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Falling UP The Rabbit Hole

I live in a weird house.

We have a tower. And a gargoyle.

And we don't live in Europe.

But I'm a Fan of towers and my hubby is a Fan of gargoyles so when we first laid eyes on the house we knew we were meant to buy it.

The lower portion of the tower houses the access to the main floor of our house: a stone spiral staircase like the kind Quasimodo trots up in Notre Dame to ring the bell (but ours aren't French or ancient, so therefore, they're not as classy). The top floor of the tower was just an attic-y storage space. You have to climb up a 10+ foot fold-down ladder and through a hole in the floor to enter it. But it has windows. Big, tall windows and the best views in the whole house. So I made it my office.

My tower office is guarded by our gargoyle, Elmer.

The only downside to the space, other than the by-ladder-only access, was the particleboard floor. Let's just say it: I'm not a Fan of particleboard.

It only took a few (approximately nine) years, but I finally tackled the flooring. The room is an octagonal so it just screamed for a black and white checkerboard floor to give it a magical Alice in Wonderland feel. I'm a huge Fan of Wonderland and checkerboard floors. In fact, I have added checkerboard floors to every home I have renovated but they have always been khaki and white checks. This time I was gonna go full-on Wonderland with black and white floor tiles.

Or so I thought! Can you believe that I could NOT find matching sizes in black and white tiles ANYWHERE? It was maddening. But not in a fun Mad Hatter at a Tea Party kind of way. Something so simple, so basic, so classic proved impossible to find.

After weeks of fruitlessly searching, I decided to go the crazy-person route by installing wood floors and then painting them in a checkerboard pattern. I used to paint people's portraits, so I thought, How hard can painting a bunch of squares really be? (Hint: harder than painting portraits.)

Wood floors were ordered and installed. All I had to do was paint them. I should have known that things always take longer than anticipated (because all remodeling projects always do) but I foolishly convinced myself that I could do it in a week.

And I did do it in a week. Times four. Or maybe it was five. After the 1000th trip up the ladder (perched over the spiraling Quasimodo steps to add a little more precariousness to the climb) I had lost all sense of time.

The ladder to my office as seen from the kitchen. Beneath the railing are the "Quasimodo" steps.

All the shelving came down that ladder from my office.

It didn't take long to realize that l had fallen UP a rabbit hole. I really was in Wonderland—as in I kept WONDER-ing, How did I LAND myself in this mess?

But I survived and along the way I learned a few things that I thought would be good to share with others who might be contemplating painting a checkerboard floor.

NOTE: Read EXTRA-carefully if you are painting the floor of a tall tower. It may save your life.

Lesson No.1

Don't ever attempt to measure and paint squares by merely relying on a ruler and laying down painter's tape. At least not in an octagonal room. It is a sure way to go mad. I know this from experience.

I finally devised a surefire, though painfully-slow, method of painting perfect squares by laying down a row of floor tiles and taping around them. Once the paint for the rows dried, I taped off another row on either side and repeated the process. This is why it took FOREVER to finish. But at least my squares were lined up and consistent in size, so it was worth the trouble.

Lesson No.2

If your room is in a tower with a BIG hole in the floor, please be aware that your eyes may have trouble readjusting from the stark reality of black and white squares when you stand up. You may experience vertigo. So for goodness sake, DON'T STAND UP FAST near the hole in the floor! (I had some near-death experiences due to rising quickly.)

Note the hole in the right bottom corner.

Sometimes it appeared to be just another black square to my unfocused eyes.

I nearly stepped through it more than once.

Lesson No. 3

You might find yourself really LIKING the bright yellow painter's tape and be tempted to leave it there. Probably not a good idea.

The yellow tape added such a cheery bit of colorful punch to the project that I hated to pull it off. I was somewhat tempted to paint some yellow accents onto the floor, but once I finally finished, I was FINISHED. I never want to paint another square ever again.

So my office is officially done. Sort of. I still have about1000 more trips up and down my squeaky ladder with all my office furniture and paraphernalia. At least I am getting a daily workout.

Nevertheless, my tower office is truly my Wonderland, my escape from everyone except my cat. And I'm hoping that the checkerboard floors will imbue me with the power to write like Lewis Carroll. Meanwhile, my husband references a different character when I have stayed up there for too long. Around dinner time he begins shouting "Rapunzel! It's time to come down from your tower!"

So, unlike Alice, I have to climb UP through the rabbit hole rather than fall down it to hang out in Wonderland. But it's worth the climb and I'm happy to report that I haven't fallen down it so far and I plan to keep it that way. And hopefully someday I'll find one of those tiny birdcage elevators from Europe on eBay.

Yup. Just another home renovation project where my 'inner child' got out again!

Is it just me or am I seeing a checkerboard backdrop in this picture of my slightly younger self?


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