7 Ideas to Get Your Back-of-the-Island Storage Right

Category Design Tips

Part of being an interior designer is always looking for new ideas. That’s why we attend a lot of design shows in search of the next best thing. Recently I began noticing countless clever ways designers are creating storage on the back of an island, rather than letting that space go to waste. Here are seven ideas to consider to get the most out of your island. 

 Creative Ideas for Your Kitchen Island Storage

1. Standard door cabinets. Whether or not it’s practical to have cabinets accessible from both sides of your island will depend somewhat on your layout, but especially on the depth of the island itself. Typical lower cabinets sitting against the wall are 24 inches deep. When cabinets get deeper than this, the back becomes very hard to reach and items become inconvenient to access.

For this reason, it often makes sense on an island deeper than 24 inches to construct it out of shallower cabinets placed back to back. For example, a 42-inch-deep island is often made out of a row of 24-inch cabinets on the work side and 15-inch cabinets (the depth of standard upper cabinets) on the back side, plus a few inches of counter overhang.

With this arrangement, the cabinets on the work side can be used to hold larger and more frequently used items like pots and pans, while the back side can be used to store smaller items, often pieces used less frequently or items that aren’t used in cooking, such as glassware or games.

2. Door cabinets with stools. Another smart option is to use either an extra-deep island or shallower cabinets on both sides to allow space for stools to tuck in, balancing storage with seating.

To go back to our example of a standard 42-inch-deep island, if you construct it out of two rows of 15-inch-deep cabinets instead (placed back to back to put storage on both sides), this makes 30 inches of storage and leaves 12 inches of overhang, which is enough for dining stools to tuck in.

The trade-off here is that the doors will be less easy to access quickly when blocked by stools. 

Whether having to move the seating to reach certain items is a significant inconvenience or not is mostly a matter of preference and what items you would store in this area. 

For items that aren’t used often, this can be perfect, as they will be easy to find in the shallow cabinet the rare times they need to be accessed, rather than being lost in the back of a deep cabinet. Keep in mind when mixing cabinets with seating that there won’t be just stools tucked up against the doors, but people too. You’ll want to be sure to consider your choice of cabinet hardware and the placement of knobs or pulls to minimize bumped knees. Small rounded knobs placed high up, or door fronts with integrated reach-in handles that don’t protrude, will prevent discomfort.

Another option is to place cabinet knobs lower than normal (about halfway up the cabinet) so they rest below knee height and above kicking feet.

You’ll also want to make sure to choose a cabinet finish that can handle being gently kicked or scuffed from time to time. Quality, washable paints in a finish with some sheen will hold up well, and a dark color can’t hurt. Half doors, half seating. Some islands don’t have enough depth to include two-sided storage cabinets with seating in front like the past few examples do. Also, in many open-layout kitchens, it isn’t really necessary to include a large number of seats at the island when a larger dining area is available just steps away.

In either of these cases, consider getting the best of both worlds by putting seating and deep cabinets next to each other.

4. Glass doors. One of the standout features I noticed at a recent design show was the many styles of sleek glass doors being used on lower cabinets, rather than on upper cabinets where they might be more expected.

A long stretch of glass doors like this gives an island the look of a display case, as if from a jewelry store or gallery.
Using just one or two glass doors toward one end of the island also gives a feeling of openness and lightness, and it breaks up a bold color choice, like this radiant purple, to give a sense of balance.

It’s perfectly suited to cabinets that store attractive glassware, serving dishes and so on, especially as it allows guests a peek inside so they know exactly which cabinet to open.

5. Drawers. Sometimes when people design a kitchen, they underestimate the importance and usefulness of drawers. Too many kitchens have just one three-drawer cabinet, which usually becomes one drawer for cutlery, one for cooking tools and one “junk drawer” for clutter.

Fans of organizing know that drawers are an important tool for having a place for everything. So why not use drawers on the back of your island? Even in a smaller island, shallow and slim drawers are very useful, giving small tools and cooking ingredients like spices the perfect-sized home.
If you prefer a streamlined modern look and don’t want the back of your island to become a clutter of individual drawer pulls, integrated handles are the way to go. This island looks almost seamless at first glance, and it’s only when you need to pull open a drawer to grab a bowl or appliance that you’ll even notice the grooves are there. Plus, they allow you to easily pull open a drawer with either one or both hands.

Drawers will be more of an investment than basic door cabinets with shelves inside, but the convenience of extending items out to you rather than bending over and digging through a cabinet pays dividends.

This is especially true when using storage behind stools. Pulling out drawers is much easier than having to crouch down to reach into the deep corner, so it’s the optimal solution here.

6. Open shelves. Of course, we can’t forget about possibly the simplest form of storage you can have on the back of your island: open shelving. To those who oppose any form of clutter, this option might be too busy. But for others, it’s a great way to give a kitchen some personality. Open shelves give you a place to stash items you may want to grab easily, without any doors in the way that need to be swung open, which makes them an especially perfect option for tighter kitchens or busy spaces with multiple chefs.
When mixing shelving with seating, you’ll really appreciate not having to open a door to grab a cookbook or pot. At the same time, you’ll want to be sure not to display anything too delicate that could end up falling victim to a stray swipe from a foot. Cookbooks are usually tough enough for this task, so for those who still love to read a recipe from a printed page, this is a great option. Ultimately, open shelving is not an all-or-nothing proposition. Mixing a few drawer or door cabinets with some open shelving cabinets lets you display just the pieces you wish to see and stash away items you want to keep out of sight. A combination like this gives a lot of architectural appeal, creating a sense of personality even before you fill the shelves.

7. Rethinking the back of the island. Before looking for solutions for the back of your island, it can be worth rethinking what the “back” of your island really is. With open layouts being popular, more and more often kitchens do not have only one work zone. If you often have more than one chef in the kitchen, it may be worth thinking of both sides of the island as equally important work stations.

Giving both sides of the island essentials like a sink, storage for task-specific tools (like peelers, graters or cutting boards) or even appliances like a microwave or dishwasher can help divide up work zones for smart functionality.

For example, one person could prepare themselves an afternoon snack while someone else is working on dinner, all without crossing paths.
So go ahead and think outside the typical cabinet box. You just might realize that the back of your kitchen island can do a whole lot more than you ever expected.


Author: Yanic Simard Houzz Contributor

Submitted 06 Jun 18 / Views 499