Tiny Bathroom: Concessions and Splurges

When I get discouraged on a project, it helps to think how far we’ve come, even if it’s just in the last week. I left you all last Monday-ish with this image:


Since then, we’ve installed flooring and wainscoting, and done some serious painting.

The purpose of this bathroom is to add value and livability to this home. We don’t want to spend an arm and a leg, but we also don’t want to leave the house full of crap or modern materials that take away from the home’s historic feel. To that end, we’ve made some concessions and some splurges.

Concession: flooring. We didn’t want to lay tile in here; between the cost and the labor, it wasn’t worth it to us. We went with a vinyl tongue and groove board that’s been texturized to look and feel like wood. We got the whole floor done for under $100. It looks lovely, it’s super easy to clean in a bathroom that may well be a small child’s someday, and given that the house has a jacuzzi tub in it from the previous renovator, I don’t feel TOO awful for making this concession to modernity.


Splurge: beadboard wainscoting (above). I actually don’t know if this was a splurge in terms of cost (you’d have to ask Peter and he isn’t here right now), but it was a splurge in terms of time. I had forgotten how much I hate priming and painting beadboard, and I’m sure Pete just loves putting it up one board at a time (we didn’t use the big sheets of it). But it looks lovely and adds some architectural interest to the tiny bathroom. We decided to do beadboard a long time ago so the room would look less like a room carved out of a bedroom.

Concession 2: cheap toilet. There is no reason to buy an expensive toilet for a room we will seldom use (we all sleep and live downstairs) and which was installed for the purpose of increasing the home’s value.

Splurge 2: a retro sink and faucet. I spent a lot of time looking for the sink and faucet, which I think have to act as the centerpieces for the room. I was pretty adamant that we not buy a modern-looking sink from Lowe’s. To that end, I spent maybe just a little more (though not tons, because cool stuff doesn’t have to be more expensive, you just have to plan in advance for it) for this sweet little Deco-style sink:


…and this cool retro faucet with cross-style faucet handles:

Cup of mandarin oranges not included in sale.

The classics never go out of style and I can’t wait to see them installed.

Concession 3: lighting. I wanted something really cool, and in order to achieve that, I hunted forever and finally ordered these from Shades of Light:


They had the schoolhouse vibe I was going for, and I really wanted the dark oil rubbed bronze finish for contrast (a lot of time ORB is brown-ish or purposely distressed and I hate that). Come to find out 24 hours later, they were on back order and couldn’t be shipped until July 5th. I was ticked at the lack of transparency; not once in the ordering process was I informed that the lights couldn’t ship right away. I was told by a sales representative (when I politely suggested that they show the stock status during the ordering process) that it’s displayed on the website. It isn’t, I promise, and she finally corrected herself and said they send an email. I didn’t receive that email until the next day and if I had been working with a contractor and had scheduled an install, I might have really been miffed. (Granted, you shouldn’t schedule installs until you have the things in-hand probably.)

After looking up reviews, it turns out this happens frequently with this company. The company gets good reviews except for on this issue, and they do have a good selection. I may someday order again from them, but not if I’m on a timeline, which I currently am. We’re sick of working by the light of a little desk lamp plugged in on the floor!

S0, we made a concession here and ordered a similar base from Amazon and a less cool but still functional shade was purchased from Lowe’s. I’ll show pictures when it’s all installed.

Neither concession nor splurge: paint color.



Yes. It’s Bay Sands. It’s my favorite neutral and I’m a little ashamed that so much of my house is grey right now. It’s trendy and I try to keep my head about trends and be true to the house and to us. That said, I really, truly like this color. It looks very classy and classic with the white wainscoting and the dark flooring, and most importantly, I had the paint already. So, excuses aside for going the safe route, I also went the cheap route. Sometimes, that’s important. 🙂

So that’s where we are right now. Amid all of the chaos of installing a bathroom, I also made a (not perfect but functional) lined curtain for the back door (the last curtain for this particular window, I promise, but I needed to learn to make a lined curtain and was overwhelmed by the pattern on the boat curtain I made for practice):


It was actually super difficult because the linen I ordered ended up really gauzy and difficult to keep in shape, but I managed and I am now done covering this window with things.

Peter’s been working on a 3-legged stool:


…including bending the wood for the back by poaching it in a water bath in my oven. It’s not done; I’ll try to remember to update when it is.

And for those who wonder how we do all of this with a toddler, plus 40-hour-per-week jobs, plus I’m in a show right now (go see The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee!), I wrote a blog post about doing DIY with a toddler. Everything I wrote about in that post is true, and when I painted the back of the house last weekend, I used all those techniques and kept The Boy with me, outside, the entire time. That said, sometimes we cheat, too:


When it’s raining and the brad nailer is going upstairs and I’ve got a hot iron in my hand and the plumber is coming next week, sometimes, we turn on the TV and turn off his brain. He’ll survive, and so will we. (Also, this movie is full of racism and bad portrayals of women. Who knew, right? Sigh, goodbye, childhood.)


Progress in Pictures

Pete spent the weekend drywalling the new bathroom. So there are half walls now…




Above, the view from what’s left of The Boy’s room. Imagine that cut-off doorway moving about 4′ toward you. That’s how we’ll end up with a tiny hallway with a bathroom to your right (as you walk toward yourself in this picture) and the new door to The Boy’s room directly ahead of you.


Next steps include flooring, wainscoting, painting, trim boards, and the building of both new doors and another wall to finish out that small hallway. Oh, and repainting The Boy’s room, probably. Yikes.

And the installation of fixtures, including this cool sink I found online:


It’s a very small pedestal sink, but it has an Art Deco era feel to it. I’m looking forward to seeing it up in the room. And I chose an easy-to-do piece of “art” for the wall, too, and it’ll take advantage of another free historical resource, so look out for that!

I spent the weekend giving the back of the house a new coat of paint and new trim paint, all while chasing The Boy and watching the dog (who had to be tied up, much to her disappointment and frustration). It looks pretty sweet back there now.


Porch paint will happen when we get all interior renovations, especially those including drywall, finished.


Nothing matches old windows.


And finally, never underestimate the potential of one of the broken babies (or as my Grandma Noel would say, beebees) on the discount rack at your local home improvement megastore. This Drift rose was so sad when I saved it for $3 last year! Look at her now!

Flower Delivery and a Work Day

So much work got done the last few days, and lucky you guys, you get pictures of all of it! Be warned, when I’m in the middle of a project, I usually only take pics with my iPhone. But still, it’s documented! We did stuff! (*People who don’t like flowers and gardening, a.k.a. monsters, you might want to skip about halfway down the post. House stuff happens there.)

First, my flower order came in last Thursday. I held off on getting the literally dozens of perennials I wanted this year and made myself only buy the annuals that go in pots around the house. I like to order from Romence Gardens in Grand Rapids, Michigan. There aren’t tons of local nurseries around here, and I really like to have a larger selection than Lowe’s provides. Romence always sends beautiful flowers, they have a wide variety to choose from, and they always stand behind their plants. Last year, a Russian sage arrived a little banged up, and when I called, they told me to plant it anyway, but if it looked like it had suffered, they’d send me a new one. The plant made it, but it was nice to know they’d stand behind it if it didn’t.


The flowers always come in very healthy and ingeniously packaged.


I decided to fill all three of my concrete planters with the same plants this year: a dark, almost black sweet potato vine for drape and fill, a verbena called “Peachy Keen” for pretty color and a trailing habit, and a white angelonia for height. They’ll look lovely when they fill in!


One thing I started doing this year (because it’s brilliant) is putting empty water bottles in the bottom of my planters. They take up space that would be uselessly filled with potting soil and make the planters way lighter, a necessity when they’re made of concrete.

I also took some pictures of some other things that are really blooming right now:


…coral bells (heuchera)…


…KnockOut roses…


…and multiple varieties of salvia.

I’m also really enamored of this combo of coreopsis and catmint (below)…


…and this one of a bright red dianthus and the last blooms on a creeping phlox.


I’m so proud of how this garden looks this year. It’s a joy to walk up to the back door of the house.DSC_0254


A far cry from where we were a few years ago…



And just because I can’t stop gushing, my hosta beds look amazing already. They’ll have to be trimmed back or they’ll start battling it our for supremacy. Peter already made me cut them back a bit since they were trying to eat the siding. I put the leaves in a jar on the table because flowers shouldn’t always get all the love.


I love this one (below), in particular. It’s called the Abiqua Blue Drinking Gourd, and you can see why.


And finally, I found some rogue Bells of Ireland trying to battle it out in the clay soil by the back door. I’m gonna let them do their thing and see if they make it!


Now, for inside the house.

Every once in a while, Pete and I take a weekday off as a work day. The Boy goes to school, and we spend the day working on projects that are (ahem) difficult to get done with a toddler in the house (to say the least). Monday, I chose to paint the downstairs bathroom.

When we first moved in, there was no vent fan in this bathroom. This led to water dripping down the walls when we would take our showers. A couple years later, we installed a fan. There is no mold or real wall damage, but the paint that we applied when we first moved in did have drip lines on it. I decided it was time to give the bathroom a fresh, new, permanent paint job, while also covering the drip lines. I chose to go lighter with the color, and used the same one I’ve used in the dining room and guest bedroom, Bay Sands by Valspar.


At this moment, it’s my favorite neutral. It’s a nice subtle greige with green undertones. It replaced Woodlawn Colonial Grey, also by Valspar.


So, Monday at 8:30 a.m., I started painting the (pain in my ass) bathroom. This is a big bathroom and there are lots of things on the walls to paint around. I have, however, gotten so good with a brush that I don’t need to tape anymore, so that’s nice.


You can see how much lighter the new paint is. And I had never noticed before, but WCG definitely has some violet undertones to it, something I only realized when I saw it against the Bay Sands color. Four hours later, I had myself a nice, fresh, pared down bathroom with new paint on the walls, cleaned and ironed curtains, and a new shower curtain to boot.


It may not look like that big of a difference, but it’s a lot lighter and there are no water streaks on the walls. Win!

Pete’s project of choice was replacing treads on the front steps of the house. I didn’t take photos, so I’ll have to get on that. The porch project has been an ongoing saga since last fall, when he had to start rebuilding much of it. All winter, it looked rough. I’ll tell the story in an upcoming post.

We also had company on our work day. Fred the Plumber came out and started roughing in the new tiny bathroom upstairs. We now have a pipe running through our living room.


Just the look everyone wants, I’m sure. Pete will build a chase for it, and it’ll be hardly noticeable, especially when the door is mounted back on its frame. This is definitely the least intrusive way to add a very important addition to the home, both for ease of living for us and resale value when we put the house on the market. Fred will finish today, and then it’ll be Pete’s turn to put in a subfloor, drywall, tape, mud, real flooring, and add some architectural detail to make it look less like a bathroom carved out of a bedroom (which it is). Then I’ll paint, we’ll install the sink I’ve already ordered and a toilet I have yet to chose, a mirror, a couple sconces, and paint the backside of the wall which is now in The Boy’s room. We’ll be done!

I leave you with something exciting (if you are a nerd). On Sunday, I worked on my sewing for about 3 hours. It took me 3 tries, two separate tutorials, and enough fabric that I now have to return to the fabric store, but I figured out how to do continuous bias tape!



I’ll be using the bias tape to create piping for a pillow project I have coming up! This post is long enough, so I guess I’ll talk about that next week!

I Sewed a Thing!

So, yeah, it’s been a while (again). Just busy, no real other excuses. And the stuff we’ve been working on hasn’t been pretty stuff that’s fun to read about, either.

Like this:



My dad came down and wired our new bathroom for us. He did an awesome and astoundingly quick job (I suppose a long career as an electrician will kind of make you an expert), and we were so thankful not to have to call in an electrician. Especially after Pete cut through a wire with a Sawzall and melted the blade.

And this:


Our old wooden house is needing a coat of exterior paint. I’ve been slowly working my away around the house with a power washer to prep. Last weekend, Peter’s students Mamie and Aaliyah came out for a few hours to paint a couple sides of the house. We’ve got a long way to go, but we were really appreciative of their work.

And, I guess one exciting thing has happened: I finished my sewing class and am now venturing into the world of doing things alone and unguided!

I meant to write more updates while taking the class, but life. Anyway, when it came time to start trying to do something completely by myself, I decided to start with a simple curtain with back tabs. I already have a curtain for the back entrance to our house, and I really love it, but I wanted something small and doable for my first project. And that curtain is adorable, but sometimes the yellow gets to me and I need a break from it. I want to keep loving it!

That said, I knew there was a pretty good chance I’d screw it all up, so I picked some seriously cheap-o fabric and started trying to figure out how the curtain was made. I went with a white fabric with ships all over it. No, I don’t love it, in fact, I kind of hate it, but I knew The Boy would like the boats, or “butts” as he calls them, so at least one of us would get a kick out of my first project.


A couple hours and NO MAJOR SCREW-UPS later, I had a serviceable curtain with back tabs that protects the neighbors from our pajama-clad forms when it’s dark outside. The Boy does, in fact, like the “butts”, and I learned a lot, including what I do and don’t like in a pattern and that sewing short lengths is way harder than long lengths! I might actually make one more curtain now that I have a basic understanding of construction and can focus on picking out a fabric that I love. I’m going to attempt a lining, as well. This will be the curtain’ed’est window in the house!


I also have a pillow project in mind, and plan to try to make my own piping for it, so wish me luck!

EDIT: Oh, and I successfully let out and hemmed a pair of seersucker paints for myself over the weekend, again, figuring it out as I went. Can you imagine how the world has changed for me? The world of pants?!? Let’s just say that cute pants almost never come in talls, and when they do, they are never on sale.


Yes, I wear socks with my boat shoes at work. I work in a library. It is cold. And yes, I wear boat shoes at work. No, I cannot tie leather shoestrings.