Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day

…and while the main bathroom renovation wasn’t as expansive, some days it certainly felt that way! A year and half is what it took to finish this renovation, almost to the day. Demo day was March 2, 2019; we finished (except punchlist stuff) on August 30, 2020. I had days I feared that it would never be finished. Granted, I did the majority of the work myself with the help of family and friends. And, the work had to be squeezed in between my day job business trips with several of those being multiple weeks on the west coast and many familial obligations keeping me and/or my help away from the house. The work was extensive. The tub and vanity were swapped in the layout and the door was shifted to accommodate the new configuration. We replaced the swinging door with a pocket door. As the boyfriend often does, he calmed my mind a bit by reminding me that actual time spent working on the room was closer to two months. That made me feel a little better – somewhat. And, I am overjoyed with how this room looks. While not a true restoration, I feel good about reintroducing Folk Victorian aesthetics back to the room. But let’s start back at the beginning….

I started researching Victorian bathroom features and finishes that I wanted to use. Fun fact: Thomas Crapper, famed Victorian plumber, did not invent the first toilet nor is the term “crap” attributable to him! Here are three sites that I found useful:

The History of the LavatoryVictorian Bathroom Design and Victorian Bathrooms: A History Lesson

I started, as I usually do, with picking my finishes. I already knew what art print I wanted to use and it became kismit when I found the old original wallpaper behind the studs.

And, then there was my tile, color, and finish palette. I wanted the tile above the wainscot in the tub surround to disappear and blend into the adjacent wall color. Subway tile and hexagon marble are consistent to the Victorian aesthetic and always a timeless classic. I always like a bathroom to feel sanitary and clean so white fixtures are a must. I also like to use a brushed nickel finish to help hide fingerprints between cleaning. I happily discovered in one of my books, Turn-of-the-Century House Designs with Floor Plans, Elevations, and Interior Details of 24 Residences by William T. Comstock, which was first published by the author in New York in 1893 (the year my house was built) under the title Suburban and Country Homes, that the description for Plates XXVIII. and XXIX. includes this statement: “The plumbing is of the best; all pipes and fixtures in bathroom are nickel-plated.” So, it’s only the best for my home! 🙂 And, quality-wise, Kohler is my go-to manufacturer. I used Kingston Brass faucets in this renovation because of their period appropriateness and, so far, they seem sturdy and quality at a reasonable price. (Word of warning, however, Kingston Brass’s installation instructions are not the best so be prepared and have the tech support number ready in case you need to call for help.) While I opted for real marble floors and accent tile, I decided to go with solid white Quartz for the horizontal surfaces; I felt that it gave it a porcelain look while providing modern maintenance convenience.

tile and paint scheme

Tile and color palette

I also created drawings and elevations so I could follow them (and show the resident ghosts so they wouldn’t get upset at the work ;-)). (Studio M Designs LLC is my referral based interior design and decorating business but my day job is a commercial construction project manager.) You’ll notice when you see the after photos that there were a few modifications from the original plan. For example, I originally planned to install a toiletry niche at the tub, but instead, decided to build a full length horizontal ledge above the chair rail that basically disappears with the tile but provides more storage space.

Main Bath Elevations

Back in the 1980s, the homeowner at the time stripped a lot of original features and charm from the house. This room had been one of the victims of that act. So, I decided it would make the most sense to start from scratch in the room.

Because of the size of the room overall (it’s approximately only 6 foot x 10 foot), I could not fit a tub and separate shower and because the width of a clawfoot is not conducive to comfortably showering, i.e. one hits one’s elbows against the shower curtain, I decided to use a drop-in tub with wood surround. And, there is historic reference for it. I found these images while doing my research.

I also toured the mansion at local Batsto Village which included a wood surround tub in its bathroom similar to the bottom left picture. Again, because the room is small, I worried that a vertical wood shower surround (or a shower curtain) would further create a claustrophobic feel to the room. So, I started looking for historic Victorian tub-shower combinations for inspiration. I found these images.

It seemed that the majority of Victorian tub-shower combinations, had shower enclosures that only covered a portion of the overall tub. After seeing those, and staying true to my desire to honor the history but also bring the house into the 21st century, I decided to go with a hinged glass door that did not enclose the entire tub with an exposed shower system.

20200830_180729

Before I share the before and after photos, I’ll share what I spent on this project:

Demo Labor*……………………………………………………………………………………………$  375

Carpentry and Drywall (including vanity and tub surround)……………$1,469

Paint and Tile and Stone Surfaces (I did the install myself)……………….$2,078

Plumbing (fixtures and rough-in**)………………………………………………………$1,840

Electrical***…………………………………………………………………………………………….. $  305

Art and Accessories including glass panel……………………………………………$1,272

Grand Total………………………………………………………………………………$7,692

* I hired professionals to perform the demolition because of asbestos concerns.
**A good girlfriend of mine did my plumbing rough-in for me and I traded a dumpster-retrieved clawfoot tub for the work.
***My brother is a certified electrician and did any of the electrical wiring that needed to be done. This represents the cost of material and fixtures.

Without further ado, here are the before and after pictures….

Slowly but surely, I’m returning the Folk Victorian character to this house and making it my home in the process. I can easily visualize the potential and can’t wait to implement the plan for the rest of the home. It truly is a rehabilitation of love. Ironically, this bathroom is the main hall bath and not the owner’s suite bath so it’ll be mostly my guests who use it. But, it is the only bathroom with a tub (for now), so I claim it as my spa retreat!

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