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.
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.