Sippican Cottage

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A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything

Always Go for the Least Worst Option

You’re drowning in the deep blue sea, and the devil is dog-paddling right behind you.  You just bounced off the Scylla, and now you’re careening towards Charybdis. You’ve waved goodbye to the frying pan, when the fire says, “Trick or treat!” Where are you, exactly, to find yourself in such dire straits? In the tile aisle at the home center, of course. You’re trying to figure out the lesser of two evils.

Well, to be precise, if you’re like me, you’re trying to determine the lesser of 457 evils. Man, tile has gotten ugly in the last twenty years. It used to be fairly difficult to futz up your bathroom with tile. There just weren’t that many styles and colors to choose from. Of course you could still choose the ugliest color because you saw it on the teevee. I know, you’d love to tear it all out and make a completely different kind of error this time. But the ugliest tile from a selection limited to four colors can’t compare to what the 457th bay in the Home Depot has in store for you. Imagine Zsa Zsa Gabor’s bathroom if she lived in a single-wide, to get the idea.

Like most things in the redecorating world, a good offensive coordinator isn’t helpful, or even necessary. You don’t need to know what the latest design trend is. You’d be better off not knowing. You need to learn to play defense. You’ve got to defend yourself against fads, and confine yourself to the least worst things available.

We were luckier than most people. We were broke. We couldn’t afford to buy any really of the manifold examples of ugly, gaudy tile they had for sale. But as they say in high finance, bad money drives out good. Same goes for tile. There’s a lot of tile in a home center, it’s true, but there’s only so much shelf space. The bad stuff crowds out the good stuff. But if you poke around, you can usually find a small selection of the plainest, least expensive things they’ve got. That’s what you want. That’s what we got.

We’re tiling the tub surround, and the floor. The floor is a sheet of exterior grade plywood. That’s a great substrate for tiled floors. We screwed some form of concrete board to walls around the tub. Plastic three-piece tub surrounds are all the rage. I hatem. It’s weird, but they cost more than inexpensive tile in some cases. It’s the labor that costs, and I’m not paying me, so I don’t care about that.

This job is from a few years back. There was a tremendous fad for really gaudy cement tile in very bold patterns. I have no idea if it’s blown over yet or not. It all looked vaguely Iberian to my eye. We selected the least worst version of it. It was discontinued, and discounted heavily. That’s another tell. In general, discontinued patterns and colors are no longer available because they’re not hideous enough for the botoxed host-du-jour on H&G teevee. We’ll take ’em, thanks, and keep the change.

Sorry, but there aren’t many how-to photos available. I was working pretty fast and don’t carry a phone to take incremental pictures, and my wife was busy feeding us and homeschooling the spare heir and so forth. We relied on an old stand-by, subway tile, for the tub surround. You can spend a lot of money on subway tile, if you’re a lunatic. They do have fancy kinds, which are like cheap ones, but made deliberately defective, or swollen and misshapen, or in weird dimensions or colors, and cost a lot. But 3″ x 6″ white rectangles are still on the shelf if you look hard enough. They cost pennies.

We bought this sink a decade ago, and it’s lain unused in our closet, waiting for our bathroom remodel. We bought it because we needed a new toilet right away, and Home Depot sold packages of fixtures at rock-bottom prices back then. No one was ever going to buy or build a house after the Great Recession, remember?

Anyway, our kids were going to use this bathroom and we figured what the hell, we’d rather give it to them than have it ourselves. Everyone should have children to discover this strange desire to love others more than themselves. The only stronger love I know of is between a tween girl and an iPhone.

The bathroom’s small, but it’s not cramped. There’s no storage under a pedestal sink, so I buried a niche in the wall to hold sundries. My spare heir executed the paint by numbers on the wall. It’s interesting, but when he paints a paint by numbers painting, it has a style. His style. I’ve never seen that achieved before. Anyway, it’s good to have something from your own selves on display in your house. You can’t purchase “Homey” at the store, homie.

It’s pretty bright in there, even though there’s no window within hand-grenade distance. And now, with a second bathroom in the house, we can demolish the original one, because it’s a horror.

So, is it a good bathroom? Well, it helped win the Physics Prize for the spare heir, which helped him graduate as the Valedictorian of his charter school, which entitled him to a free ride at the state college, where he’s currently on the President’s list.

Admit it. That’s a pretty good bathroom.

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