I made the skirt out of burlap. I hemmed one edge and gathered the top. Then I stitched on black grosgrain ribbon to hide the gathers.
I left an opening on one side. This is the best part: I have a recycling bin hidden underneath, and can easily access it through here!
I now only have to take the recycling out once or twice a week, and I don't have to look at it! I can also continue to store bulky items on the other side, leaving the top clutter-free.
To attach the skirt, I sewed velcro on at evenly spaced intervals, and stuck corresponding pieces on the island, just under the top. If I ever want to remove the skirt, the velcro can be removed and the island will be free of any offending nail or staple holes.
Here are pictures of the unadorned island after I first moved into my house.
And the fabulous after picture!
I've had the skirt on the island for over a year, and it's made a world of difference. Now maybe I'll get around to acting on thoughts of painting my kitchen cabinets white!