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My Unfinished Kitchen Island {Creating Function & Beauty}

by | Sep 25, 2012 | Kitchen Renovation Project, my house, My Kitchen

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My Unfinished Kitchen Island {Creating Function & Beauty}

In the previous post we are talking about creating function and beauty in a home (come weigh in!). I love the journey of creating a beautiful and orderly home, because I feel it is directly and indirectly tied to how we experience life as a family day to day and how well equipped we feel to reach out to others.

Good design for me is not about creating a perfect picture or having the most stylish home. It is more about creating the way we live. How well our home functions and pleases our sense of beauty and order affects our stress levels as a family, how effective we are in our daily responsibilities, and whether or not we are completely comfortable with opening our home and lives up to guests.

Having the opportunity to redesign our way of life here in this home has been very exciting for me! It is quite a rewarding journey.

So awhile back I mentioned having an unfinished kitchen island. By unfinished, I mean, literally it is unfinished furniture that you buy with the idea to finish or paint it yourself. My mom bought it years ago thinking she might turn it into a bathroom vanity but ended up not using it. Now it is sitting in the middle of my kitchen just waiting for someone to magically transform it into a picture of beauty and function.

And, we are still waiting {taps fingers on the butcher block top}.

My Unfinished Kitchen Island {Creating Function & Beauty}

These pictures were taken a few weeks ago and the island still looks exactly as it did the day we moved it into the kitchen.


And yes, those are holes in our floors. Heh heh. Remember, this project isn’t over! 

But I’m glad we brought it into the room while we’ve been working on the rest of the kitchen because it has really helped us to both visualize the island’s potential to fit into our overall vision and design, as well as how it serves us functionally. It is definitely not a large work surface and doesn’t have a lot to offer in the way of functional storage. However, our kitchen is not very big so anything larger just wouldn’t fit comfortably into the space.

So with the limitation of the space available and the budget this little island seems to fit our needs! The fact that it is not a permanent piece of furniture and it was FREE to us means we can fix it up and enjoy it without worrying too much if it is the perfect piece. Obviously we can replace it down the road if it ends up not being as functional as we need it to be. But, I’m excited to get working on it and see how it goes!

My Unfinished Kitchen Island {Creating Function & Beauty}

In my quest to create order and function in our kitchen, I’m thinking there is quite a bit we could do to this island to give it both the style we want as well as to set it up it in the best possible way for our storage needs. It is right in the middle of our kitchen, obviously, so I’m giving it some careful thought before deciding what to do to fix it up.

I had hoped to already have this island remake done by now, but you know how that goes. It just hasn’t happened yet because we have been working on other things. But we have made lots of progress! Our sconces are up and they are SO BEAUTIFUL! We are closer to having our pantry set up again, so that is exciting (if you follow me on instagram at theinspiredroom you’ll see something functional and beautiful I got at Anthropologie for my pantry to hold our car keys!)!

The cabinets have not been painted yet, but the painter promises that he is catching up with his other jobs and will be here soon. EEEK! I’m nervous but excited to see how the cabinet colors looks! There is definitely other work to be done to finish things off in the kitchen, including flooring, but we are inching our way closer to saying we are done enough for now. And of course, all will be revealed soon! Thanks for following alone!

The goal with this season of my home and kitchen spruce up is to allow myself the month of October to enjoy nesting and create order and beauty where I can, and then sloooooow the projects down by November to focus on the holidays and all the wonder of the season!

Here was a post on 12 Freestanding Kitchen Islands that I put together for inspiration! I’m thinking there will be some ideas there I can use for my own kitchen island, maybe? You can leave a comment here!



  1. teresa

    STep by step…line about line….it’s all fun right? love checking in on your progress.
    I too am working on bringing some “home” to our new to us house.
    Happy Day

  2. Glenda Childers

    Have you considered painting it with Annie Sloan chalk paint and wax? I have loved her product.


    • Melissa

      I’ve been really wanting to try that. I’ve heard it is fantastic! Thanks for the tip!

  3. Sarah

    I am almost done with my kitchen remodel as well. We put a butcherblock counter on our big island, with a sink in it as well, and I’m chopping right on the counter. There is nothing more conveinent that using the whole butcherblock as the chopping block it is meant to be! Just keep it oiled with food-safe mineral oil. (assuming its a food safe finish to start with). People are all like “oh my gosh, you are chopping on your counter?” And I’m like, “that’s why i made the island butcherblock” I feel that the marks and colors over time that the butcher block takes on only add to it character and the autheticity of mine being a working kitchen. LOVE IT. And if we ever have to sell (i hope not), we’ll just sand it down for a fresh start. SO worth it. all that to say–use your butcherblock for what it’s meant for!

    • Melissa

      I love a working kitchen, it really is charming and authentic to be able to really use it, isn’t it?

      That must be nice just to start chopping!!

      Perhaps I’ll give it a try!

  4. Thirkellgirl

    My husband just put two coats of satin finish Minwax poly on my Ikea Bekvam cart, which is just about like yours, but half the width. I love it. I love it so much I cannot describe it. I have an insanely small kitchen, with a whopping 15″ of counter space between the sink and stove, which is where I do all my chopping and prep work. And I don’t have a dishwasher so the other side of the sink has a dishdrainer. This little piece of unfinished furniture has made my kitchen a thousand times more useful. Jennifer Johner (The Little Things, her old blog) has a turquoise painted island/cart like yours that I stared at a lot before I decided to leave mine unpainted for now.

  5. Judy

    I love it. Anything bigger or with drawers or anything else would have made it too bulky and “heavy” for your kitchen….mixing bowls, baskets for storage, etc….would look lovely and really make it functional. Love the hooks on the side – perfect for tea towels or pot holders!. I love the idea of the butchers block and using the whole thing for food prep, just like Jaimie Oliver does! So enjoy your blog….ps I would paint it a contrasting colour, but not before the rest of your cabinets are finished and painted, just to make sure I got it right! And it definitely is all about nice things that are practical and functional as well…

  6. Jocelyn Pascall

    I second the chalk paint. I’ve been using that a lot lately and the finish it gives is fantastic. All of the colors are so rich and beautiful. And DON’T be afraid to use the dark wax…it can seriously work some magic.

  7. Robyn

    I would paint the bottom, add some fixtures hooks for towels, pots, pans possibly use the bottom for cookbooks, baskets for onions, potatoes. Of course these would all depend on what you use. ;0) I have a large kitchen island that was repurposed from a display table from a dumpster dive behind a JJ Newberry in Maine! My father in law hand sanded a marble top for it so making pastry is sweet! Unfortunately it resides on my covered patio no room in the kitchen we have now. The other thing I screwed a shelf support on its side to hold cookbooks up! Love this table definitely a family treasure!

  8. Pat McClane

    I prefer to use tung oil on bare wood like this. It is simple to apply and can be buffed to a slight sheen with 0000 steel wool. It would probably darken the wood slightly, but I believe the island look beautiful with your new floors. Tung oil is a natural product and the difference between that and a poly finish is like night and day. I’m getting tired of painted furniture. If you do decide to paint and wax, you might try Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk paint which just came on the market. Good luck!

  9. Diane

    Is this the spot for color & whimsy? Maybe it can be painted with a bit of Anthro flair?

  10. Franki Parde

    Lockable casters (wheels.) franki

  11. Lotv

    Ooh! What a lovely project to dream about! I would leave the top clear (waxed or poly) so it’s easy to maintain, also the slatted shelves for the same.. Then paint the rest with a well researched perfect black.. Swap the knobs for some swanky Anthro choices (joy in the details!), maybe swap the pegs for some hooks or a towel bar like one of your inspiration pieces.. and start the endless hunt for the perfect castor wheel (I so love the industrial version you featured in your inspiration photos too!). Can’t wait to see what you do! (…and you know, it’s really lovely just so until then!)

  12. Jennifer

    I can’t wait to see what you do. A friend of mine has an almost identical island she bought at Ikea several years ago. I’ll have to send her the link when you’re done.

  13. Mrs Mac

    It’s lovely! No colour advice as we have not seen the rest of your kitchen yet, but I do recall you being enamoured with a yellow island some while ago! What about casters (with brakes)? Then you can move it with no effort. Apart from that, someone above has the top unpainted and uses it as a chopping board – I like that! Good luck with whatever you choose, and I look forward to seeing the finished object in the finished kitchen!

  14. Helene

    I would stain the entire thing in the same color of stain. Maybe some kind of rich medium/dark stain. This would show off the beauty of the wood, but contrast nicely with all white cabinets.

  15. how2home

    I also think painting it with chalk paint would be a great idea! I think it will turn out beautifully !

  16. Lauren

    It’s super cute though! I think that unfinished piece has so much potential… I could see it in bright white and grey, or a pop of yellow

  17. joan

    I love the size and shape of your island! Your kitchen is turnig out great. I commented awhile ago about how much I love my “moveable” island. Even though it is in one place 90% of the time it is fabulous to have the option to move it on occasion. I suggest casters (with locks) they can be small and unobtrusive or larger to make a statement.

  18. Cleveland Furniture Warehouse

    Looking really good so far. It would be really interesting to paint this more than one color by adding accent colors around the edges or around the sides of the of the drawers.

  19. Sonja

    That kitchen island looks great! Can’t wait to see how you paint it. I’m also interested in how you paint your cabinets. Will they be the same color?

  20. Ruth Chidley

    I really like your “free” kitchen island…what a blessing! I like the idea of keeping the top a true work station, chopping block and all. Painting it with your accent colors will bring it into your decor. I agree that putting casters, with brakes, on the legs is a must for easy movability. For storage on your shelves you could use baskets lined with a coordinating fabric color/print to your kitchen accent colors or plastic bins with lids (unhinged…so you can open them from either side of the island) or metal wire baskets that make it easy to see what is inside…your choice would come from how much you want to show what is stored on the shelves.
    Thank you for welcoming me into your home, like a friend, and talking over island ideas : )

  21. Courtney

    Any idea where the island was from? I’ve been searching for something exactly like yours and have only come across one at Ikea. Anyone else have recommendations!

  22. Elizabeth Monroe

    Where is this island originally from? I love it!


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