We’ve moved on to more complicated things . . .
Specifically, to the bathroom improvements we have had on our wish list since buying a house with four stereotypical ’70s bathroom counters all made of one-piece slabs of olive green marbleized acrylic of extreme fakeyositude, with integrated shell shaped sinks that, no pun intended, made our hearts sink every time we saw them. Besides being hideous and worn, they showed every speck of dirt and dust that came within their vortices, and they made us infinitely sad.
Now, we did have a little practice on bathroom reno from our first bout during the move-in preparations. The guest bath was both too decrepit and untenably ugly to be offered to people we actually liked as any sort of relief from need. I couldn’t tear out all of the wallpaper in there, having found quite speedily that aside from the kitchen wallpaper this house had paper glued directly to its unprimed wallboard, so I applied a heavy coat of oil-based primer and evened out the seams as best I could with lightweight spackle, finished corners and edges with caulking and filling holes with both caulk and spackle, and primed yet again. Then I could at least paint much of the remaining wall surface in there. The tiny shower stall was sturdily tiled in yellow–thankfully, a light shade, since it would be hard to remove–so I painted the walls a paler yellow yet and called it good.
The majority of the house being paneled or wainscoted–again, thankfully, in better quality than the flimsy plastic-looking stuff popularized in the later 1970s–with dark-stained ash, I opted to play off of the coziness and old-fashioned qualities of the cabinets and trim in the two small bathrooms and leave them dark, collecting all of the bits of bronze-tinted hardware randomly installed around the house and finishing those rooms with that color of metalwork for face plates and towel bars and robe hooks and a few dark wood and gilt trimmings. In the guest bathroom, as we were making our move-in improvements, I played off of the idea that washrooms are often reading rooms and hung up a couple of vintage books on the walls along with the requisite magazine holder. We did ‘invest’ in replacing the counter and sink with a simple composite scrap our contractor had around and a plain porcelain bowl, and I bought a gilt picture frame at a discount store and trimmed the inside edge with gold braid, to mask the edges of the old unframed mirror.
Meanwhile, our home’s openness means that while genuinely private rooms like the baths and bedrooms could and perhaps should have distinctive features of their own, the adjoining spaces in the living areas being so open to each other means it’s best to at least be reasonably compatible, if not coordinated. I’d rather not get bored, so I hope to find a happy medium and not risk severe matchy-matchy disease sneaking up on me for having tried too hard. The main thing I want to have been truly through-designed in this place to make it home and happy is lots of light. Artificial and natural. And the openness of the floor plan should lend itself to that kind of flow. The trick is enhancing what is unfortunately innate in a dark-paneled house, especially one built in an era not best remembered as the era of intelligent room lighting.
The living room one of the darker spots in the house because of its position and direction and the big floofy flowering pear tree in front of its main window. My first line of defense was to install LED rope lights in the ceiling recess in there (giving us a low ambient light any time we wish) and add wall up-lights to the three corners other than the one where I keep my vintage 50s torchiere–that lamp my sisters and I called the Space Needle Light when we were little and it lived at our Grandma and Grandpa’s place. There was not a lot of window light in general, but of course the dark brown Venetian blinds that came with the place weren’t a big help. I’ve recently replaced the blinds on the small driveway-side window with a very simple accordion-pleated white translucent blind so a whole lot more light comes in steadily. I opened up the front window blind too, hung up pale golden-tan sheers, and will probably do the same in the dining room window that balances the living room one. I think having the sheers under the dining room’s carved valance (Gramps’s artistry from his youth in Norway) will hide the shaggy mounting hardware behind and underneath the valance anyway! Not least of all, having better light in the living and dining rooms will help to show off things like Gramps’s carved valance and picture frames in the dining room and the artwork and my exceedingly rustic faux cruel, I mean crewel, stitchery on the throw pillow in the living room.
And having fun stuff to look at in the house can do nearly as much toward house-warming as having a nicely built house itself can do. It’s another reason we keep moving forward with the renovations and projects over time. The biggest change here lately has to have been the bathroom renovations in the Jack and Jill bath and, most of all, in the master en suite.
(To be continued tomorrow . . . )