Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Martha's jail cell was cozier than this crib.

During my latest bout of insomnia (recurring; with nostalgia, my NYC neuroses are back), I came across this stellar blog, the Constant Craftsman, while searching for cheap talavera tile and/or xeriscape (best time to invest in the garden is in the dead of winter....The bonus? No weeds! Well, almost.):

Above is the new link to the Craftsman blog, but I actually prefer the old version.

This guy is also remodeling a bungalow, and it looks like he's enduring the same pain as I am (sans the neighborly gunfire). We even have the same ancient furnace from the early 1970's, and know the enduring hell of scraping layers of moldy linoleum from the kitchen floor.

I'm trying to decide on talavera (Mexican-style) tile to use behind the new woodstove (which is actually old; I got it on CL from a retired rich guy with bad taste; he and his pint-sized wife were moving back to her native Bali). My contractor tried to convince me to go with large slabs of saltillo, but, frankly, they looked cheap (they were) and easy (and, really, there's enough of that on my block). I wanted something warm and special; something that looks like it took thought and care, not a few sloppy handfuls of cement. The hearth is the focal point of the nicest room in the entire house, so it's no place to skimp. I'd rather spend a little extra money on nice tile and be happy with it instead of regretting my miserly, bad taste every time I walk through the front door.

The contractor built a raised platform, then plonked down cement tiles (like the kind you'd use for a garden path) inside of it. Easy. I could have done it. (Why didn't I, then?) It's removable, so it won't destroy the original hardwood flooring beneath it, and I can pick it up and store it in the summer (unlikely, but nice that it's possible).

I'm trying to choose from the talaveras offered at a local tile place.

I've got to find tiles that match the quirky, brick-lined wood stove I bought on CL (wicked cheap), which is bright, bleeding red. I could paint it, but I kind of like the way it screams. The rest of the house--and the permanent stuff, most importantly, will stay stark and neutral. I'm going for the Japan-meets-modern, metro loft-mixed with old-school, charming bungalow look. Pretty, no-nonsense, open and airy, simple, but with subtle, charming touches. The house is so small, it would be easy to overwhelm it with lots of busyness. Ideally, it will feel kind of stark and spacious, but warm. Whatever that means. (I'm not kidding anyone: I'm no M. Stewart. If the Connecticut model Martha ever laid eyes on this place, she'd turn on those kitten heels and haul ass out the improperly installed front door. Her jail cell was probably nicer than this place.)

I'm going to attempt to do the tiling myself. I really can't afford to pay someone for the labor, and I know I'd feel really proud if I could accomplish the tiling on my own. It would give me the know-how and the confidence I need to finally tackle the kitchen floor. Rumor has it that tiling is like painting--any doofus can do it.

For the "fireplace" (which translates to: I have to tile the wall so it won't catch fire), I'm envisioning a simple, creamy off-white with an interesting border and/or accents w/ funkier tile that's both classic and matches the contemporary feel of the house (and, most importantly, the faux Tiffany ceiling fan in the living room, which is diagonally above the wood stove area). Feel free to throw in your two cents. I'll take up a collection. (The first photo, above, is of the four top contenders.)