Island of doubt

Barbara Kay, National Post · Friday, Dec. 3, 2010

As proof that there is no subject on earth so trivial that it cannot be transmogrified into an entertaining column, Robert Fulford regaled us in Tuesday's Post with a homage to the humble octothorpe, the tic-tac-toe grid that sits on the bottom right corner of your telephone keypad, whose spiralling descent into superannuation was reversed with the advent of Twitter, and whose shimmering lustre has now been restored (but with the new moniker of "hashtag") to its rightful prominence in the punctuasphere.

I asked myself if I could pull off a similar coup. For I have been struggling with a similarly esoteric issue that actually wakes me up at night, and yet in the scheme of human events is utterly nugatory.

It has to do with a kitchen renovation in a new house we just bought. Oh, I see all the gentlemen have left the room.

You remember that musical, I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change? Yes, that's how it is with new houses. You love it, but you want to make it your own.

I have a wonderful designer, Terri, whose aesthetic judgment and eye for spatial proportion are bulletproof. We are in perfect harmony on all things. Except one. Or rather she has an unassailable position on one thing, and I find myself balking.

I've spent the last 32 years in a house that was built for people who had maids to plate dinner in the kitchen and shlep it into the formal dining room. That has been a very labour-intensive way to entertain. So I vowed that in the new house, informality would prevail.

We have to redo the kitchen in the new house anyway. Once we're doing the kitchen, we're going to take down the wall between the kitchen and the dining room. In its place there will be a smashingly beautiful island. People will serve themselves, buffet-style, from the island. So far so good.

Here's the rub: I have to decide whether to put the stovetop on the island and the sink in the countertop -- or the sink in the island and the stovetop on the countertop.

When I am standing at the countertop, I will be looking at a wall. When I am standing at the island, I will be looking into a lovely bright room. My designer Terri says it is a no-brainer and that the sink should go in the island. After all, one spends 10 times the amount of time beside or at the sink than one does at the stove. Theoretically, she's right.

But I'm reluctant. It has to do with image. Imagine you are sitting at the dining room table. The island is of course visible to you. I am behind the island. Picture me standing there cooking on the stovetop with a kick-ass copper range hood over the stovetop. I look like a chef, right? Now picture me

standing at the island and there's a sink in it. What am I doing there? Washing dishes. Now I'm a

maid. When you go to

those open-concept restaurants, are you watching chefs cook or busboys washing dishes?

Now, imagine the view from the chef's perspective. When I imagine a stovetop on the island, I see the dining room as a dining room. When I imagine the sink in the island, I see the dining room as a breakfast room. See what I mean?

Terri asks, quite reasonably, how many times a year I have an actual dinner party that is comprised of guests other than family who, presumably, couldn't care less whether I look like a chef or a busboy as long as they get their nosh. I admit that it is maybe four or five times a year. And for this, she asks, you are prepared to stare at a wall the rest of the year?

I weakly protest that if the sink is in the countertop and I am working at it, if I turn my head a little bit to the left, I will be looking through a lovely bay window out to the back yard. She is not impressed. I am not even impressed.

Perhaps my readers can help me resolve this. But please do not write and tell me how shallow I am. I already know that. Speak to me of islands, sinks and stovetops.