There are many different ways you can approach this decision, and since an island takes up a significant amount of floor space it’s worth it to take time to make every element of its design intentional.
Pantry cabinet. This pantry cabinet in Ireland brings a highly efficient storage area into the kitchen workspace. Pantry storage areas like this are seen in the U.K., where it is known as a larder. It often is hidden behind double cabinetry doors in the kitchen rather than being in a separate room. The doors open to a storage system with open shelves on top, spice racks on the doors and bottom drawers or bins. The shelves usually are shallow enough so everything can be seen at a glance. This larder has a pullout work surface and a tall appliance shelf as a stand mixer, turning it into a baking center as well.
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End-of-island display. The end drawers on this island have glass fronts and false backs so the homeowners can display cookbooks, colorful fruit, pasta, candy or whatever they please. Behind the false backs is regular storage.
Make it multi-level. Add another dynamic by creating variation in the height of your island. Using the island for multiple purposes, like eating and food prep, will both maximize the utility and make it feel like two totally different spaces. For example, add an appliance to one level (like a sink or stovetop) and create a breakfast bar on a higher tier.
Go around a corner. If your kitchen is located in an open-plan room with a partition wall, get your place to perch by making use of the space as these homeowners have done. One run of cabinets continues beyond the wall, and the countertop turns the corner to form a ledge for bar stools to sit neatly under. It’s a really efficient way to use an awkward, unused area.