Bendy wall board may be dead easy to work with, and I now have lots of lovely curves in my bathroom, but let’s face it, it’s not the most elegant finish on the planet.
So how do I make it look pretty? Painting is not an option, unless I skim plaster the board – and as I think I’ve mentioned in the past – plastering is not a skill I have. Which means my only option is tiling.
So how do you tile a curved wall? Clearly my previous tiling strategy of “great big tiles + small area = less work and less mess” isn’t going to work here. Big tiles don’t go round bends!
The only way to tile round a bend is by using mosaics. Fortunately the world has moved on from the bad old days of the Romans, cutting individual tesserae and sticking them all down one by one. Nowadays mosaics come in sheets, on a mesh backing, usually in a nice useable 30cm x 30cm size. So it’s just like handling a flexible version of a large tile, and just as easy to put up.
Unfortunately, I’d been indulging in some of those posh homes & interior decorating magazines again. (I think they become a bit of an addiction for self-builders). And in one of the posh house articles I saw a beautiful bathroom decorated in mosaics that graduated in colour from floor to ceiling. I decided that’s what I wanted for my ME space bathroom. Helpfully the article had the contact details for the suppliers, so I checked out their website. And nearly fainted at their prices; I would need a second mortgage just to cover the 5m² wall of my sauna. Undeterred, I spent ages trawling the internet trying to find cheaper alternatives, but without success.
I think I mentioned in the last blog the concept of the “DIY hell or high water approach”. In my normal stubborn way, I decided there had to be a way to replicate the look, without the squillion pound bill. I mean, if you think about it, it’s just mixing up different colour mosaic tiles. How hard can that be?
At work, an Excel spreadsheet is my answer to everything – but I never envisaged using it to tile a bathroom. However, being the total nerdy numbers geek I am, I designed a pattern by creating a formula to distribute black, white, three shades of grey, silver glitter and mirror squares in a randomised pattern to give me the graduated mosaic effect I wanted. (OK, maybe not the 50 shades of grey I promised in the title – that was just to get your attention.…)
That gives me my template for a 2m x 1m length of graduated mosaic. Now all I have to do is replicate it with the real thing.
I went online and found a website selling individual mosaic tiles in a whole range of colours, and duly bought a couple of boxes of black, a couple of boxes of white and the necessary bags of grey, dark grey, light grey, mirror and silver glitter tiles. (My clever little spreadsheet had worked out how many of each I needed.) I also bought a 10m roll of mesh backing and a gallon of PVA.
All set to create my masterpiece……
What did I say at the beginning of the blog, about the bad old days creating a mosaic tile by tile?
Well, yes. That was me. I put a load of newspaper down to protect my wooden floor, marked it into sections of 30cm2 and started laying my tiles. One by one. Face down. Following my pattern. All 4,725 little squares. And I rued the day I ever came up with such a daft idea. Backbreaking work hunched over the floor for hours at a time, and impossibly frustrating trying to keep all the tiles equally spaced and in straight lines.
When I’d finally got them all laid out, I painted each one with PVA, rolled out my mesh backing over the top, put a load more newspaper on top of that, and weighted the whole lot down with an entire set of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. And left it to dry out for a couple of days.
I’m sure some of you have already anticipated what happened next (and are smirking away to yourselves). PVA glue and newspaper – has a tendency to stick – to everything. The newspaper was stuck to the back of the mesh, the front of the tiles were stuck to the newspaper underneath, which in turn had stuck to the wood floor.
I believe, at this point, a certain amount of bad language ensued. I spent the next few evenings cleaning everything up and scraping newspaper off the tiles and the floor.
Worse – I’d created this monstrosity in my flat in London – without giving any thought to how I would get it up to Scotland. A metre-wide roll of glass mosaics – too big to take on as carry-on luggage, and too fragile to want to risk having it thrown around in the hold of a plane. I ended up having to hire a car to chauffeur it all the way to the frozen North.
So much effort, and this was less than half the job. I needed at least one more 2m length plus a bit more.
I really couldn’t face the thought of doing all that again. But another scouring of the internet provided an alternative solution. A ‘Mosaic Square’ – a 30cm square plastic tray with 225 mosaic size holes.
You just lay out your tiles in the holes and then stick a square of mesh on top – creating your own custom-designed mosaic tiles. What genius came up with that?
It was still a long slow job – I kept losing track of which section of the pattern I was working on, and in which order they needed to be arranged. But at least I wasn’t ruining my landlords antique wood floors. And I could smuggle them up to Scotland in my carry-on case (as long as nobody stopped me to check the weight of my bag!)
In total, over 10,000 little 2cm squares individually stuck down. Probably one of the fiddliest jobs I’ve undertaken in the barn. And at the time I swore I’d never do it again. Stick to the standard mosaics out of the box in future……
Still, the end result looks quite impressive – if I do say so myself!