Remodeling Blues

My very blue bathroom
My very blue bathroom

Our ‘new’ old house in Providence RI has a very blue bathroom.  I never planned to have a bathroom with blue fixtures, but the color scheme is familiar.  Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, I spent time in blue, green, pink and even red bathrooms at the homes of friends and relatives.  Although my family’s home had beige bathrooms, my mom decorated with cheerful colors in other parts of the house.  I remember orange shag carpeting in our family room, leaf-green trellis patterned wallpaper in the hall, and climbing strawberry vines on the dinette walls and seat cushions.

Fast-forward to 2016, past my previous suburban home in Bethlehem PA with its quiet beige and pale gray bathrooms.  I now own a bathroom with two blue sinks, a large blue corner tub, and blue wallpaper with a tiny red and green flower print.  A merciful previous owner tiled the floor and two of the walls with shiny white ceramic, painted the window, door and baseboards white, and hung white Roman shades.  Other than that, all is blue.

Not just any blue, either.  According to our plumber Angelo, this is “Regency Blue”, a color used by American Standard in the 40’s and 50’s.  Angelo was here last week to solve some plumbing problems, probably the first of many such visits.  When he walked into the bathroom he said, “Wow, look at this!”  He told us the color name, and said that he still sees some of it around the neighborhood.  “You used to be able to get the matching Regency Blue toilet, but unfortunately you can’t get those any more.”  So unfortunate, I thought.

Before moving into the house, Jeff and I commented to each other a few times, “That blue bathroom has to go.”  We continued feeling that way for the first few days we were in the house.  Then we started saying things like, “It’s really kind of quirky.”  And, “The blue is pretty, especially with the white tile and trim.”  And, “That wallpaper actually works in this bathroom.”

I did some research on vintage blue bathrooms.  Here’s an image from a 1957 American Standard catalog showing a Regency Blue bathroom, featuring the unfortunately now-unavailable matching blue toilet in the foreground.

1957 Regency Blue bathroom
1957 Regency Blue bathroom

Five years later, the 1962 American Standard catalog shows Regency Blue fixtures complemented with purple accessories, to prove that it “harmonizes with almost any color!”

1962 Regency Blue bathroom
1962 Regency Blue bathroom

Harmony or discord?  I think I prefer my blue surrounded by clean bright white.

However, the lady shown in the advertisement below is having a lot of fun in her blue Cinderella tub, so maybe yellow and pink are the accessory colors to pick.  Or maybe she’s just happy that the day’s housework is finished and the casserole is in the oven.

Cinderella tub advertisement
Cinderella tub advertisement

I’m not sure yet what the future holds for my blue bathroom.  Its vintage look has charmed me, and my attitude about tearing out and replacing things is changing.  My friend Sandy G told me, “If someone GAVE me a NEW house, for free, I would sell it and buy an old house with character.”  Another friend, Ellen J, who has lived in and renovated many old houses, sums it up nicely, “An old house is like a person.  You don’t necessarily want to impose your will on it.  Let it speak to you.”  Wise words.  I am listening.

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Stuff Happens in Providence RI

Empty sunroom before furniture arrives
Empty sunroom, early on our move-in day

We woke early on our move-in day, deflated the inflatable mattress we’d been sleeping on, and waited inside the empty house.   The big orange moving van rumbled up the street a little after 8:00.  Happy to see it, we also felt nervous about whether all of our furniture and boxes would fit into this house.  And the garage.  And the basement.  And the yard, if necessary.

The guys came up the walk after parking the van, with large bearded Wayne in the lead, followed by the even larger Joe and the short, stocky impassive Murphy.  They tramped around the house for a few minutes, noting all the rooms, stairs, passageways, and odd twists and turns.  Then Wayne asked me to call the police.  “The police!”, I thought, wondering if it is a crime to have a doorway that is only six feet high, as is the one at the outer entrance to our kitchen.  “The police?” I said.  Wayne told us that his van had knocked down a low-hanging tree branch a few blocks up our street, and he would rather we report the incident than have the police arrive and arrest him for leaving the scene of a broken branch.

I found the non-emergency police number and called.  A man answered, “Providence Police,” gave his operator number and said “What’s the problem?”  After I explained, he said “You on Everett?”  I said yes, and he said, “Yeah, that was reported at 8:20, and a cable was knocked down too.  National Grid is already out there working on it.”

“Oh no,” I said timidly.  “Is there anything we should do?”  To which he replied, “Nah, stuff happens!”  And then, “Hey, where are you moving from?”

Stuff happens?  Where are you moving from??  Not the response I expected, but a very welcome one.  “Bethlehem PA,” I said.  “Bethlehem,” he replied.  “I was there once, years ago.  What brings you to Rhode Island?”

We chatted a bit, with him filling me in on various Providence and Rhode Island events, including Waterfire, the Seafood Festival, the Kite Festival, the Hot Air Balloon Festival.  “There is so much to do here in the summer,” he said.  “I hope the rest of your move goes well.  Welcome to Providence!”

After I hung up, we all breathed a sigh of relief that there would be no repercussions for the damage sustained to limb.  The rest of the move-in went well.  Murphy even made a joke toward the end, something about a second truck on the way bringing the rest of our things.

Stuff happens, indeed.  It’s good to know that kindness and reasonableness also happen.  By the way, all of our furniture and boxes did fit into the house, garage and basement.  Just barely.

Empty living room
Living room
Empty office upstairs
Upstairs office

Welcome Home

Housewarming gifts
Housewarming gifts

The busiest day of the year for real estate closings is June 30th, and we were lucky to get the last available appointment slot at the title company, 8:00 a.m.  Jeff and I took seats across the table from the seller of the home and her realtor, and the title attorney sat at the head of the table with a stack of papers and a pile of pens.  Our realtor, the always-cheerful David Hasslinger, arrived a few minutes later and sat next to me.  He put his phone and a suspiciously gifty-looking black box on the table.  “Keychain,” I thought, having been through real estate closings before.

We signed and initialed papers for about twenty minutes, then were congratulated by all on purchasing a new home.  Our “new” home is actually a very old house on the East Side of Providence.  The seller’s big smile indicated that she would not miss the joys of owning an old house.  “I love the neighborhood,” was her comment.

David slid the black box over to me and said “Open it.”  I lifted the lid and found something to hold our keys: not a keychain, but a beautiful art glass bowl, created by David himself!  This is Providence, after all, so it’s not surprising that our realtor is also a glass artist.  (A little backstory: David came to RI to get an MFA degree at RISD, married a Rhode Island gal, and stayed, eventually entering a career in real estate).  The bowl is stunning, its delightfully irregular whirled edges forming a container for bronze-colored liquid light.  On the bottom is David’s signature and a little message to us.

Signed by the artist!
Signed by the artist!

We drove to our new house and carried in the essentials that we brought with us for the weekend: an inflatable mattress, four folding chairs and a coffeepot.  We gave Jeff’s parents the all-clear to come over to see the inside of the house for the first time.  It was a beautiful, blue-sky Rhode Island summer morning, so we set the chairs outside and sat on the deck chatting for a bit.  Joan had noticed that the garage floor was covered in leaves and dirt, and said “I want to do something – let me sweep the garage”.  Against our protests, she found a broom and set to work.  Joe found a rake and joined her.  My parents-in-law love to help their kids, and don’t like to sit around when there is work to do – even now at the ages of 85 and 90!  Here is a photo of Joe raking our garage.

Always working!
Always working!

David stopped by a bit later to check on us.  He asked Joe to take a picture of him presenting Jeff and me with the glass bowl, and showed Joe how to use the camera on his iPad.  After much laughter and many retakes, a satisfactory photo was obtained.  With Jeff saying, as he always does, “I AM smiling”.

I hereby present you ...
I hereby present you …

We met our neighbors Amy and Clay that afternoon when they popped across the back yard to say hello and welcome.

Sophie biked over in the evening, and brought us a housewarming gift of two RI-themed mugs from one of my favorite shops, Frog and Toad on Hope Street.

The next morning Jeff walked to Eastside Mart to buy a newspaper.  Paul, the owner of this not-typical convenience store, said “Nothing here is expired; everything is fresh!  Here’s my card.  Welcome to the neighborhood!”

Before heading back to PA for the final round of packing, we sat a few minutes on our folding chairs in the shade, listening to the call and response of a pair of robins in the big oak tree beside our deck.  We felt welcome, and home.