10 tips for decorating a kitchen island without cluttering it up

You’ll never leave your kitchen island plain again after discovering these tasteful ideas.

Doing all the hard work of making (and re-making) a thousand hardcore kitchen design decisions may have rewarded you with a flawless kitchen. 

But there could be one thing still missing. It’s that special flourish that will take your kitchen’s main event – the island – from a simmering seven to a sizzling 10. 

Credit: Sean Symington

Thoughtfully decorating your kitchen island is like popping the cherry on the top of a banana split. It may not be strictly necessary, but your kitchen will be a lot more tempting for it. 


1. Make boring bar seating take a back seat

Your kitchen island stools set the tone for your whole kitchen

Fox Shop kitchen stoolsCredit: Fox Shop

There is nothing, and I mean nothing, that will cause a kitchen design to descend into a cheesy catastrophe more than same-old island seating. 

Just say no. 

Seating can have enormous character, and when you buy a kitchen off the shelf it’s even more important to use design-led bar stools to make your room stand out from the crowd.  

There is also the business of comfort to consider. Today’s kitchens compete with our sitting rooms as the entertainment nerve centres of homes. Who wants to sit through you prepping a meal on uncomfortable spindly stools with no back support? 

Your best kitchen island seating will be a combination  of both worlds – easy on the eye and easy on the bottom. Take, for example, these Isabelle bar stools by The Fox Shop, which have gracious bar seating upholstery that’s sitting room worthy. Extra design brownie points in this kitchen go to the designers for extending the pretty blue theme to the light fixtures. 

Fonda Barstool Sofa.comCredit: Sofa.com

We’re also big fans of the Fonda Barstools available through Sofa.com. With their deeply padded seats and backs, you can put on your best cooking show to a comfy kitchen island audience. 

2. Be generous with plants and fruit

Encourage others to up their five a day

ArteriorsCredit: Arteriors

One of the good things about living in a summer-shy country is that having fruits and plants on your island won’t mean fighting flies the way it does in the tropics. 

As a result, you can take a literal interpretation on the island theme and make your kitchen island all fruity and verdant. Put a bowl of fruit on your island, and you’ll soon spot family and visitors absent-mindedly picking up items – encouraging grumpy teens to hit their five a day has never been so easy.

Also, if you switch your kitchen plants to herbs like basil and thyme, you’ll  have a fresh supply of essential minerals ready to hand. Some of the best kitchen plants are as pretty as they are practical.

The styling secret to remember, is to be deliberate with the placing of your fruit and plants. Well-made solid trays always make great kitchen island accents, containing your island display so that it feels less cluttered. 

Also, try the interior designer’s rule of three” and create an eyepleasing cluster with a bowl of fruit and two plants. 

Love the dramatic light that hangs over this lush kitchen island landscape? It’s Arterior’s Pantograph Pendant. 


Featured product

Pantograph Pendant, Arteriors

RRP: £3,854

Pantograph Pendant, Arteriors

3. Grace your island with an ever-evolving floral display

Choose a one-of-a-kind vase to up the ante

Credit: Roundhouse

There are few places in the home that aren’t improved by a gorgeous floral display, including your kitchen island. The surface presents you with a real reason to push the boat out when it comes to having a regular rotation of seasonal flowers. 

And what is a breathtaking floral display, without a vessel worthy of nature’s bounty? We love the pared back lines of the pastel yellow pot used in the Roundhouse kitchen. The flowers matching the bar stools is an extra thoughtful touch that ties the island styling together. 

An artisanal vase will pack a tremendous amount of character worthy of your island verses a mass-produced store-bought piece.   

Find out how vase makers bring exquisite floral displays into their own homes and get inspiration from their masterful flower and vase pairings. 


4. Display your cookbook collection

Your comprehensive culinary catalogue adds colour and charm

Herringbone KitchensCredit: Herringbone Kitchens

William Durrant, owner of Herringbone, is a fan of the popular look. “Having open shelving in an island is a great way of adding colour, character and personality to your kitchen space. Not only are they great for storing your favourite cookbooks, but the shelves allow you to style your kitchen with pops of colour that makes the island stand out, creating a talking point.” 

Try styling your books according to colour or height and impress your guests with your eye for detail. Our guide to styling kitchen shelves is also a useful place to start for more inspiration.

5. Bring an extra level of lighting with a table lamp

It’s both practical and decorative

Credit: Pooky

Once you see a wireless lamp gracefully poised on a suitably spacious kitchen island, a light bulb goes off. It’s a simple addition that has practical benefits, as well as being a stylish statement.

Use it to provide extra practical light when you’re chopping vegetables, or turn down the main room lights and create a romantic mood for a dinner for two.  

The secret is to buy a sturdy wireless fixture that is easy to nudge here and there without any risk of it toppling over. It helps to not have curious little ones around who can reach up and pull your lamp from the island. 

We like the proportions of Pooky’s brass Portobello lamp. The base is nice and wide, meaning it won’t easily tip over. 

Featured product

Portobello lamp, Pooky

RRP: £230

Portobello lamp, Pooky

6. Keep dehydration at bay with a mini water station

Quench your guests’ thirst with curated consideration

Credit: Pooky

For those moments when you’re up to your elbows chopping, stirring and sauteing, having a mini water station means your dinner guests don’t have to be shy about interrupting you. They can feel free to help themselves to this basic necessity, which you have elevated to the next level. 

But putting a lovely display of a pretty tray, glasses and water carafe isn’t just about the act of decorating your kitchen island. Making it easy for everyone in your home to stay hydrated by drinking enough water helps to look after everyone’s health. Add a few slices of cucumber or lemon to your water jug for an extra pop of colour (and taste).

7. Give your kitchen island a touch of romance with candle lighting

A ceiling-hung shelf is a good substitute for a pricey ceiling light

Credit: Natural Stone Installers

We all know a grand ceiling light can be the ultimate decorating statement to combine with your kitchen island. But for a few reasons – price or lack of wiring being amongst them – this might not be an option. 

A ceilingmounted shelving unit offers one of the most flexible, and creative ways to ramp up the style of your kitchen island. 

Load your shelf (or shelves) with candles a to soften the harsh lines of your kitchen island. The soft, muted glow is the epitome of romance, which is unmatched by electrical fixtures. 

Other items to consider dotting amongst the candles include wine glassess and trailing plants. 

There are a wide array of suppliers selling general and specialist ceiling rails especially suited for hanging over your kitchen island, including Vaunt Design. 

Featured product

Melli Suspended Kitchen, Shelf, Vaunt Design

RRP: £265

Melli Suspended Kitchen, Shelf, Vaunt Design

Never drill into your ceiling unless you are confident you know what you are doing, as there is a risk of hitting electrical cables and pipework. 

8. Coordinate your island decor with other kitchen accents

Wicker, brass and light wood looks especially breezy

Sean SymingtonCredit: Sean Symington

If you’re stuck on how to decorate your island, take a look at the decorative thread running through the rest of your kitchen – or even the rest of your home. If you spot a theme in terms of colours, materials or shapes, introduce it to your workstation.  

In this kitchen by interior designer, Sean Symington, all accents – from the wicker bar stools and bowls to the chopping board and brass wall lights – have the same golden earthy tone. The effect feels casual, yet polished ,with every element of the space in harmony. 

“The centre point of most kitchens is an island,” says Symington. Styling them is always a great challenge, as you don’t want to overclutter them, but you also want to showcase your best crockery,” he says. “Our favourite Carrara marble paired with an elegant large clam shell for displaying fresh produce will always be a showstopper.” 

Add an element of surprise with an extra-tall branch on the edge of the island, so that its abundant foliage grazes the ceiling. It acts as a contrast to the neatness of the space, giving unexpected drama. 

The fern on the opposite end of the island adds a playful asymmetry that gives balance. 

Note again how the designer of this kitchen has put groupings of three items together on the island? When styling your own kitchen island, it helps to remember that the “rule of three” anchors multiple items. 

9. Display art on the sides of your island

This unusual idea is a real conversation starter

Credit: Deema Lopez

Interior design blogger, Deema Lopez, set herself a challenge to find a fresh new way to incorporate art into her kitchen. She came up with the bright idea of using the end panels of her island to display framed prints.  

We like how the thrift shop salvaged artwork is monochrome to match the floor. This stops the island’s art from vying for attention – instead it blends in with the overall design of the space. 

Lopez recommends using Command tape to stick the art down, which can be removed without leaving a trace when you come to move or want to change things up. Although she admits to nailing the prints onto her own island. “Do as I say and not as I do,” advises the blogger. 

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Command Tape

RRP: £4.99

Command Tape
Credit: @premejames / Instagram

Despite being hardworking spaces, you can still use your kitchen  to showcase some of your softer side.  

A kitchen island is the perfect place to get creative by displaying a single off-beat piece, like a quirky fruit bowl, that will raise a smile.  

The scale of the artwork will depend on the size of your island. For example, huge kitchen islands have been known to look amazing with sculptures, including life-sized marble busts. On smaller kitchen islands, try decorating with striking trays and bowls. 

Perhaps you have something stashed away in a drawer from a foreign adventure that could work? Otherwise, why not see what’s in your local antique or vintage shop.  


Written by Joy Archer she/her