I have seen so many people who are taking our Kitchen Cure struggle with their small spaces and if I had to recommend one piece, it's Ikea's GROLAND. Starved for counter space but blessed with an open-plan kitchen, we lugged this piece from Ikea up our four flights of stairs and spent a good hour or so putting it together. And it was worth it. It's supported a busy cooking life and abuse administered by a small child for the past few years.
At 21-inches by 47-inches, it runs the length of our small kitchen counter, offering a logical place to spin around, dump a hot pot, roll out a pie crust, or serve waiting guests a drink. It is solid wood and very sturdy provided you put it together properly. My one recommendation is that you use treat the wood with an oil like Bees Oil, or mineral oil. Bathe the wood before using it, then apply a thin layer with a rag once a month or so.
Buy It: GROLAND Kitchen Island (at Ikea stores, $199)
Related: Best Butcher Blocks with Seating
(Above image from Scott and Ray's Colorful 10-Year Renovation Kitchen Tour, by Dana Velden)