Learn how to update a kitchen island and customize its style on a budget using trim, paint, and table legs to support the counter overhang.
One of the first things many people do to update a kitchen with cherry cabinets is to paint them.
Paint is definitely an easy way to brighten up the space!
But what if you love the warmth of the rich wood?
Or what if you have a husband who is thoroughly resistant to “painting good wood?”
Our family falls into both those camps.
So my plan to update my kitchen includes lots of alternatives to painting the cabinets.
One of the first projects is replacing the dark and busy glass mosaic backsplash.
Next, we’re installing white quartz countertops.
And while I don’t plan to paint the cabinets on the perimeter of the kitchen, I am planning to paint the island.
When we built our home, we paid a little extra to add panels to the ends of our cabinets and island that matched the cabinet doors.
I love how it gives them a finished look. You can see the panel on the side of the island.
But for some reason, they didn’t add any to the front of the island?
The part that’s most visible when you look into the kitchen!
The front of the island is covered by a wood veneer panel, and the overhang is supported by somewhat puny corbels.
For the most part, it’s covered by the counter stools, but when I began planning this kitchen glow-up, I decided I wanted to also update the kitchen island.
Wait until you see how we gave this island some amazing style for less than $150!
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How to Plan a Kitchen Island Update
The first thing I did was to browse Pinterest and search Google for ideas.
There are so many kitchen island trim ideas!
Lots of people add shiplap to their kitchen island or use wood to create shaker-style trim. Some people even add X patterns within the trim.
But my home’s style is more transitional, so those options didn’t really appeal to me.
Then I stumbled across this picture…
Rachel did a great job updating her kitchen and you can see everything she did on her blog Craving Some Creativity.
I really liked the way she used moulding to update the front of her kitchen island.
Her island’s panels had the more traditional look I wanted to maintain in my home.
My island has more of an overhang, so I also needed to include something to give the counter more support.
If you look at my original plan, then you saw I found some more substantial and decorative corbels.
Then when I was shopping with AnnMarie one day, I came across these…
What if we added table legs to the corners instead of corbels to support the counter overhang?
I brought two home to see how it would look, and promptly fell in love.
It took a little convincing to get my husband on board…
He thought the stools wouldn’t fit.
Or that we would stub our toes on them.
Fortunately, when I showed them to all our friends at Thanksgiving, they all loved the idea, including the other husbands, so Kevin decided to give them a try.
The one part he wouldn’t be flexible about was building a sturdy support structure for them.
How to Add Legs to a Kitchen Island
Building a support structure to secure the table legs to the island also provides even more support for the counter overhang than corbels ever would.
I snapped this photo when the counters were removed so you could see the support structure better.
The structure begins with a 1×3 poplar board attached to the top edge of the island.
Next, use a pocket jig to create pocket joints to attach a 1×3 perpendicular to the back support as well as the table legs.
Then finish the box by attaching a 1×3 board along the front, between the table legs.
Depending upon the length of your island, you may also need additional braces inside the box.
We added two support braces using a 2×4 board and pocket joints.
To maximize the space for counter stools, we placed the table legs as far out to the edge as possible.
The outer edge of the top of the table leg lines up with the outer edge of the decorative cabinet panel.
How Do You Trim a Kitchen Island?
Once the table legs were attached, it was time to add the decorative trim.
We decided to make three panels across the front of the island.
Each panel was similar in width to the panels on the outer sides of the island.
If you don’t have panels on the sides of your island, you can use this same method to create panels for the sides of your island.
We used 1×3 poplar boards to create the framework of the panels.
At first, we thought the top edge of the panels would be the box holding the table legs.
However, the front edge of the box was also across the front of the island and it hid the top edge of the panel.
So we decided to run a second 1×3 poplar board right under the support box.
Another decision was whether to have the panels go to the floor like the ones in my inspiration picture or to have the bottom edge be the same as the panels on the sides of the island.
Since we were attempting to mimic the look of the panels we already had, we decided that the bottom edge of the panel would look best at the same position as the panels.
It was looking good, but the plain 1×3 boards had too much of a Shaker style.
How to Make Kitchen Island Trim Look Like Panels
It was time to add trim to the inner edges of the panels to dress them up.
We decided to use the same base cap moulding we have throughout our home to create picture frame boxes.
Simple 45-degree mitred cuts were all it took.
To improve adhesion, we applied wood glue to the mitred edges and also to the back edges of the trim.
Then we used 1-1/4″ bolts in the Ryobi Airstrike nail gun to attach the molding to the island.
Complete side note, the Ryobi Airstrike is quite possibly one of our favorite tools!
It’s so nice to not have to pull out an air compressor to use a nail gun.
Usually base cap moulding is installed so the wider edge is on the outside.
However, we were trying to create the illusion of raised panels without having to actually install an additional piece of wood inside the moulding.
So we tried something different.
Flipping the trim around the other way really makes a difference in how it looks!
I’m not gonna say it looks exactly like a raised panel, but it definitely looks more like a raised panel than when we held it up the other way around.
Bottom line, adding trim to the inner edges of the frames really gave the kitchen island trim a more transitional style.
How Do You Finish the Back of an Island
When you’re done adding trim to a kitchen island, finish the trim by filling the holes with wood filler.
Then sand everything smooth before painting.
I started with a 120-grit foam sanding block and finished with a 180-grit.
Sanding blocks are fantastic because they get into all the little crevices.
If you have any questions or suggestions, contact me or leave a comment!