Snarky newcomer opines, basically

Goodbye, old paint

Posted 5/24/23

We are having the bathroom painted. 

Bathroom painting was one maintenance chore that as renters we had tried before.

Our landlady had refused to be responsible when the …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in
Snarky newcomer opines, basically

Goodbye, old paint


We are having the bathroom painted. 

Bathroom painting was one maintenance chore that as renters we had tried before.

Our landlady had refused to be responsible when the bathroom’s wallpaper started peeling, exposing mold underneath, and we requested that the room be freshly painted. She emailed, “Oh, I don’t get painters! It’s not my responsibility to paint; that’s only for places with rent control. [Not true.]  If you want it painted, you can do it yourself. You said you liked the wallpaper when you moved in!” 

I had been struck dumb, not with delight, when eight years previously I had first seen the wallpaper, a design of silver and pink stripes and curlicues entwined by a green vine that simultaneously brought forth pink roses, blue tulips and green chrysanthemums. She chirped (she had an amazing ability to chirp in email), “If you don’t love the house anymore, go ahead and move—I can easily get another tenant!”  

We agreed to paint the bathroom ourselves.  

Using YouTube videos as guides, we set about removing the wallpaper and its glue. We really got into ripping off the wallpaper. But after several hours of spraying with water, then fabric softener, and scraping with assorted Home Depot wallpaper glue removal tools which promised to be splendid but were not, we gave up on getting the gooey glue gunk off all 500 square feet and decided to just paint over the remaining 495.

The landlady inspected the cheery honeydew green walls, of which I was quite proud, and declared I should never be allowed near a paintbrush again.

She sent her recovering daughter to cover our work with paint of an unpleasant shade of antique white (as in “pre-dingified for your convenience!”) that didn’t fully cover the green. It looked slightly bilious. 

Now in our own place, I painted over the original bubble-gum-pink bathroom with a nice neutral white, and then tried to create an ombre effect of blue, gradually lightening from darker at the floor to just faintly blue at the ceiling. 

But while I was trying to paint the third stripe up, I slipped on the stepladder and, flailing, grabbed onto the shower curtain rod. It bent and broke and knocked the paint can over and spilled the lovely blue paint off the drop cloth onto the new tile floor.  I grabbed a big yellow car-washing sponge to wipe it up and try to salvage some paint.  

Reaching as high as I could without the stepladder, I swiped the paint-soaked sponge on the wall above the last painted ombre stripe: swipe, swipe, swipe; still a bit of paint on the floor: wipe, wipe, wipe; swept the sponge along the top of the stripe: swipe, swipe, swipe; made a last swipe, swipe, wipe, wipe; saw I had wiped and swiped all the spilled paint. Drained and disheartened, a bit bruised with a couple of scrapes, I threw down the sponge, left the room, closed the door and had a beer. A few beers.

The next morning, I looked at the walls and decided that hey, those blue swirls swiped on the white above the darker blue below almost looked like waves at sea. It was pretty cool!  Certainly cool enough that I could say it was a “creative” job, and call it finished. So I did. 

But I was living a lie, no matter how often I dragged people into the bathroom and made them say nice things about it to me. In my heart, I knew I was wrong. The opposite of Barry Goldwater’s campaign slogan. Instead of evoking the romance of the sea, the bathroom just looked like I ran out of paint halfway through. My landlady was right.  

I’m still wondering if the bathroom was what a guest was referring to when they whispered to their companion just before they were out of our hearing: “Did you see that painting? HAHAHA.” (Tip to guests: Maybe wait till you’re in the car with the doors closed before you start mocking your hosts.)

However. There was a solution. 

Long before “Bridgerton,” “Masterpiece Theater” broadcast “Brideshead Revisited,” in which a mildly upper-crust protagonist falls in love with a filthy-rich boy, and then falls in love with the boy’s home and family.  The protagonist wants to be an artist. The family commissions him to paint architectural scenes in the dining room of their Stately Home, being played by Castle Howard. 

When we bought our house here, our daughter-out-law nicknamed our little home The Manor. As lords of our (four-room) manor, in the manner of the British upper crust we commissioned local artist Maggie Clauss—you’ve probably seen her art around, on chairs and T-shirts and walls—to create a mural on the bathroom walls.  

Working several weekend days and after-office evenings, she has given us a bathroom to rival the trompe-l’œil skyscapes painted, for the comfort of the retired seamen, on the ceilings at the Old Sailors’ home in Staten Island. Happily, unlike the aged sailors, we don’t have to sneak out for our booze over or under the wrought iron fence Herman Melville’s brother, one of its governors, installed to keep alcohol away from the old salts. Surprise ending: it didn’t work.

newcomer, opines, basically, old paint


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here