When we moved into this house in June 2010, I remember saying—in the self-assured way that new homeowners have of saying things like this—"it's all going to be done by Christmas."
Oh, self. Oh, sweet, idiotic self. I'd roll my eyes skyward right now if they weren't already stuck from rolling them every time I've remembered saying it.
But slowly, as life went by, we made progress. We renovated the kitchen and turned the spare bedroom into a home office and got the living room the way we wanted it. And all that time, the bathroom loomed before us, a huge beige-colored project that we could never find the time or the inclination to tackle. Renovations are never fun, exactly, but when they require the removal and temporary relocation of one's toilet, they're decidedly harder to get psyched about.
So this is what the bathroom looked like for a little under two years while we figured out what to do with it:
The toilet was new and the pedestal sink wasn't bad, but the speckled tile came directly from the depths of my nightmares, and no matter how much or how often I scrubbed that horrible mildewed-looking grout, it never seemed to get particularly clean. The toilet paper holder was in an incomprehensively bizarre place several feet from the toilet, there was no storage whatsoever, and the light fixture over the medicine cabinet was straight out of the 80s. And while the cast-iron tub was solid and deep, someone had done a terrible job of reglazing it at some point to match the beige of the tiles, which meant it was flaking and peeling pretty badly. The bathroom was functional, don't get me wrong, but it certainly wasn't my happy place.
So we lived with it for two years, and then we made it the happiest place in the world.
Well, for me, anyway. I'm not going to fight Disneyland on it or anything.
What did we do? Well, first, we took out the toilet and the sink—the former we kept; the latter we donated—and demoed all the tile on the floor and walls. Then we cheated a little bit and hired a lovely man named Pat to come in and lay all the new tile: a carrara marble subway tile from Home Depot on the walls and, for the floor, a honeycomb carrara tile that I ordered, extremely nervously, from a random tile warehouse online—it's not the kind of thing you can just send back, you know?—and which I ended up, thank goodness, being very pleasantly surprised by.
Hiring someone else to do the tiling wasn't in the original plan—we did the kitchen all ourselves and had been thinking we'd go similarly DIY for the bathroom—but Pat was so wonderful and so reasonable and did such an impeccable job that it ended up being the best decision we ever could have made. (Locals, let me know if you want his details.)
Also, it only took a week instead of a thousand weeks, which is what it would have taken if we'd done it ourselves. And I don't want to overstate it or anything, but this fancy little nook Pat made for my shampoo makes me feel like I have arrived.
Once all the tile was in, we ordered new fixtures for the shower and bath, which make me happy every time I look at them. In fact, I look at them so much when I'm supposed to be showering that I've almost been late to work a couple of times because of it.
Then we painted the walls a dark moody gray (Benjamin Moore's Nightfall) because I love dark colors in small spaces. I was just a teeny bit hesitant at first because the room is so tiny—can you tell how tiny it is by the fact that I can't even seem to get the whole thing in one shot?—but the ceilings are high and there's a big skylight at the top that lets in lots of light, so that really helps it feel bright enough.
Oh, also we decided to get a new toilet paper holder and move it to a more practical place.
Whew! I knew that was on your mind.
While we did think about replacing the bath, I couldn't bring myself to get rid of an original 1942 cast iron tub and replace it with something flimsy made of fiberglass, so we had it refinished instead by a local company named Mr Bathtub—when I phoned them up, I had to say "hello, is that Mr Bathtub?" and the guy on the other end had to say "yes, it is," which I'm sure was equally as amusing for him as it was for me—and they did an amazing job. I'd been skeptical that our peeling beige monstrosity could ever look like anything other than a peeling beige monstrosity, but whatever they did was magic, pure and simple. It looks like a brand new tub.
(Except it was half the price of a brand new tub.)
One of my favorite parts of the bathroom is the vanity Sean made—inspired by this one on Young House Love—using a bedside table from Pottery Barn Teen, a white vessel sink from Overstock, and an equal amount of patience and obsessive measuring.
We knew we wanted a vanity with a little storage, since there isn't really any in the rest of the room. But we also had a teeny-tiny space to work with—the gap between the wall and the toilet is only 23 inches, and the smallest standard vanities are usually 24—and we just didn't like anything we were seeing in stores or online. Finally, Sean said "you know what? I'm going to make us one." And I said "you know what? I would like to marry you again."
Then I had to marry him again, then divorce him, then marry him again when he built me a light as well.
To be fair, though, I'm the one who came up with the idea for the light. I was lusting after a similar one online that cost a painful $250, and wondering if there wasn't a way to get that industrial look a little cheaper. Turns out there is: you just buy two $25 lamps from the outdoor lighting department at Lowe's and wire them to a piece of wood. Boom, $50 light. I just saved you two hundred bucks. Go add it to your 401K or something.
Once we had all the essentials taken care of—including installing the recessed medicine cabinet, which looks very pretty now but is a process we shall never speak of again—we hung a few things on the walls. I know lots of people live by a credo like "every room should have a little bit of red in it," but I happen to live by the credo "every room should have a little bit of Evan Dando in it." This is why I have a framed poster showing the lineup of the 1993 Reading music festival—which, if you squint at, you will see the Lemonheads headlined in more prosperous times—hanging over my toilet. There you go, gentlemen: a little light reading while you pee! See how many bands you can spot whose songs you still remember!
On the opposite wall, we blew up a photo Sean took of two zebras we saw on safari in South Africa and had it stretched across canvas. It's a huge piece—almost fills the entire wall—but I waited until I had a Groupon to do it, which ended up saving a bunch of money. In fact, we saved a bunch of money all over the place during the renovation, mostly because we ended up doing a large portion of it ourselves. (Is it gauche to talk about budget? I don't know if it's gauche to talk about budget, but ours was fairly modest.)
So that's it! There are a few more photos here, as if the seven million in this post weren't enough, but I'm pretty sure you've got the general idea. Let me know if you have any questions, or if I haven't explained anything properly, or if you'd like a tutorial for making your own industrial-looking light fixture for $50. And also, thank you for reading this far; if you're ever in the neighborhood, you should feel free to stop by for a shower. Wow, that sounded way less creepy in my head.