DIY Furniture

DIY Kitchen Island

So, let’s talk kitchen island! Kitchen islands are the focal point in a kitchen. I feel like every time I see a picture of a kitchen on Pinterest or Instagram my eyes are instantly drawn to the kitchen island. Typically they have detailed wood work on the base, or eye catching counter tops, or beautiful pendant lights hanging above. The kitchen island is also typically a gathering place in a home, whether it’s talking to mom as she finishes up dinner, harboring appetizers and good conversations at a friendly get together, or even collecting all the goodies from the latest grocery trip. Islands are the multi-functional must have in a kitchen.

However, there is one big downfall to a kitchen island: The cost.  Our builder grade home came complete with a spacious kitchen that was lacking an island. We did our research and priced out islands from Home Depot and Lowe’s, and even custom islands from local wood workers or Facebook Market Place sellers, and every quote we received was $1,000 plus without installation. So, after some contemplation and further research, we decided we could DIY one. And I am so glad we did! It was one of the easiest projects we’ve done. I would venture to say even non DIYers could easily tackle this project. At half the cost, we now have a beautiful island that also holds a lot of sentimental value, knowing we made it ourselves!

Follow along below for a full tutorial on how to make your own DIY Kitchen Island.

What you will need:

Two stock cabinets (We used this one and this one from Home Depot)

7/8″ screws (8)

6″ tongue and groove shiplap (You will need enough to cover both sides and the back of your island. Keep in mind the actual measurement of the shiplap is 5.5 inches.)

½” x 3″ poplar board (You will need enough to cover the right and left back corners.)

1″ X 4″ poplar board (You will need enough to cover the entire base of the cabinet.)

Corner molding (You will need enough to cover the right and left front corners.)

Wood putty

120 grit sand paper

Cabinet hardware

Behr Marque paint in Spun Cotton with a satin finish

Counter top

Nail gun


Paint sprayer or paint roller

How to make it:

First, pick your stock cabinets. We chose to use the Hampton Bay stock cabinets from Home Depot. Because we knew we wanted a variation of pull out drawers and a big open cabinet, we decided to get one 24×34.5×24 in. Easthaven Base Cabinet with 3-Drawers and one 15×34.5×24 in. Easthaven Base Cabinet with Drawer.

Once you have your two stock cabinets unwrapped, sit them side by side and use your screws to attach your two base pieces together. We put one screw in each corner where the two cabinets met, and then put four more screws in each corner on the other side of the wood, like shown below.

Now that you have your two stock cabinets connected as one, it’s time to shiplap it! This part is super easy. Starting with one side of your base, cut your shiplap to length. Using your nail gun, nail the first piece of shiplap to your base, starting at the bottom. It’s important that you start at the bottom, rather than the top. If you start at the top, you will not be able to slip your last piece of shiplap in. Once your first piece of ship lap is nailed onto the base, you can slide your next piece of shiplap into place and nail it to your base. Continue this process until both sides and the back of your island is covered in shiplap. Tip: Try to keep your nail holes on the edges of each piece of shiplap. Since we are adding molding around the edges, this will leave you with less holes to putty later.

Now that all the shiplap is on, it’s time to do the finish molding. First, cut your 1″ x 4″ poplar boards to fit around the base of the island. We did not have a saw at the time that could make the mitered cuts. So we simply brought the edges together and filled the seams with wood putty. If possible, I highly suggest using a miter saw to ensure a sharp edge. It would look a lot better in the end. Nail your 1″ x 4″ pieces around the bottom edge. Next, cut your ½” x 3″ poplar boards. These will sit on top of your 1″ x 4″ boards on base. Nail these into place. Again, a mitered cut would look a lot better here, but since we did not have the correct tool, we just allowed our ends to meet. Lastly, cut your molding edge and nail these to the front corners. Tip: If you are using our method of not using a miter saw and allowing the edges to meet, be sure that the wood is meeting in exactly the same way on all edges.

Next, using wood putty, fill all the nail holes and the seams where your finishing pieces meet.

Once your island base is complete, you will want to give it a good sanding. I used 120 grit sand paper to get a nice, smooth finish. After you finish sanding, wipe the base down with a damp cloth to remove the dust, and then you are ready to paint. I highly recommend using a paint sprayer, however you can also use a paint roller. If you’re using a paint roller, be sure to get one with a nap labeled specifically for cabinets.

Also, a few other tips, so that you can learn from our mistakes. I know these seem like no brainers, but just in case. When moving the base outside to paint, remove the drawers first. These drawers easily slide out, and once they crash to the floor, it’s game over for the drawers. We had to rebuild one of ours. Second, if you’re using a paint sprayer, be sure to really practice and know what you’re doing before you try your hand at the island. I thought I knew how to properly use it, and I was wrong. This lead to a ton of paint drips, which means I had re sand the whole island and start the painting over.

After the base is dry, add your hardware and your counter top. We decided to have my grandpa custom build a wood counter top. We currently have grey and black granite in our kitchen, which I’m not a fan of, so I didn’t want to bring more of it into the house. We contemplated buying butcher block, but in the end we decided to have my grandpa build us one. You can read more about how I finished and connected the wood top here.

Now that we have a completed island, I’ve been asking myself why we didn’t make this our first project! It has been beyond amazing to have the extra kitchen storage, and it has been really great to have Brett sit in the kitchen with me every night as I make dinner. It has quickly become a gathering place in our house for everyone to socialize, and it has quickly become our favorite DIY. If you don’t have an island, I highly encourage you to DIY yourself one ASAP.

Until next time DIYers. Thanks for reading!

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