Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Tile Update and French Muses

Before ordering our tile, which took us just under two years to choose, we carefully calculated the necessary amount of every type of field and trim tile and added 6% more to accommodate broken tiles and waste. Unfortunately, things change, well, some things change, and some things are just miscalculations. Anyway, the changes were not in our favour. Harry discovered our shortfall of tile and I donned my role as contractor (and general gofer) and spent today driving to and from Toronto, to both of our tile suppliers to buy two small boxes of additional tile. Very luckily for us, the necessary tile was in stock. I’ll have to remember, in future, that special order tiles require far more accurate calculations. While hanging about in two different drafty warehouses waiting for people to pick my tile orders, I was struck by the contrast between the showrooms’ calculated displays and the homeliness of things when stripped of their glamorous context. Why does the stuff in the clearance bin never look nearly so appealing as it would in an orchestrated display? Context really is everything.

Tile progress showing baseboard and ogee

When I got home from my little trip, I was thrilled to see the progress Harry had made. In one corner he’s completed mortaring the wall tile and it’s becoming easier to extrapolate how the room will look. This morning we tacked up our window trim, which has been lying in stacks in the basement waiting to be refinished, so Harry could tile up to and around it. The progress right now is exciting. I’m glad that we chose to abandon our black inset tile for glass and stick to a more monochromatic palette.

scenes from La Maison de Rhodes, Troyes, France

Ever since a trip to France for our tenth anniversary, our plan had been to adopt a lighter scheme upstairs. When the pale porcelain wood tile we were going to get from Italy fell through, we kind of lost our way. Subsequent trips to Palm Springs, where we were seduced by the graphic Hollywood Regency style of the Viceroy hotel, and San Francisco, where we toured some of the famous painted lady Victorians, had us stylistically confused for a while, but recently we rediscovered our original muse. Our inspiration came from one hotel in particular called La Maison de Rhodes in Troyes, Champagne, France. Of course our Victorian house will never be a half-timbered 17th century, slate roofed manor house on a cobblestone street, but we hope we can recreate something of the mood of the place. When I remember it, I think of the textures: bleached ancient wood worn smooth by feet or hands, rough brick, smooth stone and tile. Everywhere, one surface butted up against another, but the overall effect was far from jarring or discordant. Instead the feeling was familiar and somehow stimulating. The surfaces all invited further examination, and touch. My eyes didn’t just gloss over the place, they looked everywhere and at everything and were constantly rewarded. I want to do that here. I think the unifying factor was colour. Although the palette didn’t seem artificially restricted, the surfaces were all drawn from a similar palette of I suppose natural, or elemental colours like clay and limestone and wood. That’s one of the reasons I’m glad we’ve avoided high contrast in the bathroom. Constrast reads too easily. It presents a conclusion before giving a chance for exploration. I didn’t intend to state a thesis here, but maybe I’ll think about this a little more and try to see if I can work out my own theory about what I like and why.

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