For such a small space, a bathroom can really make or break a house. The one in my home has been a source of irritation, embarrassment and frustration since I moved in. While I appreciate – and take for granted – indoor plumbing and hot and cold running water, I have not enjoyed the rapid disintegration of a room that looked “really cute” when I bought the house. Within the first year, I became concerned when my nice cast iron bathtub began to peel – bathtubs don’t peel! What the heck? Apparently the folks who sold the house had the tub painted with some sort of finish that looked just like porcelain covered cast iron to make it “look like new”.
Once, while sweeping up the flakes from my ailing tub, I hit one of the baseboards with the broom and it clattered onto linoleum reminiscent of vomit in color and design. Bending over to examine the baseboard, I discovered that it was a two-by-four painted only on the front and top where it was visible to the casual bathroom occupant. It was also just propped up against the wall – no nails or even glue to sully the paint job. How did I not see this when I first looked at the house? Reaching back to steady myself on the pedestal sink, I felt the basin start to give way and quickly righted myself to avoid disaster. Closer inspection revealed that the sink was only partially secured to the wall and, because of the sink design, it was impossible to adequately re-attach it without becoming a contortionist. In the intervening years since my initial disillusionment, I have continued to find new and distressingly “unique” qualities about my bathroom. Those qualities usually become apparent while I am getting frostbite on my hindquarters from sitting on a numbingly cold toilet seat.
But … today is the first day of a major bathroom renovation and, in the midst of all the demolition hubbub, I am at once excited and somewhat nostalgic about the old throne-room. My mind is awash in sweet memories. Winter morning sprints in to turn on a ceramic space heater that would thaw out the toilet water and make the floor warm enough not injure bare feet. My little niece used to enjoy using the toilet-paper holder as a gymnastic device until it ripped out of the wall. And how could I forget standing in shin-deep water because the tub drain finally decided it had had enough? I recall throwing myself a birthday party for a “big” milestone and having to post a sign on the medicine cabinet mirror asking people not to lean on the sink as it would provide no support but might cause a significant plumbing issue. Thankfully, my family and friends are easy going and no repairs were required during the party.
Today I learned there was NO insulation in a bathroom that is situated in the northwest corner of my house and gets the brunt of all the gusty, arctic Midwest winter weather. “Live” electrical boxes were buried in the walls and one of the shelves in my linen closet was a cutting board in a previous life. The room is now down to the studs with the exception of a toilet whose presence is deeply appreciated. It will be sacrificed soon to make way for new flooring and a shiny new pot. I am anticipating that, in a short amount of time, I will be able to shuffle barefoot into a room that is at least as warm as the rest of the house, run a luxurious bath and soak, unmolested by paint chips, secure in the knowledge that a lipsticked pig has been transformed into vision of quality craftsmanship.
drawing by Ryan Betrum (March 2010)