Project Prior-A-Toilet

Whew! It’s been awhile since I’ve written… Piles have shifted several times in the interim. Visitors have come and gone. The season nudges toward change with yo-yo-ing temperatures… 72 degrees today but low 30s this past weekend, with hail?!

The only constant is the tiling of the kitchen.

We must have a constant, you know.

To know we’re not insane.

Let’s see… in other news… we celebrated Amber Lane’s second birthday on the 17th! Not quite a year since we moved to Northampton but two years of us owning the building (or it owning us we muse in darker hours). The “to do” list before winter presses in with urgency – outside projects collide as we rush against the tick of the temperature clock. Other “before winter” necessities include acquiring heat and running hot water. We haven’t had a functional furnace since November 2014 – but have had dribs and drabs of ineffective heat from said furnace coupled with a medley of dysfunctional space heaters — and lots of meetings beneath down comforters at noon. Summer was fine – air conditioning is a concept neither Fitz or I fully embrace, especially in climates that aren’t overly stifling. But heat – that’s another story. We NEED to find a solution by winter. The 75% solution is (unfortunately) our bedraggled furnace, the electric money-suck from hell. Our HVAC tech is coming this week to run a majority of the duct work, which will allow heat to efficiently run through both the Gallery and Bar. So work on the first floor will progress in comfort. Yay! But, we chose not to tie in our kitchen/bedroom to that furnace system. We did this because: 1) we wanted 2 zones – one for the cafe and one for after-hours 2) the unit we have will perform more optimally if it doesn’t need to go to 1/4 of the building. But… that means we need a new solution for this area.

Any suggestions? Here are the parameters: we do not have natural gas (and can’t get it – there is a moratorium on new natural gas customers in MA… I’m not kidding)… we probably don’t want propane (storing the tanks is awkward)… what about a Mitsubishi mini-split? (Sits on the wall – with its own compressor outside.) Or a wood stove? (Woah!) Or a pellet stove? (Actually quite sleek and we might know of one we could procure!) Or how about a super hero space heater? (Anyone run across a good brand for these?)

Thoughts are much appreciated!

And, no, we don’t look forward to our electrical bills. Thanks for asking.

Speaking of choices, after we finished putting up our drywall (back in July, mind you!), we had several options for “what’s next.” It was a little overwhelming – all these projects staring at us, begging to be transformed from vision to reality. And we were antsy to do it all. We’ve had so many ideas in our head for a year now – and so many materials clogging up the gills of Amber Lane – that all we wanted to do was run in a million directions at once, slapping up tiles, baseboards, throwing fixtures into place, and calling it done! But. You can’t quite do it that way. There is methodology. Order. Process. And, even though it’s all mapped out in the ol’ mind, there are a lot of details to finesse during the implementation. Plus we had to keep our contractors in mind. Well, not that they keep us in mind. But, you know… someone has to take the initiative. 😉

So it was decided that Project #1 would be “Project Prior-A-Toilet.”

Yes, folks. That’s right. Emme and Fitz would finally get a toilet. All they had to do was build a bathroom.

Step 1: Organizing the materials. Our bathroom walls are comprised of 2 parts: wallpaper on the top half and tile on the bottom – for the splash zone! I’ve seen WAY too many cafe bathrooms ruined by not tiling around the sink. People must bathe in these public restrooms or something (I know nothing about this…). Ritual – where I used to work in SF – used encyclopedia pages for wallpaper, a cute idea (!) but not around a sink. The water splatter and soap residue destroyed the wallpaper in under a month. Live and learn. And tile.

Step 2: We prepped the walls with a base coat because the architectural renderings are translucent. They themselves are blue but this color enhanced that quite nicely!


Blue for blueprints!

Step 3: Now for the fun stuff! It’s quite the task to glue blueprints from the 1920s to the wall. Because – let me just underscore THIS IS NOT WALLPAPER and, thus, it will not act like wallpaper. There was a lot of patience during this process … and a lot of finagling.

Step 3A: So then there was the step of cleaning the renderings… This one didn’t get any pictures. It was boring and long and ridiculous, as are most unexpected steps in these projects. You see – when we put the renderings up on the wall, the ink on some of them smeared – especially if it came in any contact with the wallpaper paste or water or slightly damp hands. We tried (so hard!) not to smear the ink… but, alas. In addition, the renderings themselves were kind of grimy – a fact made more apparent once they were on the walls. So… I used Q-tips and small rags moistened with laundry stain remover to clean the blueprints! They are made of linen so the laundry detergent worked! But… if you got it on the ink… it smeared… sending you in vicious cycles of removing stains – creating new ones – removing those – creating more … until we finally gave up and moved on, determining it was (our favorite phrase) “Good Enough.”

Step 4: After we finished the wallpaper, we began the splash zone tiling! A herringbone pattern it is!

Step 5: Some of the finer points.

Step 6: Ok – so grab bars… Used to assist people in wheelchairs during the “perpendicular transfer” (look it up). We made ours out of plumbing pipes. And the other part of step 6 (really not related at all) was sealing the wallpaper (so water won’t attack it!).

Step 7: With both halves of the walls done, now we just have to connect ’em up via baseboards and the chair rail!

Step 8: And the final step – our “most favorite” (not really): grouting!



THE TOILET!! (sans seat – I mean you can’t have it all)

Project Prior-A-Toilet is officially complete…. as is 1 room of the cafe! Well kinda… minus the hand sink… and the ceiling… and tying in the electrical… and sealing the grout… oy! I have to go to bed!


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