November 23, 2008
glue stick heaven
We live in a 97 year old four-square Craftsman house. It's a pretty nice house, especially given what we paid for it, but it's got some serious flaws both structural and aesthetic, and we've got a to-do list as long as our arms and far, far longer than our budget will currently allow. Previous owners made some crazy-ass decisions in this place, and for 5 1/2 years now we've pretty much just been living with them. I mean, they cemented a toilet to the basement floor with chunks of marble, for crying out loud. They stuccoed half the dining room and plastered up fake brick on the other half. The whole upstairs is a patchwork of ugly linoleum flooring. They covered up the bathroom window on the inside without removing it or even taking down the blind first. It could take the rest of our lives to set it all right. And we have big plans, from building a photography darkroom (with toilet!) in the basement to finishing the attic and making it a master bedroom to knocking out some walls to make two bedrooms into a spacious second floor studio with bamboo walls and Japanese paper sliding doors to elaborately decorated ceilings and subway tiles in the bathroom and a broken-crockery mosaic backsplash in the kitchen; all stuff that future owners of the place will curse us for, no doubt.
So. Next weekend we're having a party, and I've suddenly decided that I can't possibly have people see our hideous and embarrassing bathroom (even though they've all seen it before). Because the longer we wait to rip out and renovate this eyesore, the more people might think we actually like it, and of course you know that like all new homeowners, we have far better taste than the owners before us. I think there's some kind of universal law about that.
Here, have a look at this bathroom and tell me it's not puke-inducingly bad:
Plastic-coated masonite fake tiles and artfully uneven faux-sauna wood trim.
A vanity that juts out in front of the doorway and also partially covers the floor heat vent. Smart.
And a barely functional jacuzzi tub with a shower head placed so that you have to sit down to use it. Sideways. With scrunched-up crossed legs because the tub is narrow. Oh, and the water runs straight through the wall and falls on the dining room ceiling below, which is actually in less danger of collapsing on our heads than the living room ceiling is (from before-our-time sink and toilet leakage) only because we never, ever use this tub. So it's not only an eyesore but also a totally unusable waste of valuable bathroom real estate.
A few days ago I floated the idea to Peter of painting the bathroom black. All of it, fake tile walls, wood trim, tub, vanity counter, everything. After some negotiations we settled on bubblegum pink, planning to leave only the toilet and sink unpainted and to spray paint the toilet seat a glossy red. But Peter had misgivings about the whole thing, which culminated in some marital strife (or, the living in sin version of marital strife, whatever that's called) right in the paint aisle of Canadian Tire and ending with me being bitchy and pouting at the mall and spilling my Tim Hortons tea on my skirt and using profanity right in front of a doe-eyed ancient old lady who happened to be wearing the least convincing wig I've ever laid eyes on. So. The upshot of all of this is that we decided to instead cut pages and pages out of the hundreds of old National Geographic magazines we inherited from Peter's mom and wallpaper the whole bathroom in them. Which, I might add, is a good deal more labour intensive than just painting it all pink.
Choosing images is harder than I thought it would be. I don't want it to be all gorgeous boring landscapes, or to be too wild kingdom. But I also don't want to use images that fetishize indigenous cultures, and I don't want a lot of piles of half-dug-up bones, and I'm hesitant to use images from stories that have to do with intense human suffering of any kind. Also this whole task is a bit risky for me because I freak out if I see a picture of a fish, especially freshwater fish. Especially dead ones or dying ones, so stories about Alaska or about bears are particularly dangerous. Hey, those fish are SCARY, y'all. Still, after going through not even a third of the magazines I have a big stack of pages to start with plus lots of smaller images and words that we'll cut and paste into something funny once the background layer is down. Then I can draw on the whole thing with markers later on too. The funniest image we've found so far is a man sitting on a Ronald McDonald head. The funniest photo caption: L'afrique le chic.
Posted by jodi at November 23, 2008 10:18 AM | categories: projects
Have you crawled into my brain and deciphered it recently? My downstairs bathroom is one of those "works in progress" . . . when we first moved in I stripped off the wallpaper and remudded the walls, and then stalled. Just a week ago I decided I wanted to mod-podge *something* onto the walls in lieu of painting, but I haven't decided yet what images I want!
Great minds think alike?
Posted by: chris at November 23, 2008 01:07 PM
"Have you crawled into my brain and deciphered it recently?"
I don't know if anyone's THAT brave!
Posted by: BBS at November 23, 2008 02:31 PM
This is so funny to me, because it echoes house projects in my life. Two artists, no money, lots and lots of opinions.
I wonder what the owners after you are going to think?
Posted by: lisa at November 23, 2008 03:32 PM
I love National Geographic pictures and your idea for the bathroom. I once hodge podged NG pictures onto a VERY large lampshade and wore it as a dress for a party. It was my favorite piece of clothing for quite awhile.
I think your bathroom is going to look fantastic.
Posted by: grace at November 23, 2008 04:10 PM
When I lived in Athens many years ago, I had a friend who wallpapered his bathroom with old New Yorker covers. It looked pretty neat.
Posted by: Janice in GA at November 23, 2008 11:51 PM
umm, nice basin taps.
Posted by: Amelia at November 24, 2008 12:44 PM
Your post made me laugh! It's so true about previous homeowners, and about waiting too long. I thought of that as well, how do visitors know that the ugly parts of the house were not my doing? I like the progress of the new wall covering, much improved. :)
Posted by: euni at November 29, 2008 05:18 PM