Build out a kitchen island with side panels

March 22, 2019

I've been hard at work on the kitchen island makeover! I'm excited to share the first part of the build with you. :) I'm breaking this up into two posts because, 1. I'm not done just yet and 2. It's a picture heavy project. 

Yet again, this project turned out to be MUCH easier than I thought it would be. Sometimes I work things up in my head and make them harder than they are! I've been mulling over this idea for more than a year and went through a bunch of options. Weeks ago I had a different plan and almost hired it out -- but when I decided on the exact look I wanted, I figured out I could easily do this on my own! 

Here's how the island looked till earlier this week: 
Adding decorative detail to kitchen island

Perfectly lovely! I just prefer to have something under that overhang -- I think it finishes the look of an island to have a leg or something there. 

For months I was planning on adding legs, but more I looked at inspiration pics the more I thought they might look awkward there. My preference was always to do something like our old island, with the chunky sides that come out and make a little "alcove" for the stools.  

The problem is, we have cabinets under the island, so I couldn't do what I did before: 
Building out kitchen island that has front cabinets

I thought the only way to do that would be to add on to the sides, and that would require a new countertop -- not happening! 

So I thunk and I thunk and it came to me! I started searching for examples of what I was planning and found a few photos similar to what I had in mind -- sides that came out and then kind of jut back in, so the doors can still be opened. Does that make sense? It will in a minute. ;)

I sat down with my notebook and started drawing out what I wanted to do. That's when I realized it was going to be much easier than I thought! I started by removing the lattice pieces I had put on the ends of the island -- just that little detail made such a big difference. I forgot how plain it was before!:

Customizing builder kitchen island

As you can see, I had to remove the baseboards from the whole island. The long piece on the front under the cabinets had to be cut down (I later reinstalled that one): 
How to remove baseboards

I had two pieces of basic plywood cut to the size I needed -- one for each side. I had about 3/4 of an inch of space available on both sides under the counter, but still wanted to have a bit of a reveal. I didn't want the sides of the island to go right up to the edge of the countertop. So I went with quarter inch plywood to keep the sides from getting too thick. (I knew I was going to add more on top of the wood too.)

I had to mark where a hole for the outlet -- to do this you need to transfer the measurements onto the wood. I use a large bit to get started, then cut with my jigsaw:  
How to cut hole in wood for outlet

By the way, these pics are from both sides of the island -- they may go back and forth a bit. :) 

I pulled the outlet through so it was flush with the plywood, then nailed the wood onto the island. 

Then it was time to build the "legs" -- I bought a 1x6 for the front and a 1x3 for the sides. I wanted the six inch piece to go on the front and be clean -- I didn't want to have to add any trim to hide where things joined up. 

So I wanted the plywood to butt up to the back of the front piece, but the plywood was too thin to nail into the side to secure it. (This is where things may get confusing -- hopefully with the pics this makes sense!) 

To address this, I took a piece of scrap wood and nailed it to the back of the 1x6 -- leaving a 1/4 inch reveal that the plywood would fit up against (see the arrow): 
How to build legs for kitchen island

So then I could just slide that over the plywood, and it allowed me to nail the plywood into the side of the scrap piece: 
Extending sides of island for a custom look

You can barely even see the seam where they meet up on the sides of the island, but that was later covered anyway. 

By the way, the added bonus of this project is that the countertop is supported. I know they're built to hold a good amount of weight, but it always made me a little nervous to lean onto that part of the butcher block! 

From the front the "leg" is nice and clean -- now you can see now how it was coming together!:
How to customize island with side panels and legs

See how the panel seems to be a bit off, when you look at the hardwoods? I'll show you how I addressed that in a second. 

The next step was to add a side to the leg. I used the 1x3 and nailed it in from the front. The size of this whole piece is just preference -- but I kept it this size so the cabinet doors would still have plenty of room to open: 
Building out sides of island with panel and legs

I played around with different sizes before I bought materials. Making the leg any wider or deeper would keep the door from opening as much. 

I had the build down, but of course the legs weren't attached to anything, so they moved around. 

To fix that, I cut down some scrap wood to fit inside the legs and nailed one into the floor (the only small holes in our hardwoods if this ever comes down for some reason) and into the top under the counter:
Adding support to legs on island

Before I nailed those in, I looked at the flooring to adjust a bit and make sure it was perfectly even with the side of the island. So where it was off a bit in that photo above, the spacing is now perfect. 

The small scraps make it extremely secure -- there's no budging it. It also gave me something to nail the side piece into for additional support. 

To start the finishing it off, I used three inch lattice trim (I can only find that width at Menards) around the edges of the whole thing: 
How to extend sides of island with cabinets

And that's where I'll leave you today! I'm nearly done and will share the final result next week. I LOVE IT!! 

And yes, I covered that plywood. :) 

Here's a pic showing how we can still easily access the cabinets. They open plenty!:
Adding legs to island with cabinets

We don't get into these often, but I'm pleased that we still have full access to the end cabinets.  

So far I've spent $85 on the entire project. At most I'll spend $100 -- I'm hoping I have enough scrap to finish up without having to spend that extra $15. :)

I'm SO thrilled with it! Now that the sides are finished it looks so much more substantial in the kitchen. It looks like it always should have been that way, which you know is always a good sign! 

I'll be back with the last few details and the reveal next week! Have a great weekend! 

See more of our home here. To shop items in our home, click here! Never miss a post by signing up to get posts via email
Email subscription form header
Your email:*
Please enter all required fields Click to hide
Correct invalid entries Click to hide


  1. The island looks so much more substantial, in a really good way! I definitely prefer this to the X trim you has as an interim feature. But those stools- oh those stools! IN. LOVE. They are just what the space needed. Great island update!

  2. I just wanted to let you know that we used your basic steps as we reconfigured our island today. We added a cabinet on each end to extend the island, added a new top, then side gables then will built the end posts next week. Your detailed photos and dimensions were incredibly helpful and I can't thank you enough!!!


If you have a specific question I will do my best to answer you back here!

You can find our paint colors and links to items at the "Our Home" tab at the top of my site.

THANKS so much for reading!