The Downstairs Half Bath

The floor tiled in 60-160-80-100-140 equilateral pentagons

Redwood stump behind where the toilet will go

In spring of 1997 we noticed that water was leaking under the linoleum in our half bath, which gave us an excuse to redo the bathroom. I eagerly volunteered to do this elaborate redecoration, where I'd tile the floor and paint the ceiling with some of the tiles I'd found, and I'd paint a redwood scene on the walls.

I started in August 1997 by ordering tiles of my 160-80-100-140-60 design in four different colors. (I special ordered them from Fireclay in San Jose. The angles in the tiles they made are off by about 2 degrees; I'm not really satisfied with Fireclay.) I also started practicing painting redwoods. I have a lot of trouble, it turns out, with redwood trunks. In March I was committed: I removed the toilet and started ripping up the linoleum and the white tiles that were tarred to the concrete underneath it. After cleaning the tar off with paint thinner and a scrubbrush, it was time to lay the tiles.

There were many possible patterns for the tiles. I decided on one with a circle of 18 tiles, with an 18-symmetric radiation out from that. The tiles were arranged so that no two tiles of the same color were touching one another, even at a corner. (That was nontrivial. I wrote this program to find such all such patterns for the center circle and the first radiating ring. As the pattern spirals out eventually I was forced to let corners of same-colored tiles touch. Running out of some handedness of some colors didn't help either.)

After choosing a pattern and laying it out in the hallway beforehand, it only took five hours to lay all the tiles. At the edges of the room I needed tiles cut. I put drafting tape on the tiles, with one edge along the line that needed to be cut, and brought all those tiles in to Home Depot. (Actually I tried renting a tile cutter first, but it wouldn't run, so I had to bring it back.) Next I grouted it all, then sealed the grout. The next milestone was to reinstall the toilet. Before I could do that, I needed to paint the wall behind where the toilet would go. I decided to work in acrylics, which take half an hour to dry and are opaque enough so that you can entirely cover mistakes. This leads to a style of painting back to front, as opposed to oils where you paint front to back, or crayons or watercolors where you paint every area exactly once.

The ceiling tiled in 108-108-36-252-36 equilateral pentagons

Using tape to form uniform lines on the ceiling

Rocks behind the sink

I spent a few months in 1998 painting and repainting a redwood trunk on the back wall. Eventually I decided what I had was good enough, and I reinstalled the toilet. After that I would start working on the sky, seeing how the sky is behind everything else. Then would come the ocean and mountains in the distance, then trees in the middle ground, then bushes in the foreground. Most of my reference photos were taken in Big Basin park off Skyline in on the San Francisco peninsula in California.

For the sky, I decided to use a 10-symmetric tiling. My mom suggested painting the whole sky the color of the lines, laying drafting tape over the pattern, then repainting the whole sky the color of the spaces. This was a good idea. It kept the lines straight, and a uniform width. My dad suggested making the ceiling tiles twice the size of the floor tiles. This would have been a good suggestion if they were the same pattern, which he thought at the time, but they're different patterns. The ceiling tile size is determined by the size of the ceiling lamp. I rigged the sun of the ceiling pattern's sunburst pattern to be exactly the size of the lamp.

Bushes behind the mirror

A photo of what a redwood forest looks like

First coat: distant hills in the background

I painted the bushes behind the sink and reinstalled the sink in November 1998. As of December 1999 I still hadn't done the rest of the bushes or midground trees or much of anything else. Painting required three-hour blocks of time, and those are rare with toddlers around. I got one coat of paint on everything and left it at that.

I was too busy to do anything but watch kids, work, and sleep until 2005. Didn't really have time to sleep even. From 2005 on I started having a little wiggle room again. I made a stab at interviewing in 2005, but nobody bit at my resume. In 2006 I tried again, and got responses from Google, Microsoft, and Amazon. Google and Amazon eventually said no, but Microsoft had a plausible job, so I committed to moving to Seattle and giving it a shot. I thought it would be sad if the half-bath got painted over white because whoever bought the house didn't like the mural because I'd never finished it. So I got started on the mural again. In a spurt of activity in the last two weeks, including hours before we left for good, I mostly finished.

I didn't finish it as completely as I'd have liked to. For example I wanted to put in several bushes and a sleeping cougar behind the mirror, but I didn't put in any animals and I only did one foreground bush (a rhododendron behind the toilet paper roll). But, all the basics got done. I still give it a 70% chance that the next owners will paint it over white (our real estate agent informs us that prospective buyers have been saying the mural is unattractive and asking if it can be removed). But at least they won't be rejecting it because it's half-finished. They'll be rejecting the idea (or my execution of it) fully formed.

The ceiling: the sky between the redwoods and the sun

The ceiling: Redwood branches overhead

A redwood against the back wall

Redwood forest uphill, with branches on the ceiling

A flowering bush related to a madrone in the midground

and below that, a strawberry plant growing by the rock, and a redwood sapling growing out of a redwood stump

The redwood sapling growing out of a burnt-out redwood stump again, and more ground litter.

The right side of the rock, with ferns

Me (Bob) taking a picture of the bathroom in the mirror behind the sink

Madrones and madrone-related bushes in the foreground, hills and ocean in the background

Madrones against the sky

Trunks of the madrones in back, a rhododendron in front. I painted that rhododendron the last day we were there while the movers were loading boxes

More rhododendron and ground litter. I didn't put a shadow under the bush. Shadows are generally missing in this mural. I tried them at first on the tree on the back wall but never got them right.

Ground litter on the back wall, showing the white border tiles and a corner of the pentagonal floor again. I didn't put any ants or salamanders in like I wanted to, but at least I got that red mushroom in there.

Here's the Hirschhorn Medallion on the floor in front of the sink again.


Bob's Online Scrapbook
Chaos Tiles, a game manufactured by a mathematician using the floor tile plus another
Justine's roof rack box hoist
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