Miles of Tile

Although I wrote yesterday about being surprised that my memory of tile color was way off, we are pleased with how the construction process is going. They  did a nice job of laying down the tile. We are doing several things that are different than our India team is used to doing — we’re laying the tiles diagonally across the rooms, and instead of tile skirting we will install wide wood moldings. We are using bigger 2-foot by 2-foot tiles. Here are shots of some of the living/dining area:

So you can see we ran the same tile out onto the balconies to maintain some visual consistency. I thought it would look “choppy” if we used a different tile outdoors that you could see from the indoors. Fenesta french doors with wood frames will be installed in a few weeks, so you’ll see the indoor tile flow outdoors through the glass doors.

We wanted some grout lines to show between tiles, but not too big and not too small. This looks about right to me. Shades of Cinderella! The grout color will be matched to the tiles (they’re not grouted yet in these photos) so the color will blend in across the room. In the Millimeters Count post, I wrote about the visual impact of grout line choices. In fact I live in parallel worlds right now — at the same time we’re doing work in the Chennai apartment, this is finally the year we’re replacing old cracked tile in our Chicago sunroom. Just tonight we were in Home Depot choosing grout color and placing a tile order. (Yes I will post before & after pics of that project here too!)

Our team is paying such attention to detail that this is how they laid the tiles where the different colors meet at the bedroom and bathroom doors:

Surely there will be door thresholds there, but the grout lines will be well-aligned on either side of the thresholds. Look how they even did cuts where needed so the tiles fit close:

I have to admit, I was apprehensive about how this would go, based on our previous experiences with renovations and contractors, in the house we live in while we were here and we met with the contractors personally every morning. And now we’re working from the near complete opposite side of the planet. However it’s been going well. One key is, my husband is working with the architect to ensure that we receive detailed mock-ups of how everything will be laid out, every step of the way. We carefully review it and through email and scanned images, communicate back and forth until all details are correct. The architect doesn’t proceed until we sign approval.

We provide pictures to help communicate what we’re looking for as clearly as possible. For example, we sent pictures to the architect of a bathroom in our Chicago house to show how we’d like raised tile to separate the showers from the rest of the bathrooms:

This is travertine tile skirting from The Tile Shop in the U.S. — we won’t be doing anything this fancy in the Chennai apartment. They will cut standard tiles to fit the step. In fact we haven’t yet seen bullnosed tile there and are wondering if it’s available because it would make nicer edges. We are also installing glass shower doors and sent photos to show examples of that:

So eventually the Chennai showers will look somewhat like this. The master bath is tiny, so the shower will be a straight glass wall with a hinge to open a glass door. The guest and public bathroom is much bigger and will have a three-wall shower somewhat like the shower above, which is in our Chicago home. It was so difficult to get to this result when we renovated this bathroom — we had to fight each step of the way and I don’t know why it had to be so difficult with contractors. It was a strain on many areas of life at the time, thank goodness it lasted only 8 weeks. I cannot even rehash all the stories — I just want to forget them. The process is going much, much smoother with our team in Chennai and we really appreciate that!

Next the Chennai team is installing the bathroom wall and floor tiles. Excited to see this! Here are photos from the store display (Vaigai Sanitation in Chennai) of the master bath tile:

The mosaic feature will be on two opposite walls of the bathroom — behind the toilet as shown here, and also repeated in the shower. The remainder of the walls will have the beige tile shown here. I hope on our next trip to India to find an old small wood cabinet to revamp as a sink vanity. I think that would go nice with this natural tile.

And here’s the guest bath tile (all tile in the whole apartment is from Vaigai Sanitation in Chennai):

Looking forward to following up soon with photos of the tile installed in the bathrooms!

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Off Color

off-col·or (ôfklr, f-) adj. 1. Exhibiting bad taste: an off-color joke. 2. Varying from the usual, expected, or required color.3. Not in good health or spirits.

If you expected risque jokes here, I’m sorry to not deliver today! Instead I’m talking about colors being “off” from what was expected. Way off! It’s making me feel sick, or “not in good health or spirits.” Because I made a small investment in a dream, a gorgeous vision, that now would look like … yuck. Real yucky yuck.

Floor tile was laid in the India pied a terre this week! Yay! This is the photo my husband took of the tile for the bedroom floors when he visited last October:

I thought the lighter tile on the right would be installed in bedrooms, with marbled variation of blue-grays, reds, pinks. So I pictured some blues for the guest bedroom. I never buy blue, but I want to make the Chennai flat a real “getaway experience” with colors we don’t usually live with. So for the guest room, if I don’t find a big ol’ Indian armoire with some blue chippy paint, I would add blue chippy paint to an armoire. Like this one which someone placed in a now-expired classified ad (but the photo lives on):

Or this one at Rouget de Lisle, perfect because it has both blue and pink chippy paint and you’ll see why that’s perfect in a moment:

On the bed, I pictured a mix of Les Indiennes fabrics like these …


And blue block print bedding:

And small throw pillows that I would knit from silk sari fabric yarn like this from etsy seller Jazzturtle which mixes sari yarn with other fibers:

As backing for the knitted pillows, I would use this bicolor blue and pink silk duppoini from India that I got at Exquisite Fabrics in DC, in Georgetown, a must-stop shop whenever I’m in town:

And the pièce de résistance — the dream of a vision of India nights under sequiny stars — was to be made from these two obscenely sparkly sequiny textiles I found at A Fabric Place in Baltimore a few weeks ago:

I planned to turn these fabrics into drum/barrel lamps suspended from the ceiling in staggered fashion like this:

Can you imagine the light shining at night through the open patterns? The shadows it would make. Can you imagine during the day, the sequins launching sparkles and splattering them across the walls, whenever the sun shines through the windows? Very cool. Very different. Very somewhere-else-in-the-world for guests.

But noooooooooooooooo, it is not to be. None of it is to be. Because the color of the bedrooms’ floor tile is this:

Apparently, this is indeed the right side tile in the photo from the October shopping trip, not the left:

Really? Doesn’t look like it to me. Well, whatever happened … oh well. Doesn’t matter now. The tile is in. We can do the same decor ideas, but with different colors. Back to the drawing board!

My husband keeps asking whether we really do need to wait until we visit Chennai to pick the kitchen cabinets in person. Yes, we do, I insist. Why? He asks. This whole story is why! Colors are not always what they seem.

Anyway, I will still make the beautiful sequiny drum shades, and perhaps put them up for sale on etsy. I now have no need for pink and blue sequiny lampshades! The Baltimore fabric shop had so many sequined fabrics, there must be something else on their bolts in colors that would not clash horribly with the tile, so I’ll still make the drum shades happen for us. Hmmm … you know how I like paprika color … now that would go with this floor … at least I think so … maybe I better wait until I see the floor in person …

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Bait & Switch Kitchen

Enough of India modular kitchen web sites that show kitchens that the company does not offer!!!  How many times I’ve run into this, I cannot count. I give up trying to research anything online anymore. I’m gonna haul my sweating self all over Chennai in late May or June weather now, looking at cabinets.

If a web site shows kitchen products, a customer should be able to get those products from that company. Choosing a nice photo to draw people to your web site, when you don’t have any affiliation with the product in the photo, is so not cool. It should be illegal because it has no representation of what you can do.

Meanwhile if anyone knows who produces the kitchen cabinetry below — if they are indeed even in India because I’m not looking to ship a kitchen into India  although some people are doing that — please email or note in comments. Thank  you! You will make our day and your help will be forever appreciated! I’m sorry I cannot promise to include you in my will, but I will think of some other big thanks!

While I’m on a kitchen cabinet rant today, if you’re a company that’s describing solid wood cabinets, don’t ship MDF. If your product is MDF just say so. Frankly, I won’t get snobby about needing solid wood in our India apartment — I already got wood so solid in my Chicago kitchen, I cannot drive  a nail into it to install hooks inside the cabinets! That’s what real quality oak does, folks. If you can very easily drive nails into “oak” cabinets in India, it ain’t oak. Our Chennai kitchen will be used only a few weeks a year so it doesn’t need to be costly top-notch solid wood. Plus, this probably goes without saying, but I don’t know how to cook like my mother-in-law and sister-in-law cook in their kitchens. My mother-in-law cooks such great food, we may wind up in their flat downstairs to eat! So there won’t be much action in our kitchen.

Furthermore … teak is teak — if it’s not teak don’t call it teak. Adding the word “teak” in a name doesn’t make it so. I could go on and on but will spare everyone the repetitive rant about this issue of cabinet material descriptions. It’s discussed online in many other places.

Whatever material people want to buy is their personal decision, and they should get what they are expecting. The price they pay should be commensurate with what they get. I have a problem with misrepresentation and will never get over the shock of that.  Injustices just rile me — it’s why I do what I do for a profession — and this is a type of injustice.

Whew. Back to pretty pictures next post, promise …

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Remote Control

A break from our regularly-scheduled pretty picture programming to talk about realities of construction from afar …

As the guy who pays the bills and handles contractor communications (that would be my husband) likes to remind, there’s more to making this pied a terre a reality than surfing for nice things to put in it.

We can easily make some decisions remotely, but we’re now facing a number of decisions that are better made in person. But any personal viewing means a 24-hour trip to the other side of the planet (with a stop in Dubai to visit some family, this time!). It’s not like jumping in the car to The Tile Shop five miles away, as we did when we gutted & renovated our Chicago master bathroom.

Further, some decisions are easily changeable. If we don’t like a wall paint color in person, no big deal, we can paint over it. It bugs me to no end on shows like House Hunters when people comment on wall colors like that’s a permanent fixture. It’s much more costly to fix structural problems or rework a house layout that doesn’t work for your family, than repaint some walls.

Via Your Home Decoration

But other decisions are more permanent. Next we must choose cabinet door finishes (in India they’re called shutters) and granite. I found photos and sources online for our architect to follow up on. But I won’t make a final call via online jpg’s or architect photos. You can’t tell the true colors. The cabinets and granite must coordinate with the tile, which was already purchased. I know from past experience, things that look great when photos are paired together can clash horribly when you play with samples of the actual material.

Virtual granite samples

Kitchen cabinets from Chennai source, but I’d change the color

I’ve always taken it for granted that we can get samples to bring home and look at in different light. No one is granting samples in Chennai to bring to the U.S. I don’t trust others available in Chennai to make the calls for me — I gotta see this stuff in person.

Also some elements should be very distinctive. Because we’ll spend very few days a year in the apartment, it won’t be lushly furnished. So whatever is in there, we want quality and style. For us, it’s not a utilitarian, pedestrian place. It should be an “experience.” Like a five star hotel experience in India. Because it really is our own little hotel suite in Chennai, in a way. I was thrilled to find last night that Fanimation (I previously posted pics of many of their ceiling fans) has an outlet in Mumbai. And guess what, my husband may need to travel to Mumbai for business soon! I’d prefer our contractors not make fast decisions to install the basic ceiling fans.

Not everything must be decided and installed quickly. Some things, we may take a great deal of time to find just the right thing. And that’s OK. The hunt is part of the fun.

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