We’re knee deep in planning out our second shower renovation and I wanted to share some of the things we’ve learned along the way, as long as some crowd-sourced features that you shared with me on Instagram last week. As with many home spaces, showers need to strike that perfect balance between incredibly functional to use and aesthetically beautiful.
Over the course of six months, we managed to tackle two complete bathroom remodels from the studs up, and I wanted to share some of our biggest learnings, since these were our first two bathroom renos ever and we learned a lot. These lessons apply if you’re tackling the work yourself, or if you’re hiring it out.
1. Take your time to rethink the layout. You may be able to unlock space and make your room more functional. It might be expensive, but it’s worth exploring the cost in case it fits in the budget.
2. Determine your must-haves for the space. Prioritize the things that matter to you: tubs, rain shower heads, steam showers, a double vanity, heated floors, etc. if you’re limited on space and/or budget (like us!) you’re going to have to identify what matters to you and what is less necessary. Everyone has an opinion on whether they think a master bathroom needs a tub, but space constraints are real and it may not be critical for you.
It’s been a little while since I checked in on the master bathroom (past posts are here). While it looks like we haven’t made a lot of progress, we’ve actually made quite a few decisions these last few weeks.
We reworked the shower layout several times and finally landed on the final placement of every fixture. If you recall, our shower is at the end of the bathroom and has walls on three sides. Let’s get into it:
Here’s a rendering with totally different finishes, etc., but can help to envision the space (PS I used this free app)
1. A floating marble bench
We decided on a floating marble shower bench on the left wall underneath an adjustable hand held shower head (that black bench in the rendering is a stand-in). We picked out a remnant slab at a local marble company and it’s been fabricated to our specs. This wasn’t cheap by any means, but it also wasn’t as expensive as it could have been and I genuinely believe it will bring something special to our shower. This was nearly impossible to find a how to DIY online, so expect a blog post with instructions once we’ve made it to the other side.
This is the bench inspiration:
2. A rain shower head
The rain shower head is going dead center in the shower. It arrived last week and Cory called me down by saying “check out how pretty this is!”. Suffice to say I’ve rubbed off on him and we both are obsessed with good looking shower fixtures. The rain shower was his special request, and I’m not complaining. Don’t worry, there’s a standard shower head on the left wall so I don’t have to get my hair wet when I shower… priorities.
3. Shower niche
The niche will now be dead center on the wall directly in the middle shower. It’s going to be wide at 24”x16”, and I’m much happier with the symmetry of it being on this wall. It will be very visible in the bathroom, but that just means I get to splurge on good looking toiletries amirite? I know this might be controversial, but I don’t love the look of a contrasting niche, so this is just going to be a continuation of the same oversized marble tile.
4. Shower control
The shower control and diverter (which controls the flow to the rain shower) will be on the right wall. I wanted this to be accessible from outside the shower so you can adjust the temperature before jumping in. This control is on an outside wall, so there’s going to be a lot of insulation happening behind here.
5. Glass door
We haven’t quite decided on whether we’re going to do a glass door (that opens both ways) or just a glass panel to keep it light and airy. We’ll probably hold off on making the decision until we see the shower in action.
6. The great curb debate
We’re adding a curb to the shower. This is what I’m most disappointed about because a curbless shower feels so much more open to me, but I’ve admitted defeat. With a 5’ wide shower, we need a slope of 2” or so from right to left, which means we’d need to bump up the floors in the entire bathroom by that much, which would create an awkward transition from the closet and a lot of lost height in the room. Thus, I’ve agreed to adding a curb.
And we decided on a vanity that’s presently hanging out in our garage. We went with a ‘save’ option that got great reviews and looks surprisingly chic for the price and should look even better with new hardware. But if it isn’t quite up to my standards, I figured I could return it and source a higher end one.
Our plumbers are hopefully going to be starting later this week, so fingers crossed that our next update has some great progress photos!
In the meantime, this bathroom in the most recent issue of House Beautiful has me considering a wood vanity instead…
For those of you who are new here – I’ve been documenting the process of remodeling our 1940’s Colonial home in coastal Connecticut into a space that’s modern, fresh and layered but still maintains its traditional roots. You can check out past week updates here: week one, week two, week three, week four, week five and week six.
Welcome to the final week of the One Room Challenge™, where we’ve spent the past six weeks completely renovating our guest bathroom from 80’s basic to a modern take on the old-school European hotel bath. This bathroom pairs with our guest room, so keeping a consistent thread from room to room was critical. To be completely honest, I wasn’t sure we’d complete this project in time because we bit off A LOT with this one (thank goodness for that extra week!).
During the course of this challenge, my husband and I took our bathroom down to the studs, laid new level subfloor, installed radiant in-floor heating, framed out the new tub, ran all new electrical and lighting, hung our first ceiling, installed cement board walls, installed our first tiled floor, completely tiled all four walls in the room, painted the ceiling and trimwork, grouted everything, hung crown moulding, installed all new lighting, installed the shower curtain track, and more. It was insanely busy and a very ambitious project for the two of us to tackle (plumbers handled all the pipes, rough in and fixture installation).
So, without further ado, let’s get on to the photos:
And a quick reminder of how far this bathroom has come:
The tile is the star of the room. I knew that I wanted to use classic materials for the tiles, since they’re permanent fixtures that we never intend to change (and hope that buyers feel the same way if we ever choose to sell the house too). Starting with the floors, after a lot of debate, we opted for marble since it’s a nice upgrade and truly makes me happy. We also installed radiant coils, so these floors are nice and toasty (another upgrade). For the walls, I’m a huge fan of going big, so we used the basic subway tile that’s historically relevant to our home and applied to over all the walls. It was no doubt a lot more work but it completely elevates the space.
The tub that previously was in this bathroom was extremely shallow and was really non-functional for baths. After spending a lot of time at the Kohler showroom, we narrowed our choice to the Underscore soaking tub, since it’s great for baths but also comfortable to step into for showers and looks awesome. Since we took down the wall that closed in this shower, I was adamant about using a tub that didn’t require us to put walls back up to keep the space feeling nice and open.
The faucets were finds at the Restoration Hardware outlet that perfectly merge the clean, modern lines I love, with the vintage details like knobs labeled ‘Hot’ and ‘Cold’ that elevate the space and create a more custom feel. The brass hardware helps to bring some warmth into the room, which contrasts nicely with the all white subway tile.
The vanity was a last-minute decision when our first choice became out of stock and also allowed us to be opportunistic when we discovered we’d gained an extra few square feet of floor space. We swapped out the hardware for nice, heavy brass hardware from Rejuvenation that make this vanity look much more expensive and custom. I wasn’t sure how the stock marble countertop would look, since it can be hit or miss with pre-cut marble, but this countertop is actually a pretty gorgeous piece of stone with great movement and veining.
I’m a huge fan of having a lot of light sources in every room, and I make sure that as many of them as possible are on dimmers for instant ambiance. In here we added some extra lights including the pair of pendants flanking the mirror, the recessed light in the shower and relocated the overhead light so it was centered on the doorway. The pendants were super budget-friendly scores we found at Homesense but were in a shiny chrome. A few coats of matte black spray paint later and they totally fit in. The overhead light was a last minute swap (literally at 11P last night), where this CB2 light replaced a vintage find that we had sprayed black, but featured four more globes, which competed for your attention with the pendants. Using a simpler, lower key flushmount allows your focus to land on the pendants.
We added the crown moulding to keep the room cohesive with the rest of our house. It’s a nice traditional element that keeps this room from floating too far into the modern end of the spectrum. We gave all the trimwork a fresh coat of paint, including the windows and door, which went Onyx by Benjamin Moore for an instant dose of chic. We spray painted all the window hardware a matte black to blend in. I’ve been debating this paint treatment on the windows for a while now, and seeing it in this bathroom has cemented that I need to do it on our main floor too. The ceiling and trim are painted in Benjamin Moore Decorators White, as in the other spaces we’ve completed in this house.
The shower curtain track was a DIY inspired by Kristin Jackson at The Hunted Interior, where we didn’t want to rush ourselves into a glassed in tub (which I don’t love for baths and is pretty pricy), until we’d tried out this budget-friendly solution. Apologies that the shower curtain looks a bit droopy – we ran out of ball chain and of course weren’t able to secure more in time. The rug is a vintage find from eBay, as is the lion’s head towel ring (which also matches the one in our main floor bathroom).
All in all we definitely pushed ourselves to create a bathroom that we’re completely smitten with and made sure not to sacrifice the design or any details for the sake of completing this room on time. Taking a step back and looking at how this bathroom works hand in hand with the guest bedroom it accompanies, I couldn’t be happier with the shared elements (crown moulding, ceiling medallion paired with black light fixtures, brass accents and vintage details), but they also both definitely have their own personalities and identities, mainly represented in the use of all-over immersive walls in totally different materials and colours. In short, we’re smitten.
Marble Hex Tile | Subway Tile | Grout | Bathtub | Vanity | Vanity Pulls | Mirror | Toilet | Faucet | Shower Head | Tub Spout and Control | Shower Curtain Track | Hand Towel | Flushmount Light | Ceiling Medallion
And don’t forget to check out all the other awesome reveals by other One Room Challenge participants here.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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On of the bathrooms at #projectrosedale, featuring custom sink brackets from @thedoorstore and tapware from @romanbathcentre 🖤 project management @steinbuild carpentry @finebuiltcarpentry door and trim @officialmetrie counter @caesarstoneca tiles @saltillotiles mirror @restoration_hardware_store painting @silvio_painting_inc 🖤#christinedoveystyle . . . . . #bathroom #bathroomdesign #design #designer #sink #subwaytile #renovation #projectwork #install #style #flashesofdelight #sodomino #homewithrue
Or soldiering the tiles at the floor:
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.
Here we are at the week four recap of our One Room Challenge™ featuring our guest bathroom (check out Week One, Week 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.
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!
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.
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:
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):
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
- 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.
We have planned since day one to gut both of the bathrooms upstairs and we have finally reached the kick-off for the first one: our guest bath. This bathroom boasts a slightly awkward layout, lackluster 80’s tile and a very institutional radiator, lovely.
We are planning on demolition in July, so this project is sneaking up on us fast. While we’ve been busy working on a design plan, creating a budget and sourcing, I wanted to share some of the design inspiration for the space.
Since this isn’t the master bathroom, we’re trying to be contentious about using materials that will be consistent with the master, but being cost conscious at the same time about where we’re splurging and where we’re saving.
Another thing of note, I know not everyone agrees with me on this, but I’m pretty adamant about using materials that would have been available and common when our house was constructed in 1940 – so that’s ceramic, marble and wood, for the most part. Cement tiles are beautiful, but don’t make sense given that we live in the Northeast in a house that’s 80 years old. I don’t want to fight the bones of the house either, so this should feel traditional with a modern, coastal twist.
We’re going to be tiling all the walls from floor to ceiling in subway tile, because while it’s totally ubiquitous, it’s also 100% authentic to the era in which our house was built. And it’s cheap. Not only are we putting it on the walls, we’re also planning on tiling around a drop-in tub, to really take it to the next level.
And a version with a subtler grout (the direction we’re heading in).
I can’t shake the idea of hanging a Venetian Mirror over the subway tile. I know it’s impractical to not have a medicine cabinet, but I’m hoping we can figure out some sort of storage solution.
Perhaps to compensate for the medicine cabinet, we might add some glass shelving above the faucet.
Another frequent debate is over the flooring. We originally wanted to do a marble tile, then were lured by the ceramic herringbone that was 1/6th the price, but at the end of the day, I think we’re likely to land up in the carrera marble family in a small hex or basketweave tile pattern.
Since we’re doing a fully built in tub, I want the vanity to be free-standing (but with lots of storage space) to break up all that subway tile. Though, let’s be real, it will probably not be green, and ours has to be pretty narrow.
And lastly, I can’t shake the idea of a honed black marble countertop. I haven’t had much luck in sourcing it, so I don’t yet know if it’s within the budget, but seriously, is there anything more chic that honed black marble? No, the answer is no.
Wish us luck! I’ll dive into the moodboard and a more concrete plan in upcoming posts.