In addition to seating 4 (or more), islands today are used to house "luxury" appliances that do not fit in the cabinet structure like a second microwave, second oven, wine refrigerator or even another cooktop. Islands many times are fully wired for electricity and have plumbing for a second sink. The base of an island can be used as a wine rack. The possibilities are almost endless.
One of the biggest pluses about kitchen islands is that most of them contain extra storage space for all of the paraphernalia that is so necessary in a kitchen today. A kitchen island cabinet can be just the solution to the problem of "Where am I going to put that?"
Countertop material for the island doesn't have to match the rest of your kitchen countertops as long as it is harmonious with the room's overall design. You may want to splurge on solid surfacing here, for example, and use laminate on the other countertops. A butcher-block countertop is ideal for chopping, while granite or marble works well for baking purposes and for rolling pastry dough.
If you are looking to do a complete kitchen remodeling for yourself, or for maximum resale value, don't neglect the kitchen island. Once just a place to pull up some stools so the kids could eat before running to the bus, the island and it's function in the kitchen has changed quite a bit in the last 10 years.
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