It is a new year! The fifth calendar year for Quirky Berkeley.
There is a motion on the floor to put Joe Cocker coming in through the bathroom window on the stereo and throw the rule book out the window for the first post of the new year – the bathroom window if you want a piece of symbolism. Motion seconded. Vote to concur. Done! We are starting the new year by breaking rules!
While engaged in my rule-abiding recording of quirky material culture that is visible from the street, alley, or public path, I have at times gone inside a house with quirky stuff outside. And at times when inside I have seen the bathroom – the WC, the loo, the excusado, the powder room, the John, the potty, the can, the privy – et cetera et cetera et cetera.
My favorite of these terms? Excusado. So much more sophisticated than el bano. I learned it in August, 1974, at the Dixon Migrant Farm Labor Center, where I spent lovely hot summer evenings with the family of Maria Elena Ramirez during the short-lived Yolo County tomato strike – a humble corrugated metal small house, many family members, great dignity and humor and so generous with us. They used the word excusado. What a small thing to remember!
In the interest of those who are truly dedicated to quirky material culture and who want DIY decorating ideas for quirky bathrooms, here are some wonderful, quirky bathrooms.
Helen Holt’s bathroom doubles as her kitchen and as her dining room and as her living rom and as her studio and as her gallery. All in one! Her business is Helly Well. I find her aesthetic to be entirely quirky and inviting. Her shop is a quirky treasure. My post just scratches the surface.
The inside of Marcia Donahue‘s house is warm – red, orange, yellow.
Donahue, Mark Bulwinkle, Jana Olson, Sara Tool, and Jeff Gouin contributed to the project. What a bath!
Mary Kate Morris and Dan Wertheimer live on the northeast corner of Cedar and Scenic.
In my post I paid lip service to the rules and started with the quirky stuff you can see from the street. Then I went inside. And into the back yard. Rule-breaker! My reward – a quirky bathroom to add to this.
Randi Herman cites many influences on her Vassar Avenue garden and house. One is Indonesia, and that influence is played out in this bathroom.
By far the coolest bathroom door frame EVER, ANYWHERE.
A perfect segue presents itself. Keeyla Meadows played a significant role in the design of the Herman garden. Keeyla Meadows herself has three spectacular bathrooms. She lives a few houses north of Berkeley, but the bathrooms are worth seeing.
The home of Arlene Mayerson and Allan Tinker is filled with folk art.
Ditto the downstairs guest bathroom. Once in the bathroom, it is hard to imagine leaving quickly. There is lots to see.
A bathroom in Eugene Tssui’s Fish House on Mathews:
Granted, this is not ideal for the DIY crowd to emulate. Just let it inspire.
These photos were taken by Conny Bleul-Gohlke, who shows the challenge in photographing a small room with a mirror in it – it is difficult to avoid ending up in the photo.
She brightens our lives with her front yard (bench, mailbox, animals in the ivy, and Bambi on the garage door) on Marin and with her murals at the Marina. She paints murals in homes. This sea, sky and clouds wrap-around mural is in her bathroom.
While on the subject of murals in bathrooms:
Stefen, patriarch of the Berkeley new mural movement, painted this Berkeley bathroom in the late 1970s. I am not offering this as an example – don’t have enough of a view of it. I just had it and thought I’d add it.
Marion Fredman’s Tunnel Road front yard and Oakridge-Path-intersecting back yard are filled with found-object art; she has two quirky bathrooms that are arguably within DIY reach.
A small half-bath with wonderful tile work and then a full bath with beach-themed art.
Marion introduced me to Chere Mah.
Mah studied art and design at Cal. She was a central figure in Fiberworks (1973-1987), a textile art center in Berkeley. Textiles are her deal, but she has made two happily quirky bathrooms:
She wrote me that “the plaid one is more recent, 2010 with older tile and tile made by friends. The floor is inspired by Kente cloth.” Kente cloth is a type of fabric made of interwoven silk and cotton strips and is native to the Akan ethnic group of Ghana. The bathroom was codesigned with Susan Wick, and realized with the help of dozens of assistants.
In the tradition of art made from art (or as I like to think of it, quirk made from quirk), this is a collage that Mah made of her bathroom tiles:
Staying with tiles, here is the bathroom in the house of Linda Mac and Mike LaBash. Shamanistic performance artist Frank Moore lived in the house with them until his death in 2013. They all collaborated on the bathroom, with LaBash painting the lovely, funny,, sexy tiles.
Leonard Pitt has a magnificent fairytale cottage behind his house on Grant Street.
You enter the bathroom through a false book shelf/hidden door.
The bathroom is inside a small tour – round walls. Open shower. A modest mural.
For a moment, right to the heart of the matter – the toilet. Two quirky toilets:
These toilets are in the home of George McNeil and Joanna Salska McNeil on Vine Street, the UFO-has-landed house just above Walnut. The bottom photo shows an elephant trunk toilet, an important part of toilet history. Quirky!
Will Squier is an antique dealer who loves, collects, and deals in kitsch.
Penny Brogden, an artist who works in photography and ceramic tiles, built this elegant, small, and quirky bathroom.
Eli Leon is best known as an authority on and collector of quilts, especially African-American-made quilts. His bathroom? Quirky.
Mark Bulwinkle’s home/workshop is not in Berkeley. So what??? Bulwinkle is so important to Berkeley quirk that he could live anywhere as far as I’m concerned and still be eligible for anything and everything here. Lenny Bruce said: “Even if you are Catholic, if you live in New York you’re Jewish. If you live in Butte, Montana, you are going to be goyish even if you are Jewish.” So Bulwinkle is fair game here, and it’s a great little bathroom.
While we are at it, let’s take a look at Bulwinkle’s kitchen. It’s near the bathroom. Why not? As Karin Gillespie said, we’re on thin ice, so we might as well dance.
Before leaving Bulwinkle and ending the post, here are a couple quirky ideas that are within DIY reach:
Clearly DIY-able. All you have to do is buy a few Bulwinkle tiles.
Even farther from Berkeley than Bulwinkle is Glen Ellen, where Susan Alexander and Tom Tollefsen have a magical house and magical garden. And a magical bathroom.
They call it the “Chamber of Horrors.” I call it Quirky to da max.
When I visited Dick and Beany Wezelman on Shattuck in December I didn’t see the bathroom. In Glen Ellen, Susan Alexander raved about it as we photographed her Chamber of Horrors. So – go back and see Dick and Beany – always good – and check out the bathroom.
When I wrote Beany and asked to come shoot her bathroom based on Susan Alexander’s recommendation, Beany wrote: “To me, our bathroom doesn’t look so quirky, but you’re welcome to stop by and judge for yourself. We do have some masks and ethnic textiles on the walls and small artifacts on shelves but that all seems normal to me.” Okay – I am going with Susan Alexander on this one. This is a quirky bathroom.
Alexander is not done taking me to magical places, some of which have quirky bathrooms. On a Saturday in March she took me to Sebastopol, to the home of “junk artists” Patarick Amiot and Brigitte Laurent. Wow – not one, not two, but three quirky bathrooms. The main bathroom on the first floor:
Up a spiral staircase to a bedroom and tiny bathroom:
And a second bathroom on the main floor:
Another field trip took me to San Jose. First stop was the home of Ted Fullwood, a ceramacist and weaver. And an artist who has intricately tiled a lot of his house, including three bathrooms. The first:
And the third:
The second stop was the home and garden of Cevan Forristt. Forristt is a garden designer and lover of Asia and her culture. His garden, house, and bathroom are all informed by Asian art and sensibility.
The door is now giving Randi Herman’s door a real race for best door. I don’t believe in zero sum in the universe of quirky bathroom doors, so let’s say that we’ve seen a couple really good ones.
Laurel Skye and her daughter Marley Goldman live in a fantastical house in Arcata. They are all about tiles and mosaics, and have two A+ quirky bathrooms. The first is tile-centric:
Skye describes the second first-floor bathroom as steampunk, meaning, I gather, that it incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery.
A final bathroom-related photo.
Phyllis Rothman sent me this photo of a camping toilet that her husband David made. Look carefully – you will see a caricature of a certain ex-President in the bowl, appropriately at the receiving end of the toilet.
I sat down with my friend in front of the fireplace last night and showed him the bathroom (and kitchen) photos. What does he think of them? He beckoned for me to follow him to his bathroom, which he has not yet converted to Danish Modern.
His plan is to replicate as nearly as possible the bathroom from Room 237 in The Shining. I admire its sleek lines, but I think that it is a profoundly bad idea. It’s his life and his bathroom though. No stopping him if he is set on it.
We went into his bathroom, still painted as he painted it in 1984, obviously informed by the 1960s. There, he gave his verdict on the excusados extravagances: