Impossible Constructions and Other Illusions (of Grandeur)

This week’s been a DOOZY for the ol’ morale!

—> Curio Coffee gears up to open… in Cambridge, MA.

—> A juice bar opens here in Northampton.

—> And I was told by someone attempting to give advice that we’re taking too long to open our cafe.

TGIF, I guess!

To address these things more specifically:

The juice bar, Nourish, is adorable and the couple running it is awesome. We even have mutual friends (small towns for ya!). It’s the beginning of a web of support I look forward to weaving – young, first-time business owners, in it for the right reasons. And that’s pretty cool. I think “the more the merrier” is a wonderfully accurate sentiment for consumer-focused businesses in Northampton. There are enough thirsty people for us all.

Curio Coffee though. That’s a tricky one. We already registered our name (Curio) – federally and locally. But not with the state of MA. And, even if we had, the name “Curio” can’t be trademarked – it already is… for a tomato company. We don’t have our social media presence yet and our website address is different. I don’t think these upstanding citizens took our name but there it is, all over their marketing, all over their write-up in Boston Eatery, all over their new fancy account with Counter Culture roastery – with their black and white emblematic logo, achingly similar to ours. Achingly. If it was in Arizona, ok. Keep your Curio Coffee – and we’ll have ours! And maybe if their logo was – well, how do I say this, – a little less “Linea Caffe” and a little more… their own. And maybe if they were doing boring coffee and sugary muffins. But we’re climbing the same tree, at the same. damn. time. Someone’s gotta switch.

So we have a list going. <ahem>

We went out to breakfast a couple of mornings ago – and drowned our sorrows in french toast and bad restaurant coffee. We muse on a new name while we tile. It gives us something to talk about. Kills the hours. And, in a funny way, it’s given us a chance to really hone in on what “Curio” is now that it’s all coming together. We’ve had the name picked since June 2013 in den Haag, The Netherlands. We were walking through a park in the rain and Fitz said: “I’ve got it. You said it earlier. And you didn’t even know. But it’s the name of our cafe. I know it is!”

And now it isn’t. (We think.)

We mourn the loss. (We think.)

(No, we can’t keep the name. For, when we become famous, it won’t bode well that our twin is 2.5 hours away. Besides, the mystique was in the originality. … And, as it stands, nothing is original these days.)

Any suggestions?

In other news: Impossible Constructions and Other Illusions (of Grandeur)

In August, after leveling the espresso bar floor, we tiled it – a fascinatingly complicated endeavor (as always!). I must say it’s our most successful finish to date. Everyone who pops their heads in agrees… well, did agree, until the tiled floor was lost beneath the “Sea of Half-Finished Projects.” Every once in a while a tile or two surfaces, pushing aside materials in the queue to be used. We’ll find you again, Floor! I promise!

Some of you may remember the faux wood 6″x24″ tiles we bought from Home Depot and our plan to use them in a herringbone pattern. What I’ve come to realize about my dear Fitzpatrick is that, often, he’ll come up with a “placeholder design” – something he can safely say out loud, to appease me, and to keep the projects and decisions moving along. Then we make massive purchases and mobilize complicated efforts toward that end… only to find out, moments before we pull the trigger that my dear Fitzpatrick has been mulling over A DIFFERENT DESIGN for weeks.

It took me a few rounds of this whiplash to really get the hang of the ride. But, I’m on board now – so to speak. He likes to design within limitations and craves the use of the found object. So, buying things for one direction and then going another doesn’t bother him. It encourages him, actually. And, for this (and many other reasons), I love him.

So the secret grand idea for the Espresso Bar: optical illusion tiles a la M.C. Escher. Maurits Cornelis and Sean Fitzpatrick have a lot in common – well, enough in common – mostly a lot of math + art and the swirls + eddies of intricacy inherent in their interplay.

As said above, we created the pattern ourselves. Fitz knew the general concept he wanted – and how the 3 colors of tile would work to create shadows, allowing the 3-D boxes to pop from the hexagons. But we had to find the correct angles for the intersections – and had to do so on a 6″x24″ tile. Actually the perfect angle was nixed in favor of an “almost perfect” version that allowed 3 diamonds to be cut from the long rectangle. This created the most minimal waste. Key when you’re doing 350 square feet of this!

Ok – so great! Pattern done!


Now what?

Cut the tiles.

All of them. 350 square feet of diamonds. 4 cuts per rectangle. 2 solid days of cutting.


Now – for fun – let’s dry set the pattern!


A sneak peak (the dust is from the cutting).

We can’t really remember why we dry-set the tiles. I think it was to determine how many Fitz needed to cut – or maybe to see how the pattern would play against the espresso bar? The details are fuzzy. But we definitely laid out most of the pattern, only to pick it up in stacks before thin-setting.

Speaking of, let’s glue these to the floor!

One of the tricky parts of this project was the Espresso Bar itself. It’s a huge U-shaped object smack in the middle of the floor. So many angles, first of all. But, even worse, we had to bring the pattern AROUND the bar, on both sides, and find a way to meet it and stitch it together. Um. Hard. Hard in a huge room – with a complicated pattern – walls that aren’t straight – and luck that may be running its course.

We bet. I lost. We didn’t meet the pattern. We ALMOST did. But, fortunately, we had a plan in place in case we needed to finesse the “poly meet up.” (For more on poly meet ups, read a recent local newspaper article on these fascinating group activities offered here in the Valley. Never knew til I knew. Thank goodness for local papers?!)

Alrighty! Let that sink in.


That’s enough.

Now let’s grout!

DSCF0565Grouting evokes a particular set of feelings for us. There are waves of joy (the project is almost over!) – fear (what if something goes wrong!) – anxiety (the knowledge that something WILL go wrong) – and nausea (as we pour out the grout anyway and hope for the best).

We learned a pretty clear lesson when tiling our bathroom floors. WIPE OFF THE GROUT. AGAIN AGAIN AGAIN. We were armed with this knowledge. We came prepared. Sponges. Buckets. Clocks. Positive thoughts.

So, yet again, we were foiled by the grout! We waited the 10 minutes. We did the wiping. And. It. Stuck. Not kidding! The cool textured detailing on our (stupid) faux wood tiles held grout remnants like they were going out of style. It was severe. We panicked. It was our awesome floor! Our baby! And we were pouring the black plague all over it! Ahhhh!

Several hours – and several absurd tools later (sponges, steel wool, tooth brush, wire brush, scrub brush, screw drivers, chisels, sand paper… sledgehammer, ok not the last one)… we got it all off. It was not fun. It was really hard. We were unhappy. But we fixed it.

As we do.

And we picked ourselves up and moved forward with a new plan. One person would grout and one person would obsessively wipe the tiles repeatedly, following at a rate of “less than 5 minutes” after the first person grouted.

I grouted. Fitz wiped. We did this for the entire room.

It did not all happen in one day.

But here are the awesome results:

DSCF0572Of course, I don’t even have a picture from the best angle. We are notorious for forgetting to photograph a project when it’s done. Most likely because we often look like this:


But we aren’t complaining. Just tellin’ it like it is.

Now, come up with a new name for our business! 😉


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