Emily Bowser, back with that bathroom I promised you in my bedroom reveal last week (catch up: intro here, makeover here). SO! Welcome to my airplane-sized bathroom. Okay, that’s a little obnoxious to say. I’m sure plenty of people live with smaller bathrooms. Let’s call it economic? My whole house is very economic. There isn’t one space that isn’t used. There’s no “bust through this wall and use that empty space between the bathroom and hall closet,” because that space is where the fridge is in the kitchen. The closest during this renovation that we got to adding space was when we took out two closets in order to make our bedroom big enough to fit our bed AND a dresser, but even then, we lost two closets! I’m here to talk about how we completely renovated without (completely) breaking the bank and got creative with what we had to work with, both with $$ and space. This room is a total #ipaidforthis inside and out! Let’s get into it!
First, I thought it would be helpful to show the layout oft he house, since, after the last blog post, there were a handful of curious commenters:
Neither the home nor the cats are to scale above, but it does the trick. As you can see above, this is the one and only (teeny) bathroom in the house.
Side note: Kudos to Sara, who was somehow able to take pictures of this space because apparently I could NOT. I didn’t take these pictures thinking that they would be on a blog for a lot of people to see one day so my apologies, they are crooked and dark and not terribly in focus.
The bathroom is off our hall and in the center of our home (read: no walls that face the outside). You may be surprised by this because isn’t that a window? Why, yes it is! A window that looks directly into our laundry room! The original home didn’t have the master bedroom or the laundry room (“room” may be an overstatement). We think the laundry room may have been a small porch because the door that leads to it from the kitchen appears to be original. The laundry room is very small, however, on one wall there is a window and a door that has a window in it so a lot of light comes in. The bathroom window is directly across from that wall so the light goes through the laundry room and lights up the bathroom pretty nicely. The window is made of obscure glass, so you can’t see through it and even though it’s not particularly pretty, I made the decision right away to keep it because it was a natural light source.
Side note here that there are SO many decisions you have to make right away when you are doing a bigger renovation like we were. If you are a person who likes a lot of time to think things through and talk them out, this part may be particularly hard on you. The reason being, once demo starts, you better know what’s getting knocked out because if you change your mind later, it will cost you and for sure, there will be things you hadn’t thought of or things that come up because of the demo. The window staying or going was one of those things.
The second reason I didn’t touch the window was because it was simply cheaper not to. In a perfect world, I think I would have taken the window out and done something creative along the top of the same wall, like a long and skinny window that was more interesting architecturally. That way the light could come in while giving me more wall space for a decent sized mirror and shelves. I don’t know, I didn’t let myself think about it too long because it wasn’t an option. Along these same lines, all of the plumbing fixtures, although we replaced all of them, were kept in the same places so that we didn’t have the extra cost and also, WHERE ELSE COULD THEY GO? There are only so many options in a 32-square-foot space.
About the Demo:
As you can see, there was chair rail height tile that continued into the shower and I probably could have lived with it, I mean, with a toothbrush and bleach to the grout (which was a lovely shade of orange throughout). The floor tile is the same that was in the rest of the house. It was damaged, many of the tiles cracked and obviously it was something we weren’t going to invest in keeping. We were ripping the tile up off the floor anyway, so why not go ahead and rip the tile off the wall too? Turns out it was a good idea because there was a ton of mold hiding behind those tiles.
We took out all the plumbing fixtures. The toilet here got moved to the back house because it needed a new toilet and if someone was getting a brand new toilet then IT WAS GONNA BE ME. The pedestal sink was also in fine condition but I wanted to try to find something that would have even a little bit of storage. I gave the sink to my contractor and he used it in one of his other personal projects. The tub was trashed unfortunately because of damage from the demo and the mold.
For those of you who will for sure ask, I didn’t throw the vintage corner storage cabinet in the dump. No, I paid $100 for it to be fixed because I neeeeeded that storage and it fits perfectly in the small amount of space I have between the window and the wall. When the workers were installing, they somehow dropped and shattered it so my contractor sent it off to be fixed and I never heard about it ever again. When you owe someone $80,000 (if you don’t know why, you probably missed my “buying an income property” post, read that here), it is kind of hard to be like “YEAH BUT WHERE IS MY MIRROR, RON?!”
On Choosing Finishes:
As I discussed in the master makeover post, choosing tile was as simple as “what do I not hate that doesn’t cost a fortune?” Answer: subway tiles ($2.30/square foot) and black hex ($5/square foot). A little on the boring side? Kinda. Did I wish I could have afforded fancier tiles? At the time: yes. Now, I don’t know. My house is economic so I feel like it makes sense that the finishes are, too? I am one of those people that always picks out the most expensive thing in the store. My soul child is fancy AF (wallet, not so much). If I had been able to get whatever I wanted for this space, I feel like it wouldn’t have fit the house. I live in a box, one that doesn’t have a lot of architectural character, and the kinda boring finishes we ended up with make sense for the house, if that makes sense? I like it feeling more like a minimalist space whose character comes from the art or vintage pieces I bring into it.
I wouldn’t have minded doing the same chair rail height tile situation again, because it makes cleaning up a bit easier and protects your walls from water (and let’s be honest, other bodily fluids) but I didn’t care enough about it to spend the money on the tile or the labor. I did tile the shower walls all the way up and onto the ceiling. I had lived in many a rentals and noticed what the constant condensation would do to the area right above the tiling in a shower. I’m glad I did it.
First and foremost, I found a toilet, but not just any toilet. It’s the toilet of my dreams. Well, my economic dreams anyway.
This toilet, hands down, is one of my favorite things about the house and I’m going to tell you why. I wish it was because it has a dual flush and therefore conserves water, but no, to me that’s just a bonus to the fact that IT DOESN’T HAVE THOSE WEIRD LEG THINGS THAT COLLECT PEE RESIDUE AND HAIR. This toilet is so easy to clean and I give it 5 stars based solely on that. It’s also not expensive. I will pay $299 (the price when I bought it) all day long to not have to get on my knees with my mouth all too close to the lid of the toilet, and awkwardly use my pointer finger through a rag to try to get in the crevices to remove bodily fluids that are most likely NOT MINE ANYWAY. Pro tip: buy all your fixtures and appliances during Black Friday sales. I even bought all my kitchen appliances and Home Depot waited to ship them out until I was ready for them.
I have a funny story about the mental state of a person in the process of buying a house vs. that of one that OWNS the house. As I’ve mentioned in this post, I was in escrow from May until October of 2016. That’s a long time. It’s also fair to mention that I didn’t get to see the house much before we actually owned it. There was a renter here that was in the process of moving out so we couldn’t bother him. That said, the idealistic side of me that was excited about becoming a homeowner remembered the house very differently than the day after I actually owned it and saw it naked for the first time (the house, not me). The house was naked in that it wasn’t full of the renter’s stuff and it was naked metaphorically because the rose colored glasses I was wearing were suddenly more like a cheap pair of glasses, smudged and scratched, found in the bottom of an unused purse in the back of your closet.
The reality of a $630,000 mortgage and an undetermined amount of money to be spent on the renovation changed my perception. Is this what they call buyer’s remorse? In the five months of being excited about being a homeowner, I did the thing you’re not supposed to do but couldn’t help myself: I bought stuff for a home I didn’t yet own. One of those things was a vintage dresser from the flea market that I wanted to turn into a sink for this bathroom. The dimensions of the dresser are 21.5” deep, 31” wide and 35.5” tall. What actually barely fits there: a sink that is 13” deep and 24” wide. Maybe that doesn’t seem like a lot but believe me, in real life, it is insane and laughable that I thought this piece of furniture (that now lives happily in my living room) would fit in this space. If you could see it you would understand me, as a person, fully.
After realizing we definitely would not be able to use it (immediately), I had to pivot, quickly. There was no time for sourcing a very specific piece of vintage furniture. HELLOOO IKEA. We bought the Hagaviken sink with the Hemnes sink cabinet that we later painted my favorite green and changed out the knobs. The faucet is from Amazon and actually works great. They no longer sell the sink cabinet in the size we have, but they do have the Godmorgon which I honestly don’t know why I didn’t get. I would have much preferred to have a floating sink (easier to clean—sensing a theme??).
I have a lot of opinions on this sink. It’s nice to have the storage. I fit a surprising amount of stuff in these two slim drawers. The depth of it would be fine if it were for a space where people just used it to wash their hands, a powder bath off your mudroom, for example. HOWEVER, washing your face is the most obnoxious process one could think of. I’m going to put this in the same box as “black floors” and “my cat, Puck”—they aren’t for everyone and by not for everyone I mean, “don’t have them unless you don’t mind cleaning, all the time” (we can talk about my cat Puck’s strange addictions in the comment section). Here follows my nightly routine: wash face, dry face with a small washcloth (kept in the top drawer of the sink, folded Marie Kondo style DUH), use used cloth to wipe down the top of the sink, the wall behind the sink, the front of the sink cabinet, the inside tops of the drawers, and finally, the floor. Every. Single. Day. I’m not kidding. You would think I was washing my face like a Clean & Clear ad from 1995—everything is soaked. There are two positives to this situation: 1. I dry my face with a clean towel every day which is good for your skin because of the bacteria that is on our everyday towels and 2. My sink and bathroom floor get a wipe down every day and therefore look cleaner throughout the week. *Rose colored glasses, put back on.*
One of the only—maybe THE only—“must haves” on my husband’s buying-a-house list was that it had to have a tub. There was no budging on it. He’s a bather which I find slightly disgusting (because he doesn’t shower first or sometimes at all). But, whatever, he likes to do his creative thinking in a bath and doesn’t demand a lot, so a bath we would have! Plus, if we can ever afford children, a bathtub would be helpful. We bought basically the same tub that was in there, a run-of-the-mill alcove tub that we got somewhere in the valley for $300-ish. It’s 58” long, by 28.5” wide by 13” deep so a grown human can barely fit in it and have water covering them, but it gets the job done I guess. We put in two inserts for shampoo, soap and what have you and I’m very glad we did but I have a question: Am I supposed to put shelves in these things? They are entirely too tall. If I could do it again, I would make them a more reasonable size.
In 2016, matte black plumbing fixtures were still weirdly hard to find and if you did find them, they were $$$. We ended up with this one in wrought iron and it was only $270 when we purchased it. I wasn’t stoked on it but I will say, it works well and we haven’t had any issues. This one is more modern and definitely what I would buy now. It’s also by Moen so I would assume also good quality and an even lower price point than the one we bought is now. Something else I wish we could have invested in is a matching tub drain, but alas, we used the stainless steel one that came with the tub.
To shower door or not to shower door?? My contractor tried to convince me I needed a shower door and that water would go everywhere and it kinda does, but it was an extra expense and, you guessed it, impossible to keep clean. I bought a matte black tension rod, matte black shower rings, a hemp canvas shower curtain (hemp is antimicrobial and does better in moist climates) and a liner that has suction cups that *mostly* work to help any leakage onto the floor. All in all, it cost me $143 and saved me years of wiping down glass panels. Another positive to shower curtain vs. doors is that if you do have kids, it’s much easier to have the whole space open rather than having a glass wall in front of half of the tub.
I can’t believe I have this much to say about 32 square feet!
Moving on. Storage. If you will allow me to don my rose-colored glasses when the corner mirror was destroyed/disappeared, I had to make do, and as making-do usually does, I was inspired. I saw an opportunity in my window box (22”x22”x4.5” deep) to add shelves and create storage space. I simply bought a piece of wood and some smaller square wood dowels (0.5”x0.5”), cut the wood to the appropriate length, screwed the dowels in from the sides with 2 screws to hold the shelves and placed the shelves on top (with a little wood glue between to keep them from slipping). At first, I put a small tension rod with a sheer curtain over it so that I didn’t have to look at the clutter of misc bathroom stuff but I found that the stuff, along with the curtain, blocked too much of the light. While musing about it on Instagram stories, an acquaintance (shoutout Shadi!) told me I needed to just lose the curtain and make the things on it prettier and I took her advice. This meant I needed to decant and find some minimalist products that I wouldn’t mind looking at every day of my life. In my search, I found Public Goods which has the most simple packaging and simple ingredients to match. I figured if I didn’t like the products, I could just reuse the packaging because at their price point, it was just as, if not cheaper, than doing a run to The Container Store.
Turns out, I do like most of their products (I have a lot) and no, they did not pay me to say that and yes, we can talk about it in the comments. All of the things on “display” are things I use most, if not every day. A great thing about having limited storage is that it’s hard to keep stuff you don’t really want to have. The little containers with cork are Saxborga and the glass container holding my reusable bamboo cotton rounds is H&M Home (similar). I decanted mouthwash into the Korken from IKEA, pulled obnoxious labels off of my nail polish remover, and even decanted ibuprofen. My husband shaves his head and he always needs a mirror to see the back of his head and he somehow misplaces them?? It’s a mystery. My pretty way of solving this problem was to buy a vintage mirror with a handle and a hook for the wall so I never have to hear “WHERE IS THE MIRROR??” ever again. No room for towel bars (at least not if you want art!), but these Turkish towels dry fast so hooks are just fine.
I regret not thinking about lighting in this space. If you don’t specify things, contractors will always do the standard without asking. I came over one day and he had installed recessed lights, one in the shower area and one in the middle of the wall, closer to the window. If I had been thinking before they closed all the walls up I would have had them run electrical over the mirror, but alas. The recessed lights are SO bright and my husband and I are both super sensitive to bright lights. We retroactively put dimmers almost everywhere and will here eventually but immediately upon moving in, out of necessity, threw these string lights up from Target (similar) and they have just kinda stayed.
The naked lady art was $20 from the Melrose Trading Post and came framed (WIN). The wood frame was also a welcome addition to the other wood/warm accents throughout the space. We bought a perfectly small wooden stool from a local neighborhood store (here’s a similar one in two sizes) so that he would have a surface to put a book, a candle, a mug of hot tea or whatever else he needs for his romantic tub time alone. The smaller art is MaryAnn Puls framed in a Ribba from IKEA. I was toilet paper holder-less for over a year before I found this maker on Etsy and I’m glad I did.
Let’s talk about clean butts. Pretty sure that’s the only time that’s been said on this blog. If you have a keen eye, you will notice that I own a Tushy. I wanted to take the opportunity to give a review of their product. I became obsessed with bidets when I moved into my grandmother’s house for a year to plan my wedding 10 years ago. She had a Toto and you could say that there was the Emily before she lived with a Toto and the Emily after. For bidet aficionados, you know that the Toto is the top-of-the-line bidet. They range from $500-$2,000 so you can see why this bidet had me second-guessing if I really should get married and move out of my grandmother’s home.
In truth, there were MANY things about my grandmother’s home that made me never want to leave, but the bidet was up there on that list. 2010-2018 are considered the dark years for me. The years I lived without waking up in the middle of the night to a welcoming warm seat on a cold night, years without the confidence that I was squeaky clean no matter what time of the month it was (PERIOD POSITIVE OVER HERE). Then, Erik (upholstered-my-headboard-while-I-watched Erik) got a Tushy and told me I should, too. With the low price point of $69 for the non-heated (water, not the seat) and $99 for the heated, I opted for the heated. Here is what I have to say about my purchase: I love having a bidet and I 100% would buy it again. However, I would buy the $69 model because the water never really does heat on the other model unless you run your sink water until it gets hot, which is a huge waste of water. One knob would also be easier to clean than two. The place where the bidet connects to your seat is very hard to clean, let’s just say my cleaning supplies for this product includes a Q-tip. So this should be thrown into the box of things to pass over if you’re not a clean freak. However, if you don’t mind a little extra cleaning, are a firm believer that showering every day is probably not good for your sebaceous glands but still want your underbits fresh, want to conserve toilet paper use, this is a good product for you. Unless you can afford a Toto.
I can’t give you accurate labor cost because everything in my house was happening at the same time and my contractor didn’t break it down by room, unfortunately. But here is a breakdown of all the things in the bathroom (rounded up):
***photography by Sara Ligorria-Tramp
Don’t miss other posts in this series:
Makeover Takeover: How EHD Stylist Emily Bowser Tackled Her Awkward Master Bedroom | Reveal: Emily Bowser’s Bedroom “After” is Unrecognizable From the “Before” | DIY How-To: A Step-by-Step for Making Emily B.’s Wrap-Around Velvet Headboard