By Paul Bianchina
Twenty some-odd years ago, we built a house. It was obviously br new at the time. Twenty some-odd years later, I’ve deluded myself into thinking it’s still br new.
Unfortunately, it’s not.
That became decidedly clear recently when we began to suspect that the shower in the master bathroom might be leaking. So, we decided that we should replace it, maybe give the room a fresh new look while we were at it. Removing the old green wallpaper border the matching green aluminum mini-blinds had to be a good thing.
So, we began our remodeling project with a simple quest for some new tile. We figured we’d hit a tile store real quick, grab something we liked, that would be that.
You see, when we first built the house, there were only seven tiles available in the entire universe, so choosing one was a breeze. But, in the intervening couple of decades, there’s been a population explosion in the tile world. Apparently the little mosaics began hooking up with the ceramics, the porcelains got frisky with a few cheap slates, then those romantic Italian travertines showed up with marble on one arm limestone on the other, all hell broke loose. The result is that there are now just over 136 billion different tiles to choose from.
One tile store quickly turned into half a dozen. Each had a different share of the 136 billion, as we stood there in the showrooms, more new possibilities were arriving by the train-car load.
Maybe it’s the Italian connection, but we liked the travertines. Big mistake. First of all, one tile costs more than we paid for the house originally. But even worse is the fact that this is a natural stone – a “living stone” as the designers like to say – so no two are alike.
That, unfortunately, includes the samples.
Here’s how it works. You pick up a sample in the store, take it home to be sure it matches everything, bring it back to the store, tell them it’s perfect, you’ll take it! Then the store points out that the sample is a couple of months old, the actual tiles you’re going to get – here’s that “no two alike, living stone” thing again – might not look like that.
So they order you a current sample, you repeat the whole in-home thing, come back to the store, tell them it’s perfect, you’ll take it! They call in the order – find out that the pallet that the sample came from has all been sold, the new stuff doesn’t actually look anything like the second sample you just got that didn’t look like the first batch that didn’t look like the couple-of-months- old sample that the store had in the first place. Got it?
Over over, the cycle repeats itself, month after month after month. “You have to underst ,” we were told, “that a living stone is going to have variations.”
But here’s the deal. I don’t want a living stone. The very thought of that on the walls of my shower is creepy. Will it grow as it gets wet? Is it going to hog the bathroom when I need to use it? Is anything else living in there, like the squirrel in Clark Griswold’s Christmas tree? Give me something dead, for goodness sakes! It’s just going to get plastered to the wall, it’s not going anywhere, so dead is fine!
Then came the border tile. You see, picking out one tile wasn’t nearly punishment enough for whatever misdeeds we’ve done. No, we decided to pick out a second tile as an “accent” to the first one. But what accent compliments Italian tile anyway? Do you want a tile with another Romance language accent, like perhaps Castilian? Or do you contrast it a little with, say, a nice blonde Swedish tile?
When we finally selected one – we stayed with a tile that spoke with a decidedly Latin accent, since all the Sc inavian tiles just seemed a little flighty – we next were told that the one we’d selected was still being manufactured, no one knew when it would be available. Wait – being manufactured?? If it’s still alive, what has to be manufactured?
Apparently the blending of the two cultures must be at fault here, there’s some kind of extended courtship involved. All the tiles with the different accents need to meet become acquainted before spending eternity glued grouted to a wall in close proximity to one another.
But, in the end, we were successful. How’d we finally do it? We gave up on tile altogether.
Instead, we went with a nice, tasteful light-brown indoor outdoor carpeting. We chose the wear-ever nylon, which has the appearance of a mat at a golf course driving range, a color that looks like faux-lawn that was never faux-watered. We glued that puppy to the shower walls, we were done in less than an hour.
And talk about advantages! Our new faux-grass stall shower cost a fraction of tile, it’s guaranteed for life not to mold, mildew, or rot. And since it most assuredly is a no-longer-living material, it’s all one consistent color it has zero chance of coming off the walls using my shampoo one morning.
But best of all, you can coat it with liquid soap scratch your back on it, like one big giant loofah.
Take it from me – tile is way overrated.
Paul Bianchina can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for comments.