DIY: Random acts of tiling

Susan Christian Goulding
The Orange County Register

My house’s next owner in some distant future might choose to whitewash over my attempts at creativity.

There goes the quintuple-hued entryway — sextupled, if you count the ceiling.

No doubt Buddha will lose his happy hut, aromatic candles and all. The statuette now resides in the space once occupied by a poorly positioned built-in barbecue that singed the vines behind it.

But it’s the dismantling of Tile Alley that would really make me roll over in my grave.

Two years ago, the bland cinder block prominent outside our living area windows became my latest fixation. All the wall needed was a strand of barbed wire to complete its unwelcoming demeanor.

At one point, my husband and I priced stuccoing over the miles of industrial beige, but instead found other priorities.

So during my teacher summer, I struck upon a much cheaper alternative — one that, not incidentally, served as a way to decompress from nine months herding 200 seventh-graders.

Ever inspired by the quirky Watts Towers in Los Angeles (I recommend a visit), I decided to spice up the view with my own festive ceramics.

First, I scoured sites like, which sell single tiles for as little as $1.50 each. I loaded up, and then went back for seconds and thirds.

The packages left on my doorstep felt like treasure boxes as I unwrapped each work of art, admiring its delightful bird or flower or fruit.

A saleswoman at Ace Hardware pointed me to one of my best discoveries ever — Power Grab All-Purpose Clear Construction Adhesive.

I had assumed the need for taping tiles in place while some sort of adhesive dried. But with Power Grab, objects instantly and firmly stick. And, like Elmer’s Glue on steroids, it dries transparent.

Yes, I succumbed to obsession — aiming my glue gun from sunup (well, almost) to sundown.

I scrounged around the garage for tiles from bathroom renovations and added those, too. And if I fumbled an adornment, c’est la vie — I simply pasted up the pieces here and there.

Eschewing tape measures and levelers, I planted the tiles willy-nilly, positioning some of them askew. If you can’t be bothered with symmetry and perfection, go for randomness and charm.

In between shipments, I set my sights on an odd patch of cement next to the chimney. I cannot explain why, but I got the notion to mirror the wall on the inexplicably raised slab.

Back to the web — this time for house paint samples, which I ordered by the dozens from Home Depot and Lowe’s.

I proceeded to transform the slab into a dusk blue, using nothing fancier than sponge brushes. Next, I more or less sketched with pencil a selection of tiles decorating the wall and carefully colored inside the lines.

In the process, I reconnected with my inner artist. I had not embarked on an art project since childhood.

By this point, my family pretty much assumed they’d lost me. During daylight, I broke only for yoga classes, which I attended in paint-spattered slobbery.

Once I’d put the finishing touches on my masterpiece, I considered protecting it with a sealant. But I worried that black hairs from our ever-shedding mutts would also wind up preserved in perpetuity, so let things be.

That was my last — or, at least, most recent — teacher summer. After the following school year, I went straight into a job with “regular” hours.

Intending to add a few faux tiles to the boring cement sidewalk and patio, I kept my array of paints until they dried up. Someday.

I did manage to spend a recent Sunday afternoon hanging — with Power Grab, of course — the remains of a gift that arrived in shards. No reason to just toss that pretty platter’s now disembodied angel faces.

Tile Alley does nothing for the house’s resale value or for my children’s inheritance, I’m aware. Rather, I can imagine potential buyers chuckling over it as they visualize a fresh start.

But a home is not just an investment. It’s an environment. Leave your mark — even if that mark is sure to be erased in some distant future.