How to Install Wainscoting

As we’ve gone through the process of remodeling our house one room at a time, we’ve become huge believers in the impact trimwork can have on elevating a space. We added panel moulding in our guest bedroom, highlighted the beadboard moulding in our main floor bathroom with a high contrast black and white palette, added crown moulding and baseboard moulding to our sunroom and even added crown moulding in our guest bathroom. It’s the finishing touch that takes a room to the next level.

For our recent remodel for the One Room Challenge, we paired with Metrie to bring trimwork to a space that is often forgotten: the bathroom. Our bathroom layout is long and narrow, with all the fixtures on one length of the room, meaning there’s a lot of exposed walls. This expanse of unused walls was begging for a special treatment to make them shine. I knew immediately that trimwork would be the way we could bring some detail to the walls.

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Recessed wainscoting was the solution for this space for a handful of reasons:

  1. It’s so elegant and classic. There’s no fear of becoming tired of it, since it’s such a historical treatment that has withstood the passage of time.
  2. Raising the trimwork on the walls to match the depth of the tile in the shower allowed for a flat surface to run crown moulding across, tying the two areas together
  3. The trimwork would mirror the pencil tile we were planning on adding in the shower.
  4. The moulding could frame out a giant mirror over the vanity, making the space feel even more custom,

So, once we had decided wainscoting was the way to go, here are the steps we took:

1. Select your style of moulding.

Metrie offers five gorgeous collections that suit different aesthetics and styles of homes. We gravitated toward the Fashion Forward collection since it mirrored the classic lines throughout the rest of our home, but is also so chic and sophisticated.

2. Determine the types of moulding your space will require.

For wainscoting you need (and links to the ones we used):

  • Baseboards – they should be flat on the top edge so the stiles slide right over them
  • Stiles – the flat boards that are raised off the wall
  • Casing for windows and doors – it needs to have a greater depth on the outside edges than your stiles so the casing stands out
  • Fingerjoint Applied Moulding – this is the trimwork on the inside of the stiles that make up the decorative boxes
  • Crown Moulding

The best aspect of the Metrie collections is that all the pieces work together and you don’t have to worry about the depths of the pieces not working perfectly in unison.

I’ve indicated below each of the pieces:

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3. Make a detailed plan.

Of all the types of trim we’ve installed to date, this wainscoting required the most planning in advance. Since the stiles create a fixed border on everything, you have to put a lot of thought into placement. There are different widths of stiles, baseboards, crown moulding, etc. so planning can help you to understand what will work within your space.

We ended up creating a to-scale mock-up in Photoshop and played around with the different sized pieces until we got to a plan that worked for us. We were also cognizant of scale, since our ceilings are standard height and the room isn’t huge, it made sense for us to go with mostly the smallest sized trimwork (though it was still very chunky and substantial – perfectly proportioned to our space).

Below, you can see how we mapped out the trim.

We used the window as the anchor for the trim layout. First, we planned the casing around the window, then we used the bottom edge to set the horizontal middle stile. From there, we ran a stile along the top, added baseboards and the stile above. We added the vertical stiles on each side of the window and framed out the right-hand opening. We then mirrored the dimensions for the boxes in the shower. Since the space above the window wasn’t large enough for an opening, we filled it in with a stile.

Master Bathroom Trim Plan - Window

This is the window wall, where we used the stiles to fill in the space above the doorway, since it wasn’t large enough for an opening. When we installed, we actually didn’t add the fingerjoint behind the vanity so it would sit flush against the wall.

Master Bathroom Trim Plan - Door wall

The short wall was the simplest, with just a frame along the outside edges and one middle stile.

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4. Install the trimwork

Once you’re armed with a plan, actually installing is fairly straightforward. The tools we used at this point were:

  • Levels in an assortment of sizes – we used a 6-foot level on the longest sections, a 4-foot level where necessary, and a 2-foot level on the shortest runs. The goal is to use the level that’s closest in size where possible to keep your trim as straight as possible. We also used this laser level to set a guide for the entire width of the wall.
  • A nail gun with finish nails, we use a compressor with ours, but I’ve heard excellent things about this electric nail gun
  • A nail punch, to use with a hammer when nails don’t go as deep as you intended.
  • A compound miter saw – we started out with this one and recently upgraded to this larger one (both are great, we just needed a larger blade for a few recent projects)
  • Caulk plus this little tool that I loved using to smooth the caulk along the long seams
  • Wood putty (though we later switched over the drywall spackle, which we discovered works better on MDF).

Since we had a lot of moving pieces happening at once, we didn’t install the trimwork in the order I’d recommend, which would be:

  1. Casings on windows and doors
  2. Baseboards around the room
  3. Horizontal stiles that run above the baseboards
  4. Horizontal stile that runs the middle length of the room
  5. Measure the distance down from the crown moulding and install the stile at the bottom edge of where the crown moulding will land
  6. Install the vertical stiles throughout
  7. Install crown moulding

This was our progression:

Drywall primed and ready to go.

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Then we installed the casing, you can see how big a difference it makes.

Then first round of stiles up, set off the bottom edge of the window.

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Then baseboards and bottom stiles.

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5. Caulk the seams, edges and nailholes. Use wood putty and spackle to even out planes.

This is where you underestimate how much caulking needs to happen.

Here you can see we caulked and filled in between adding the applied fingerjoint moulding (as seen on the bottom box).

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Then all the fingerjoint moulding  went up.

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6. Sand

Make sure everything is perfectly flat. Run your hand over all the seams and ensure you don’t feel any variance in the surface. You will see any imperfections after you paint.

7. Paint prep and paint!

Then we prepped for paint, by priming over the areas we had sanded. This was our first time painting a room with a spray gun and we learned a few things:

  • It’s all about the prep. This part takes the longest by far, but once it’s done painting with a spray gun is so quick and easy.
  • You use a LOT less paint. We bought two gallons of paint for this room and only ending up using about a half a gallon. Wow.
  • Maintain the same distance from the wall across your entire stroke, even if it means flexing your wrist at the ends.

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8. Hang your crown moulding*

Ideally you do this before you paint, but since we were hanging it over tile, we painted it in the garage and installed it painted. Then we caulked and touched up with a high density foam roller.

9. Admire your finished space

And that’s it! We’re obsessed with the final result and couldn’t be happier with our experience of working with the Metrie trimwork (and team!).

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Thank you to Metrie for sponsoring this project – while the product was provided, all opinions are my own.

One Room Challenge: Master Bathroom, Week Five

If you’re new around here, a year and a half ago my husband and I purchased our first house: a 1940’s Colonial located in a very cute coastal Connecticut town. We’ve been tackling remodeling the house room by room, where we’re always looking for ways to add equal parts function and character into our house. Catch up on Week One, Week Two, Week Three, and Week Four.

If you thought last week was a huge leap forward, this most recent week was even more massive.

Grouted the floors

We started off by grouting our herringbone marble floors. We used Platinum by Polyblend, the color is the perfect soft grey. I wanted a grout color that would be light enough to keep contrast low and keep visual busy-ness to a minimum, and this grey does the job perfectly.

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Tiling the shower

Next up was tiling the shower walls. One of the details I was most excited about in our master bathroom was mirroring the moulding on the walls in the shower with marble pencil tile. It’s a fresh take on a classic style that I already love in our home. For this pattern, I knew that precision would be key, but I way underestimated the sheer amount of time it would take to cut all the tiles to accommodate this pattern. Given that this was our second wall tiling project ever (our first was floor to ceiling subway tile in our guest bathroom for the last round of the One Room Challenge here), this was a pretty complex project. Here’s how we approached the pattern:

  1. Mocked it up in Photoshop to get the rough placement of the tiles
  2. Cut a sample piece of baseboard, stile (flat stock) and detailed trimwork (finger joint) and determined where they would land on the walls. Used that placement to locate the boxes for the pencil tile on the shower walls. We wanted to maintain the same distance from the trim to the walls as in the rest of the bathroom.
  3. Used a laser level to highlight where the trim lines landed throughout the room.

Here’s where we were at after the first day:

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And then the third day:

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One more row:

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We also realized on the night we intended to start tiling that our tile saw was way too small to be able to cut the large format tiles for the shower. We calculated the cost to rent a tile saw for a week and it was equivalent to buying a new one, so that’s exactly what we did. We ended up with this one and it’s a huge upgrade: our cuts are cleaner, we can be more precise and the process is quicker.

And speed was something we needed on our side. We way underestimated the amount of time it would take to tile each row. The first row took six hours. The second row also took six hours. And the next few rows started to go quicker with fewer cuts at 2-3 hours each. We’re at 25 hours of tiling and still have two more rows left. This pattern is not exactly ideal for a tight timeline, but we’re obsessed with the final result, so there are no regrets.

We made a run for more tiles tonight (some of the ones we’d picked up were too grey to flow with those we currently have up on the wall), and will resume tiling those last two rows over the next few days.

For reference, this is our 12×24 marble wall tiles, this is the pencil tile and this is the leveling system we used (where it’s a two part system).

Installed the trimwork

We partnered with Metrie on this project – they have the most gorgeous trimwork and their collections are so classic, but also modern. Which is exactly how I like things in my house. We opted for the Fashion Forward collection, which so perfectly complements our house. I’m going to be putting together a detailed how-to post on how to achieve this look in your own home, so stay tuned. We are installing five different types of trim in this room:

  1. Baseboards
  2. Stiles
  3. Crown Moulding
  4. Finger Joint
  5. Casing

So far, we’ve installed about half of the trimwork. The crown moulding will be last since that’s going to be going over the tile in the shower too, we have to wait to grout the shower in order to hang the moulding.

In order to set the trimwork in the bathroom, I picked an anchor point: the window. First we attached the window casing, and then we used the lower edge to set the height of the middle stile. This middle stile also hit the vanity height perfectly, so that the counter intersects the stile perfectly, allowing for the mirror to be above the vanity in the upper section.

Here’s our window before we added the casing, where we had pulled off the previous casing when we took this wall down to the studs:

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And now, it’s so much more substantial:

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It still needs to be caulked and painted, but it’s already a massive improvement.

We then tackled the doorway casing, which made an even bigger difference, making the room actually feel like a room and not just a construction site.

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Then we installed the baseboards, followed by the stiles. I mapped out all the dimensions to scale in advance in Photoshop, so installation has been simple, so far. Once we add in the decorative pieces, this space is going to feel so elevated.

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Prepared Bathroom Vanity

I was all set to have a custom vanity designed for this space, because the vanity we’d originally ordered from Home Depot arrived completely cracked and was generally not as high quality as I liked, but then decided to save some pennies and buy a used vanity off Craigslist.

We picked up a fairly standard custom built vanity that fit our required dimensions, but it had a few things I didn’t love and desperately needed a fresh coat of paint. One of my biggest pet peeves are recessed lines in the door fronts. Immediately, it reads as low-quality to me, so it was the first thing I filled in with wood filler. I also removed all the hardware and filled in the holes with wood putty, since I was swapping the cabinet front handles for knobs and the handles on the drawer fronts are being replaced with wider ones.

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Right after going to town with wood putty, the vanity looked like it had suffered from a rough bout of chicken pox (which I hear is no longer a thing, how bizarre?!), but once it dried and I hit it with an orbital sander the holes were nicely filled in. I started with a very fine grit sandpaper and then moved on to an ultra fine grit to really smooth it out.

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Next up is priming the vanity, to allow for maximum paint adhesion. We’ve picked out the most beautiful shade of blue from Farrow and Ball to really glam this vanity up.

Tiling the shower floor

This actually was a surprising setback. We went to tile the shower floor in the herringbone tile that we’ve used throughout the rest of the bathroom and we just couldn’t get the tile to slope properly towards the drain. An hour of playing with it and having no success besides a mess of thinset, we made the tough decision to remove the tiles, wash them off and prep the surface for a better installation on a later date. This has been one of our best decisions to date. Sometimes you have to make the hard call to throw your timeline out of whack in order to keep your quality from suffering. DIY is hard. But the actual work shouldn’t be so impossible that it doesn’t feel like it’s working… else something isn’t quite right.

We took a breather, added some extra mortar to the surface and came back the next day for a much easier and higher-quality installation of the tiles.

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So that was a lot. And trust me, when I say that every night this week has consisted of us burning the midnight oil. But we still have a ton to do before next week’s reveal, and before our plumbers come to install on Monday and our glass shower door and custom mirror are installed on Tuesday…

Some of those things include:

  • Completing the shower tile
  • Grouting the shower floors and wall
  • Hanging the rest of the Metrie trimwork
  • Caulking, filling and sanding the trimwork
  • Painting the walls
  • Painting the vanity
  • Installing the vanity hardware
  • Installing the light fixtures, fan, towel bar, hooks, etc.
  • Building an integrated radiator cover
  • Install the floating shower bench

Wish us luck!

You can check out all the other participants on the official One Room Challenge™ site here.

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One Room Challenge: Master Bathroom, Week Four

If you’re new around here, a year and a half ago my husband and I purchased our first house: a 1940’s Colonial located in a very cute coastal Connecticut town. We’ve been tackling remodeling the house room by room, where we’re always looking for ways to add equal parts function and character into our house. Catch up on Week One, Week Two and Week Three.

This week was a huge one.  We accomplished a ton: laying the radiant coils for in-floor heating, pouring self-leveling concrete, tiling the floors and ordering all the remaining items on our list (flushmount lights, a sconce, vanity hardware, switches, recessed lights, toilet paper holder, and more).

Let’s dig in.

Laid the radiant coils

We love having radiant in-floor heating in our guest bathroom and knew that including the heating in this bathroom was a must (both for our own benefit and for resale value). We used the same system as last time and it went more swiftly this time since we’d learned some tips and tricks:

    • Plan a channel for the wires to enter the wall for the radiant controller. By this I mean, drill a hole into the wall right at the level of the cement board for your wires to enter the wall where your temperature controller will live to avoid any awkward bumps in the floor or wall. Once you pour your self-leveling compound this channel will completely disappear.
    • Use a staple gun to secure all the wires to the floor and then go back with a hot glue gun to make sure everything is very secured. What you absolutely do not want is any of the radiant coils to float in the self-leveling compound, because otherwise you’ll have uneven heat dispersion and cold spots on your floors.
    • Make sure your heating coils make it to all the places where you might be standing, especially in front of the vanity, the toilet, entryway and the shower.
    • Install two temperature sensors in case one of them might fail, where it’s a lot easier to open up your wall and attach the alternate sensor if things don’t work quite right than it is to remove your tiles and track down the original sensor.
    • Test your coils for electrical resistance at every step in the process so you catch issues if they happen as quickly as possible. We use this multimeter, it’s an essential for any electrical home DIY and is super inexpesnive.
    • We opted not to use a wifi enabled controller because it didn’t feel like it was worth the cost, given that radiant floors take some time to heat up, so they are best left on a daily schedule than turned on on-demand. We’ve set ours to turn on at 5:30A so the floors are semi-warm when my husband wakes up and then reach peak temperature (82 degrees) at 7A, when I’m typically hopping in the shower. Yeah, that makes me sound spoiled ha.

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Poured self-leveling compound

We used spare cardboard to create dams around the toilet flange and radiator pipes, and then ran a bead of plumbing caulk to ensure they were watertight. We also dammed the threshold area with a 2×4 to keep the compound from escaping (with a bead of caulk on the front).

And then, we mixed up the self-leveling compound and dumped it into the room in buckets, starting with the lowest spots first. The self-leveling compound solved for two problems at once: creating a flat surface over the coils and creating a level plane in the room, where we had a slight slope. You pour as much of the compound as needed to fully cover the highest spots. It looked very soupy and ominous at night but by the morning had cured to a fully-flat plane. It was magical.

We used this compound and mixed up two buckets at a time, and once we got started, I’d mix up new batches while my husband spread it over the floor.

Tiled the floors

This was our second floor tiling experience and we went into it a lot more prepared this time around. This was also our first time tiling a herringbone pattern and it took some google searches to figure out where to start, but once we did it was smooth sailing. This is the 3×9 Carrera Bianca Marble tile that we used.

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Some things we have learned:

    • When you’re using a marble or natural tile that has a great range of variance, make sure to pick one tile from each box for a section and then go back and choose another tile per box for the next section. Tiles in the same box tend to be in the same colour family and can cluster together if you aren’t careful.
    • Make all your cuts before you start tiling. We did not do this and regretted it. Because of some scheduling constraints, we wanted to get the floors started as quickly as possible and focused on the full tiles first. We ended up wasting a good deal of time scraping up thinset that had dried around the edges, where we started at the top of the room and worked through the full tiles and then came back to the edges. This seemed efficient up front, but ended up being a big time waste on the back. When we tile the shower floor, in the same herrigbone pattern, we intend to make all the cuts first and then install the full floor at once.
    • Use a leveling system. It may seem like a lot of extra work over the simple spacers, but getting the top of your tiles level is critical. Not only can your surface be a bit off, but when you’re dealing with a natural tile, the depth of your tiles can vary ever so slightly. Plus, add in a varying thickness as you lay down thinset and there are a lot of variables that should be neutralized. You don’t want lippage in your tiles, trust me. We used this leveling system and couldn’t be more happy with it.
    • Set up a laser level to keep your lines straight. You don’t want your tiles veering off center, so the laser helps to keep you aligned. We recently picked up this laser level and it’s been a huge upgrade over our super mini one.
    • When doing a herringbone pattern, you will struggle with where to start the pattern. There’s some math involved in determining the center of the pattern: you need to strike a line at dead center on the room, then measure half the tile width to the right and this is your starting line for your “V”. The “V” is where both corners intersect the line. Once you get the pattern started, you’re all set.

Finalized Lighting

I noted last week that the sconce I had intended to order and had looked to be in-stock a few weeks ago was no longer in stock, so I went back to the drawing board.

I have to give an enormous thank you to all my design friends who sent over so many helpful suggestions: ClaireSarahNatalieKate, and Ashley, you guys are the best. It’s amazing that Instagram has allowed for these connections to happen cross-country and even internationally. Truly, it’s incredible.

Getting back to the issue at hand, let me explain the complex scenario that landed me to the final solution: we’re installing a 62″ double vanity that takes up nearly the entire wall (63″), and with the stunning Metrie panel moulding trim that we’re adding directly on the wall, we’ll have an opening above the vanity of only 51″ wide. Which meant that I had four options:

1. Source a very narrow pair of mirrors, one to sit over each sink. The trouble here, is that a lot of mirrors that are narrow aren’t tall. I love a tall mirror and how it elongates the space, so this was becoming problematic. I popped into Rejuvenation and one of the sales staff helped me to find a mirror that was similar to the one I actually wanted to use in the space. The solution was an unconventional choice, but when I went back home and measured, they had given me the internal measurements, not the external, so it wouldn’t have laid flat in the panel opening.

2. Source a wide mirror to be shared between the two sinks. There are two challenges with this option: the first is that I hate the idea of standing at the sink and maybe not being able to look in the mirror because it isn’t wide enough to reach to the edge of the sink. The second issue, is where does the light fixture go?

3. Suspend mirrors. My husband nixed this one immediately, but I do think it could have been quite cool to suspend the mirrors in front of the paneling (either vertically from the ceiling or just bumped them out in front of the panel moulding, mounted on the wall). This solution could have been cool in a more modern style home (I’ve seen it done in front of windows and it looks awesome). But, the other challenge is also that given the placement of the vanity in the room, you would have frequently seen the side profile of the mirrors, which would have made for a bizarre view, in my opinion.

4. Install a custom mirror to fill the entire opening and mount a sconce directly on the mirror. This one I was the most hesitant about at first since it feels so distinctly traditional. I’ve always loved the personality a mirror can bring to the space and this solution was completely devoid of that personality. But, the more I thought about it and the more examples I pulled, the more I came to see the upside to this solution. The first upside being that you get an enormous mirror, which will really open up this space visually. It will also allow the beautiful trimwork to really shine and will feel so custom. I also love the idea of mounting a cool, modern light fixture in a way that is more traditional. This is the approach I’ve used throughout the house with our ceiling medallions + modern fixture combinations, so I’ve come to really, really love this solution.

Here are some examples:

So, we’re going for it. I got quotes for custom mirrors to fit the space and was shocked at how reasonable they were (even in our super expensive area). Most quotes came in at $350 – $450, which is in the same range of what I would have spent on two mirrors (if not a bit less).

Sometimes the magic in design comes from the creative solutions to tricky problems. While this isn’t where I thought I’d land up, it is somewhere I’m very excited to be headed.

And now for the actual lighting selection.

This is the sconce I’d originally planned on using, mounted between the two sinks.

I was limited to replacements that were in-stock only and contemplated so many different options. We very nearly purchased this one, but there was something about the aesthetic that screamed too mid-century modern for my traditional Colonial house. Finally, we landed on this one, mounted near the top of the mirror:

After some discussion, my husband and I agreed that a statement sconce that was up out of our eyesight would make the vanity the most functional. I’m excited to see this sconce in place. I also sourced a less expensive version of this sconce, but the brass detailing on this one really tied the room together (and mirrors the black with brass details on the pendants in our guest bathroom).

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Some of the alternate eye-level mounted sconces we considered were this, this, and this.

This week will be tiling the shower and installing all our beautiful Metrie trimwork. We’re racing against the clock in order to have enough time for a glass shower door and custom mirror cut and installed before Week Six reveal photos. Oh, and we need to paint the vanity, paint all the trimwork, have the plumbers install the fixtures and so much more. I anticipate a lot of late nights in the coming two weeks. We have a to-do list with a mere 30 items on it, broken down by day, so we can just scrape by into Week Six (hopefully). Please send help. But really.

You can check out all the other participants on the official One Room Challenge™ site here.

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Master Suite: Updated Plans

Thank you all so much for your feedback on our master suite layout. Over the past week, we made some tweaks to the plan, but feel really good about the direction:

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  1. We reduced the width of the bathroom from 5”6 to 5”, which is a standard width for a long and narrow bathroom like this one. Since the space is laid out with all the fixtures on one wall, the 3 feet of egress will definitely still work and not feel too cramped. That large window also helps to keep the room feeling bright and spacious.
  2. We moved the door from the closet to allow for a double vanity. This part of the plan is very dependent on how the joists run in the bathroom once we’ve pulled up the subfloor and is liable to change.
  3. We stole the 6” in width from the bathroom for the closet to allow for hanging on both sides. Since we’re using our original hardwoods, we’re going to have to feather some of the boards we’re pulling up in the original closet to make up the 6” of floor currently tiled in the bathroom.
  4. The dressing area became a bit larger  and we have updated the closed storage for everyday essentials and hampers to be deeper for greater storage capacity.
  5. In the bedroom, I reoriented the bed to be on the right wall so we can center it under the window. In order to do so, we’re going to have to cap the radiator there and move it over to the top wall so that we don’t end up trapping all the heat under the bed.
  6. I’m also strongly considering adding a mantle to the bedroom on the wall you enter on to bring some more character to the space. Crossing my fingers I can find a vintage marble one on Craigslist in the coming months.

We feel really good about this plan and are super excited to start demo next week.

And, some inspiration for the direction of the master suite: traditional architectural details meets fun, modern elements with punches of colour.

We’re loving this wallpaper on the ceiling and the blue walls, which we’re going to be doing both in the walk in closet.

Another pop of blue with a built in bench, also inspiration for the closet.

I desperately want to add a (non-functioning) fireplace mantel to the bedroom and replicate that herringbone marble in both the mantel and shower.

Introducing: The Master Suite

One of the huge selling points for us on this house was that it had a master suite (not one other house we viewed had a proper ensuite and walk in closet), but we knew from the get-go that there’s huge potential to make the master suite fabulous. In the existing layout, there’s a ton of dead space, which makes for an unnecessarily enormous bedroom space and a cramped bathroom and walk-in-closet. As part of our plans for the remodel of this space is a complete redistribution of the space to allow for a sizable bathroom, much larger walk-in-closet and more efficient bedroom area. If you want to see photos of our current bedroom, it’s over here.

Below is the current layout:

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As you can see, the master suite is large (by northeast standards). The footprint is actually the combined space of the living room and dining room directly beneath it, for some perspective.

Some of the challenges we ran into in rethinking the layout are:

  1. Fixed window placement on the front of the house. That large window in the bathroom can’t be changed, since it matches the others on the facade. All of our plans to split the bathroom and closet on this side of the room ran into the challenging width of the window.
  2. Radiator placement. We didn’t want to lose the heat sources in the bedroom. We do still need to investigate having the plumbers run another radiator into the bathroom, since there isn’t a heat source in there and it gets cold in the winter! Our planned in-floor heating may be sufficient here though. It’s not in the rendering, but the radiators are beneath the window in that right side of the bedroom and under the left window on the top of the rendering.
  3. Current duct work that routes AC to the sunroom and living room presently goes through two corners in the existing closet.
  4. Key dimensions for the closet: while our walk in closet is large right now, it’s awkward, tight and it feels silly that we only have hanging space on one side and no space for anything else. But to gain hanging space on both sides, we’d need at least 6’ in width, which we can’t find in the room.
  5. The existing plumbing lines. Yes, moving the bathroom and closet to the opposite side of the master suite would absolutely allow us to have side by side closet and bathroom BUT the plumbing stack cannot be relocated 18’ across the space without a very high price tag, ripping up the floors and whole host of headaches. So that’s a no-go.

As of last week, this is the plan we had in place:

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Some things we liked about this plan:

  1. The bathroom feels a lot less cramped with the addition of space stolen from the old closet.
  2. The bedroom layout feels clean and simple
  3. The closet has a huge amount of hanging space (the left wall) and drawer and shelf space (on the right side.
  4. In the closet, we’d create a window seat that would hide the radiator and create a moment in the closet.

Some things we dislike about this plan:

  1. We don’t love splitting the bathroom from the closet, since Cory wakes up much earlier than me and would need to walk across the room twice to get out of the house in the morning without waking me up.
  2. The walkway in the closet is tight at 2′ wide. It would feel very narrow in here.
  3. We want to create a little dressing space in the closet with a hook for clothes, a large mirror and a spot to put on shoes.
  4. We lose the double exposures in the bedroom by losing the right window to the closet.

And then, on a whim, I remeasured the current distance from the bathroom to the end of the closet and realized we could get more width out of the closet if we moved it to the other side of the room.

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What we like about this plan:

  1. The bathroom and closet are right next to one another, so getting dressed is much simpler.
  2. We gain an extra few inches of walkway space in the closet that will help it feel less claustrophobic.
  3. We still get double exposures in the bedroom with light coming in from the East and South sides.
  4. We get a nicely sized dressing area in the top of the closet in the above floorplan, where we’d add a built in window bench under the window to enclose the radiator. Plus a full length mirror and built in storage for hampers and daily essentials.

What we don’t love about this plan:

  1. We’re a bit up in the air on our feelings about splitting up the double sinks (I have some good inspiration shots below).
  2. Is it strange to walk through the closet? If so, do we need to turn this into a hallway and put doors on both sides of the walk in closet?
  3. We’re losing some hanging space, but we still think we can make it more efficient than what we have now.
  4. The bedroom is laying out a bit strange with the window offset on the wall. I can solve this with a wall of curtains behind the bed or we can move the bed to the right wall, but need to figure out a plan for putting a bed in front of the radiator – any ideas here?

So that’s where we landed! Let me know if you have any thoughts on alternate floorplan ideas – it’s very much appreciated. We’re still not 100% committed.

And some great bathrooms with double vanities:

And walk through closets:

Looking at these, I’m thinking maybe we add a pocket door to the bigger hanging section and leave the right side open to showcase some very pretty built-ins, the mirror and the window seat.

One other note, we debated long and hard how to fit a freestanding tub in the bathroom in addition to the shower and just couldn’t make it work without sacrificing the vanity size (SO important) or shower (also important). What are your thoughts on forgoing the tub?

 

One Room Challenge: Guest Bathroom, Week Six

Week Six of the One Room Challenge™ has been all about tiling the walls. (You can check out past week updates here: week one, week two, week three, week four, week five). Because I’m an overachiever, or maybe just really confident in our skills to figure out how to accomplish the look I’m going for, I ambitiously opted to tile our entire bathroom. That includes the tub surround and all four walls. And did I mention we’d never tiled before?

Excuse the mess in all these photos – this isn’t glamorous work.

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The all-over tile really helps to elevate the subway tile. And, I’m very particular about my tile transitions and wasn’t entirely certain of a way to end the tile around our tub, given it’s location in the room in a way that felt elegant.

We have been tiling non-stop since Friday night and since taking these photos knocked out most of the final wall.  Serious props to my husband, Cory, who kept us going on tiling, despite me nearly throwing in the towel more than a few times.

In the original room, the window trim butted right up against the wall, which would make tiling around it really awkward. We ended up sourcing new trim that was 2 1/4” wide instead of 2 1/2” wide that allows for just enough space to slide the tiles behind the window trim for a much cleaner and more intentional look. They don’t, however, make rosettes that are 2 1/4” square, so we ended up using the table saw to slice 1/8” off each side of the rosettes to line everything up nicely. This whole issue gave me some anxiety, but I’m so happy with how we managed to make it work.

For the tile, these are some of the things we’ve learned:

  • Subway tile comes with built in spacers (called lugged tiles), but I really wanted the grout lines to be more visible, so we used 1/16th inch spacers on the built in spacers, achieving essentially a 1/8th inch grout line.
  • Start with a super level first row, otherwise you’re going to be fighting to keep your lines straight up the wall. We nailed straight ledges into the wall using whatever we had around (leftover drywall edges, old door trim, etc.) to support our first row. We also started with our second row and are going back to add the real first row after all the tile work is done.
  • We have an old house and our walls aren’t perfectly straight and that’s a bit visible in the corners. Given that, to start each new row of tile, we marked the center of a new tile with a China pencil and placed that dead even between two tiles below it and then worked out from the middle of the wall to the edges. This means our edge tiles aren’t all consistently sized from row to row, but our grout lines are running straight.
  • Don’t assume that if you use your spacers that all your corner tiles are going to match up. We did and were surprised when we got to the shower head wall and started tiling from the bottom up, staying in line with the tiles on the front of the tub when the row above the apron of the tub just didn’t line up with the tiles running across the tub. Hard to explain, but constantly be measuring that all your corners and edges are indeed lining up.
  • If you don’t want to chip your tiles on the tile saw, make an initial 1” cut on one side of the tile, then flip it over and make the full cut through the tile. We learned this fast when we were chipping tiles left and right.
  • We used both thinset and tile adhesive in this room. Make sure you’re using the right adhesive for the right surface. Thinset is messy and since we were mixing it ourselves (instead of buying premixed) you had some wait time to let it set, etc. On the drywall we used tile adhesive, which comes premixed and goes a long way. We found the tile adhesive to be a lot easier and tidier to work with. Just make sure you wipe down the tiles fast, because it’s hard to remove the adhesive off the tile edges and face.

All in all, while this was an insanely huge task, I’m so happy we stayed on the path to tile all the walls. Given how inexpensive subway tile is, the cost to do all the walls is still very low (I think we spent ~$350 on subway tile) but the impact is huge. I know it’s a tile that’s everywhere, but given it’s historical roots, I do believe it will stand the test of time. Especially applied in a way that is so immersive and detail oriented, it really takes the room to the next level.

What’s really going to finish off these walls is the grout (we’re going with a medium grey) and crown moulding. I know crown moulding is an unusual choice in the bathroom, but I believe it’s going to pull together all the rooms we’ve completed in the house as a cohesive story. Plus it really blends the traditional with the modern in this room.

In addition to tiling, we also painted the door, replaced the door trim, replaced the window trim and painted the crown moulding.

Lest we forget that we have to reveal this room NEXT WEEK. Which means we have a ton to accomplish before then:

  • Build the niches (which requires a last minute trip to Floor & Decor in NJ, ugh.)
  • Run the final row of tile along the bottom edge (we’re about halfway done)
  • Grout all the walls
  • Caulk all the edges
  • Install the crown moulding
  • Seal the grout
  • Install the light fixtures and fan
  • Hang the mirror
  • Install the shower curtain track
  • Install the vanity and hardware
  • Plumbers are coming Monday to install all the fixtures
  • Style the space

Well, this is going to be a sprint to the finish line!

Don’t forget to check out all the other participants here.

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One Room Challenge: Guest Bathroom, Week Five

Welcome back to our One Room Challenge™ status update (check out past weeks here), where we have taken our guest bathroom down to the studs (we’re overachievers, I know) and are working on building it back up. My husband, Cory, and I have done nearly all the work on our own, excluding the plumbing.

Week Five was without a doubt our most challenging week. It started out easy enough: we primed and painted the ceiling, primed the fresh drywall (apparently it helps with tile adhesion) and painted a waterproof membrane over the tub walls and any floor that might become wet.

Saturday, we dedicated to tiling the floor. We spent 5 hours dry-fitting the marble hex tile for the floor, making all the cuts in advance of laying the tile and making sure there weren’t any clusters of marble tones that would make the room feel imbalanced. We numbered every sheet that needed to be laid and relocated them to our bedroom floor for later. While Cory was prepping some of the final tiles, I went on an expedition to track down a marble threshold to replace the one we cracked while demo-ing the tile. Three stores later, and I found a lucky threshold that exactly fit my dimensions and had been cut custom for someone else who never picked it up from this local marble shop in Fairfield County. A 20% discount later since it was pre-cut for someone else and I took that baby home with me. We also had the vanity delivered and now have all the big pieces ready for install, waiting in the garage.

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A not-so-glamourous iPhone photo of us dry-fitting the marble hex tile.

We then spent the afternoon laying the radiant coils for the in-floor heating and got started on laying the tile. Ok guys, I had been so excited to tile and the actual tiling process was the closest to divorce we’ve experienced yet ha. It was really difficult for a perfectionist like myself. The combination of the in-floor heating plus the small mosaic tiles made it so difficult to get the tiles to lay flat and level. We ripped up the tiles multiple times before getting into a groove. 15 hours later on Saturday and we finally had our tiles laid.

We had planned to grout on Sunday but that morning we noticed a handful of tiles that just weren’t sitting quite right and we chiseled them out and replaced them. Again, we did the same thing on Monday night while cleaning out any remaining thinset from between the tiles.

Tuesday night we finally grouted the floors and it was a turning point – the tiles looked great and we got into a really good system for grouting and wiping down the tiles. We finished up by 10P, our earliest night yet working on the One Room Challenge bathroom and relished in having a little bit of time to relax.

Wednesday night we allowed the grout to dry. We chose Polyblend’s Custom Delorean Grey grout and it’s such a nice complement to tones in the carrera marble tiles. We’re planning on using the same grout on the subway tiled walls to tie both surfaces together. I’m going to dive into our decisions for how we’re laying the subway tile in the room next week, once we’ve got it all up on the walls.

This coming week is going to be a big push so we can get the room ready for the plumbers to return to install the vanity and tub. Where we’re planning on:

  • Sealing the marble floors
  • Laying subway tile on all four walls
  • Grouting the walls
  • Installing the recessed shower light
  • Painting and installing the ceiling medallion

And apologies, but pretty photos are pretty lacking this week, these are some shots of our new floors:

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And a tile decision that we’ve been debating for the walls is how to finish the tiles at the floor, since our cove finish moulding isn’t lining up with the outside corners of our tub.

Either finish the walls off in the standard, but totally modern way:

Or soldiering the tiles at the floor:

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To be completely honest, looking at these photos again, I’m pretty certain we’re going to be going with the former option. But totally let me know what you think! There’s still time to sway the vote before the tiles start to go up on Friday.

Check out the other participants here.
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One Room Challenge: Guest Bathroom, Week Four

Here we are at the week four recap of our One Room Challenge™ featuring our guest bathroom (check out Week OneWeek Two, and Week Three). I’m calling Week Four, the week we got sh*t done. After a few slow weeks of waiting on plumbing and other progress-halting stuff, we made a lot of visible progress. Here’s how the week went down:

On Thursday morning the plumbers showed up to make a few adjustments and add some nail plates… all before I finished my breakfast and morning coffee. Thursday night, we laid the plywood subfloor in anticipation of the plumbers coming Friday to set the drains.

On Friday, the plumbers pushed back their start time, until ultimately saying they’ll be postponing to 8A on Saturday morning. We spent Friday night hanging the drywall on the ceiling… wow, that’s an arm and shoulders workout.

Saturday morning we get up at 8A to let the plumbers in. After asking half a dozen times about whether we needed to frame out our tub before setting the drains and being told no… they check out our tub and tell us we need to frame it in first. Cue to me having a panic attack over the timing implications to them not setting the tub that day. We end up agreeing to build the frame within the subsequent hour and a half, so they could return that afternoon. Then we ran around like crazy people building a frame for the drop-in tub that was 100% level and took into consideration the number of tiles we wanted running up the tub enclosure + grout lines + floor tile height, etc in order to get the frame just the right size. It was pretty much like the SATs meets an overdramatized speed decorating HGTV series. We were nailing the last side of the frame in place as the plumbers showed up. They worked at the house all afternoon and I took a break from the chaos to source accessories at Anthropologie. That evening we laid the cement board on the floors with thinset and screws in preparation for tile.

Sunday morning we awoke early again, to tackle the walls. We clad two of the walls and the tub frame in cement backerboard and hung drywall on the other walls. The entire installation process was a giant game of Tetris. Again, lots of math.

Monday evening was dedicated to hanging the last of the drywall. Tuesday night we set about mudding and taping the seams. Wednesday we mudded the drywall and hooked up the radiant flooring electrical.

Whew, I’m exhausted just reading that recap.

Here are the not so sexy photos of the current state of our bathroom.

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I know it doesn’t look like much, but it’s a huge leap forward from where we were just a week ago.

And one pretty photo of our vanity hardware that arrived from Rejuvenation this week, swoon!

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This week, we’re priming the ceiling and walls in preparation for tile, as well as applying a waterproof membrane on the tub walls. And then it’s on to finally laying the radiant floors and marble hex tiles. We have the vanity arriving this weekend and we’re planning on spending the full weekend laying tile.

As a heads up, the One Room Challenge has been extended by a week, so I expect it might just be possible that we can pull this transformation off. Maybe.

Here’s to hoping next week’s photos include our pretty tiles…

Check out the other participants here.
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One Room Challenge: Guest Bathroom, Week One

For those of you who are new here, a year ago my husband and I purchased our first house: a 1940s Colonial in a cute coastal town in Connecticut. We’ve been upgrading our house room by room and sharing the process on this blog and on Instagram.

If you follow me on Instagram, this may be a complete 180. Up until yesterday I had planned on tackling my office for the One Room Challenge (including the first blog post already scheduled). But, after receiving a call from our plumber saying he could start on our guest bathroom next week, it’s full steam ahead on the bathroom. I’ve posted on this space before, but since we demo-ed the room a month ago it has sat empty. During this time, we were figuring out what we could do with the layout of the space, given the plumbing set up, and getting bids from plumbers. Now, we’re ready to go on building it back up.

Let me introduce you to the space:

 

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The room is just boring… and kind of sad. It was remodeled in the 80s, but as we’ve since discovered, none of the plumbing had been updated. The bathroom is lacking in charm and the layout is just inefficient. For a bathroom with this square footage, we shouldn’t have to settle for a 30” vanity (in a very dark claustrophobic nook). This bathroom also contains one of my biggest pet peeves: a toilet in full view from the doorway.

So, this is our first full bathroom ever. The first time we’ve tiled anything, reconfigured a space, hooked up a toilet, etc. Given this, six weeks definitely feels like a challenge, but we’re all in. I’m going to be sharing each step along the way for any other rookies who are planning on remodeling their first bathroom too. I’m sure we’ll have a lot of learnings along the way.

The vibe in here is going to be a modern meets traditional mash-up, with some glam thrown in for good measure. I want this room to mesh well with our guest room and the rest of the vibe in our 1940s Colonial home, and be classic in materials.

This is the guest room that accompanies this bathroom, so aesthetically they need to work together (more photos here):

 

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What we need to accomplish over the next five-ish weeks:

  • Removing the remaining drywall
  • Re-do the subfloor
  • Re-do the plumbing
  • Re-run the electrical
  • Install additional can lighting
  • Lay a radiant floor
  • Install drywall
  • Build out a base for a drop-in tub
  • Install tile on the floors
  • Install tile on the walls
  • Add trimwork
  • Install fixtures
  • Paint ceiling, trim and door
  • Build a radiator cover
  • Install lighting
  • Install mirrors
  • Install built-in shelves
  • Style out the space (the fun part!)

And I’m sure about a dozen things I’m forgetting.

In terms of selections for the space, we have already got the toilet, faucet and shower head on-hand, the tub and drain en-route and have decided on the tiles for the walls and floor. I will get into the details in upcoming weeks on how we nailed those down. We still need to pull the trigger on:

  • A vanity
  • A mirror
  • Overhead lighting
  • Sconces
  • Vanity pulls
  • Window covering
  • Towel hooks and other bath accessories
  • A vintage rug

And, since my photos so far haven’t been so pretty on the eyes. This bathroom by Christine Dovey is a space from which I’m drawing a lot of inspiration.

You can check out the other participants in this season’s One Room Challenge here.

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Before and now: the Master Bedroom

Next up on our one year anniversary in our house tour is the Master Bedroom. This room has been a “make it work for now” space, so we’ve used existing furniture from our old room and used it in here. We have grand plans to take this inefficiently laid out space and create a truly master master suite. We do have a pretty basic master bath in here plus a fairly inefficient walk in closet, but there is A LOT of dead space. We have a plan we really, really like, but probably won’t start construction until next year.

The before:

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And the now:

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We can’t wait to get our hands on that fan and to completely reinvent this space, making it as luxe as our guest room. It’s going to be good.

And a sneak peek of the layout we’re toying with right now…

Current layout:

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And the new layout that allows for both a large master bath and HUGE closet.
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