My Journey into the Men's Room
Lyle asked me to fix the sink in the men’s room at The Plant. It had a terminal leak and needed replacing. The fixtures came from back in the 80’s when the Plant was a cold war aluminum smelting factory.
I called my plumber, Greg. He and his partner, Chris always wear bright orange t-shirts and little booties overtop their muddy boots to keep the floors clean. He typically says something offensive to everyone he walks past. Greg will notice things and mention them when most people would not. Whether it has to do with a failing marriage, a secret lover or maybe if you look like you tied one on the night before.
Greg and I have opposite views on most things, but he is the best damn plumber in Chatham County.
Greg will drop everything and come fix a gushing water main break. I’ve made many mistakes around plumbing, building and oh so many frozen pipes.
Greg always saves the day. Greg walked into the bathroom, came out and looked at me shaking his head. He said, “Tami, that bathroom doesn’t have your signature on it…you need to give it your special touch, make it look good like everything else. It’s a terrible bathroom.” Well, he was right. It was a dismal, smelly, dark bathroom with wacked out colors. I needed to really reach deep into my soul to figure this out and to make it to Greg’s spec. And to my spec.
And there was no budget.
First job was to find a replacement sink. My elegant cousin is a New York City fashion magnate and in her charming home she had a very cool utility sink. I found it online and splurged. It was gorgeous and of course I needed to add some tile and a cool mirror to accent it. My talented neighbor and artist, Janice, came to the rescue and quickly put up some subway tile. I picked up a mirror and my other very skilled neighbor Lolly helped me affix it to the wall. Janice then tiled around the mirror. Greg and his partner came and put up the heavy sink….and voila! But, it wasn’t enough. So, Elijah repainted the bathroom. I picked out sage green. Except with the fluorescent lights it looked more like baby poop green. When I sheepishly asked Elijah to repaint the whole thing, he smiled and said no problem. Whimsical white it became. At this point all the male customers were intrigued and also concerned with what was happening in the men’s room. And it was 4th quarter, the busiest time at the Plant. Which made several people grumpy. Or maybe just Lyle grumpy. We would take art out, then put it back and then take it out again. Kersten and Gloria were key consultants in the bathroom refurbish.
Still, the bathroom was not magical.
I decided it need a window to the outside to get some natural lighting. Lyle said, "why not a door to the back courtyard?" OMG! Genius. I worked with Joe Ezzell to get a door installed and he contracted with Rice’s Glass…an old family business in Carrboro that does excellent work. Joe had to fabricate a new frame, rebuild the wall and of course when we were ready for the door, the door company got covid and shut down for weeks. That put the bathroom on hold. The customers kept wondering exactly what was happening in there. I was at the beach one weekend and stopped in to an old antique shop on the side of the road and found the most amazing ram print for a bargain. It would be perfect for the men’s room. There was an issue that there was a torrential downpour happening and I had my convertible beetle. The lady said if I bought it and it didn’t fit in my car, too bad. She wrapped it in plastic and I ran it out to the car. I ended up driving 2 hours home with the painting on top of my head. It would only fit in the top of the beetle resting on my head. No joke. But it was worth it. It fit perfectly by the shower and we were able to light it. Almost like a museum in the men’s room, but different. The door finally came in and Joe and team installed the door. It is frosted so the men have some privacy. Except the door opens now into the stall of the toilet. I know some men are less private than some women, but this was asking a lot. Back to Lolly who fabricated saloon style doors and she and Joe installed. Still there was a gap and if you were a creeper, you could stare into the stall. Janice attached rubber to the doors and a handle and latch. It was now super private and it has a beautiful painting that sat above my Grandmother Wilson’s TV when I was little, called the Chess Game.
The other art piece is one I purchased at Studio Tour many years ago. It was in an artist’s garage, not on display. It literally looks like a speed bump. Some people think we cut a speed bump out of the road and hung it in the men’s room. I bought it to symbolize slowing down my life. It didn’t work at all. But the men really like it in there.
3 months later, so many thousands of dollars, the men’s room is almost done. It reminds me of "if you give a mouse a cookie". I hope my BFF, Greg likes it.
Stay tuned for 3 more art bathrooms being built next to the new brewery, BMC Brewing. They are being created by Janice Rieves, Michael Winn and myself. Can’t wait to unveil them in the spring. Top secret.