Embracing the tiny, Day 14: Dingbats

dingbats on a tile, surrounded by petal-pink tiles

The building I’ve lived in for the past 13 years—a double-eternity-plus-one in itinerant Los Angeles—was built in the late 1950s.

Undoubtedly, something grand was razed to make this possible. Equally likely, the neighbors on the block, most of whom lived in substantial structures dating back to the 1920s, found it an abomination. The exterior is boxy and awkward, and the materials—most of them gypsum-cheap even then—have not aged well.

But when I stepped inside, the first thing I saw was all of the light in L.A.. It poured from both sides into every room, kitchen included, warm and golden and delicious. Rare, period, but especially rare for modestly-priced rental apartments, even in sunny Southern California.

The second thing I saw was the tile on the backsplash and countertops of that bright, bright kitchen: petal-pink, mostly, studded with the occasional ornamental dingbat tile. The look was straight out of Barbie’s Mid-Century Dream House, which is to say it was both ridiculous and perfect. That cinched it. I followed the apartment manager back downstairs to her apartment, where I signed the lease and turned over my deposit on the spot.

It may seem silly that kitchen tiles formed a main criterion in my selection of a home; then again, who hasn’t fallen in love over the small gesture? I have dated people for years based on something similarly microscopic.

When the apartments in the building turn over now, the management tears out the old cooktops and double sinks, replacing them with enormous, stainless-steel ranges and dishwashers. The tiles go, too; these days, most people seem to want granite countertops.

Which are probably more sanitary and definitely sturdier, but which will, for me, always lack a certain je ne sais tiny.


This is Day 14 of a 21-day series. For more scoop on the who/what/why, go here.


  1. Love the tile!

    Reminds me of the 50’s-era house I used to own. It had a bathroom with maroon tub, toilet and sink, and teeny gray tiles with tiny maroon inset tiles and a wide maroon border. So tacky and wonderful. Plus, the pattern of the etched glass lampshade in the bathroom matched that of the lampshades on the ceiling lights throughout the house. Those were what I always noticed, even though they were unobtrusive and fairly small.

    When I sold the house, the inspection identified a leak in the bottom of the shower. This required taking out the tiles in order to replace the metal tray under the shower. I was no longer resident in the same town, so I didn’t see til too late that the contracted repair guys replaced the gray and maroon tiles with bright white ones on the floor and half way up the walls of the shower surround. So sad.

  2. Yaknow, I wonder if it’s *really* “most people” who want the granite and the stainless and whatever, or if it’s just the “noisiest” who do?

  3. I love details, when something catches my eye (and then my heart). I love they way details create anchors in my brain noodle for experience and memories and all that good stuff.

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