Kitchen Islands With Breakfast Bars

Add a space for informal dining with this guide for designing a kitchen island with a breakfast bar.
Black and white kitchen island

Black and white kitchen island

Modern Interior Residential Kitchen

Photo by: lorraine kourafas

lorraine kourafas

By: Caroline Shannon-Karasik

A kitchen island with a breakfast bar is the ideal setting for casual, informal dining. Sure, a formal dining room is a beautiful space for entertaining guests during special occasions, but as you're considering kitchen layouts, keep in mind that adding a breakfast bar at your kitchen island is a simple way to create a dining space for everyday use.

Ideas for Adding Dining Space to a Small Kitchen

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To add dining space to the small kitchen, a small wall previously used for housing a makeshift island was re-oriented as a custom sit-down gathering area. To put every inch of space to good use, a bar-height table was made from reclaimed wood by furniture designer Dan Faires. It was attached directly into the wall studs rather than taking up more space with additional legs.

The floating-style table seats up to four comfortably. By keeping the space below open, there’s ample leg room for four guests to spread out. Dan constructed the table from reclaimed wood, sanded it until smooth and gave it a new finish with a wax treatment.

Prior to the kitchen redesign, homeowners Sarah and John kept many of their pots and pans inside their kitchen cabinets. To free up cabinet space and put the space above the gathering area to good use, a pot rack pendant light was installed. The bottom of the pot rack sits 48 inches above the top of the table to allow proper space for pots to hang and ensure guests’ views of one another are not impeded.

To save space, stackable steel stools with a powder-coated celery green finish are used as seating for the gathering area. When not in use, the four stools can be stacked two high, then stored underneath the table.

Although the kitchen is tight on space, personality was still squeezed in to the design wherever possible. One of Sarah and John’s favorite art pieces hangs on the wall that houses the floating-style bar-height table. This adds not only a true focal point to the kitchen but also a touch of bold color to the otherwise earthy neutral space.

Thanks to the wall-mounted bar-height table and clever storage solutions throughout the cabinets and drawers, Sarah and John’s kitchen now doubles as an eat-in dining space.

By designating dead space below wall cabinets as coffee cup storage, Sarah and John were able to free up two shelves that now keep baby feeding supplies neatly organized. The hanging coffee cup rack was installed directly into the bottom of the cabinets with screws; the rack pulls out and slides forward keeping cups within easy reach.

The overall style of Sarah and John’s great room and kitchen is contemporary, organic and rustic. To add a touch of farmhouse charm, a simple Mason jar was repurposed as a soap dispenser by drilling a hole into the lid, then inserting a pump from a discarded plastic soap container.

To free up counter space, a cabinet-door-mounted paper towel holder was added to one of the base cabinets. This is an easy way to save space without any handy skills; the holder simply clips to the top of the cabinet door and holds itself in place.

Spice jars with chalkboard fronts allow Sarah and John to easily and clearly label each jar. Since the jars are the same green accent color used throughout the space, they double as decoration.

Reaching for then sorting through pans can be irritating -- especially inside extra-deep base cabinets. Simplify by installing upright pan racks that utilize vertical space rather than the cabinet’s depth.

Shelving space inside Sarah and John’s wall-mounted cabinets is maximized with stackable wire racks. The racks come in different heights and widths and allow various sizes of plates to stack neatly within the same cabinet.

Dan and I put dead space near the kitchen’s entrance to good use as a serving buffet made from pine planks and plumbing supplies. The project was created and installed in two days and cost less than $250 in materials.

To integrate wine storage into the kitchen, vertical space near the refrigerator was outfitted with bottle racks.

In kitchens with space for large kitchen islands, the traditional center island is a popular choice for many homeowners who are seeking the addition of a breakfast bar. This island style allows for a few stools or pub-style seats to be situated at the bar, while the rest of the island is used for food preparation or as a cooktop.

Some people also choose to remove half of a wall that is enclosing the kitchen and turn the remaining half into a breakfast bar spot. Like the traditional center kitchen island, this design allows room for stools and dining space, and it provides a casual space to chat.

Less expensive options for a breakfast bar space include a fold-down table that is mounted to a wall. Two stools can be arranged on either side of the table and moved to another area when they are not in use. A freestanding breakfast bar is another option that allows for a simple, inexpensive additional dining space. Both of these can also be easily used in small or oddly shaped kitchens, like an L-shaped space.

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