3 Sources for DIY Kitchen Islands

By Kate Arcieri

Think a show-stopping kitchen island only comes with an expensive whole-room renovation? Child, please. Between home stores, Craigslist, Ebay and unfinished cabinetry outlets you can create the island of your family’s dreams for under $1000—or even far less!

Are you Island Worthy?
To get started look at your kitchen and assess whether a center island makes sense for its shape. Islands tend to work best in a square-shaped kitchen. The island floats near the center, providing a convenient drop-off and pick-up point between the room’s major destinations: fridge, sink/s, dishwasher and cabinets. If you have a galley kitchen we suggest you skip an island altogether, as there’s unlikely to be enough room in its skinny center. Rectangular kitchens that are not as not as slender as galleys may benefit from an island, especially when positioned as a peninsula to an existing cabinet.


What’s Your Island’s Job?
Now’s the time to think about why you want this island anyway. What new functionality will it add to your kitchen? Or is it simply for show.

• If you want your island to be full-service (meaning with running water and electricity) it will be a little harder to DIY. In addition to installing the sink and sockets, wiring and pipes will need to be run into the island. Bring in an electrician and plumber to look at the job. Or better yet, e-mail a photo of the island you’re thinking of buying, as well as an image of your existing kitchen, to a plumber and electrician you know and ask their opinions. That way you haven’t already bought the item if they tell you it simply can’t be done.

• If your island will serve as a breakfast bar, remember you’ll want to either buy a piece with an overhand or install one.

• And if you’ll want your island to also be a computer hub (see above for a great example of computer-island integration, available on eBay you need to once again be sure that you can bring electricity into your island.

Recycle Furniture you Own!
At its heart an island is simply a stocky piece of furniture either sitting on your kitchen floor or perched atop feet or casters. Almost anything can become an island. An outdated dresser can have a slab of marble or granite cut for its top, a new coat of paint added, new pulls attached, and bun feet put on. For about $150 you can have the piece showkitchen ready. And island looks best with a bit of depth, though, so if your piece is skinny consider one of these two choices:

•Have the material that will be the island’s top cut to overhang on the long side by 6-to-12 inches. This will both create an area for stools and give the appearance of a deeper profile.

•Or, if you don’t want to sidle up to the island, consider adding bookshelves to the back. Find prefab bookshelves that are the same height as your dresser and screw one or two, depending on width, to the dresser. Paint the new piece all one color, top it with a counter material, and you’ve got your island


Head to the Home Improvement Store!

Sure, your local home improvement store would be pleased to hook you up with an island as part of a package from one of the fine cabinetmakers they work with; and that island will run you a few thousands of dollars! But head just a few aisles over and you’ll find a selection of pre-fab islands from a Simple Craftsmen Utilility Cart that will run you around $80, to a Catskill Heart of the Kitchen island at just under $400, or a Super Island with Drop-Leaf.


Get Online!

Perhaps the most fertile sources for fantastic freestanding islands are Craislist, Ebay and Overstock.com. On Craigslist you’ll find any number of items that can be used as islands: dressers, printing presses, you name it. And then there are the freestanding units that were always meant to be islands but simply need a new home. Ditto for Ebay, though if you aren’t buying close to home expect a rather hefty price tag. But treasures (including the island above, listed for less than $1,000) can most surely be found. And even with shipping included, some of the elaborate and antique numbers on Ebay may still be less than through a cabinetmaker. Overstock.com offers a varying selection of new islands including a cottage look cart for about $180 and pine island with an overhang for about $500.

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