How to add character to a kitchen peninsula or kitchen island

Have a plain kitchen island or kitchen peninsula that could use some character?  You are in luck because today I am going to show you how I added “faux” shiplap and thick molding to add a ton of character to my plain jane kitchen peninsula.  I knew I would love it because hello, shiplap?!  But I didn’t realize how much character and custom look it would add to my kitchen – huge bonus! I had been wanting to tackle this project for quite a while since I painted the cabinets almost 2 years ago, and when I saw that this month’s project for the At Home DIY challenge was a home improvement project, it was just the push to get it done!

So here was my kitchen before this project…  It’s actually seen quite a bit of work over the last 2 years but still more to do!

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This is actually what it looked like almost 3 years ago when we bought our house.


Since then I have painted the walls, painted the cabinets, replaced the appliances on a Black Friday sale, installed a yard sale find light fixture, and we continued the wood floors we did in the living room into this space.    Such a difference and improvement but I have quite a few more projects that are on the list for this space and one of them was to add some character to the peninsula.  (Ignore my dirty floors – I wasn’t about to mop and clean just to bring in sawdust and paint into this space minutes later, but I did clear off the counters and dirty dishes at least! Winking smile We definitely live in our house and this momma is always busy with projects, work, and a 2-year-old.)  Oh and yes there is a spot in the ceiling that we had patched repaired recently but I haven’t climbed up on a ladder to paint it yet.  Add that to the list too! Winking smile

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I knew I wanted to add “faux” shiplap to the back and sides of the peninsula and then I was going to figure out from there what kind of trim and where to add it.  If you are new to “faux shiplap” basically it is 1/4 inch inexpensive underlayment plywood cut down into strips (I did 4 inch wide strips for this project) to create a shiplap type look.  You can read more about how to do faux shiplap in this post – I did a whole wall of it in my daughter’s nursery.

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I usually get Home Depot to cut the 4 foot by 8-foot board into 12 inch by 8 feet strips so I can fit it in a vehicle to get home and then I rip it down to either 4 or 6 inches wide on a table saw at home.  I had enough leftover plywood in the garage to do all of the faux shiplap on the peninsula.  Actually worked out great because I was able to use all the leftover pieces from where I cut down 8 foot long strips for this DIY hall tree in my laundry room and use them on the end of the peninsula.

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Ok, so back to the kitchen…I removed all the trim, quarter round and baseboards and then measured to cut my shiplap pieces to length.  My peninsula is just a bit longer than 8 feet so I wasn’t going to be able to do one long piece of shiplap and I really didn’t want to do the brick pattern of shorter and longer pieces.  I also didn’t want to use just over 4 feet of an 8 feet long strip and have tons of extra waste left.  So my husband actually came up with the idea of leaving space where I didn’t have shiplap at the ends and in the middle where I was going to do a trim piece so I could use 2 equal lengths of 4 feet strips and then cover those spaces with trim.  It worked out great!  I used a nail gun to just nail up all the pieces – I may have to adjust a few of them on the end when we get new countertops so I didn’t want to use glue for anything and I find nails hold just fine.

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So after I got it put up I realized I could have done it the other way too where I put up the trim pieces, then cut the shiplap to fit in between those trim pieces.  I’m really not sure what is the “correct” way to do it or if there is a “correct” way.  I honestly like this look better because you see all the thickness of the trim instead of the shiplap covering part of it.  In my laundry room I did install the 2 end trim pieces and then cut the shiplap to fit between and it creates more caulking work for sure.  So either way will work – one may work better for your space if you are attempting this project so keep that in mind. Smile

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I also wasn’t sure what I was going to do with toe kick part of the cabinet – if you scroll up and look at before you can see what I am talking about… I really wanted this end to be a solid square with no corner cut out.  Since I only had a 2-3 inch piece of cabinet on the front corner butted up to the dishwasher I decided to trim out this entire end basically hiding that corner and it worked great!

For the corners, I just butted the boards to each other and then caulked and sanded that seam to make it look like a solid corner piece.  Here’s this corner after attaching the board

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And here’s after caulking and sanding…  once it’s painted it looks like a solid corner trim piece!  Caulk is your very best friend in building projects! Smile

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For the trim pieces, I used premium square edge whitewood common boards.  I do quite a bit of basic building and will use the cheapest pine boards that Home Depot sells for many things but they have rounded edges/corners.  When I do trim work and want square edges I will use the next step up which is square edge premium boards – they are just a $1-2 more per board but the edges are square, the boards don’t tend to warp (or be hard to find non-warped ones in store) and have less knots and imperfections.  Another option would be to use these pre-primed trim boards but those are usually just a bit more expensive.    I used 1x4s for the corners, baseboards, and top boards and a 1×5 for the center trim board.  After all the nail holes were caulked and sanded it was time to paint!

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I used the same paint I used on my cabinets – True White Cabinet Paint by Magnolia – my local Ace Hardware carries Joanna’s Magnolia line of paints and I still had some leftover from when I painted the cabinets.   2 coats later, lots of cleanup, and here’s the after!


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Compared to the before… look at all that character that it adds!

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I had really hoped to add an X at the end of the peninsula but that outlet is right in the way and although cutting the X around it would be possible, I thought that it would mess up the clean lines of the X so much that it honestly wouldn’t look good.  We plan to get new countertops in the near future and I may see if that outlet could be moved at that time but with the dishwasher right on the other side, it may not be possible?  I sure wish electricians would take into account centering outlets or placement of outlets when doing them – so many times I have run into outlet problems that could have easily been done differently.

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Even without the X I still think it turned out great!  The other thing I debated adding was some corbels but the overhang is not very deep so when we get counters I may have them extend the countertops out just an inch or two more to the doorframe and add corbels then.

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I usually keep our trash can at the end of the peninsula but I may try to keep it over by the fridge – if that works I may add an Ikea rod and hooks to end of the peninsula.  I’ve always loved that look too and would be such a fun spot to hang a cutting board, a plant or some cute decor!

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Love this view with my little coffee bar in the corner – you can read all about that coffee bar here.

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See how my counters read a bit pink? They are just cheap laminate that is now almost 20 years old and chipped and damaged in some spots.  I’d love any input on what kind or color counters you think would look good – I’m undecided between granite or possibly quartz?  Not sure if the cost of quartz would be possible but I know it is the new popular choice for counters because of their durability and no upkeep involved.  And I have no idea on color and feel like I sort of need to decide on counters and backsplash at the same time.  I plan to get an estimate soon so I can start thinking about it – gonna take me several months to decide on color/type/backsplash and if budget allows I’d love to tackle in the fall.  So send me any ideas or pictures of yours!

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I love how this project turned out though!  It was a fairly easy and inexpensive way to add tons of character to my kitchen!  Since I had all of the shiplap, caulk, and paint, I just had to buy 5 trim boards and my cost was under $25 – even if you had to buy the plywood you’d still be under $40 depending on the size of your island or peninsula.  Let me know if you have or plan to tackle something like this in your home!

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35+ other bloggers are working on home improvement projects this month too!  Check out their projects below – there is always some incredible ideas that I add to my to-do list! Smile


  1. The island looks wonderful!! The shiplap sure gives the island such a fun look! Great job!!

  2. Nice job!

  3. What a great home improvement!! I love how you added character to your kitchen cabinets. Great job!!
    Megan recently posted..DIY Farmhouse Wood Beam ChandelierMy Profile

  4. Heather B. says:

    Amazing! I love how it adds so much more character to your kitchen!

  5. WOW! I would have completely ignored it but what an improvement. Love it.

  6. This looks fabulous! Great job! As for your countertops, I think a granite or granite look material in a beige/tan with black and white flecks would look great. Seems like maybe that is similar in appearance to what you had in your last house. The pattern would add character to the solid colored cabinets and walls and dark flecks would work with the hardware and floors. A friend of mine did an awesome backsplash using those sheets of faux metal that look like pressed tin, either from Lowe’s or Home Depot. I believe they come in copper, tin and bronze colors. Good luck!

  7. I love this transformation! It’s like a whole new kitchen. All the small details can make such a big difference, can’t they? Very impressive! Thanks for sharing all the details, along with the tips and tricks.

  8. Gosh this just made my project list grow a line. I want to do this so bad, and your kitchen looks amazing! What a transformation you have made in that space!!

  9. One of my favorite things so far in your “new” home! You have truly transformed your entire kitchen/eat-in-area! So talented!

  10. this adds so much character! I love it! Awesome job!

  11. Hi Christina,
    Do you have any video tutorial for this?

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