I recently shared my “limited” kitchen makeover so if you haven’t already seen that then go take a look. In that post, I briefly mentioned my kitchen island update and promised a post about it. I am delivering on my promise today.
Let’s start by taking a look at what my kitchen island used to look like:
This is a common builder grade kitchen island. It’s a large stock base cabinet with a countertop stuck on top. Our kitchen cabinets are solid wood fronts, but the rest of the cabinet is made from laminate. So the sides and back of the cabinet are fake wood which looks really cheap. As soon as we moved into our house (over a decade ago), I hated how cheap the island looked and instantly hatched a plan to make it look better. But life and all of its busyness has kept me from doing anything about it until now.
Custom kitchen islands are very popular these days and for good reason. They are very functional and can create an attractive focal point in the room. But they can also be expensive. I certainly didn’t want to invest the money for a brand new island in my low-budget kitchen update. So instead I worked with what I had.
I decided to add side walls to the island in order to make it look more like a piece of furniture. This would also completely cover both ends of the cheap laminate base cabinet and fill in the gap of the large overhang on my countertop. When we had our countertops replaced many years ago, they installed the island countertop in a weird way that left a large overhang on each end.
The first thing I did was try to figure out exactly how wide I wanted to make the side walls on my island. They needed to be the right amount to fill in the extra overhang on the countertop, but also look proportionally correct with the overall size of the island. The overhang on each end of my countertop was about 7”. So I decided to make my side walls 5 1/2” wide which would ultimately result in a closer to normal overhang of 2”. The 5 1/2” size also looked proportionally right with the overall size of my island—it wasn’t too narrow and weak looking or too chunky and overwhelming looking.
Here’s a plan drawing of what I did to my island:
Now I know most people don’t have a large overhang on their island countertops like we do, but you could still get the same look even without that situation.
Here’s a plan drawing of what you could do to an island with a normal countertop overhang in order to get the same look:
If you are going to do this with a normal amount of countertop overhang then you will want to not only make sure you choose a side wall width that is proportional with the size of your overall island, but also make sure it isn’t so wide that it takes up too much leg room under the counter.
Now that I knew my wall size, I knew I’d need to use ripped down 2×6’s to frame the wall. I bought some 2×6’s and a sheet of 1/2” cabinet grade plywood. I used a table saw to rip the 2×6’s down to 2×4.5’s based on this simple math:
4 1/2” stud + (2) 1/2” plywood on each side = 5 1/2” wide wall