Thursday, January 29, 2009

Bathroom Secrets

A house can be made to give up a lot of its secrets at the point of a heat gun and a chemical-soaked pad of steel wool. Night before last, my bathroom revealed some surprising things about its past.

For one thing, this bathroom of mine used to be painted baby pink. Not just the trim; the walls as well.

I know this was a fashionable color, especially in the 1950s. But why any self-respecting American male would allow what was probably the only bathroom in the house to be done up in pink tile, let alone pink paint, I cannot fathom. But then I reflect that for over fifty years this house was inhabited solely by a single lady, with and then without her widowed mother, so I supposed she had only her own taste to consider.

Then there was the simulated running-bond subway tile I discovered when I pried off the door trim. I shouldn't have been surprised-- I'd seen this wall treatment, with "joint lines" inscribed in the plaster, at the back of the built-in linen cupboard. But I guess I didn't expect to see an unpainted strip of it peeking out from behind the existing tile.

Once I'd stripped the paint off the bathroom side of that same casing, I could see that at some point there was an issue with the door sticking. The woodwork above and below the strike hole (the actual strike plate has been missing from before I moved in) had been roughly planed or chisled down a good 1/16". Funny thing is, now it's hard to keep the door closed. My animals are constantly barging in on me. Not opportune, for privacy or for keeping the heat in.

The most curious thing of all was seeing what somebody (my POs-1?) did when they installed the present 4x4 white ceramic wall tile. For awhile I’d noticed that the jamb trim on the righthand side of the bathroom door sticks out badly at the bottom. It hangs (or did hang) out over its plinth by a good quarter inch or so, and you could see maybe 3/8" between it and the casing. I’d thought that problem was fairly recent, and I intended someday to fetch the rubber mallet and knock it back into place.

But night before last I pried that trim piece off the wall. It wasn’t as easy as I’d expected, because the tile butted into it and not vice versa. But I got it down, and when I did, I found that that piece must've been cockeyed for years-- and they'd notched the tile to fit the way it stuck out! You'd think redoing the bathroom would be the ideal time to make it straight, but I guess not!

What I'd dying to know now is what's under the faded sheet-vinyl flooring. I'm not holding out for a pristine black and white hexagon ceramic mosaic floor, but I can hope. I could ring up the POs-1 and ask what it was they covered up. But I think I'll preserve the mystery until I actually redo the bathroom. No need to make it give up its secrets all at once.

No comments: