Bathroom Remodels – Inspirations On The Cheap!

I became a first time home buyer as of this summer, falling in love with a house that had great bones, a lot of potential, but some wacky aesthetic choices. The home had a single owner which was great … except that owner looked to have not made any design changes since she first moved in.

My boyfriend and I are both young-ish and not super rich, but there was no way we could live in this. So began a journey of creativity, (some blood while ripping out tack strips and carpet staples), sweat, and tears.

Bathrooms can be hands down the most expensive rooms to renovate. We really had to scrimp in some areas since we were trying to renovate an entire house in a little under 6 months. If you have a bathroom you hate that at least has fixtures that are in working order, it is completely possible to get creative and change the look without having to replace major features such as the toilet, tub, vanity, or even lighting.

This is what we started with. You can’t tell as much in the photos, but NOTHING matched! The stain on the door was different than on the paneling which was different than on the vanity. Mixing wood tones can be cool, but in a room this small … yikes! There was also silver in the (actually pretty nice) foil wallpaper as well as chrome hardware in the room but the mirror and lighting fixture were a brushed brass. The window was painted white as was the trim and the door to a small cabinet set into the wall, which was a bit odd, and the window had a scalloped decorative molding around it that just wasn’t doing anything for the overall look. The floor was just unfinished cement which we took as a blessing since we figured if there had been floor, we just would have been ripping it out :P. To me, the vanity and the lighting fixture were the biggest eyesores. However, we ended up spending over our predetermined lighting budget on new lighting fixtures for the rest of the house. Also, after many agonizing trips to every hardware and “everything” store in the area as well as many online perusals, we learned that it was going to be more costly than expected to have a vanity at least as big as the one we already had in the room. We were going to have to end up sacrificing either size or quality or both, and it just didn’t make sense to replace our current vanity with something smaller and less functional or with less longevity just to have a more modern look.

Just like The Rolling Stones said, Paint it black!

People seriously underestimate the difference a coat of paint can make. They always say you aren’t supposed to paint small rooms in dark colors, but rules were made to be broken. I have always loved black and golden yellow together, and I knew I wanted to keep the wallpaper in this room as the one thing original to the house. Keeping the room from being broken up into a bunch of smaller sections by having the half paneling flow right into the floor by using a deep black on both helps make the room feel less closed in. Painting the paneling a modern gloss black turns it from grandma’s house to vintage chic. I used the same gloss black on the vanity, which downplayed some of the carving and details on it I’d felt were too old-fashioned for my taste. All the molding and window trim in the house is white, so we wanted to keep that still. To tie that in as well as the white and cream swirl finish on the counter and the white tile in the shower, I spray painted the hardware with white lacquer spray. I used Rustoleum black gloss enamel on the mirror and lighting fixture. We used stick-on floor tiles in a black marble for the floor, which are super inexpensive but look way nicer than just putting in linoleum. They are not at all complicated to install oneself as they are literally  like giant stickers and you just keep building around the first tile you put in, keeping one flush to the other.

I made the funny (yet super convenient) little closet just a part of the woodwork by painting it in the same black as well, and following the design of the vanity by keeping the hardware gloss white. The bathroom window is very large, and people tend to be nude in the bathroom so we definitely needed a curtain. I didn’t want to add in another pattern with the wallpaper being so wild already but didn’t want it to look like we just had a big black sheet over the window either. So, I opted for a matte-on-shiny subtle pattern, in black again for consistency. You can’t see it, but FYI, we removed the scalloped edge on the window! The fun black and white artwork is actually a matted and framed page from an art magazine. Magazines are some of the best sources for inexpensive artwork if you need something in a smaller size.

I am well aware that not everyone would want to make friends with this wallpaper, but the same techniques I used can be adopted to fit any style. There were so many different simple choices that could have been made to lend vastly different results in this room. If someone wanted to keep the wallpaper but give the room a more cute, shabby chic, cottage look they could have painted all the woodwork white instead of black. A soft grey would have also been an option. The mirror and vanity lighting could have been painted white or grey to compliment the paneling color choice, or just finished in chrome to match with the sink and shower hardware. The wallpaper could have been ripped down and any color paint imaginable could have been put in its place for a more simple, traditional look without the retro nods. Or, it could have been painted and wall stamps, decals, or stencils could have been used over-top to add some pattern. The ideas could go on and on, and all without having to do any major construction or buy a bunch of new stuff. Remember, something like this can also be a great intermediary step so you can still be comfortable while you wait and save up for a complete overhaul. You don’t have to wait to win the lottery before you can love your home! 🙂

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Art Is Not A Luxury

More often than not in this modern age, as we have multitudes of tools at our disposal to both vocally and textually communicate, art has been getting bumped into the category of a “luxury”; unnecessary, mere decoration, or else something for the unbelievably wealthy who don’t know the value of a dollar to irresponsibly blow their money on. In fact, art is an important tool for effective communication today, and has been throughout history. With the less than stellar economy, art has been the first thing to get cut in schools for awhile, and yet we as a society are facing a complete breakdown of productive adult communication the likes of which has never been seen. Spend 24 hours amongst other human beings in a department store or 15 minutes on the internet and you will no doubt see what I’m talking about. I notice art and creative writing both tend to get the same rep: entertaining fluff, imaginary stories, unnecessary tools. I know quite a few people whose opinions I, on the whole, respect, that insist you can’t learn anything from fiction. They assert that it’s just something for having fun and relaxing, nothing more nothing less. Now while some creative works may be just that (Let’s be real – you aren’t likely to come to any existential truths while reading the Twilight series), if all fictional literature and all art were truly meaningless, there wouldn’t continue to be controversy around their messages; they wouldn’t still get banned from schools or showings. People don’t ban things they find uninteresting, unattractive, or mildly annoying – they ban things they find dangerous – because art has the ability to change hearts and minds. Art communicates, to those who are listening.

Visual communication has some staggering advantages over verbal communication. Firstly, we are a culture of immediacy. We want things and we want them now, Veruca Salt style. Visual communication accomplishes just that. Facts and ideas come presented visually with no complicated explanation, no lengthy preamble, simply look and absorb. People’s reactions to visuals are also often quicker and simpler than their reactions to spoken word. It is easy to cause feelings of happiness and ease in a viewer (and thus happiness and ease in them towards your message) by presenting them with an image of something they find pleasant. Turn this around, and it is also easier to inspire fear by showing images of violence or things that cause worry or disgust to a viewer. This is why advertisements for products are always primarily images, not columns or articles. Visual communication is also more versatile, and gives you more tools at your disposal. Rather than just words in your arsenal, you have all the elements of design; color, shape, texture, space, form.

This is a blog post, not a book, so know that there are innumerable examples not highlighted here on art’s role in history (And, this just in American History, let alone the many examples to be found in the history of other cultures!). I figured I’d today simply touch on the real hot-button historical moments, those that we begin hearing about in social studies class as early as elementary school.

While cameras were certainly around during the Civil War, it was still common for the media portraying historical events and news to be hand-drawn.

The lithograph above was done by an unknown artist, and portrays a well-known victory of the famed Underground Railroad. Henry “Box” Brown made headlines in 1849 when he escaped from slavery in Richmond, Virginia in a quite unorthodox manner. Brown actually packed and mailed himself to the North, and to freedom, with the help of abolitionists. When the lid was removed, he allegedly said, “How do you do, gentlemen?” and quoted some Bible verses to celebrate his escape. The fact that he is dressed the same as the men standing around him upon arrival, in a fine looking, tailored suit, is probably not indicative of how he actually arrived on the scene, but a deliberate decision on the artist’s part to reinforce his equality with these other men.

A great historical change that art played a direct role in beyond immortalizing events was the Suffragist movement.

Art has the ability to visually re-frame stereotypes, and cause people to envision situations in a new way. The first illustration below turns the assumption at the time that suffragettes were “vain, idle rich women with nothing better to do” completely on its head by showing a working woman. For the working class, the ability to vote is vital, certainly necessity far more than luxury. It asks the question, if they are contributing to keeping the “machine” of society running smoothly day in and day out, shouldn’t they have a say in how it runs? The second illustration reminds me of a quote I read recently (I wish I could remember who/where, because I think it is just excellent!), “If you’re a man that says he’s not a feminist, I want you to go explain to every woman in your life why you think she doesn’t deserve to be treated equally.” The poster asks men to think of their mothers. You respect them, you revere their wisdom, so why don’t you trust them to help the country make decisions? By framing it in a personal way, a technique that is still used to combat societal problems of sexism today, women are taken out of being this distant, abstract category or group and humanized into your daughter, your mother, your sister, your wife, your best friend …

Fast forward in history, and art plays a fascinating and unexpected role in the two World Wars.

It is argued that without modern art, there would have been no camouflage, a vital tool in saving lives on the battlefield – the ability to hide in plain sight. The idea for the complex geometric designs on “dazzle ships” is credited to artist Normal Wilkinson. These hypnotizing designs confused the spotter with their sharp, contrasting colors and confusing intersecting lines bumping into and interrupting each other. The enemy had a difficult time determining how many ships there were, as well as their range and location making it more difficult to shoot. Understanding how patterns can trick the eye from a distance also became vital to concealing targets during the first World War.

Later on, two Australian modern artists, photographer Max Dupain and painter Frank Hinder, would experiment with applying some of the newer modernist techniques to modern day warfare. One of Max Dupain’s photography experiments with optical camouflage is shown below. They used double exposure and obliterative shading, techniques that make it difficult to distinguish between foreground and background.

Never before and never again since WWII have we seen such a unity in American patriotism and civic responsibility. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing is up to you, but one thing is certain: the iconic propaganda artwork of the WWII era played an instrumental role in banding people together under a common cause, and inspiring a strong, almost blind sense of duty and optimism. The famous “Rosie the Riveter” piece is still to this day a feminist icon, and the inspiration of many Halloween costumes, both celebrity and pedestrian (and even some great face-in-hole shots. Girl power! I’d like to think I’m almost as fierce as Beyonce). Those at home were represented as just as vital to the war as those abroad, and given a renewed sense of purpose through this inspirational artwork.

rose

In the 1960s, artists took up the cause of the Civil Rights Movement.

Jacob Lawrence’s 1962 painting “Soldiers and Students” is shown below. Lawrence was always interested in using his colorful paintings to document African American history, and during the civil rights crisis of the 60s, he began documenting the disturbing everyday scenes he witnessed in the struggle for equality.

The birth of feminist art also took place around this time. I have to admit, although I have always considered myself a feminist, I could never get into feminist art. I wanted to like it, I really did, but as someone who has never felt overtly in touch with their so-called “feminine” side to begin with, I felt a lot of the motifs and delivery methods were simply lost on me. It seemed strange to me to make art that was only accessible to a specialized group rather than reaching the whole on some level. Isn’t feminist art just a bunch of flowers growing out of vaginas and bad performance art? Male or female, if you feel like you don’t really get feminist art, watch the !Women Art Revolution documentary – it’s on netflix instant. While I still can’t pick out any iconic piece of work from that era as my “favorite art ever”, these ladies really paved the way for what I do today, and I owe them heaps of gratitude, whether their artistic style or methodology is my bag or not. By the way, there’s still work to do, ladies.

Today, though it’s easier for art to get lost in all the noise with people plugged into some media or another 24//7 and everyone and their great-grandma with their own website or blog, artists are still speaking. For this same media also gives us easy access to an unlimited stream of creative media to peruse. Below, Michael D’Antuono’s painting “Conservative Christ” critiques the marrying of Christianity with extremist far-right politics. Street artists have also done a brilliant job at visually speaking truths, placing their work right in the unavoidable path of citizen’s daily commute.

noharmI am reminded of this beautiful piece I saw at Art Prize in Grand Rapids last year, especially relevant in light of the recent supreme court decision. (And the subsequent vicious, mean-spirited attacking coming from both sides in the aftermath that made me want to delete my facebook forever.)

Throughout history, art has been used to both promote mainstream values and also oftentimes clash against them, and it has the potential to be wielded as a weapon of good or a weapon of evil, hate, and deception. You can see below how art can also be used to persuade people into harmful beliefs and mindsets. After all, at the same time as the victory garden posters were circulating, so on the other side were illustrations praising Hitler and demonizing the Jewish nationality. It can be used to justify withholding rights from a group of people, like the anti-suffragist poster (lol, chocolate). It can be used to poke fun at and disrespect people who look different than us as “less”, like the vintage soap ad (Nothing to laugh about in this next one. I felt uncomfortable even posting this particular ad, and it was not even close to the worst that can be found, unfortunately). It can be used to promote unhealthy lifestyles, and guilt people into feeling like without a certain body or certain clothes, they are ugly and worthless, like the current day Photoshopping controversies. As artists, we have to realize that what we create speaks. We have a valuable platform, and as Uncle Ben tells Peter Parker, (Ok, so Voltaire said it first but I’m a total Spiderman geek) “With great power comes great responsibility”.

Music to Make Stuff To

Hello all! I’ve been super busy lately so this is not going to be one of those deep, introspective posts – sorry! However, I hope it will provide some fun artistic inspiration for some of you. I constantly get asked “What do you like to listen to when you work?” I definitely have certain types of music I enjoy in the car or while cleaning the apartment or on long walks, types of music that don’t always work while creating for whatever reason (see Finnish metal bands ^_^). My brain seems to enjoy a mix of 60s-80s oldies, and drama-infused artsy indie rock to aid in the creation process, so, here are some of my constant go-tos on any Music To Make Stuff To playlist, as I like to call it.

I was obsessed with listening to 50s and 60s music as a kid and would practically cry if my parents had any station other than the oldies on in the car. They were a kid themselves in the 60s and weren’t half as into it as I even was. My heart would always get a little happier when this particular song came on, before I even knew who The Doors were. Still love it.

Everything by the Smiths, enough said.

I think drama through song is creativity’s lifeblood.

And remember what I said about drama?

Another of my favorite oldies from childhood. My parents did actually have this tape. I included the song with clips from the film “Chungking Express” because I have hardly ever seen a song used so seamlessly as a motif throughout a film. Also, the main actress is absolutely adorable and makes the song even better.

Enter: Turkish psychedelic music. What’s that? You never knew such a thing existed? You don’t say … I have always found Middle Eastern chords to be so hauntingly beautiful, and that is especially true in this song.

Anything Michael Nyman, and I repeat, ANYTHING MICHAEL NYMAN! His pandora radio station embodies just about the most soothing art-making-friendly music known to man. If you like his piano music, check out Phillip Glass, also.

The Velvet Underground can certainly be hit and miss, but I cannot be in a bad mood when I hear this song.

First of all, this music video alone is worth a watch – it’s pretty impressive. I have found Grizzly Bear to have great calming, atmospheric music for in the background while creating.

The late 80s/early 90s had fantastic music, in quite a contrast to their clothing. I really missed out being born a bit too late. I was still listening to Disney tapes when this stuff was big.

Lastly, who doesn’t feel empowered to do great things while playing this song? I included the video from Guardians of the Galaxy because, come on, it’s Guardians of the Galaxy!

Don’t let me forget, if any of you have any particular music you love to listen to while making art feel free to share, I love suggestions! Au revoir!