the kitchen starts to seem appealing. It’s also great for doing small tasks like kids’ homework and organizing mail. 

The kitchen island counter is separate from the otherwise more messy areas of the kitchen. This makes it perfect to store some cooking-related items that need to stay clean, like cookbooks and electronics. 

  1. More Storage  

From cabinets and drawers, to open shelves and even wine racks, kitchen islands can contain a whole range of different storage options. It’s all up to your preference which you choose. 

They also make an ideal place to store garbage bins. This is because they’re located separately from the regular kitchen work area, but still central enough for easy access. You can even slide trash directly into the bin below after preparing food on your kitchen island. 

  1. More Seating

The good news is that with more counter space, comes more seating possibilities. With a small overhang, space for knees, and a couple stools, you’ve got yourself a new hangout zone for friends and family. 

Pro Tip:

To calculate how many will fit your island, divide the length of your counter by 24, since each seat requires about 24”. Even small built-in kitchen islands can accommodate at least two seats. 

  1. More Outlets And Appliances

What’s a kitchen without its appliances? Just imagine if you could have space for more. A stovetop, sink, oven, refrigerator drawer, and extra power outlets. 

With a kitchen island, it can finally be time for that new espresso machine! Please note that your kitchen’s busiest area will most likely shift to wherever you move your stovetop, and that includes your kitchen island. 

This calls for additional safety measures when making this decision as a central stovetop means that it is exposed on all sides. For families with younger children, this might not be ideal. 

  1. Becomes The Kitchen’s Visual Focal Point

Along with your kitchen’s functional center changing, you should also expect your kitchen island to become the space’s new visual focal point as well.  

The central location of the kitchen island makes it the perfect place to showcase your personality. Artwork, flowers, books, magnets, you name it – all your dearest knickknacks can find a spot on your new kitchen island. 


Here’s a little closing fun fact – the first record of kitchen islands being used to prepare meals as a family in America dates back to the colonial era.

DIY kitchen islands are functional, trendy, and feature so many possibilities. You can truly create any type of kitchen island that works for you and your home! 

Be sure to make it comes that you love because you know where everyone always ends up gathering – the kitchen! 

I hope this article has helped you come up with some of your own ideas for your DIY kitchen island! With all the possibilities and options open to you, it’s sure to turn out beautifully. 

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