For years, the kitchen island has been the hangout spot of choice and the surface that makes it easy to spread out while cooking.

In 2020, it’s even doubled as a makeshift home office or classroom. But there’s one more reason to sway in favor of kitchen islands when renovating: it’s also a great place to sneak in extra storage. As upper cabinetry is increasingly falling out of style in favor of open shelving, the search for storage becomes all the more important. 

The kitchen island is a prime spot to build in deep cupboards to stow infrequently-used crockery or open shelves to display treasured tools and cookbooks. Here are five clever island configurations, in all shapes and sizes, that maximize every inch without sacrificing style. 


The Full Coverage

Kitchen island storage doors

Photography by Christine Michelle; Design by The Habitat Collective

If quantity of storage space is what you’re after, forego counter stools and install full-size, deep cabinets along one or both sides of your island like The Habitat Collective did in this neutral Miami kitchen. The Florida-based interior design studio used slim, long Semihandmade Clay Shaker doors and brass latches to craft locker-style cupboards that can hold tons of appliances and other cooking essentials.


The Cookbook Nook

Kitchen island with cookbook shelf

Photography by Amy Bartlam; Design by Veneer Designs

In order to build shelves into the end of an island in a mid-century-style Pacific Palisades kitchen, Veneer Designs founder Natalie Myers sourced rich, red-hued wood to match the Semihandmade Mahogany Slab cabinet fronts. The result is a brilliant, productive transformation of would-be dead space into a display point for favorite books and collected objects that’s nestled right next to the counter stools.


The Hidden Solution

Kitchen island with wood storage doors

Photography by Erin Feinblatt; Design by Hearth Homes Interiors

Hearth Homes Interiors outfitted this beachy, natural Santa Barbara kitchen with a massive island that has hidden cabinets behind the counter stool seating area, squeezing two fully functional uses out of a single space. Unless you’re looking closely, you might not realize the warm Semihandmade Impression Tahoe fronts conceal ample storage, which makes the smart detail all the more impressive.


The Pantry Section

Kitchen island pantry storage

Photography by Sara Tramp; Design by Velinda Hellen

When Velinda Hellen Design set out to renovate a Los Angeles kitchen for two chefs, she needed to ensure there would be plenty of room to store their extensive cookware collection and stock of ingredients. She used Semihandmade DIY Shaker fronts painted in Sherwin-Williams Riverway for a slew of drawers on either side of the island. The most creative trick, however, is the utilization of seven inches of depth at the end, which Hellen turned into an open pantry with brass rods where the couple exhibits jarred dried goods.


The Best of Both Worlds

Kitchen peninsula with built-in paper towel holder

Photography by Jessica Alexander; Design by Amber Sokolowski

In designer Amber Sokolowski’s modern Southern California kitchen, commodious drawers and open shelves mingle for personalized storage selection along the lengthy peninsula. Beneath the Qortstone black quartz waterfall corner, a built-in paper towel dispenser offers a convenient yet tucked away home for the essential roll. At the same time, the adjacent cupboards are deep and voluminous for pots, pans, and appliances.

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