Monday, May 10, 2010

The Adventure of Stove Island

Stove Island looked like this for three weeks. The advantage was that you didn't have to open the cupboard doors below to reach the pots and pans--you just put your hand right into the cavity to pick them up. The disadvantage was that there was no cooking surface in the house on which to put a pot.

I was beginning to think my Stove Island was like Pitcairn and would be isolated and uncharted forever. And then Sebastian the Tile Man sailed into port--on a Saturday, no less--and put Stove Island on the map.

He had been at Fort Chapman once before--on April 22 as scheduled--to demo the original tile on Stove Island. We had to do it because the old cook top--a 1952 Thermador--was a 48" monster that had seen better days, and I couldn't find a reasonable replacement to fill its enormous dimensions. Cook tops these days run to about 36" when they are on the large size.

So, I picked out a white GE cook top with grey burners--similar to one I had in my old home in Winter Park, Florida--and arranged with a local company to re-do Stove Island to the new dimensions in a tile that was complementary to the other tile in the kitchen. I was going to have them install a nice piece of granite on the Island, but then they smiled and said I could just pop over to San Leandro to pick it out, and all of a sudden the tile that I saw before me in the shop looked better and better.

After the demo, I had the plumber add a gas line so we would be ready for the re-install date of April 27.

And then, somewhere between Italy where the tiles were made, and Mt. View, California, where they were to be picked up by Sebastian the Tile Man, the "Durango" tiles were mislaid. Honestly, I was beginning to think the tile company was jiving me, and had the great Sebastian far too busy working on other, much more lucrative projects to stop for a day to work on Fort Chapman's tiny Stove Island.

Finally, one day last week, the tiles turned up in Reno (divorcing themselves from Italy, perhaps?) and once they headed down Donner Pass, the tile company called to say Sebastian would be here on Saturday. Ten days late is better than nothing.

On Saturday it wasn't long before I heard the happy sound of Hola Senorita! And oh! What a joy it was to see Sebastian using my pretty front lawn as his workshop! Ordinarily I would have smacked him for strewing wood chips and grout on the green; but, at this point I wasn't about to find his divots anything but delightful.

Sebastian at work using the front lawn as his job site. And oh well for that.

Once he got cooking, which was something I had been unable to do for several weeks, the work proceeded apace.

The Stove Island repaving project begins.

The one thing that worried me the most was that he had to remove the stove from its packing case in the garage--so he could measure it to create the Island template. And I worried, as it sat in the driveway under the spreading arms of the cedrus deodara that it would end up with scratches and nicks and pine sap all over its lovely face. I checked on it regularly. Alone as it was, and vulnerable, sitting on the asphalt.

There lies a thousand dollars of my old Dad's dough, I would say to myself as I checked on the pretty, lonely cook top.

Sebastian had to run an extension cord into the garage to power his tile saw, and in the course of that he noticed--how could he not?--the gargantuan pile of furniture my sister and I had stored in there for our upcoming garage sale. After three or four hours he asked me about a couple of chairs he saw in there, and how much would we be asking for them?

I thought about it and called my sister. I had disliked those faux Victorian chairs for decades. Not comfortable. Not, in my opinion, very pretty. Oh, and my college boyfriend Bill had sat in them one summer evening, waiting for me to appear and accidentally pulled one of the arms off when he rose to greet me. (They needed to be re-glued.) (And he was 6' 4".)

I had this idea. I had nine tiles that needed to be replaced in the grey bathroom shower ... My sister agonized a while then called back and approved the trade. The bathroom shower was repaired while Stove Island was drying before its re-grout. And we traded Sebastian's extra work for the old, red, chairs. Deal! I was happy and so was Sebastian.

My sister always worries that we've missed our big chance on the Antiques Roadshow, and there is something to that. But my feeling is that "things" only have a theoretical value, unless you are willing to make finding their actual value your full-time work. And unused "things" have almost no value at all. Sitting in our garage is not what a chair was made to do. Sebastian had a family who wanted to sit on them--much more sensible. And we got our shower repaired.

So, later Saturday afternoon, we wrapped the day up with a happy ending. The "Durango" tiles (a Colorado name they've adopted in Italy?) looked ab-fab and so did the cook top when it had recovered from its brief stay in the driveway.

Sebastian, in a flurry of sealing the tile.

The darn thing still has to be properly installed and connected to the gas line by the plumber. And it needs a little piece of moulding around the bottom of the tiles. (Why not? Every project so far has been missing that one final thing.) So, I still can't boil water anywhere in the house, except in the microwave.

But we moved several steps forward. Got Stove Island well on its way to joining the League of Nations. Got the shower-that-has-been-bugging-my-sister-for-three-decades on its way to having a new mixer and faucet.

And I got to say Adios! to a couple of things that were taking up space in the garage. And a very nice young man took Mom's old red chairs home to his family.

The Adventure of Stove Island turned out to be an excellent adventure indeed.

I warned Sebastian, as he drove away, not to let his daughter's boyfriend sit in the chairs, until he gets them properly re-glued.

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Anonymous said...

I was laughing really hard before I finished the first paragraph, you are so funny! "stove island" and grabbing pots & pans through the hole. Hilarious!

Stove Island kinda sounds like a
WWII historical site. Shall we visit? LOL!!

Robin Chapman said...

It is like Treasure Island only there are no pirates and no treasure!

Steve said...

you must be using a microwave and going out for meals since this all started.

Robin Chapman said...

Which is fine as I always think of ovens and stoves as "decor" not appliances one is required to use in cooking food. Or something like that!