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9 Kitchen Island Ideas to Make Your Next Party Perfect

Plain Kitchen Island

The kitchen is the heart of the home and, these days, it’s usually the heart of the party as well. As more homes are built with an open concept kitchen and living space, the kitchen island has become a bridge, a serving station, and a gathering place. Read on for nine ways to put your island to work for your next shindig.

First, some ground rules for setting up, courtesy of Kitchn:

1. Control the flow. Give your guests deliberate start and end points for loading up on food and drinks.

2. While we’re on the topic of drinks, place your bar or drink setup strategically away from the food. If the main spread of food is on the kitchen island, you can utilize another countertop or table to house your drinks.

3. Plates first. Cutlery last.

4. Put out multiple stacks of extras. Preferably out of the way of the culinary masterpieces on display.

5. Put your most plentiful (or cost-effective) offerings at the front of the buffet, to ensure they last to the last person through the line. With that out of the way, let’s have some island fun!

Get in the game with themes!

Football Theme Island

Photo credit: Half Pint Party Design

Movie Night Theme Island

Photo credit: Pinterest

Halloween Theme Island

Photo credit: Pillsbury

Circus birthdays, football watch parties, movie night, all the winter holidays… the list of available themes is limited only by your imagination. Let your theme inform your food and drink choices and enhance the island with themed decor. Overwhelmed by the thought of an all-encompassing theme? Remember that simple elegance (with a single color for your decor) can also be a theme.

Enhance a theme with non-food elements

Island Buffet with Flowers

Photo credit: Pinterest

Flowers and other greenery interspersed with the food items on your island create a fresh, elegant look. Play with color, seasonality, and texture to create a truly spectacular spread. And speaking of texture...

Play with coverings

Island with Waffle Bar

Photo credit: Apartment Life

While their primary purpose is protection, table coverings can be worked into the design and enhance the overall experience of the buffet. Try covering the island in butcher paper and use markers to guide your guests. This whimsical application serves a dual purpose of creating visual interest and steering party-goers through the line. Plus, waffles! Or nachos, low country boil, or cupcakes. The variations are endless.

Maximize space with varied heights

Island with Food at Varied Heights

Photo credit: Instagram

Islands come in many shapes and sizes, but don’t let that ruin your menu planning. Opt for tiered or pedestal servers and feel free to use other household items to create height and additional space for placing your delectable offerings.

Look on the upside

Island with Hanging Decor

Photo credit: Life with Fingerprints

Add some fun and flair to your buffet by using the space above your island for decoration. This not only looks great, it acts a flashing neon sign to guests that “THE FOOD IS HERE.”

Experiment with interesting containers

Island with Elegant Serving Trays

Photo credit: Randi Garrett Design

Island with Interesting Food Containers

Photo credit: Pinterest

Since we eat with our eyes first, serving food in interesting or unusual ways creates a sense of excitement and wonder for your guests. Work with your theme, let your creativity guide you, and create playful, inviting nibbles that everyone will line up for.

Save time (and sanity) with store-bought mix-ins

Island with Store Bought Foods

Photo credit: Pinterest

Regardless of what Pinterest and Instagram would have you believe, not everything you serve has to be made from scratch. Increase your efficiency and take some pressure off yourself by picking a few signature items to cook from the heart — leaving the professionals to handle the rest.

Let people know what they’re eating & drinking

Labeled Mimosa Bar

Photo credit: Ruffled

Labeling food and drink, especially on an island full of gastronomic delights, is very important. Guests with food allergies, dietary restrictions, or picky children will appreciate the relevant information about what you’re serving, and — with all your offerings labeled — your guests will know exactly how to refer to your famous Potatoes Lyonnaise when they beg you for the recipe.

When all else fails, think charcuterie board

Charcuterie Board

Photo credit: The Feed

Cheese, like Tom Hanks, is almost universally adored. For a truly winning addition to your party, visit your local cheesemonger (or grocery store) and pick a selection of cheeses, meats, and accoutrements that will let your guests dig into their favorites or adventure toward something new. Need some guidance? Start here and don’t forget your labels.

Now that you’re ready to party, what time should we come over?

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