Home Touch by Mary G. Pepitone

Island Living

The sink is the newest implement making a splash in the kitchen. The kitchen sink is evolving into a workstation with more than just washing options, and homeowners should think outside the basin, especially when it's installed on the kitchen island, says Elle H-Millard, spokesperson for the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA), based in Hackettstown, New Jersey.

"It used to be that designers would think in terms of a triangle when configuring where the cooktop, refrigeration and water source were located within the kitchen for maximum efficiency," she says. "Now, modular workstations set over a large sink are getting people to think linearly when it comes to kitchen design, both horizontally and vertically."

Featuring everything and the kitchen sink, The Galley -- based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with 300 dealers worldwide -- was one of the first companies to create a comprehensive workstation system featuring a series of sliding and drop-in accessories that rest on the ledges of a stainless steel troughlike sink. In standard sink sizes measuring from 18 inches to 7 feet, workstations like The Galley are long on design and ease of use. Other basin-based companies -- such as Kohler, Blanco and Elkay -- also have sink accessories, with varying degrees of interchangeability.

"The idea is that prep work, serving, entertaining and cleanup can all be performed over the sink using special racks, cutting boards and culinary utensils," says Gabby Vonigas, spokesperson for The Galley. "Home cooks use The Galley workstation by sliding boards, serving bowls, colanders or drying racks across the sink's rim for seamless usage."

Line Cooks

With a workstation that looks like it belongs in a commercial kitchen and is most often installed on an island, The Galley really gets cooking at home. As a design concept, interactive cooking on the kitchen island isn't eroding; it's only becoming bigger and better, Vonigas says.

"Entertaining at home is a more interactive experience, involving family and friends in the meal's preparation," she says. "With the ability to have numerous cutting boards in place over a long kitchen sink, people can work side-by-side without bumping into each other."

With a long kitchen sink workstation installed on the island, multiple people can perform meal multitasking. With a cooktop installed next to the sink workstation, a cook can chop vegetables and saute in one fell sizzle. Refrigerator drawers built into the island can be stocked with a meal's ingredients and are a cool addition to the sink's workstation that maximizes cooking efficiency.

"This is about making the kitchen space really work for you," H-Millard says. "In an ideal situation, you have a full-sized refrigerator, in addition to refrigerator drawers, and another sink on the wall, where one can wash up big pots and pans without interfering with food preparation on the island workstation."

Design to Sink One's Teeth Into

Don't let your kitchen island's workstation become uninhabitable by neglecting to plan for specific design elements. The size of the kitchen's workstation is determined by the space that allows for traffic to flow around it, with NKBA's optimal recommendation of a four-foot clearance on each side.

A watershed moment of inspiration comes when the faucet is as thoughtfully designed as the workstation sink. As part of The Galley's workstation, the faucets (or taps) are curved with a hand-spray extension for an easy pot-filling feature. It's also important to have a spout at the sink workstation that rotates 360 degrees, so as to not soak food as it's being served.

Kitchen designers liken a comprehensive sink workstation to buying an appliance. With industry prices varying wildly based on the functionality and tools -- which can include a utensil caddy, knife block, a service set for condiments, a wash-and-drying rack, sheet pans, bowl and colander insets and cutting boards -- expect to pay around $1,000 per linear foot for The Galley's top-of-the-line workstation.

People just naturally hover and land around an island workspace, no matter where it's located, whether inside or outside the home. The sink workstation has migrated to outdoor kitchens, but requires extra attention in climates that experience freeze-thaw cycles.

The kitchen island's workstation set over the sink is a feast for the eye when one thoughtfully designs this newest culinary hot spot, H-Millard says. Spills during service are no problem, because the sink beneath serves as a catchall.

"While it's easy to move from food prep into food service in a buffet-line-style over the sink, you can also place a customized upper deck over everything to instantly hide used pots and pans from guests seated at the island," she says.

"The kitchen sink can become the hub of the home and a true place to congregate when it's equipped with a workstation."

When a Sinking Feeling is a Good Thing ...

-- National Kitchen and Bath Association, NKBA.org: Type in your state to find a designer near you. 800-843-6522

-- TheGalley.com: Click WHERE TO BUY to find a dealer near you. Click VIDEOS to see the workstation in action.