nilesite writes


New York, New York, USA
January 08
The Backpack Press
Pilgrim, writer, photographer, mom, singer - author of "A Marshmallow on the Bus: A Collection of Stories Written on the MTA."


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NOVEMBER 16, 2012 11:48AM

My 1941 Bathrooms

Rate: 8 Flag

When I bought my apartment two years ago, I toyed with the idea of updating my bathrooms.  I have one full bath and one half bath.  I consulted design magazines and home improvement TV shows about renovation, I went to Home Depot and Lowes for inspiration, and I loved imagining Art Deco fixtures and medicine cabinets to go with my classic Art Deco apartment.  Then, I gave it all up and decided to embrace 1941.

So, picture yourself in my apartment when it first went up.  The Japanese had yet to bomb Pearl Harbor and our boys were still in school or at work and not yet on aircraft carriers in the South Pacific.  FDR was president and the Bronx was home to large, New York families who loved the community and cheered for the Yankees.  And somewhere in this idyllic landscape, somebody thought it would be a good idea to install maroon bathrooms in every apartment in their new construction site.  

Lady Macbeth's Tub 

Superficially, you could say, that's not such a big decision, after all, maroon is not a totally offensive color and a lot of neutral colors go with it.  But in practice, what we have here is a symphony of maroon, a network of maroon, a veritable outrage of maroon.  I have a maroon bathtub.  I have maroon sinks.  I have a full-sized maroon shower stall.  I probably had maroon toilets too, but they must have been replaced over the past 71 years by white ones. 

Hear "maroon?"  Think, dark blood red.

What goes with maroon?  Well, if you are asking the guys who designed the fittings in this building, they must have all thought pink was the answer.  And not the only answer, mind you. I have salmon tiles on the walls, framed with dark brown, not quite maroon tiles.  I have pale pink and white tiles on the floor.  When I had to paint the room, I was tempted to try another shade altogether, something in the blush range.  But I caved and went with a pale gray.

Each piece in this set of maroon and pink bath accoutrements nearly matches the other.  And each piece, except the toilets, fits into the wall.  The medicine chest is slotted into the wall so that it is deeper in reality than it appears on the surface.  There is a maroon cup holder, a matching toothbrush holder with a tiny ledge, and a maroon toilet paper roll holder, all set into the wall.  There is a full sized clothes hamper we painted white where we store toilet paper and a second medicine chest, also white, and these are built into the wall.  The room would probably be a full half foot wider if I were to take the walls out and sheetrock against the frame, getting rid of all the built-ins.

When I was first looking at apartments in this building, I commented to the real estate agent that it seemed odd he had "renovated" the bathroom and left all the maroon fixtures.  He just nodded and said he felt it was not particularly cost-effective to remove a maroon cast iron tub.  What I think he was telling me is if you want to, just go ahead and try it, lady, because you'll spend $25,000.

So, here we are two years later with bathrooms that are two years older.  I'm sure there are lots of folks who think these are charming or historic or important examples of Art Deco-something or other.  I can assure them, that the moment something breaks or breaks down, I will have a contractor come in to give me an estimate on that gut renovation of my dreams.  But until that happens, I just make do with history.

I can tell you I will not take a bath in a maroon tub.  I stick with the shower.  It looks like the last person to use the tub was Lady Macbeth.

Photo from Street Easy- not my bathroom, but another in the building.


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Yoiks! When I first saw your title, I wondered if you'd bought a hotel; I mean, "one thousand nine hundred and forty-one bathrooms?!!!"

Maroon is a good colour. If you kill someone in the tub the blood won't hardly show at all!

I'm a sucker for retro. I say embrace it.
sky - Maybe I should have said, "My WWII Bathrooms?" I've already figured out the bennies of that color on the tub. Like you said.

jlsathre - I have to! The thing that kills me is that nothing doesn't work! If anything were busted, I could move on it, but everything looks like the day it was all installed. Grrrr ...
Or "circa 1941 bathrooms".
Green goes with maroon- think flowers. I inherited green fixtures when I bought this house. The only thing left now is the tub, but I like it because I can buy liners with the magnets on the bottom and they stick! You don't get that with modern tubs. Think about it.

And there is always the possibility of changing your tub's color. They make kits for that.

Why doesn't your toilet have a tank?
jp - green sounds bad, too. I crave black and white. And even if I covered that Lady Macbeth tub and replaced the "out, damned spot!" sink, I would still have a pink floor! (I wondered about the tank, but I don't really miss what I don't have).
well, fdr once said,
"It was natural and perhaps human that the privileged princes of these new economic dynasties, thirsting for power, reached out for control .. They created a new despotism and wrapped it in the robes of legal sanction.
In its service new mercenaries sought to regiment the people, their labor, and their property. And as a result the average man once more confronts the problem that faced the Minute Man."

i think he was talking about the damn maroon thing.

i am a retro guy. i dont care much for these newfangled things.
except computers! them i have a tolerance for!
oh gosh how soon before we get retro computers?
i am guessing, tho i got no proof, that here was the passage
that inspired the maroon:
"Come, you spirits
That tend on mortal thoughts! unsex me here,
And fill me from the crown to the toe, top-full
Of direst cruelty; make thick my blood,
Stop up the access and passage to remorse"
l. macbeth
It's so fascinating to live in an old building. Our apartment also has some remnants from its early days (1930's) - but nothing like your bathroom.

I like the idea of it, but I understand your wanting to change it, if it's not to your taste. I do agree, the color choice isn't the most appealing, although there's a charm to it, to me. I also LOVE the idea of all the built-in features; our bathroom doesn't even have a medicine cabinet mounted on the walls, and the shelves and such we had to add, clutter it a lot.

I hope that your water isn't like the water we have in Paris: because the ground here is limestone and plaster and such, the water leaves behind white traces, and on a colored tub, they're hell to get off.
James - Thanks for the WS quote - FRD was right, you know. The bathroom fixtures are nearly as old as the Minute Men, certainly.

Alysa - The water in NYC is amazing and a Clorox wipe is all it takes to clean up all that maroon, although I always have CIF too if it really needs a scrub. I bring CIF home with me when I travel because it's not sold in the US.
[r] oh, i see, you don't have 1,941 bathrooms, you have a 1941 bathroom and another half 1941 one!

good one. especially the Lady MacBeth remark.

my bathroom fixtures are PINK PINK PINK. I'll swap your maroon for my pink.

best, libby
libby - Maroon is the color theme of the building. I have a maroon front door, there's a maroon chair rail in the halls, the elevator doors are maroon, and the carpet, oh my God, the carpet in the lobby is, wait for it, . . . maroon!!

That's it. I'm marooned.
good morning Nilesite;

'maroon' on the color circle:

if the primary red is at a position of 240 degrees

(the circle being 360 degrees of course, and, with the other primaries being yellow @ zero degrees and blue at 120 degrees )

then the color of the tub (jpeg image) is at 233 degrees (according to one color model) or, equivalently, near Red , and with its complementary color, near Blue at 113 degrees ...

My personal preference: keep the tub and go with the tiles in its complementary color.

Also, given the image, your 'maroon' is midway (64) along the Chroma Scale (zero is an absence of grey; 100 is fully saturated with grey)...

note: from your profile pic, you don't look fully saturated yet

... but keep in mind saturation when choosing tiles.

note: always look forward from you for more NY pictorial stories

(NY being comprised of five boroughs? and Sandy Storm, in addition to the NYDailyNews and Google Earth, made every one aware of that, right? )

best regards,
A friend of mine grew up in a house with a bathroom from the same era,in the same color scheme. I loved it.

Lady Macbeth's tub, no silly, it's Mata Hari's bathtub--you need one of those drink floaty things for your cocktail....
nilesite! please note all the bathroom renovation advertisements on your blogsite for this one. Ulp. creeps me out. i usually am able to ignore but this is so clear!

marooned! good one. I like v corso's 'tude about it all.

best, libby
ume - I have nothing complimentary to say about this color scheme, but I did pick a pale bluish gray for the walls.

v.corso - Good idea! I had such a crush on Mata Hari when I was a kid. I'd like to think she would sip something cool in my scary tub.

libby - I love the ads! They crack me up.