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Stainless Steel Kitchen Islands
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As steel appliances continue to grow in popularity, more and more homeowners are incorporating stainless steel into other elements of their kitchen decor. Where stainless steel counters and kitchen furnishings with bases made from the metal were once found only in commercial settings, the demand for them in homes is now increasing every year.

Manufacturers of kitchen furnishings have responded to the requests from homeowners for stainless steel products by creating styles that work well in home spaces. Stainless steel kitchen islands are one option for adding the look of the metal to a home, and manufacturers now offer islands made of the metal in a variety of styles that are as attractive as they are functional.

Our Buyers' Guide to Stainless Steel Kitchen Islands was created to help you explore the options available for your home kitchen. The guide explains all of the features of today's kitchen furnishing lineups to help you make decisions about what piece will work the best in your home. Follow the guide and think about each feature, and by the time you reach the end, you'll have a clear picture of what model you should be looking for as you shop.


Style

To meet the needs of consumers, manufacturers produce pieces in certain styles, each of which has its own benefits for home chefs.

  • Traditional islands have a work top and a closed-in base. The style will typically feature at least one set of cabinets and one drawer over top of them. The traditional style offers a large amount of storage space and is typically designed to be aesthetically appealing, so that the island looks like a piece of furniture. Depending on the height and style, traditional islands may be able to function as seating areas.

  • Table islands have open areas below their counter tops. The table style is available in both a more commercial style, where emphasis is on function over form, and in styles that are intended to be more aesthetically appealing. The latter type may look like a kitchen table or even a decorative accent table. Table styles typically offer less storage space than island styles, but can be used comfortably for seating as an added benefit.

  • Rolling islands have wheels or casters on their bases. The addition of the casters makes the island mobile, which is convenient for cleaning the floors or making extra room in a kitchen, whenever necessary. Rolling islands may resemble traditional islands, tables or even kitchen carts.

  • Corner islands are unlike other styles, which are typically designed to be placed in the center of a kitchen. Instead, corner styles are meant to take up the typically wasted space in a corner and have two working surfaces arranged at a 90-degree angle from one another. Only a small number of manufacturers offer corner islands.

  • Utility islands are generally shorter in size or slanted to make it easier to store or use kitchen appliances on their surfaces. Typically, utility islands are used in commercial spaces rather than home settings.


Size

When shopping for stainless steel kitchen islands, you'll need to keep in mind both the largest size island that your kitchen can accommodate and the smallest size that can adequately meet your needs. To determine the largest size, measure the available space in your kitchen, ensuring that you leave 30 to 36 inches of room in any walkway space.

The minimum size necessary for your island will depend more upon how you prefer to work at your island. You'll need roughly 18 to 25 inches of length to complete one working task, so if you like to set up to two tasks side by side or arrange ingredients and other items around the spot where you're working, you'll want to adjust the length of your island accordingly. You'll also need to ensure that the width is adequate to hold any large appliance or piece of equipment that you may use on your island.

For all types of islands apart from utility styles, the height is also an important consideration. The ideal height for people who are of average size (roughly 5'4" to 5'10" in height) is 36 inches. People who are above and below average height will want a island below and above 36 inches in height, respectively.

Important Terminology

When shopping for a stainless steel kitchen island, you may run across certain terms that are used to describe the steel used in the piece. Understanding these terms will make it easier for you to compare styles and ultimately choose the best island for your home.

Gauge

The gauge of the metal can be thought of as a measure of its strength, as it is a number used to represent the thickness of the steel. Lower gauge numbers indicate thicker, and, therefore, stronger pieces of steel. You'll typically find 14 to 20 gauge steel used in island styles. For most home kitchens, 16 and 18 gauge metal frames will be strong enough to adequately support the work surface. The counter top may be a higher gauge, especially if the base of the island is made of wood. Commercial kitchens may require sturdier pieces, depending on the type of work that will be performed on their surfaces.

Type

Most islands will feature type 304, a form of austenitic steel that is made from a combination of iron, carbon, chromium, nickel, and, sometimes, trace amounts of manganese. Other types of austenitic steel may be found in some models and are easy to identify, as their type numbers will be found in the 300s.

As a material for islands, type 304 and other types of austenitic steal is ideal, as it is safe for food and non-corrosive. The material will also be able to withstand the temperatures found in home kitchens.

Finish

The finish of the metal part of an island refers to the amount of reflectivity on its surface. The brushed finish, which does not reflect light or easily show fingerprints and smudges, is the most commonly used in island styles. This finish is sometimes referred to as "No. 4".

The satin finish, "No. 6," is the second most common. This finish has a slight shine, but is not reflective, so it does not show as many smudges as a more mirror finish would. The mirror finish "No. 8" is completely reflective and will need frequent polishing and buffing to keep it free of fingerprints and looking clean.

Tops

The tops of islands are not always made of steel. In some cases, the islands pair other types of tops with steel bases. The most common of these alternative work tops is wood, which offers a non-slip, durable surface for performing food preparation tasks. Thicker, butcher block wood tops are also available. When a wood or butcher block top is finished with natural oil, it can be used as a cutting surface without a cutting board, unlike steel, which must always be protected by a cutting board to prevent scratches.

In homes with metal counter tops, steel work tops on islands are often preferred by homeowners. Some home chefs also opt for stainless steel because it is nonporous, easy to clean and required by commercial health codes due to its hygienic properties.

Bases

Like the work tops, the bases of islands can be made from either wood or steel. The wood style makes a piece resemble furniture, and many islands with wood bases are available with painted finishes that can coordinate with your decor. Metal bases are often more durable and may be more aesthetically appealing to some homeowners.

Storage and More

Manufacturers offer numerous special features and storage options to enhance the utility of the models that they make. One common addition, particularly in table style islands, is the splash, a raised vertical panel that extends from the worktop. A piece may have one panel across the back, known as a backsplash, or a backsplash with panels along the sides, known as sidesplashes. Backsplashes protect the walls from messes, while side splashes protect both neighboring counters and appliances and the floors in a kitchen.

In terms of storage, manufacturers may offer open or closed options or a combination of the two. Open options keep items within easy reach, but visible. They include open shelves, open enclosures, condiment racks, towel racks and utensil racks. Closed storage options require you to open a compartment or door to access items, while keeping the things that you're storing hidden from view. Hinged doors, sliding doors and drawers are all closed storage options found in stainless steel kitchen island styles.

Before shopping for your new island, take some time to consider what items you want to store and what types of storage are best suited for them. Make a list of the features that you're looking for to refer to as you shop.

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