Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Dress This House - 3 Form Follows Function

A great man once coined this phrase, and, although very few people in the decorating/renovation game give it any credence, I, for one, heartily agree.

I have learned the hard way, of course. Like many young people in a decorating frenzy, I fell, more than once, for a pretty tap or sink or other decorative object and have had my heart broken when it failed to perform.

(This is not an extended metaphor about finding true love, but the feelings are similar, I concur).

For example, right now, in my bathroom, I have a gorgeous rectangular sink which narrows at its base, like a funnel. This tapering design makes it impossible for it to empty out as fast as it fills from the lovely and powerful chrome single-lever tap arching gracefully over it. It’s a daily contest, to see if I can wash my face quickly enough to beat the rapidly rising tide. I often give up and remove the drain-plug-thingie altogether.

It doesn’t look so gorgeous lying on the countertop but it alleviates a lot of stress this way.

Back in the 80’s, a friend once hired a very famous and flamboyant decorator to ‘do’ her master bedroom. Among other things, he raised the ceiling up to the inside of the roof in a Baroque vault and painted it with angelic cherubs resembling her three rambunctious children, floating in clouds above the bed. I said he was flamboyant. I don't know how she ever got a good night's sleep, or anything else, with those kids hovering overhead, watching her and her husband, ready to pounce.

This designer created a glass-walled master bathroom. He positioned the shower heads in the shower in such a way that whenever they were turned on, the water sprayed out past the glass door onto the floor. He also installed the very first on-the-counter vessel sink that anyone had ever seen. It took months to come from Italy. She had to wait till the St. Lawrence River thawed! It cost a fortune, needless to say.

Whenever she turned the fancy tap on, the water poured down the back of the bowl and shot up the opposite side nearest her midriff and sprayed water all over her. The sink looked terrific, though.

My favorite, among many disasters in this vein, were my Kohler bathroom fixtures in my last house, the one with the island. The previous owners (P.O.’s) had apparently spared no expense when renovating this house I was to fall in love with. Well, as it turned out, they had spared a lot of expense by dodging the city inspectors and doing a lot of the work themselves.

But, as soon as I saw the swing hanging from a tall tree in the enormous backyard I was a goner. For some reason, it reminded me of the happily-ever-after house in one of my favorite movies, ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ and I made an immediate connection. But the house had ‘issues’ and, like Santa Claus, himself, was destined to disappoint.

Strangely, the ‘house inspector’ we hired, who gave the place an expensive once-over, failed to notice there was no structural support for the floors in the family room. He also missed the live wires masking- taped to the insides of the bedroom closet. It also turned out that there was absolutely no insulation in the bedroom walls, a definite convenience in a Canadian winter. We were all fooled by that huge island in the new kitchen, of course. So after a fairly brisk winter, we decided to renovate the bedroom. Since the P.O.’s had decided to knock down the walls between the bathroom and bedroom creating a unique open-concept space which didn’t ‘work’, especially if you wanted any privacy when bathing or attending to your ‘toilette’ or, even more importantly, your toilet, it was necessary to re-arrange the master bathroom, too.

Our friend, the architect, cleverly designed a spiffy new layout, which included doors. Rather than going to the additional expense of buying new plumbing fixtures, we decided to keep the relatively new and very expensive ones we had. The shade was something called ‘Desert Sand’ or ‘Sandstone’ and I picked a unique peach and caramel Italian marble to match. It, too, came all the way from Italia and much of it, to my horror, crumbled in the hands of the tile-setter.

The bathtub was the size of a swimming pool. I couldn’t stretch out in it at all for fear of drowning. It sat on a platform under a huge skylight and was surrounded by mirrors, a mistake I will never make again. In the vanity, I had a large, square sink with a spray showerhead in case I wanted to rinse any vegetables, and stunning square-topped taps with interchangeable inserts in case I wanted to change the accent colors on a whim.

Best of all, there was a very large ‘excusado’, (don’t bother to look it up…..it means toilet, but it sounds much nicer) low slung and sexy. As good as it looked, it could never bring itself to flush in one go, so to speak. It took at least three or four turns to get even the merest wisp of toilet paper to vanish completely. When I complained to the plumber, he confided that Kohler toilets never flushed properly.

But it sure looked terrific!

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