cuban floor tiles at the pegu club

The Pegu Club is a cocktail lounge on the northern edge of Soho that transports you to another time and place. It is dark and mysterious, the perfect setting for a scene in a spy thriller. You expect to turn around at any moment and see Lauren Bacall. They make perfect cocktails. They have Cuban floor tiles in the bathrooms. I wish I knew where they get their martini glasses.

a perfect dirty martini

cuban floor tiles at the pegu club

cuban floor tiles

The inspiration for my bathroom renovation begins with Cuban floor tiles. Maybe it is a memory thing. Feeling cool cement tiles under my bare feet was alway comforting. Probably because I started crawling and took my first steps on Cuban floor tiles.

a great aunt standing on Cuban floor tiles Cienfuegos Cuba 1929

My great uncle Diego in Cienfuegos Cuba

For a look at the tile I ended up choosing see here.

the bathroom – our first redo

The bathroom was a beautiful idea in 1992. We were building it from the bones. Like most NYC bathrooms, it is very small. The size of a suburban closet. I wanted it to feel luxurious after living with crumbling tenement bathrooms for so long. Some of the homesteaders in our building were artists from the Squat Theater. Peter Halasz, a brilliant artist and principal in the Squat Theater collective installed tile on the side. He had connections to stone quarries and got us really cheap prices for stone tile. Thanks to Peter, the homesteaders all had expensive stones; marble, granite and slate in our bathrooms. I picked out a dark green slate, very spa-like. I did the walls myself in a mint green venetian plaster when I was 8 months pregnant with my second child. After 16 years, the bathroom was literally falling apart. A series of leaks from upstairs finished it off. I’ve started the renovation work here. This is the bathroom this summer.

after Certificate of Occupancy – the early days

Our home design solutions have always been reactionary. In the homestead we started with a raw space. Babies came as soon as we moved in, The birth of a child would mean we’d buy a new bed for the new person to sleep in.  A newborn’s clothes would occupy one dresser drawer. As the infant became a toddler, it was three drawers. And when they started school, it was six drawers. We’d have more stuff – we’d buy or build something to put it in.   If a neighbor was getting rid of something that we could use – we’d take it. We didn’t have much of a budget to buy furniture and we knew nothing about design. The first baby had a crib purchased by my parents. As soon as she could stand, she would do anything to escape it. It became a place to dump toys in and drape clothes on – a big repository of clutter. So we gave it away, baby proofed everything and put a futon on floor. The second baby never had a crib. She slept first in our bed then moved to the floor futon with her sister.

Our living space was not shaped by design or beauty, only by where to stash things. First, in our raw space, we needed bookshelves, so the ex-husband and his friend built a very ugly bookcase that is still there. The so-called linen closet is the top part of that bookcase. You have to struggle to stuff the linen in because it is not deep. It is so high up that you have to climb on the highest chair in the house to put laundry away. Sometimes we are too lazy and we toss pillow cases into it as if we were playing basketball. It has sliding doors that never worked well and one day one fell off. We thought the second door could fall off and hit someone in the head so we took it off altogether. That meant the so-called linen closet was exposed to the view of everyone in the living room. My mother who could not see very well once thought it was a poster.