Sunday, November 25, 2007

Empire II - Comedy and Tragedy

I suppose Martians have as much right to sell pieces of the planet Earth as anyone else.

I’ve never understood real estate as a concept. Who owns what? Who can sell what? Pieces of the planet? Who first thought up selling pieces of the planet? Who was first foolish enough to pay for a piece of the planet? Does that make any more sense than buying a piece of Mars?

Would you buy a piece of Mars?

Many things may be viewed as a question of give and take. In the history of real estate, there is probably more take than give. This is Thanksgiving weekend. All we who still have our homes have much for which to be thankful. Still, ironic - how it all got started and where it ended.

Southern California is on fire again today. As of this moment, at least 46 homes have been lost.

We may take; we may buy; we never own.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Empire I - The Guest Bath is Done! (but would Her Majesty approve?)

It's November and I haven't touched this blog since July. How time flies when you're having so much fun with remodeling.

The good news is that the guest bath is finally done.

A view of the bathroom before the remodel:

and after:

The Kitty was a great helper, as anyone with a cat could attest:

A few years ago I acquired a set of Victorian era prints on EBay. The Victorians were wild about ferns and having a collection of memorabilia of British royalty I decided to give the guest bath a Victorian tilt, even though the house is a Craftsman style. Or, I should say I gave it my mis-informed interpretation of Victorian. I thought the revelation of the claw foot tub would support my inspiration. Wrong. Claw foot tubs are very un-Victorian. The Victorians had a big thing for hygiene and the tubs were too difficult to clean under. I later learned this sad fact for myself but still, I'm happy we could recover the tub and bring a bit of history back to the house.

Now, here's the question that occurred to me once I got the whole Victorian thing into my head. The Victorian era was all about Empire. How could I celebrate that in my home design?

I have a cup that commemorates Victoria's 1897 Diamond Jubilee as "Empress of India."

Why not have a mug celebrating Cortez as Conqueror of the Aztecs?

Or a plate picturing Andrew Jackson as the Scourge of the Cherokee?

In a hundred years, will anyone celebrate our 21st century incursions? Not likely. Not likely we'll be here in a 100 years. Too bad. I'd like to think my house could reach the age of 200 and that someone else will still be enjoying the work we've put into it.

In spite of the ugliness of the reality of Empire, I confess to being drawn to British colonialism as inspiration. I like the idea of confronting the exotic from the comfort of a well-furnished tent. Very Abercrombie & Kent. But to think that way, one dismisses the humanity of the Other. Victoria was Empress of India, but not likely in the minds of the Indians, who hardly needed an Empress.

fyi - I've played with the formatting of this entry until I'm ready to throw crockery. I still can't get it right. Maybe that's why I only post every 4 months.

Sunday, July 8, 2007


Our house was built in 1909 on the arm of a T at an intersection of two streets, each named for a battle.

Since purchasing our home in 2002, we've been fighting a battle of our own - to rehabilitate and make liveable a house corrupted by bad taste and imprudent parsimony.

We are in Echo Park, once known as Red Hill for the community of socialists and progressives that made their home here. Until recently, a socialist bookstore stood nearby. Now, an overpriced clothing boutique has replaced the bookstore, a mocking affront to the storefront's distinctive history.

The year our house was constructed, William Howard Taft was inaugurated as President. Taft was the Vice President of Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt was the Vice President of William McKinley. In September of 1901, McKinley was assassinated by the bitter son of impoverished Polish immigrants. So began the 20th century, much like our own, with an act of terror in September.

OK, enough history (for the moment). Here comes the part about remodeling our house. For reasons that don't make sense even to us, we immediately began referring to our second bathroom as The William Howard Taft Memorial Bathroom. But the bathroom is so petite that our grandest president most likely would not have fit in it. Certainly not in the space of 51" allotted to the claw foot tub.

The space allotted for the tub was 51". But the tub was actually 54" long. Just one of the many conundrums of this house.

Old tub forced into the wall:

New wall fitted around the tub:

What else could we do? Moving the entire wall back 3" was not an option as it would have cut into the already cramped kitchen space. So, I guess you could say we've found our niche.

We have been working on this bathroom, the guest bath, for about 17 months now. There have been many delays (family emergencies, work-related travel, unreliable workers). But the clock is ticking on my deadline, June 20, 2008. We've been in the house for almost 5 years. Four rooms are completed (almost) but after this bathroom there will be 5 rooms left to do.

Will we make it? Wagering begins now.