An island or counter with rounded edges softens the industrial look of stainless steel.
Biomorphic shapes Known for its whimsical housewares, Alessi is introducing its first kitchen units—including the Sinuosa—to the United States this month. DETAILS 212-431-1310 or alessi.com.
Curvaceous lines The Italian kitchen company Pedini has opened 25 U.S. showrooms in the past two years to display rounded designs like the Integra island. DETAILS Approximately $25,000; 800-404-0004 or pediniusa.com.
Rotating units KWC's sliding Waterstation includes a double sink and a chopping block. DETAILS $12,000; 678-334-2121 or kwcamerica.com.
Circular stations Smallbone of Devizes's Walnut & Silver collection includes a chic round island that might feature a cooktop and seating. DETAILS From $70,000; 800-763-0096 or smallbone.co.uk.
New kitchen appliances are designed so they can be hidden or made less obtrusive when not in use.
Adjustable hood Miele's hood shifts up and down by about a foot, so tall cooks won't hit their heads. DETAILS Available in May 2007; 800-843-7231 or miele.com.
Sliding countertop The Austrian company Kamper created a kitchen island with a Corian countertop that slides to expose a Miele ceramic cooktop and a double-bowl sink. DETAILS From $40,000; 305-576-1097 or kamper.us.
Space-age sphere Closed, Sheer Kitchen's island looks like a glowing ball. The hood lifts to reveal a cooktop, sink and wine fridge. DETAILS About $66,500, with installation; 305-865-8577 or sheer.it.
Increasingly used in countertops, glass makes large kitchens look less imposing and incredibly modern.
Superdurable glass The countertops in the Simplicity line from Italian company Santambrogio Milano use the same sturdy type of glass that's in the Louvre's famous pyramid. DETAILS 800-645-7250 or santambrogiomilano.it.
Fused stone Architectural Systems's Fusionstone binds glass with exotic (and often porous) stones such as white onyx and Carrara gioia marble to protect against wear and tear. DETAILS From $110 a sq ft, to the trade only; archsystems.com.
Crackled surfaces Think Glass's customized textured-glass countertops start at a 1.5-inch thickness. DETAILS From $145 a sq ft; 450-420-1110 or thinkglass.com.
The newest islands are table-height and accommodate comfortable chairs.
End table In Arclinea's Convivium line, a teak table is cantilevered off the end of a stainless steel cooking island. DETAILS From $25,000 for the island; 212-758-4046 or arclinea.it.
Racing lines Pininfarina, a firm that designs race cars like Ferraris and Maseratis, created the kitchen-design company Snaidero's Venus line. An ultrathin countertop curves gently off the island. DETAILS Approximately $75,000 for the island; 877-SNAIDERO or snaidero-usa.com.
Sushi-bar style Effeti's Misura line includes a two-level island; the seating area around it resembles a sushi bar. DETAILS Approximately $35,000 for the island; 212-243-5020 or effeti.com.
Many new houses have large kitchens with big appliances to help cook for crowds and clean up afterward.
Six-foot-wide fridge GE's mega-model has 41 cubic feet of storage space, four temperature zones and two wine caddies for bringing chilled bottles to the table. DETAILS From $13,000; 800-626-2005 or ge.com.
Extra-large dishwasher Dacor's 30-inch Epicure, the largest on the market, holds more than 20 place settings. DETAILS $2,500; 800-793-0093 or dacor.com.
Additional reporting by Christine Quinlan