Doing things “The Hard Way” — Do you have what it takes?

pink-bathroom-fixtures.jpgWelcoming 2014, here’s the story that now has become my Retro Renovation new year’s tradition… It sums up the bumpy journey so many of us share, or can expect to experience, when we decide to undertake a period-inspired renovation including preserving what we have and/or using hard-to-find and salvage material. Are you truly up for the adventure?You may find yourself walking the fine line between genius and insanity. You will need tenacity, patience, a good spirit, and faith that you are on a righteous path.  (Even so, in 2013 I threw in the towel in one of my quests.My The Hard Way essay, originally published in Dec. 2007, less than two months after I started the blog:

We know about taking the road less traveled. To me, doing things the hard way has the same allure. The hunt for the perfect estate sale light fixture, the set of vintage cabinets that are just right, the document wallpaper that pulls things all together.

Honestly, the reason this blog even exists is that after completing big projects, I had so much info in my mental hard drive about the Retro Renovation alternatives available — all obsessively and endlessly researched — that it seemed a shame to simply be done with it when my projects were completed.

But the dangers of the hard way came into focus this week, when I pulled Palm Springs Stephan into the vortex.

A week ago Friday night I spotted the brand new, mint in box, never installed set of circa 1958 bathroom fixtures in this exact photo, on a forum. They’d just been posted. Hot! I happened to be emailing a bit with Stephan, and knew he was working on a bathroom reno.

Long story short, he was very excited about the prospect of pink fixtures and spent hours back-and-forth with the seller in Cheyenne, Wyoming, trying to certify the exact color, before he sent a certified check. Hours with a tile store to coordinate tile. Planned to switch the plumbing. Worked out shipping. At one point thought it was a done deal.

Ultimately, though, the color didn’t pan out for him, and it’s back to plan A.

The moral of the story is — I guess — to know thyself. If you really truly want very special retro finds to complete your renovation vision, it’s gonna be a roller coaster. Requiring patience, tenacity, and a belief that once you put your vibes out there, the Retro Decorating Gods will send you what you need. If you think that sounds fun — so then, will be doing it the hard way.

P.S. Anyone within driving distance of Cheyenne, Wyoming, interested in a set of brand new, mint in box, never been installed Crane bathroom fixtures? Tub, toilet with really cool seat, sink with chrome legs/towel bar, lav faucet, tub faucet. $1000. Email Gary, who seems very nice and appreciative of them, at: [item sold]. He can give you the whole story, which begins in North Dakota.

Oh yeah. They’re not really pink. They’re beige. Or taupe. Or a sandy pinky beigey taupe. Something like that. Buckle up.

This post was originally published Dec. 9, 2007, then repeated on Jan. 4, 2008, Jan. 1, 2010, Jan. 1, 2011, Jan 1, 2012, and Jan. 1, 2013

  1. Joe Felice says:

    “Sandy pinky beigey taupe?” How about “flesh?” That’s what we called it back then. There was also a slightly-more orangey version that we called salmon. Pink to flesh to salmon were all popular. But yes, tones varied slightly, and it would be difficult to post-match any of them. And anyone who works with tile can attest that there are even variations from box to box (“lots”) by the same manufacturer. I see this every time I go into my bathroom, but I guess that’s one of the “charms” of remodeling.

  2. Scott says:

    To me the hard way requires the temperament of an artist and the instincts of a gambler.

    A good artist sets out with a clear vision but also listens to what the medium and materials are saying along the way. As a result the original vision can slightly change, or even be totally transformed, but the end result might just exceed your wildest expectations.

    Taking risks and learning to gamble may be the most difficult part of doing it the hard way. More often than not the item you need can’t be seen in person before you buy it, even if it’s still being made new. So you read, compare, learn all you can, and then roll the dice.

    I think everyone here to some degree is a student of doing it the hard way. Now and then the hard way is going to mercilessly kick sand in your face but you keep on going because you know more often that not it will take you down the path to the biggest rewards.

  3. Katie says:

    Beige and pink can be tricky. When we bought or 66 ranch with original bathrooms the master had a white tile with gold flecks and what we thought was a beige mosaic tile floor. The other bath was a turquiosey blue color and my husband literally said “at least there aren’t any pink bathrooms” with a note of disgust towards pink bathrooms (I actually would have been thrilled with one). Anyway, the house had been empty for five years and prior to that the original owner was living by himself with no family around so the house was a bit on the dirty side. I had a cleaning crew come in and mopped the floors once a week until I had time to really scrub and strip the grout which also apparently removed a lot of dirt that was ground into the tile. Low and behold I found that the floor was actually pink! (And then I shuttered to think that I had previously walked on that floor in bare feet and scrubbed my feet raw!)

  4. Jamie D. says:

    That’s the color of the fixtures in our little master bath – pinkish peachy tan. Or as the perfectly matched replacement toilet seat I ordered from Amazon called it, “fawn beige.”

    I compromised a teeny bit with doing it the hard way in our other main bathroom. It has a light blue tub, but we didn’t have a toilet. I was on a mission to find the matching toilet. It took close to two years but I finally did find one, NOS still in the box, after searching craigslist weekly within a 3 hr drive. It looked like the perfect match outside in the guy’s driveway and he even threw in the matching NIB sink, but when we got it home, realized it’s ever so slightly a teeny tiny bit more green than the tub. But it’s the closest match we’ll probably ever get so we just deal with it. The tub is mostly covered up by the shower curtain anyway.

    We did throw in the towel on matching the vintage tiles for the tub surround. The entire surround was in good shape so we didn’t want to tear it out, but there had previously been leaky glass sliding doors that we had to remove, which left a raw cut edge on the remaining tiles. I tried really hard to match the original tiles and did find them at World of Tile, but at $15 a piece and needing around 2 dozen, I just couldn’t justify the cost. So we did plain white, and painted the walls the same shade of white. It looks great, and no one can tell the difference.

  5. AH says:

    Just goes to show how one person’s tan is another person’s pink. My son hated the pink color our house came in for years, but the color was actually Trek Tan. It was tan alright, but on the house exterior, it definitely read as pink. Changed the color, and now I can’t say, “It’s the pink house” any more.

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