Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Bathroom Stories

Abode, a local home magazine published by the Metro Spirit, recently accepted a story I wrote about our bathroom (thanks, Amy!).  I'll post a link as soon as it runs, but in the meantime, here's an earlier version of the story. It's funny...I actually forgot all about this version until I found it in my files, but it's interesting how I say basically the same thing but the voice and style are completely different. 

The Bathroom that Took Four Years (and Counting)

My college newspaper once published a regular column on “The Best Public Bathrooms.” Usually accompanied by a garishly lit photo of a white porcelain toilet, it espoused all the amenities that students who survived on Ramen and little or no heat during Virginia winters might want: “clean,” “no smell” and “plenty of toilet paper.” Just like your basic dorm bathroom.

Even then, I read magazines like House Beautiful imagining what my bathroom in my house might look like. It’s a topic that most definitely is different for women than for men. Not to be sexist, but your average male generally wants “clean,” “no smell” and “plenty of toilet paper,” and is plenty happy with that. My imaginings included chrome faucets, a shining white clawfoot tub, fluffy white towels, wildflowers. And plenty of bubble bath and candles.

When I became engaged and we decided that I would move into my fiance’s 1920s cottage, I decided that along with wedding planning and settling into a new job, we would redecorate. Living room, dining room, kitchen, bedrooms and bathroom. We painted the kitchen a bright Italian yellow, before we tackled the bath.

It would be another two years before we felt up to tackling anything else.

Because we’re in an old house, we discovered that we had lead paint (this after we had already merrily scraped and breathed in lead dust in our kitchen). So for our bath redo, we decided to play it safe and used a fancy paint stripper that was safe for lead paint and safe for us. The only catch was that you had to neutralize it before you could apply fresh paint to the walls—otherwise the paint won’t stick. It will simply ooze and strip itself from the wall.

Did I mention that we didn’t read the fine print about using the stripper on dry wall and not plaster walls, which is what our lovely cottage has throughout?

After about 20 attempts at neutralizing, using a vile vinegar-based substance, and after a final breakdown into a sobbing fit by me, we threw out the vinegar and started with a clean slate, literally. We bought water-resistant drywall and over a long weekend, my husband, my brother and I cut sections, heaved them up and nailed them in place. For the ceiling, my brother and I stood on ladders and held the boards in place with our head and hands while Sean nailed.

The truly wonderful thing is that the boards come in purple, and our bathroom was already sporting wall tiles in a lovely 70s pollen yellow and avocado green. That year, we hosted Christmas with my family at our house with a purple, yellow and green bathroom and snowman guest towels. I like to think the candle helped.

Now, every time she comes to my house, my mother asks, “Is the bathroom finished yet?” She doesn’t really expect to hear yes, and always giggles and shakes her head at us. And while we’ve put the time in to complete the other rooms that we planned to update and paint, the bathroom still remains in its crazy tricolor glory. I can’t even call it funky. But at least the end is in sight. Maybe by this Christmas.


Stacey Hudson said...

Hilarous! I always love your reflections, and I'm glad that someone else's home isn't quite perfect. I look around my home at our second-hand couch and wingback chair, looking just one doily short of my great-grandmother's old country home, and cringe. They're like an assault on my senses every day. "Country" flair... not something I strive to achieve. But purple and yellow bathroom? That's something I can get down with. Just tell your mom that if purple and yellow was good enough for Versailles, it should be good enough for her!

Stacey Hudson said...

I misspelled hilarious. ((groan...))