At seventy-seven years old and still as stylish as ever, my Grandmother Dottie has always been a wonderful source of inspiration in my life. Growing up, I used to love spending time with her in the kitchen cooking, baking, trying new recipes and entertaining friends. In her house, there truly was a place for everything and everything in its place.
Check out this old photograph of the first bathroom she had in Greenwich after marrying my Grandfather Eddie back in 1951. Stuck, as the story goes, with an unfortunate pink tub and black Linoleum floors, what's a girl of modest means to do but chintz it up? For the windows and shower curtain, she went with a great chinoiserie pattern in colors that made sense: a rich green field with accents of red, pink and gold. Then she accessorized with alternating pink and green towels on brass rings. Finally, my favorite touch: a toile tin hamper the same shade of pink as the tub. Seriously, how chic is this bathroom? And so far ahead of its time! Even now, it seems so current that I was inspired to recreate the look but in a fresh, modern way.
The first scheme reminds me of a glamorous chinoiserie garden party: vivid shades of pink, green and lilac mix exuberantly on China Rose cotton from Scalamandre. The tile options are equally splashy, and while these are from Waterworks, nowadays you can find such great tile colors from a lot of home improvement stores as well. The paint colors are Rectory Red and Cinder Rose from Farrow & Ball, while the red fretwork lantern, in toile tin like the hamper, is from Vaughan. This fixture truly is a beautiful piece, but to get the look without breaking the bank, try places like Lamps Plus, Shades of Light, and Ballard Designs.
In my ideal bathroom, I'd use the red subway tile for the shower and walls to, say, four feet off the floor. Inspired by a recent trip to Kravet, I'd paint the walls above the tile the rosy pink, then apply latticework painted red from any home improvement store. How beautiful would the two colors look together like that? With the chinoiserie fabric, I'd do a pinch pleat shower curtain with a thick two-foot band at the bottom in a coordinating red cotton. Then I'd do a roman shade in the same fabric but with a decorative lattice trim in the same pattern as the lantern. This bathroom I imagine more as a first floor powder room or guest bath than an everyday one. And while you may find this particular fabric on the pricey side, you really don't need a lot to make an impression that's stunning and sophisticated.
The second scheme has all the fun of a garden party but with an edgy, more masculine feel. The palette combines citron yellow and saffron green with modern chinoiserie silhouettes. If it were up to me, I'd do the penny tile on the floor, run the green subway tile four feet up (though any one of these colors would work beautifully), then paint the walls above yellow or, to be proper, Babouche from Farrow & Ball. With the linen cotton fabric (Lyford Pagoda Petite from China Seas), I'd do something much more masculine, like a tailored roman shade with an over-sized ric rac trim. And finally, for drama, I'd paint high-gloss vertical sripes over the yellow walls. But be careful! You don't want your bathroom to feel like a jail cell, so whenever you're painting black stripes, just make sure they're wide enough. Done right, I promise the end result will dazzle you. So, next time you find yourself stuck with terrible tile or an un-fabulous floor, just remember: get creative, work with what you've got and, most important, chintz it up!