Are you dreaming of having a kitchen island but think it’s out of your budget? Don’t let the cost hold you back! Creating a cheap kitchen island is an affordable and practical solution for anyone looking to add extra counter space, storage, and functionality to their kitchen without breaking the bank.

Whether you’re on a tight budget, planning a temporary solution before a full kitchen renovation, or simply in need of additional workspace, a DIY kitchen island can be a game-changer. Not only does it provide a versatile surface for food prep, serving, and even casual dining, but it also enhances the flow and organization of your cooking space.

A close up of our $500 kitchen island.

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In this post, we’ll share creative and cost-effective ideas for building your own cheap kitchen island using repurposed materials, budget-friendly alternatives, and space-saving strategies. From upcycling old cabinets or furniture to exploring inexpensive countertop options, you’ll discover how to craft a stylish and functional island that fits your space and budget constraints.

So, get ready to roll up your sleeves and unleash your DIY skills! With a little creativity and resourcefulness, you can transform your kitchen into a more efficient and inviting space without breaking the bank.

Our Affordable Kitchen Island Transformation: Repurposing Bathroom Vanity Cabinets

Boy was our old 1980s kitchen ready for an update! Cracked tile floors, stock cabinets, laminate countertops, and an out-of-date 1/2 wall to name a few dated features! The problem? We didn’t have the money to do a full kitchen renovation. But what we did have was a really great idea: repurposing a free bathroom vanity base cabinet to create an easy, inexpensive DIY kitchen island. With this kitchen refresh, we made a custom kitchen island from a bathroom vanity cabinet base that was left over from a renovation Ray did for a client. Two vanities in perfect condition were being tossed out and that’s when our wheels started to turn. What if we use these cabinet bases in our kitchen, one for a new island – the other for more counter space to hold a coffee bar? We knew with a fresh coat of paint and a butcher block countertop this island would become the focal point of the kitchen and provide much needed prep space and storage.

Making Room for the New Kitchen Island

We have a small kitchen measuring just 13 feet x 13 feet. The kitchen was built in the 1980s with a 1/2 wall to separate the kitchen from the dining room. The 1/2 wall was outdated and didn’t serve a purpose so our first step was to remove it. This opened up the kitchen significantly and allowed plenty of room for the new-to-us kitchen island.

We desperately needed more cabinet space and wanted additional cabinetry on the back wall (we used the second bathroom vanity for this) because of this we decided not to have our island extended to accommodate seating and opted for a traditional rectangular island with no overhang. Our kitchen island measures 25″ wide x 68″ long and is the counter height 36″ high. This smaller island provides additional storage and extra workspace, in fact, we’re not sure how we functioned without it!

close up of kitchen island

Creating the New Island from the Vanity Cabinet Base

The first step in making our own DIY kitchen Island was to pull up the old floor tiles, level the floor, and get it ready for new tile. It is recommended to install a kitchen island prior to installing your flooring. Since we desperately needed to replace our kitchen tile this project gave us a great opportunity to make a change. To secure the island to the floor for a built-in kitchen island we followed the steps included in easy tutorial from EZ-Level Cabinet Levelers. Ray built a simple frame on the floor, then screwed the island’s base to the frame. To add more function on the front side we extended the island to include a small wine rack.

a close up of the kitchen island showing the wine rack.

Next on the opposite side, we added a back panel. We choose a raised panel style and secured it with a nail gun. Once the back panel was in place we added the trim pieces all around the base.

the back of the kitchen island with a raised panel detail.

Painting the Kitchen Island

Before adding a fresh coat of paint I took wood filler to fill in the nail holes, then sanded. We chose Benjamin Moore Advance paint for both the kitchen cabinets and the kitchen island. Benjamin Moore Advance paint is designed specifically for cabinets, doors, and trim and provides a “furniture-like” finish because of its unique waterborne alkyd formula. We decided Benjamin Moore Advance paint would be the best for the job, so first we primed with Benjamin Moore Styx primer. We choose a softer warm gray (Willow Creek)for the upper cabinets and a darker gray (Bear Creek) for the kitchen island. I used white (Chantilly Lace) on the toe kick and trim for this kitchen remodel. These paint colors blend well and pull the kitchen together.

the back of the kitchen island painted in bear creek by benjamin moore.

Choosing the Hardware for the Kitchen Island

I decided to go with brushed nickel drawer pulls for the cabinet doors and brushed nickel cup pulls for the drawers of the kitchen cabinet. For the kitchen island, I went with cream-colored ceramic pulls that had a dark gray design on them.

different drawer pulls from the island to the cabinets

Butcher Block Island Top

One of the changes we have not yet made is to replace our cream-colored laminate countertops. It just wasn’t in the budget at the time of this kitchen refresh. With the island painted a different color I started to see it as a stand alone piece. We had originally placed a stained piece of thin wood to hold the place until we were able to pull off a real butcher’s block as a new countertop. We added the butcher block a few years ago for the final design and I love how it turned out. As for the laminate counters…they are still here. (I’m holding out for a quartz countertop)

two different wood counter tops.

Using the Second Vanity as Extra Kitchen Storage

So what about the second vanity? Well as mentioned above we needed some extra storage space so we place that vanity as the base piece on the back wall of our kitchen. We wanted that vanity to match the kitchen cabinets so we painted it the same color as the cabinets and yes…we even added matching laminate. It looks like part of the original kitchen design. I used the space for a big coffee bar and recently made it my baking station. It would also be a great space for a breakfast bar.

The Beauty of Repurposed Materials

One of the biggest cost-savers when creating a cheap kitchen island is using repurposed materials as your base. By upcycling an old cabinet, dresser, or piece of furniture, you can drastically reduce the overall expense of your project. In our case, we scored two free bathroom vanity cabinets that were being discarded after a renovation – a serendipitous find that became the foundation for our budget-friendly island.

The possibilities for repurposed bases are endless, and the savings can be substantial. An outdated kitchen cabinet base, an old piece of furniture like an antique dresser, old desks or even a sturdy old bookshelf can be transformed into a unique and functional kitchen island with a bit of elbow grease and creativity. Not only will you save money, but you’ll also give new life to an item that might have otherwise ended up in a landfill.

So, where can you find these hidden gems? Keep an eye out for discarded cabinets or furniture during renovations in your neighborhood or at local construction sites. Check online classifieds like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or NextDoor for people giving away or selling used cabinets or furniture for an affordable price. You can also visit ReStores or other second-hand stores that specialize in building materials and home goods. If you’re looking for an old piece, you can keep your eye out while antiquing.

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box when it comes to repurposing materials for your cheap kitchen island. With a little creativity and elbow grease, you can transform an unwanted item into a stunning and functional custom island for your kitchen – all while saving a bundle in the process.

Using base cabinets bought on facebook marketplace for a kitchen island.

Affordable Countertop Alternatives

While the butcher block countertop on our island looks fantastic, we understand that it may not be the most budget-friendly choice for everyone. Fortunately, there are plenty of affordable alternatives that can give you a stylish and functional countertop without breaking the bank.

Laminate Countertops: A classic choice for budget-conscious homeowners, laminate countertops come in a wide range of colors and patterns, making it easy to find an option that complements your kitchen’s aesthetic. They’re also extremely durable and easy to maintain, making them a practical choice for high-traffic areas like a kitchen island.

Wooden Planks or Boards: For a rustic, farmhouse-inspired look, consider using inexpensive wooden planks or boards as your countertop material. You can find these at your local home improvement store or even salvage them from other projects. Sand them down, stain or paint them to your desired color, and seal them for a beautiful, one-of-a-kind countertop that adds warmth and character to your space.

DIY Concrete Countertop: If you’re feeling adventurous and love the industrial-chic look, consider pouring your own concrete countertop. With some basic supplies and a little elbow grease, you can create a sleek, modern countertop that’s both durable and incredibly affordable. Just be sure to follow the proper instructions and safety precautions when working with concrete.

Epoxy Countertop: Another DIY option that’s gaining popularity is an epoxy countertop. By mixing epoxy resin with your choice of colorants or decorative elements (like stones, shells, or even pennies), you can create a unique and eye-catching countertop that’s both functional and budget-friendly.

Ikea Countertop Options: If you’re looking for a ready-made, affordable countertop solution, Ikea offers a variety of budget-friendly options. Their laminate countertops come in different styles and colors, while their solid wood countertops, like their oak and beech options, can provide a warm, natural look without breaking the bank.

No matter which countertop option you choose, remember that the key to a successful cheap kitchen island is creativity and resourcefulness. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and explore unconventional materials – you might just stumble upon the perfect solution that fits your style and budget.

White marble looking but inexpensive counter top.

Budgeting for Your Cheap Kitchen Island

One of the biggest advantages of building your own kitchen island is the potential cost savings. However, it’s still important to have a rough budget in mind to ensure your project stays on track financially. Here’s a breakdown of the typical costs you can expect:

Base Cabinet:

  • Free (if repurposing a discarded cabinet or piece of furniture)
  • $50 – $300 (for an inexpensive new base cabinet from a home improvement store or ReStore)

Countertop Material:

  • $50 – $200 (for a laminate countertop or wooden planks/boards)
  • $100 – $300 (for a DIY concrete or epoxy countertop, including supplies)

Paint and Supplies:

  • $30 – $80 (for a high-quality cabinet paint and supplies like brushes, sandpaper, etc.)

Hardware (Hinges, Pulls, Knobs):

  • $20 – $100 (depending on the style and quantity needed)

Additional Materials (Wood, Screws, Adhesives):

  • $50 – $150 (for any necessary framing, trimming, or reinforcements)

Total Estimated Cost: $150 – $830

Of course, these costs can vary depending on the specific materials you choose, the size of your island, and any additional features or customizations you want to include. However, by repurposing materials and being strategic with your choices, it’s entirely possible to create a stunning and functional kitchen island for well under $500 – a fraction of the cost of a professionally installed option.

Remember, the key to keeping your project budget-friendly is to get creative with repurposed or inexpensive materials and to do as much of the work yourself as possible. With some elbow grease and resourcefulness, you can achieve the kitchen island of your dreams without breaking the bank.

a man with a calculator.

Customizing Your Cheap Kitchen Island on a Budget

Once you’ve secured your base cabinet and countertop, the real fun begins – personalizing your island with custom touches and functional features. And the best part? You can achieve a high-end look without spending a fortune.

Inexpensive Hardware: Swap out old knobs and pulls for new, budget-friendly hardware to instantly update the look of your island. Check your local hardware store for clearance items or browse online retailers for affordable options in trending finishes like matte black or brushed gold.

Paint or Stain: A fresh coat of paint or stain can transform even the most basic cabinet into a showstopper. Get creative with color-blocking techniques, distressed finishes, or even try a bold, high-gloss hue for a modern vibe. Don’t forget to protect your handiwork with a durable topcoat.

Open Shelving: Add interest and storage by installing open shelves on one or both ends of your island. Use reclaimed wood or inexpensive boards from your local home improvement store for a rustic, farmhouse appeal.

Baskets and Crates: Incorporate woven baskets or vintage crates into your island design for stylish, budget-friendly storage solutions. These versatile pieces can hold everything from cookbooks and dish towels to fresh produce and pantry staples.

Temporary or Movable Islands

For those with limited space or a desire for flexibility, consider a temporary or movable island solution. A rolling kitchen cart or repurposed dresser on casters can provide extra prep space and storage when needed, then be easily moved out of the way.

Console tables or narrow desks can also serve as charming kitchen islands, especially in a smaller kitchen space. Look for secondhand finds with a sturdy base and a top that can withstand cooking preparations.

Alternatively, construct a freestanding island using inexpensive materials like particleboard or plywood, then add locking casters to the base for mobility. This option allows you to reconfigure your kitchen layout as needed or even move the island out of the room entirely when entertaining.

me standing against our kitchen island.
How Far Should Kitchen Island Be From Cabinets?

Frequently Asked Questions

How Far Should an Island be from the Kitchen Cabinets?

Ideally you want 42″ – 48″ of space between your island and the kitchen cabinets. This allows for easy movement around the kitchen and for appliance doors to open without interference.

What else can we use as a kitchen island base?

Many people choose kitchen cabinet bases for their kitchen islands. For a small kitchen, you can use just one cabinet base. For a large island, you can use several cabinet bases to create the perfect size of base cabinets for your kitchen.

How tall is a standard kitchen island?

A standard counter height kitchen island is 3 feet. A bar height island is 3.5 feet.

Where can I find inexpensive kitchen island base options?

Check out the Facebook marketplace or thrift stores for inexpensive base options. it is good to have your island size in mind before looking. Alternatively, you can purchase inexpensive base cabinets at Home Depot or get IKEA cabinets to use as a base.

How much kitchen island overhang is needed to add bar stools?

You will want to plan for 12″ – 15″ to accommodate seating at your kitchen island.

new kitchen island made from a bathroom vanity cabinet base. the island is painted a dark warm gray with a butcher block counter top.

As you can see getting creative with your kitchen island design is a great way to save you money and add more storage, more workspace, and additional seating. The kitchen is the heart of the home and a beautiful island will be the spot where everyone will gather. We often use the island as a buffet to serve our guests – the uses are endless! Also, be sure to check out my post on a super easy kitchen Island centerpiece idea, and for more ideas for decorating your kitchen island visit my complete guide to stylishly decorating your kitchen island post.

Thank you for visiting a kitchen island idea made from base cabinets post. I hope it inspires you to think out of the box with your own DIY kitchen island project!

my signiture. a drawing of me holding a coffee cup that says Create.

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  1. How much space is between your island and cupboards on each side ? I know ideally is 45-48” but is yours that far?

    1. Hi Ang,
      Ours is 38″ which has worked out fine. Dishwasher and oven doors opens easily. Thanks for visiting the blog!

  2. Hi Stephanie,
    I love the color of your butcher block island top. What wood / Finish did you use? Also, what is the thickness?

    1. Hi Nan, Sorry for the delay! The butcher block was unfinished so we stained it using Minwax premium oil, wood finish penetrating stain in the color of weathered oak. The weather oak helped the butcher block pull towards a more gray finish than orangey.

    1. Hi Al, We had room for 38″ between the counter of the island and our kitchen island and it’s worked out great!

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