What Are the Best Cabinets for Kitchen Islands?

Green cabinets in a white kitchen

Kitchen islands can transform your space into a more stylish, functional room, but you have to choose the right cabinets to bring the vision to life. Here are some kitchen island ideas to consider as you plan your island design.

What to Consider When Choosing Cabinets for Your Island

Your kitchen island should reflect your style and needs for the space — here are a few things to consider.


How do you want your island to function? Will it act as a food prep area? If so, consider allotting some space toward built-in stovetops, adding a butcher block countertop, or integrating a sink and electrical outlets. Will it be more of a gathering place for meals? Then make sure the cabinets are tall enough to accommodate comfortable seating, and incorporate some lighting into your design. 

Maybe you want your island to bring a lot of extra storage to the room through open shelving or a double-sided layout with front- and rear-facing cabinets. Whatever your preferences, they will impact your final cabinet choices. 


Start designing your layout by measuring the floor space you have available and imagining what island cabinets would make sense in the room. Consider things like:

  • Placement: You don't want your island to get in the way of any door openings, including the oven, fridge and dishwasher doors. You also want to leave plenty of room around the island for walking and cooking.
  • Dimensions: You might adjust measurements to accommodate things like countertop overhang for stool seating or extra deep counters, which are great for baking enthusiasts.
  • Shape: While many islands are a standard square or rectangular design, yours can be whatever fits the room best. That might be an L-shape, U-shape or diagonal design.
  • Size: Do you want an island constructed out of multiple smaller cabinets, or would you prefer one or two large statement pieces? 
  • Add-ons: Note placements for add-ons like plumbing, electrical outlets and hideaway trashcans. 


Your cabinets' design will ultimately showcase your personality and bring the different elements in your kitchen together. You'll need to make decisions about the:

  • Framing style: Cabinets come in a wide variety of styles, including framed and frameless designs. You'll also choose how the cabinet door looks and whether you prefer a more traditional appearance with grooving or are looking for sleeker, more modern lines.
  • Color and texture: Order cabinets already painted and finished, or choose an unfinished option to do the styling yourself. You can pick between a color that blends in or stands out from the rest of your kitchen cabinetry, depending on the appearance you want. Consider staining wooden cabinets for a classic feel or adding a bold peel-and-stick wallpaper to one side of your island for an eye-catching accent piece.
  • Countertop material: The countertop you pair with your island cabinets plays a big role in the final design choices. For example, heavy materials like stone require a solid foundation that can support their weight and use. Wood toppers will need more upkeep and sealing to preserve the finish, while steel is a sleek and durable option for home chefs. Marble and granite are also popular for their appearance and cooling effect for baking.
  • Features and accents: Consider the little details, like if you want the base to rest on the floor or prefer more decorative feet. You might also want wooden appliques applied to your cabinet doors or soft-close drawers around the island. Other popular add-ons are decorative handles and knobs.

Cabinet Types for Kitchen Islands

Cabinets come in all sizes and designs:

RTA vs. Custom Kitchen Island Cabinets

Ready-to-assemble (RTA) cabinets are a popular option for kitchen islands because they make installation simple and generally cost less than fully custom or pre-assembled models. They come with pre-drilled holes, all necessary hardware and straightforward installation instructions, perfect for the DIYer or homeowner on a budget. 

If you've got more room in your budget or have specific dimensional or design requirements, custom builds are a good choice. You can choose everything from the size and shelf alignment to decorative appliques and color to create your ideal island. Just remember that custom cabinets may have trickier installation requirements and take longer to source than RTAs.

Base vs. Wall Cabinets

Base cabinets are the common choice for a kitchen island because they're already designed to sit on the floor. You can combine multiple base cabinets — in either the same or varying styles — to create an island that fits your exact dimensions, layout and functional preferences.

Wall cabinets — those designed to sit against the wall above the countertops and appliances — have a place in some island designs, especially if you're trying to achieve a counter-height design for bar-style seating. Many homeowners pair wall and base cabinets to create a two-tiered look or to add more visual interest and storage space for a double-sided island. 

Make Island Installation Simple With Panda Kitchen & Bath

At Panda Kitchen & Bath, we have a large inventory of affordable RTA cabinets to choose from, no matter the size or layout of your kitchen island design. Browse online, or locate a dealer near you to get started!