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Kitchen Carts Buying Guide
Islands in the Kitchen: selecting a kitchen island
There never seems to be enough counter space in a kitchen
especially if you live in an apartment or a smaller house. Kitchen carts
and kitchen islands can free up the counter space you do have by
creating task specific stations for food preparation, rolling out
pastry, or housing small appliances such as a microwave or a toaster.
Kitchen carts were originally used as casual teacarts or as a way of
transporting snacks from the kitchen to the living or family room. They
have evolved into stylish “must have” kitchen furniture pieces
featuring shelves, drawers, stemware and/or wine racks and cabinet
storage. Some kitchen islands even include serving compartments with
heating elements to keep food warm. An island or kitchen cart can help
you organize your accessories and cooking utensils. When buying a
kitchen island or kitchen cart, choose one that will complement your
existing décor. To help you decide what kind of island or cart you will
need, here are few basic suggestions.
Before You Begin
Since kitchen carts and kitchen islands come in a wide range of styles
and sizes, decide where it will go and then take measurements; you
don’t want to end up with a unit that’s too big or too small.
Do you prefer portable or stationary? Kitchen carts almost
always have wheels or casters and tend to be smaller in size and more
compact than kitchen islands. Some brands and models of carts have
casters that can be locked into place. They can be moved easily around
the kitchen or from one room to another. Kitchen islands that are not
permanent (built-in) are available in both stationary and portable
What are you using it for? Consider the features you want your
island or cart to have. If you are purchasing a kitchen island
specifically for baking or food prep purposes, you might want one that
includes a number of adjustable shelves. Or if you want to use one
predominately for additional storage, select a kitchen island or cart
with large drawers and/or cabinets.
What Type of Kitchen
Cart Do I Need?
Versatility and mobility make rolling carts attractive when
entertaining guests, transporting food from the kitchen to the dining
room or surprising someone with a birthday cake. They are also handy in
the kitchen for increasing work space and storage. They are generally
smaller and more compact than kitchen islands. Rolling kitchen carts
with special features such as a drop leaf, can add more work space
while not taking up much more room. Some models can even be folded away
when they are not needed.
Utility carts are remarkably functional and come in a variety
of styles, with many different features. They can have shelves with a
countertop or a hutch or a cabinet. Or they can be a cart of shelves
you can use to store laundry soap, cleaning supplies, extra dishes or a
special set of pots. Utility carts can have locking casters, so they
can be secured for the task at hand, but portable when they need to
be. They can be used as a place to make coffee or to store
often-used items such cereal or tea.
Rather than using valuable counter space for appliances you
need on a regular basis, consider adding a microwave
cart to your kitchen. Depending on the type and style, the
microwave can sit inside the hutch or on the top shelf, allowing you to
use the space to rest hot plates, display decorative condiment bottles,
or store your blender. Microwave carts can be state of the art, ranging from a stylish hutch with glass
doors to carts with cabinets complete with a built-in outlet. They can
feature enclosed or open shelving, cabinets and wire storage baskets. A
microwave cart might also include a spice rack, utility drawers,
adjustable shelves and locking casters.
Butcher block carts are kitchen carts with a wood block at
least 2 inches thick for cutting meat or vegetables. True butcher block
tops provide a smooth surface for food preparation, and are available
in mobile or stationary models. Select a butcher block cart with
high-quality wood top: it will be easy to clean and maintain, and will
not easily scratch or chip. Butcher block carts can have features such
as drop leafs, additional pull-out work surfaces, hide-away trash can
receptacle, paper towel rack and towel hooks.
Portable or stationary kitchen islands are the ideal
compromise for creating more work space in a kitchen without the cost
of a custom built-in island. They can increase the amount of available
counter space while providing storage for pots and pans, baking
utensils and appliances. They are typically larger in size than kitchen
carts. Kitchen islands can include features such as drop-leafs,
casters, multi-tiered shelves and countertops made of materials such as
wood or granite designed for specific tasks like chopping vegetables or
Islands that provide additional food preparation or eating
areas by expandable counters, drop-leafs or pull-out boards are ideal
for kitchens with limited space. After deciding where you will put your
island, consider how much room you will need to walk around it and if
there is enough space to open cupboard doors or extend the drop-leaf.
Before purchasing a kitchen island, decide what features the unit
should have; take into account how you will be using the kitchen
island. For example, if you are buying one especially for food
preparation, select one with hooks for hanging utensils and shelves to
store large bowls.
Longer work surfaces with multi-tiered shelving differentiate
food preparation tables from kitchen islands. They can be stationary or
mobile, or with casters that can be locked into place. They are perfect
for creating more space in the kitchen, allowing one or two people to
do separate tasks at the prep table, while another person is working at
the counter or stove. Tabletops are user-friendly, made of materials
such as granite or treated wood to allow for easy clean-up.
What Kind of Material Should I Choose?
Medium density fiberboard or MDF can look and feel like real
wood. It is produced by gluing multiple wood fibers together using heat
and pressure. Since they are made from recycled materials, kitchen
furnishings manufactured from MDF are more affordable than solid wood
products, and are strong and durable.
Wood veneers are produced when thin slices of real wood are
adhered with heat and pressure to the piece of furniture. Because it
can be applied to any smooth, flat surface, this is a popular method of
giving furniture the texture and appearance of genuine solid woods
while keeping costs down. Wood veneer furnishings are lighter and less
expensive to ship.
Laminates generally refer to a type
of finish that is applied to furniture, usually pieces that
have been made some kind of engineered wood. They are produced
by pressing layers of materials such as plastic, metal and wood
together, applying it to a wood frame and then sealing it with a
thermosetting resin. They don’t fade and are available in solid colors,
patterns and simulated wood grain. Laminates are commonly used for
kitchen carts because they are strong, durable and easy to care for and
can withstand heavy use.
Considered to be the most durable material for
furniture, genuine wood furnishings are constructed from wood
cut from the trunks of trees like beech, oak or maple. Because solid
wood furniture is not made from recycled or processed materials, it is
more expensive. If your budget allows for a kitchen island made of real
wood, choose one with a protective finish to minimize scratches. A
resilient finish will also make it easier to clean.
Fashioning metal into functional items like furniture and
artwork has been done for over 5,000 years. Since pure metals are too
soft, too brittle or chemically reactive, two or more metals are
combined together to create an alloy. Alloys are stronger and more
stable. Because all metals are subject to the effects of time and
oxidization, you will want to choose a utility cart with a durable
finish or one that is made of scaled metal which is resistant to
Tempered glass is made by either treating it with heat or with
a chemical solution, which makes it stronger than regular or annealed
glass. It is designed to break into small fragments rather than large
shards, like untreated glass. When selecting a cart made of glass or
one with a hutch with glass doors, choose one that uses tempered glass,
since this will make it stronger and safer.
What Style of Kitchen
Cart Should I Select?
Traditional style is a reflection of past trends and socials
customs from historical periods like Louis IV, Queen Anne and the
Renaissance. Traditional furniture is characterized by medium to dark
finishes, graceful curves and carved detail. Inset panels, leaf and
vine motifs and bun feet are typical classical accents.
Modern kitchen carts and kitchen islands are characterized by
polished surfaces, geometric shapes and neutral palettes. Metal and
glass are common construction materials. The focus of this style is on
form and function.
Contemporary style, like modern, is also known for its clean
lines and geometric shapes. However, unlike the modern style,
contemporary furnishings are often softened by curved or tempered
lines. Contemporary style will utilize a variety of finishes, palettes
and materials to create texture and visual interest.
Transitional merges elements of both the traditional and
contemporary styles for a more formal yet relaxed look. Lines and forms
tend to be simple and sophisticated. The emphasis is on uncluttered
detail. Demonstrated by the use of straight lines contrasted with
tapered legs, a transitional mobile kitchen island will blend easily
with eclectic or more traditional furnishings to complement your
Country furnishings are scaled down versions of more formal
furnishings like French Provincial, English Country or Colonial.
Country style is characterized by milk-painted woods, lighter wood
finishes, muted colors, simple lines and a comfortable feel. It can
also include whimsical details like hand-painted stenciling,
hand-carved insets and soft curves.
What Else Should I
Keep In Mind When Choosing a Kitchen Cart or Island?
Before buying a utility or serving cart, give some thought to
any special features you would like it to include such as wire basket
shelving, wine bottle rack or a removable tray.
If you like the idea of being able to move your kitchen island
or cart from place to place, but would like the option of parking it
while completing a particular task, select one with locking casters.
Drawers are always a welcome addition when purchasing a
kitchen cart or island. But consider what you want to use the drawers
for. Deeper ones will be more suitable for storing pots and pans, while
shallow drawers are better for keeping utensils or dish cloths in.
If your kitchen has sufficient floor but limited counter
space, consider purchasing a microwave cart or a work center dedicated
to a specific activity.
When buying a kitchen cart for a special purpose such as food
preparation or making candy, make sure that the counter top material,
such as wood or marble, is appropriate for its intended use.
Drop leafs and expandable countertops can be used not just for
food preparation, but also as a place to eat.
If an island or utility cart is no longer needed in the
kitchen, consider moving it to the laundry room, porch or even the
garage for extra storage.