"Pet bathing" (Juliet, who gets her cat box back).


Remember in my holiday letter I told you we had to install a cat box in our bathroom because my middle-aged bladder couldn’t handle the hike around the house and up the stairs to the bathroom, while our master bath was under remodel/reconstruction?  Well, I didn’t *actually* put a cat box in the bedroom.  And now, there’s no need for it anymore, because, ladies and germs, we have a new bathroom. Sure, there’s still some doomerflotchies and hooha’s to finish up in the next few weeks — like the installation of shower glass and the top to a half wall — but it’s still beautiful, and better yet useable!

We started with this:

So, before: the main bathroom was a narrow space crowded by a giant, square, funny-colored tub with a tiled step up to it, enclosed on both sides by walls, with no hot water. The tub was used only for pet bathing. Eric bought a huge external heater for the tub — that didn’t work either — and perched it on the trip-hazard-of-a-step. The step made the bathroom standing/walking space tiny.


Also, the bathroom had stained-as-in-soiled and unpretty white countertops with built-in sinks, rusted chrome faucets, and a chrome faucet with a broken handle to the unusable tub. The cabinets were white flat boards with white plastic handles.  The lights were in a light “box” above the vanity’s wall-to-wall mirror (and there was a matching wall-to-wall mirror behind the giant, square, unjetted, unusable tub as well).  Seriously, the mirrors felt like they were EVERYWHERE. I’m way too old and wrinkly for that much mirror.


Through the door on your left was the tiny potty and 3×3 shower space. The shower had no light or window, and was not tiled. It also had no hot water. But theoretically, if it did, it would run forever, because the water heater is tankless. The potty and shower alcove was dark, dreary, drab, and other than that I loved it.  The actual toilet was one of those extra low to the ground models, in a mauve-ish pink. In the middle of the night sometimes it felt like I was falling down a well when I sat on it.


Opening into shower/potty.

Other than buying the huge heater that didn’t work, the only thing we did prior to this remodel was repaint the walls to get rid of the Southwestern theme. And bring in three plumbers to try to fix the hot water without ripping out the tub, shower, floor, and wall. No luck. And that brought us to the remodel which started over the week of Thanksgiving.


The contractors asked me what I wanted to salvage from the existing bathroom.
Here’s the bathrom after they started framing out the shower and tub.


The answer: practically nothing; strip it to the studs. So they ripped everything out leaving a bare 8×10 space.
I did not change the size of the overall bathroom, as I didn’t want to take space from the master bedroom on one side or the beautiful office on the other side.  I decided to create an open space bathroom instead, to give the illusion of more room. So, the watchwords of the remodel: space, light, functionality, natural.


The 3×3 enclosed shower in the tiny potty area became a 4.5’x4.5′ shower with frameless 3/8″ glass walls that are 76″inch tall, It has a dual Moen Caldwell brushed nickel shower heads (we used Moen Caldwell brushed nickel for the tub and sink faucets, too). The shower heads are great, the hot water FUNCTIONS, and we only had to make one adjustment to the design by having the contractor screw the shower head slide bar into the tile. The design had it affixing to the tile/stone with a suction cup, which did not work on stone.  We also punched out the ceiling to make the shower taller, and floated the floor lower in the shower to add height and an overall feeling of space. This bathroom had unually low ceilings to begin with (8 foot, before finish out).  Yao Ming won’t be able to use it, but most other humans still can; overall the lower ceilings keep it warmer and cozier. The frameless glass will add to the feeling of space and, of course, light.  The contractor built in two oversized shampoo holders — his and hers — and also a shaving “foot perch” for me. Heaven.

We put a light in the shower, and a frameless glass block window replaced the original window to let in natural light without having to open the blinds. This is a pretty “naked” bathroom with its clear glass shower walls and open design ;-). Before, the window, which faces onto the neighbors’ driveway, had no functional impact on the bathroom because we kept the blinds closed 100% of the time.

The shower is in the same place as before, but we moved the shower head to the back wall (it had been mounted on the no-longer-existing interior wall), and we eliminated the potty wall altogether, replacing it with a half wall for an illusion of privacy and to balance one side of the vanity area with the other.  The light above the potty has an incorporated extra powerful fan to remove the humidity from the shower.

The new bathtub is smaller than the old one, shaped for the body, and jetted. It’s 60″ x 32″. I would have liked a wider tub, but we couldn’t have everything our hearts desired due to space limitations, and I wanted the illusion of space more than I wanted a swimming pool. Bigger bathtub = crowding, less floor space, and an overall cramped feeling. And the tub’s relative size makes the shower look and feel bigger. Fear not, it still fits two!


The potty is a tall potty.  Yay! Yay!  Yay! It has a spiffy little head knocker cabinet above it, much smaller than the giant white monstrosity before, which you can’t see in the original pictures, but, trust me, it barked.


The countertops are Lux Granite, which is a reconstituted granite that is poured into the shape you want.  It’s gorgeous, and it was a cost-saver for us, as we really blew through our budget on natural stone and frameless glass. We went with undermount sinks attached to the countertop.  The same granite will also go atop the half wall separating the counter from the potty, next week.  This wall is not just for privacy. It also houses electrical so that we could have outlets on that side of the vanity where there were none before. The wall-to-wall mirrors are GONE.  Instead we opted for for simple framed mirrors over each sink.  We also put in a recessed medicine cabinet on the wall adjoining the bedroom, to add back a little of the storage we lost with the smaller cabinet above the toilet.  Even better, we added a standing linen “tower” cabinet (tall and skinny) by the tub, in the place that used to be swallowed up by the footprint of the giant tub step.


We repurposed our existing cabinets with a fresh stain job and new hardware. Eric refinished them himself, and don’t they look marvelous? He’s staining all the woodwork in the bathroom to match over the next few weeks, as we had to buy “creatively” to fit our space and budget, and thus ended up with some pieces with different finishes. With the addition of sleek new brushed nickel hardware, the cabinets’ wood tone and clean lines completed the natural look I was going for.


I used brushed nickel throughout for fixtures and hardware, and I found some nice pieces to use for towel racks, etc. Most of them won’t go in until the shower and wall top are installed, so you won’t see them in the video.


My big splurge?  Besides that frameless custom 3/8″ shower glass, of course?  16×16″ Scabos Travertine!  That’s natural stone  you see on the entire wall behind the tub as well as on the shower walls.  The vivid pattern of the Scabos might not scream “resell” to our real estate agent in four years when we plan to move, but we fell in love with it and plan to enjoy every second we spend with it.  Plus, doesn’t just about everyone love natural stone? And I created something of an impressionistic mural, with a “storm” below “clouds” below “sun” bleeding into a “sun over cloudless sky and land.”  You follow it from left to right around the room.  It’s truly stunning, IMHO, and only took me two days of heavy lifting to create as I moved tile around on my dining room and office floors! We chose a lighter 1×1 travertine for the shower floor, and a less vibrant but coordinating 13×13 travertine for the floor. Think “chill” on the horizontal plane to balance the “vivid” on the vertical plane.  I also found some wonderful Scabos border pieces for the tub box edge, and for the shower/wall junction by the window.
Here we were midway:

Supplies and appliances were staged in our family room.We gave up our large entry way to floor tile, and later to paint and other supplies as well.Our dining room gave way to the hand-selected, hand-arranged Scabos, numbered to match the plot plan I drew up for the tile installers. 🙂 I love me a good plan.

Entry way/storage.

Dining room numbered tile grid. And Layla.

Numbered tile grid in my office.

So where did all the furniture go? The breakfast room, the music room, and the play room. And then there was the contents of our bathroom itself, which landed in our bedroom and our son’s bathroom. Boy, did that bathroom get the cleaning of its life before Eric and I used it. My son actually enjoyed sharing; us, not so much. He’s 16, 6’2″, and a boy. And did I mention he’s a 16-year-old boy?? The only rooms left intact were the upstairs bedrooms, one of which I temporarily (if nine weeks is temporary) moved myself/office into, although the contractors could still find me there, and did, 73 times a day.


Here’s the almost final result. Was it worth it? We think so!
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Three things we “settled” on, that we are glad we did, but would have done differently if we had more space:
1. We left the too-big entrance door inward swinging. We evaluated options such as an outward swing (insufficient space) or pocket door (impossible, it turned out), and ultimately decided that we had no viable alternative. You can see in the video that it really encroaches on the bathroom, but I think we made do adequately.


2. Despite the encroaching door, we went ahead and installed the linen tower cabinetry. We considered leaving it out because we couldn’t resolve the door issue, but I wanted the storage space, and so Eric put a bumper on the bottom of the door to protect the cabinet.  When the door is closed, the door/cabinet becomes a non-issue altogether.

Here's a picture of the cabinet-restaining-in-progress, along with the door shut, mostly.


3. See how our window is pushed up against the edge of the shower such that the window frame is not symmetrical? Well, we wanted every millimeter we could get for the shower, and moving the window back to achieve that symmetry would have been an expensive nightmare that required brick demolition. It just wasn’t worth it.


I’m even more pleased with it than I had imagined I would ever be. Things I love? The glass blocks let light in 24×7, because they catch the streetlight 150 feet away. I love the “H” bathmats (so does Petey Sweetie!).  I adore the tile. The tub rocks.  And the shower makes me weep. The potty is such a huge improvement over the old squatter. We have plenty of cabinet space now. I love everything, and 10 times as much now that we have the contractor out of the house, the house cleaned and rearranged, and can use the bathroom.
I’ll update with more pictures when the last few touches are installed.


WHEW, FRIENDS, I can’t tell you what a time-consuming project this was. I work from home, so I was Jane-on-the-spot for the contractors. Which was a fortuitious thing, even if painful. As they dismantled and reassembled the bathroom, they ran across many surprises and challenges that we solved the way I wanted, which was never how they envisioned. It also took nine weeks and cost a bajillion dollars, including an unanticipated $1000 for an electrical emergency (let’s just say at least we didn’t burn the house down). But that’s why I go jetting off to London for work on short notice, right? So I can have a new bathroom! And we couldn’t just not pay for Liz’s college this year, so I had to find a new stash of funds.


Well, meanwhile, I have several books under deadline with my taskmaster editor, so I have to tear myself away from the fun and beauty of the new bathroom, and off to workland I go.






p.s. While I did not hire a decorator, I must say that I had used the services of Lisa Baer of Baer Home Design a few years ago on a house. Some of the pieces she helped me select still appear on the walls and tub surround in this bathroom! Everything I did right, she gets education credits for; the mistakes are all mine! Be sure to check out the great design tips on her blog, where you can subscribe/follow, and follow her on Facebook at Baer Home Design.

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