How To: Build a Kitchen Island

Like pieces of a puzzle, stock cabinets, salvage bins, and secondhand drawers combine to create a kitchen island that packs a storage punch.


A mix of new and thrift materials gives this kitchen island character that store-bought pieces lack. Follow these instructions to build one of your own -- and don't be afraid to change the sizes to suit your space and your salvage finds.

What you'll need:
  • 2 hollow-core doors
  • 4 upper cabinets
  • Assortment bins and cubbies
  • 4 secondhand drawers
  • 4 drawer pulls
  • Medium-density fiberboard (MDF)
  • Paint
  • Paintbrush, sprayer, and/or roller
Step 1: Map your project.

Sketch exactly where each piece will fit. Jeni placed a pair of narrow upper cabinets back-to-back on each end of the island, then filled the center with drawers and bins. Lay the entire project on the floor and measure. NOTE: Jeni made this island the standard counter height of 36 inches. Make sure the door your use is tall enough to accommodate your desired island height.

Step 2: Create shelving.

Use MDF to create the island's shelving and drawer unit. Cut pieces to fit the drawers and bins, then prime and paint your desired color. Let dry, then apply a second coat. When the paint is dry, assembly the island. Jeni used MDF with a solid back so the reverse side of the island can be used for towel and utensil storage.

Step 3: Attach the top and sides.

Create the top and sides of the island from two doors (see laminating instructions on next page). One door will become the island's work surface; cut the other door in half to make the side supports. Note: When cutting hollow-core doors, be sure to cap any open ends with a piece of wood lath cut to size and stained to match the laminate. Inset the cabinets at least 8 inches if you want stools to slide underneath and out of the way. This also makes legroom for more comfortable seating when the island is used for homework or at snacktime. Insert the boxes and bins, and affix pulls to the drawer fronts.

What you'll need:
  • Countertop base materials (Jeni used doors; you can use plywood or MDF.)
  • Laminate
  • Handheld jigsaw or table saw
  • Spray contact adhesive
  • Wood spacer sticks
  • Laminate roller
  • Paste wax (Jenni used Briwax.)
  • Laminate trim router with 1/4-inch double-flute bit
  • File
Step 1: Measure laminate.

Measure laminate to fit all exposed edges. Cut the laminate with a handheld jigsaw or table saw, leaving one extra inch on each side. Spray the countertop edge and the laminate with contact adhesive; let dry. Press the laminate to the base and roll to adhere. Route the edge using a laminate trim router.

Step 2: Adhere laminate.

Spray the countertop base and laminate with contact adhesive/ Let dry. Position wood sticks across the countertop (top photo). (This allows you to correctly position the large laminate sheets before the sprayed surfaces are permanently fused.) Lay laminate on top of the sticks with a one-inch overhang on all sides. Remove the center spacer stick (middle photo) and press down, smoothing as you press. Continue removing sticks. Smooth and roll, applying significant pressure to the laminate roller (bottom photo).

Step 3: Finish the edges.

Rub paste wax on the laminate to prevent the router from burning the laminate (top photo). Run the router over the laminate edges, working in a clockwise motion (middle photo). Finish by filing the edges until smooth (bottom photo).

DIY Tip: Before laminating a big project such as a kitchen island, try the technique on something smaller.


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