Saturday, December 7, 2013

Master Bath Before and After

We hired Handyman Matters in Kansas City to remodel our master bath and they did a really nice job.  Here are some before pics:

And after.  My dream bathroom (within reason considering the space we had!). 

I wanted the soffit completely removed, but there's a pipe running through it to the bathroom upstairs.  The contractor shrunk it and put the sconces on it and I think it looks terrific.  The lighting is by Schoolhouse Electric.

New mirrors replace the one that was void of personality and took up the entire wall.

Crystal doorknobs from Locks and Pulls.

Penny hex tile with charcoal grout.  Love it!!!

We replaced the mirrored closet doors with these solid wood doors that were specially built by the contractor.

Kohler Memoirs.

Roman shade replaces the broken plastic blinds.

Cherub tile from International Materials of Design top off the subway tile.

Beautiful white subway tile with charcoal grout installed flawlessly.

New vanity with marble top and Moen faucets.

And this is the shower curtain I finally settled on.  This was the fourth one I bought.  My husband gives me total freedom with this stuff - he didn't know what anything looked like until it was installed.  However, when a ruffled shower curtain from Pottery Barn arrived one day, my heartily bearded, heartily tattooed husband said, "Oh, hell no."  So back it went.

I just love my new bathroom.  We have dozens of other projects to pull the house out of 1973, but the master bath was a great start and I enjoy it every single day.

Foyer Tile Reveal

The foyer floor has been finished since mid September, but I'm just now getting around to posting pictures.  I went into all the details in the last post, but if I had to do it over again with this very expensive, hand cut terracotta tile, I would not do it.  After saying good bye to the first installer because he was painfully slow and wasn't showing up when he said he would, we moved to another who finished it fast, but who cut corners to do it.  We had a third person pull up some of the tiles the second one improperly installed and were very happy with what he did.  We wish we would have known him from the start, but whatever.  I do love the way the floor looks with my area rugs and it has an authentic, European look.  This tile would drive someone crazy who has to have everything symmetrical and even.  I love wonky imperfection and this floor takes that beyond even what I'm comfortable with, but once again, my area rugs soften it up.  In late January, I'm having the walls skim coated, popcorn removed from the ceilings, and everything painted gray, so that will also enhance the look of the black and white floor.  If I could do it over again, it still would have been expensive, probably limestone, but that would have been thinner and easier to install than this tile.  I hired one of my older son's friends to hand wax it with soft hull wax and that has protected it nicely and given it a warm luster as opposed to a synthetic product that would have sat on the top and given it a garish sheen.  A synthetic product also may have yellowed the white tiles.  This floor was a huge expense and caused lots of sleepless nights.  My advice would be to avoid terracotta!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Painted Terracotta Hell!!

I'm doing this post and including lots of tags along with it, so if someone searches the internet for terracotta tips, they may trip upon it.  Misery loves company, so if you want to open a dialogue about your own tile and exchange ideas, please leave a comment.

I have a foyer that measures about 190 square feet.  When we moved in four years ago, the existing ceramic tiles were cracking.  Then, a couple months back, my husband stepped on a tile that transitioned to carpet and it crushed.  There was actually a hollow space below the tile.  I'm surprised this took so long to happen.  So . . . no procrastinating at this point because someone could get hurt on these shards of broken tile.

I found a spread in Country Living magazine that featured an antique dealer's home in northern California.  Her name is Sarah Anderson and I love everything about her style and home decor.  This house had painted terracotta tiles in several rooms and I just loved it.  I found a specialty store in Kansas City that carried the tile and it arrived six weeks later.  This is where the difficulties began.

I am an artist and I love old things.  I love imperfect things.  That is why this tile appealed to me.  Even in the store, I could see the imperfections and personality in this tile.  However, it is very difficult to work with.  Terracotta tile is about .75" thick.  I got antique white 12 x 12's with black 4 x 4's to inset like diamonds into all corners of the white.  This means every white tile had to have the corners clipped to accommodate the black tiles.  The black tiles were often less than .75", requiring more thinset underneath to make them more (not perfectly) even with the white.  These tiles are hand cut and there are many variations in size.  Do not bother with spacers for this tile; there is no way to use them.  Also, not all of the tiles are perfectly flat.  They are dried in the sun and a couple in the lot even had little cat paw prints in them (which I like).

I made the mistake of hiring a tile guy who had done several jobs before, but was by no means an expert, let alone a terracotta expert, and this lead to many headaches.  The variations in this tile really bothered him.  He tried to use spacers and it just lead to frustration.  Fast forward four weeks later and my floor still isn't finished.  I have a tile expert coming in a couple of weeks to finish the job.  I've already had a tile pop out of the thinset and you can see where only a small strip of the tile was ever adhered to the thinset.  So here's my first piece of advice:  hire a very experienced tile expert, preferably someone who has worked with terracotta.

Another headache that consumed many hours in research and dead ends was what to seal it with when it's grouted and finished.  There is lots of information out there about what to do with terracotta tile, but not PAINTED terracotta.  It was like this tile was from outer space; no one had ever heard of it.  The tile shop where I purchased it was no help.  I asked them to ask the manufacturer and the answer I got was that the tile was already sealed for stain and water proofing.  This didn't tell me what I needed to seal it with once it was laid.  Not getting an answer from the place where I bought it was maddening.  Finally, I was able to contact the woman in the Country Living magazine who owned the home with the tile that inspired me to duplicate it, and she was kind enough to share with me that it was sealed with hard wax.  I found a hull wax through Lustersheen and tested it out.  I think the results will be amazing because the natural waxes produce a warm luster.  This is different than a synthetic poly product that would sit on the surface and produce a sort of garish bright shine.  That is, if you could even get it to cure.  I tried a few on test tiles and could scrape it off with my fingernail.  In fact, I spent about $300 on sealer that I can't use.  

I'm including a few pics of the job so far.  We'll use dark gray sanded grout to finish it.  When it's finished, it will have a very European look - uneven grout lines, uneven surface, lots of imperfections and variations in the tile itself - all lending to a very old world feel.  Although I'm excited about this, the ongoing journey to get there has been unpleasant.  This tile is expensive and the thought that you have flushed thousands down the toilet makes you a little sick to your stomach.  But I remain hopeful we'll end up with a beautiful, functional floor.  I'll post pics in a few weeks when it's finished.

Like I said in the beginning, I'm writing this post in case anyone else out there is working with this tile, or considering it, so I can help with what I've learned so far.  If I could do it over again, as of right now, I would not have chosen this tile.  We'll see if that's still how I feel when it's finished!

Sunday, July 21, 2013


On a recent trip south, we checked out this antique store in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  I couldn't afford ANYTHING in this place, but it was fun to look.

Two incredibly expensive shops in one!

 Loved the plants outside.

This chandelier looked very "Winterfell".

I am loving these sconces.  They had several and I think these were $2,400 for the pair.

Possibly the most beautiful chandelier I've ever seen.

There are lots of dealers these days who go Europe, fill containers, and have them shipped back to the U.S.  I'm going to France in the Spring of 2015 and I'm interested to see just how high some of these markups are.  These shops were huge, so obviously, somebody can afford to buy this stuff.

All of these insanely expensive antiques were a sharp contrast to the lunch we ate next door - about $6/person!

I'm Goin' to Graceland

I'm not a huge Elvis fan, but I've always been curious about Graceland.  We took a trip south to see my husband's parents, and on the way back we decided to stop and check it out.  This place gets about 600,000 visitors a year which is about 1,600 per day, so you have to park in a huge lot across the street.  Here's a view of the gates.  When Elvis moved here in 1957, it was in the country, but now there are other houses around it and the neighborhood is not so great.

You aren't allowed to go upstairs, but the windows on the top right are Elvis' bedroom.

Living room with 15 foot white sofa.

Elvis' parents.

Elvis' parents bedroom.

I've heard they don't allow people upstairs because obviously, the bathroom where he died would be the focal point for morbid curiousity.

Dining room.  People just lived differently back then.  This isn't a very large room.

Priscilla and Lisa Marie.

The kitchen.  Jason has been here once before and they had the kitchen closed because one of Elvis' aunts lived in the house and was still using the kitchen.

This bar is in the TV room downstairs.  Much of this garish decor is blamed on Linda Thompson, one of Elvis' girlfriends after he and Priscilla divorced.  (If you google Linda, you may recognize her from Hee Haw).

The billiards room has more than 350 yards of fabric covering the walls and ceiling.

This is the green shag carpet ceiling of the Jungle Room.  Elvis recorded his last music in this room and the covered ceiling provided good acoustics. 

Jungle Room window covering.

Jungle Room with working waterfall.  Lisa Marie loved that round chair.

This office was Vernon's, Elvis' father.  It's in one of many outbuildings on the property.

Replica of Elvis' home in Tupelo, MS.

Back of Graceland.


This building used to be a racquet ball court and now houses some of Elvis' outfits and awards.

Elvis' neighbors.  I guess you'd get used to living next door with hoards of people coming and going.

Meditation Garden where Elvis, his parents, and grandmother are buried.

Elvis had a stillborn twin, Jessie.  He's not buried here, but this is a memorial to him.

This tour was really interesting, but I went away feeling kind of melancholy.  I just think it's sad to think that this guy was surrounded by people who fed him full of pills.  He died when he was just 42.  If you look at later photos of him, he looks ill.  He's pale and his eyes and face are swollen.  Lisa Marie still owns the house, all the property, and everything in it.  She lives with her family in England.