Today’s Discover WP prompt is a most persuasive invitation to share an experience of learning that has stuck with us.
The year was 1984. Following a casual beach walk in deep February, I found myself the proud owner of a major fixer-upper village colonial house on a hill. The walk was when my friend offered to provide a downpayment if I would live in and improve the house. Sweat equity would be my contribution. After three years we would split the proceeds of its sale. Meanwhile, we would split major repairs. I would do everything but plumb, wire or roof. And believe me, that left QUITE a lot of room within out agreement to keep me busy.
I would return from work, strip to my work clothes and get to work. The demolition was fun – ripping off gold-stippled mirror tiles from the living room wall; ripping up indescribably grody green carpet the dog repeatedly mistook for grass; opening the wall between kitchen and dining room; removing three layers of utterly damaged ceiling; ripping off fake wallboard and trim over lovely, oversized windows to discover their hacked-off plinths (which I later found a mill to replicate). In short, a lot of removing and revealing that finally led to restoring and revitalizing.
I learned how to skim coat walls by watching my wonderfully-accented Italian plasterer do the same to the ceilings. I learned to lay flooring in the gaps destroyed by abuse by Just Doing It. I already knew a lot about minor repairs, painting and wallpapering. After all, that’s what led to this contractual arrangement in the first place. I had upgraded so many apartments, I was pricing myself out of the market with nothing to show for my labors.
When it came to the bathroom tiling, however, I faced an unknown and initially scary learning curve. My wonderful plumber cut me an oval plywood sink top to cradle the original green bowl I wished to keep, along with the matching tub. It was just the rotted out walls and floor that needed replacing up there. But I had never cut or placed or glued tile before. Tony just shook his head and grinned his toothless grin. [And after the fact, when I invited everyone to celebrate the completion of the project, he was the most vocal in telling everyone how he had money on me that I would not make it!]
How did I learn? I asked. I asked salesmen and installers. I asked all the professionals who came to work on those parts I would not touch (see above). I visited stores, and asked friends whose tile looked pretty for references. And all the while I was designing in my head and selecting tiles to complement the original green fixtures. Did I mention that this was to be a quality do-it-myself project? and that this was pre-internet? I did not own a computer – did anyone then? – so this entire enterprise was quite the hands-on experience, from intell-gathering to execution.
After about three suggestions out of the 8 or 10 for how to tile began to sound similar enough to approximate, I rented the scorer-cutter and clippers, bought the glue and its spreader, as well as the grout and associated tools. I was armed and ready.
You can judge for yourself whether I was successful. Suffice it to say, I ended up tiling a friend’s bathroom shortly thereafter, and have taken every opportunity to do my own again with successive houses. Houses, I might add, that became possible thanks to the seed money from this first venture. Oh, and because that generous friend has since become my husband and partner in several additional household adventures…
Walls, floors – I love working with tile! In my next life, I’d’ love to be the Italian or Portuguese craftswoman who actually creates them. Just think of the possibilities!!! So much color, so many designs … But first, I’d need to watch, ask questions, and try out my own hand at it. That’s the kind of learning I love best.