Special Nonexistent Furniture

Kitchen Island Buying Guide

kitchen island
Need additional workspace and storage in your kitchen without undertaking an expensive and lengthy renovation? A portable kitchen island or cart may be your answer. These quick fixes are ideal in small spaces, and many of them are on wheels. In this guide we discuss common kitchen island features and materials. We also share a couple of important measurements to consider before purchasing a kitchen island.

Measuring for a Kitchen Island


  • Be sure to measure your space thoroughly before purchasing so that you select a kitchen island or cart that will fit.
  • Ideally, there should be 3 feet of space (36 inches) around all sides of the island, to allow for a comfortable flow of traffic. 

Common Countertop Materials

The two most common materials for the base of kitchen island or cart are metal and wood. Make sure that the base of the cart or island is sturdy enough to withstand food preparation or to be used as a dining surface. In this guide, we will focus on the countertop materials, as the countertop will be the most-used surface on the cart or island.

kitchen island


  • The most common countertop material, wood is ideal in kitchens where the island will be used for both food preparation and as a dining table.
  • You will need to use a cutting board while doing food prep on a wood countertop.
  • Care for the wood surface as you would other wood furniture.
  • The natural wood color will lend warmth to the kitchen.

kitchen island

Butcher Block

  • If your home already has a dining table and the kitchen island will be used mainly for food preparation, a butcher block countertop is ideal.
  • This strong and thick material provides an excellent cutting surface. Though, using a cutting board during food preparation will extend the life of the countertop.
  • The maintenance on a butcher block countertop is relatively low, simply clean with soap and water. Oiling the surface with mineral oil is recommended.
  • Like wood topped options, butcher block will add warmth to a kitchen.

kitchen island

Stainless Steel

  • Heavy-duty stainless steel is a heat- and rust-resistant surface.
  • More durable than wood or butcher block, stainless steel still requires the use of a cutting board during food preparation.
  • The sleek steel surface will give an industrial look to a kitchen.
  • The most low maintenance surface of all, simply wash stainless steel countertops with soap and water.

kitchen island


  • Granite and marble are the two most common stone countertop surfaces.
  • Marble can be scratched and stained easily, but its cool surface is ideal for working with pastry because it doesn't conduct heat well.
  • Granite is heat-resistant (if sealed) and is more durable than marble.
  • Both of these surfaces are expensive.
  • A stone surface will add a sense of elegance and refinement to a kitchen.

Common Features

Storage features are important on a kitchen island or cart, as they allow you to take advantage of all the space available. The three most common storage features are drawers, cabinets, and open shelving. Drawers and cabinets keep kitchen tools hidden and organized. Open shelving allows you to display pretty dishware or keep often-used tools in reach. Here are four other common features to look for as you shop:


  • Casters allow islands and carts to be wheeled around. They can easily be pushed aside when not in use to create more space in the kitchen.
  • Wheels are ideal for small kitchens.
  • Look for casters that lock, so that the cart doesn't slide around as you try to prepare food. 

Wine Storage

  • If you do lots of entertaining, this feature, which allows you to store wine glasses and/or bottles on the island, may be important to you. 

Drop Leaf

  • A small and frequently-used kitchen will benefit from a drop leaf island or cart.
  • A drop leaf is a tabletop that can be folded down when not in use or pulled up to increase counter space when necessary. 

Adjustable Shelving

  • Adjustable shelving increases the storage possibilities in the cart or island.
  • You easily can fit odd-shaped or large items on the shelves if they're adjustable.
If you're using the kitchen island as a dining table as well, make sure you measure the height of the island and purchase barstools that are tall enough for you to dine in comfort.