Must-Have Kitchen Island Features HGTV's Emily Henderson Swears By

For many people, the kitchen island is a must-have feature of the room. Adding an island to the kitchen creates an essential workspace and extra storage that can help make the room more functional. However, for interior designer Emily Henderson, there are certain details an island should have to check all the boxes. Henderson shares the island criteria she always recommends on Instagram, the first being durable countertops. She looks for "smart storage, sustainable materials, soft-close drawers, and room for the whole [family]." All these elements together create a well-rounded island that works in any home.

In the post, she tells readers to consider these things when shopping for a kitchen island, whether it's completed or you're sourcing the materials to create it. Durability and storage should definitely be on the top of the list for anyone adding an island, as these details will directly affect how you work and function in the kitchen. Sustainable materials, especially when sourced well, are beneficial to the environment, and you can be sure a renovation is doing as little harm as possible. Soft-close drawers are a bonus feature that many homeowners overlook, but Henderson says they "will change your life!" The size of the island you choose will often come down to how large of a kitchen you have. If creating that informal, in-kitchen eating area is a must, you'll want to look at ways to maximize the seating.

Functional and durable features

Functional design and durable materials are two of Emily Henderson's must-haves for a kitchen island. This makes sense as islands are often one of the most used surfaces for prepping ingredients and preparing meals. "How durable are the countertops?" Henderson asks in the Instagram post. When selecting a material, consider its stain, heat, and scratch resistances. Quartz is often one of the most durable materials as it's resistant to all of the above. Granite is similarly durable, though it needs routine and proper sealing to keep it that way.

Functional storage is also a must for Henderson, who asks, "Can it store everything you need it to?" Storage doesn't always have to mean large open space. You can make a small island work functionally with the right design. Consider how you use the island and what you have to store. You may consider tall cabinets for large pots and appliances you don't often use. Choose deep drawers for plates and bowls. Integrate your trash and recycling to keep it out of the way. Or make a shelf where you can place spices or cookbooks. Use the opportunity to customize your storage to make working in your kitchen easier.

Incredible bonus features

Beyond the functionality and durability, Henderson also puts some of the aesthetics of a kitchen island at the forefront. The interior designer asked, "How sustainable are the materials?" about what to consider for a kitchen island. Using materials with a low environmental impact is a great way to create a greener home. Consider an island or cabinets that are used from recycled or reclaimed wood. Another positive for quartz is that it's a natural material often mixed with recycled glass, making the entire slab itself long-lasting and recyclable.

Henderson claims that soft-close drawers are a life changer, and there are plenty of benefits of having this feature on your kitchen island. As the name suggests, soft-close drawers close without slamming, creating a quieter environment. The mechanism that slows down the drawers also keeps drawer contents in place and prevents little kids' fingers from getting stuck behind a closing drawer. This feature also protects against cabinetry damage by reducing the impact of the drawer against the face of the cabinet boxes.

The final feature Henderson stresses is the amount of seats an island can hold. Many standard islands tend to have three to five seats — depending on the size of the island and the width of the seats. Consider the way you want to eat on the island. A more informal space can have fewer chairs than if you're using it as a family gathering area.