Monthly Archives: January 2012

My Avocado Green Tub

by Libby Sternberg

Remember when pineapples were the rage? I mean pineapples in decorating. Pineapple wallpaper patterns, pineapple molding, pineapple newels and pineapple gewgaws of all kinds on fireplace mantels.

The pineapple craze was a nod back to colonial times, apparently, and you’ll see quite a few of them if you visit the lovely Colonial Williamsburg.

A pineapple wallpaper border.

I have to admit, however, to having mischievous thoughts when viewing all those pineapples in colonial houses. I find myself wondering — were these really fashionable or were they a bit of fun? You know, like pink flamingoes.

Pink flamingoes were the ultimate in low-class lawn decoration when I was growing up in Baltimore in the mumble-mumble years of the twentieth century.  Pink flamingoes on a lawn? Phht, that household probably drank Natty Bo and called everybody “hon,” while the truly elite sipped chardonnay and called each other “Tad” and “Scotty.”

And then, suddenly, the flamingoes went from being declasse to deriguer for the hip urbanite/suburbanite.  Brahmins embraced them with a wink and nod–look how cool we are, their selection seemed to say. We “get” it.

Who can't love these sweeties?

We joined the craze — although, for me, it was more a bow to my father’s family’s Bal’mer roots — and still have two plastic pink flamingoes that I proudly place in my bed of mint every spring.

Well, I wondered, did pineapples travel the same route? Did they start out as the pink flamingo–scorned by the hoity-toity and embraced by the hoi polloi until finally the in crowd realized it was being left out by not embracing them? Were pineapples the pink flamingoes of their day?

Mmm…I like to imagine the scene. Mistress Smith goes into the candlemaker’s shop and sees a pineapple ornament on the shelf.  She sniffs, lifting the corner of her mouth in a subtle sneer at the rude taste of the crass mercantile class. Then she heads to the pewter shop to pick up that new pitcher she had made. There’s another pineapple, this time carved into the door post. Really, how plebian, she thinks. And then, months later, her best friend and arch rival, Mistress Jones, puts a pineapple decoration on her fireplace mantel. Quelle surprise! Over tea, Mistress Jones — who has a reputation as an impish troublemaker — gushes about how much joy she gets from viewing this tropical fruit. Soon, Mistress Smith is keeping up with the Joneses by having special pineapple wallpaper made….and there you have it, my friend, a fad becoming a trend.

Pineapple wallpaper in a bathroom--hmm, might go with our avocado green tub!

What fun it would be if this story were true. Imagine some colonial grande dame looking down from the afterlife at a well-to-do household today papered with pineapple patterns, smiling and thinking, “Now, why on earth would they think that was a good pick with all that lovely furniture?”

Which brings me to my avocado green bathtub. We live in a pre-owned house, one built in 1974, which means we didn’t pick out the kitchen cabinets, countertops, appliances or sinks and tubs. And the guest bathroom has an avocado green tub in it, along with matching sinks and toilet.

You remember the days when avocado green and burnt almond were the rage? Everybody had to have these shades! They represented the latest, the most fashionable, like granite countertops and stainless steel appliances today.

But times and tastes change. Now, avocado green appliances, sinks, tubs elicit a gasp of horror from the with-it interior decorator, his sentiments echoed by sneers of derision from young couples looking to buy a home and encountering the shades for the first time — oh, the humanity.

We’ll ignore their sneers. Our bathtub is real ceramic, not one of those plastic/vinyl/whatever surrounds. It has heft.

A green tub similar to our own.

And, unless we had a ton of money (and maybe not even then), I intend to keep this tub as is, its pea-green shade in all its glory (which isn’t very glorious due to hard water stains), whispering to me about times gone by when Olivia Newton-John and Marvin Gaye and Neil Diamond were crooning on a summer breeze, maybe the one that blew through the window of that avocado green bathroom, because, yes, these were the days when people built houses with windows in the bathrooms.

I figure that one day the color might come back in style, or at least be embraced by the fashionable crowd as retro or camp, sort of like the pink flamingoes of yesteryear. Or maybe even the pineapple.

If you have avocado green fixtures in your house, I’d love to hear your thoughts on whether you’ll keep them and how you’re decorating around them.

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