Dear House— I love you, but there are some things we have to . . . well discuss.
First, in case it has not been made abundantly clear, we love you for all your age and experience. Nothing in life is perfect and houses are no different. But sometimes you just have to vent, especially when you are unable to pull the trigger on the renovations you want to make due to finances or whatever life throws your way. You didn’t think this would be a twenty-four hour, seven-day a week love fest did you?
When we bought our 1867 Gothic Revival on Maryland’s Eastern Shore most of the hard structural work was already done, and done extremely well from a craftsmanship standpoint. We made finishing and stylistic changes inside and out such as painting our house on the inside all one bright color since it is very narrow and has a lot of wood trimmed details throughout, which opened up the space. We also changed all of the lighting, hardware, and other fixtures to express our tastes and give our historic home a clean and modern interior feel. We will continue making changes as long as we are in the space, like addressing the closets—we mean two, plural. Yep that’s it. We have winter clothing stored in the upper cabinets in our kitchen.
The bathroom, however, was the real downer. It’s hard to know where to start. The washer and dryer were from the Happy Days era and stacked on top of each other with a filthy 40 year old bathmat between them. There were light blue and green watermelons painted into the floor in a checkerboard pattern. The toilet brought to mind a turnpike rest. And the clawfoot tub/shower combination was the crowning jewel. Anyone out there reading this have one of these gems?
Let’s start with the tub itself, which is pretty high off of the ground so a short-legged girl like myself struggles to get in and out safely and forget about looking like a lady. Never my most graceful moment of the day—but heck it can only get better, right? I have had my fair share of ,“Wow, that could have been really bad . . . ”, moments since we moved in. Ever try to bathe a dog in one of these either?
My husband Peter despises his entire “historic” shower experience. He is pretty mellow guy so to hear him get all worked up about taking a shower is pretty amusing although all jokes aside, I totally get where he is coming from. Because we have a standalone clawfoot tub, we have one of those overhead shower enclosure which attaches the shower curtain and drapes it into the tub. As soon as his shower begins, however, and the shower curtains get wet, they start to cling to him like wet sheets forcing him to stand sideways in the tub and not bend over. When he eventually climbs out he’s usually mumbling some frustrated expletives. I echo his sentiments.
Deathtraps and liability aside there was nothing that we liked about our bathroom except the new washer and dryer we had to buy when the existing circa 1960 one died and almost caused a fire. This machine was literally held together with duct-tape! We were going to at least modernize our clawfoot tub fixtures so I had a handheld shower instead of a plastic cup to rinse my long hair out. But at a cost of $1500-2000 plus installation it didn’t make a whole lot of fiscal sense to spend several thousand dollars with little change to our bathing status quo.
The point of the story is not to single out our home’s deficiencies but to remind everyone out there that very few properties are going to be exactly what you want when you move in. Even if you had all of the money in the world that does not guarantee that the home of your dreams reflects your personal style. The good thing is that you can always make changes. Some historic homes may require a lot more changes then others and may require a design professional, but you can always make design upgrades to reflect your style, give you the function that you need, and build the lifestyle that you want in any home.
Just in case you were wondering. We are going to hold off on our full bathroom renovation for a little while until we can make all of the design changes at once. Heck, we just started a new business, so all of our money goes to that now. When we are ready to do it right we will donate the tub and modernize the bath so that the shower is not a slippery-when-wet-danger-zone that makes my husband’s first act of the day a miserable one. Until then, a good vent session and a laugh will have to do.