Monthly Archives: August 2012

Shelf Shocked


As our bathroom renovation came to a close, we could begin focusing on more of the smaller details, such as what to put on all the walls.  Our newly converted linen closet to cabinet has plenty of storage but I liked the idea of using our now wide open wall for additional storage.

Idea #1: Our first idea was to find a unique piece of furniture with shelves to put against the wall and butt up against the shower glass (opposite side of the shower door).  We found this beautiful piece on a trip to Canton, thinking it would be the perfect solution.

Well, we got it home (it miraculously fit in the car) and hauled it into the bathroom.  Unfortunately, it looked massive in the bathroom and did the exact thing we had just spent a ton of money to fix: made the bathroom look cramped and tiny.  It had to go.

Idea #2: The biggest problem with the piece of furniture was that it was boxy and took up too much room.  I still liked the idea of open concept storage so decided wall shelves would be just the solution.  Open shelving has become the new hottest thing for kitchens and bathrooms and I couldn’t wait to incorporate it into our space.  But first, we had to find shelves.

Well, spoiler alert, we couldn’t find any that were the right depth to store towels yet short enough, taking up minimal space.  So guess who’s newest task was to make me some shelves?

But before he goes off complaining how another project was completed 100% by him, let me show you my involvement… by way of these beautiful brackets.

I didn’t want ordinary floating shelves.  I wanted something unique that would be visually interesting.  I love the look of old corbels for shelves but those can get expensive.  Our local architectural salvage store usually has them priced at $50 and up each.  And I needed four.

Luckily, I found these iron scroll brackets at Hobby Lobby for $7.99 and, of course, bought them on a day they were 50% off.  For 16 bucks for 4, it was quite the deal.

Now, cue the carpenter.


Once we finished the bathroom, Julie announced that we needed to “finish everything,” which apparently meant that we needed to put some sort of storage piece on every wall. On the wall backing up to the closet, Julie wanted to put up some shelves but “couldn’t find” exactly what she was looking for, meaning I knew what she was going to say next: “do you think you could build some?” It turns out that for the first time ever, what Julie wanted was actually… simple. So yes, yes I could build them.

What I was going to build was pretty straightforward: a board set atop two iron brackets. Luckily, Julie wanted a “bulky” look, which meant I was able to use plain, cheap, run-of-the-mill (no pun intended) framing wood- a 2×8, to be exact. $5 and one cut later, I had two shelves.

Now, this wood was meant for ceiling joists rather than shelves, so I had to do a little sanding. I smoothed all the surfaces and rounded all the edges and corners, partly because I didn’t want it to look like it was fresh from a lumberyard, but mostly because Julie would inevitably run into it and I didn’t want any hazardous edges:

Next, I stained them to match the color of the floor. I used Minwax Dark Walnut wood stain and didn’t wipe it off to achieve the darkest color possible. I then sealed it with a satin urethane, mostly for waterproofing.

My only real challenge was convincing Julie that, despite her greatest wishes, drywall could not support an infinite amount of weight, and shelves made of iron and solid wood would have to be mounted to the studs inside the wall. This meant that along that particular wall, they could only be placed in two places. Additionally, the brackets had to be placed exactly 16″ apart, as that is the distance between the wall studs. After a few minutes of debate and deliberation, Julie reluctantly agreed to place the brackets where I knew they had to be. We measured everything out and mounted the brackets, and the boards literally just rest on top of the brackets, no hardware or anything.
BOOM! Shelves.




Filed under Bathroom, Easy DIY Projects

The Bathroom Saga: The Reveal!


So for those of you the suspense didn’t kill waiting to finally see our master bathroom reveal, fear not, the wait is over.  The mess, the time, the expense, the drama; it was all worth it in the end because we ended up with some fine piece of bath.

So, to recap (or for the longer story, read up on part 1, part 2, and part 3), we wanted to go from this cramped, outdated, non-functioning mess of a bathroom:

To something more open and, oh yeah, in working order:

It looked easy enough when we drew it out but, it took three long weeks of contractors and Chris working around the clock to bibbidi-bobbidi-boo it into a bathroom fit for a princess… err.. I mean me.  I could also make a really lame throne joke here but I’ll spare you this time.

Enough talk.  Let’s do this already.

Welcome to our master headache bathroom.

Entrance: Before

Entrance: After

Sink Area: Before

Sink Area: After

Cramped Shower Space: Before

Cramped Shower Space: Be Gone! aka After

Tub Area: Before

Tub Area: After… aka the new shower area

Shower: Before

Shower: After

View (or lack thereof) Back to the Sink: Before

View Back to the Sink: After

And let’s end with a view of that gorgeous wood floor.  Ha, gotcha!  It’s tile!

My favorite part post-renovation: It’s hard for me to pick a favorite.  Probably the shower.  In the planning stages, we were determined to open up the bathroom as much as possible without increasing square footage.  The best way to do this was switch from a shower and a tub concept to just a shower.  We were a little hesitant to lose the tub because a) I so desperately wanted a claw foot tub (which sadly wouldn’t fit through the bathroom door) and b) we worried about resale.  So, I called up the realtor who sold us the home to get her take on the dilemma- do we keep the cramped space and go with the shower and tub or do we create a master bath retreat with a humongous shower?  Shockingly, she gave us her realtor blessing for the huge shower without hesitation.  According to her, more often that not, buyers prefer that luxurious, large shower instead of the standard tub/shower combo.  Plus, she pointed out, we still had a tub in the guest bathroom.  If not for that, she said she’d probably recommend keeping the tub in the master.  And with that, we added the obscenely large shower to our house and I. Love. It.  And how cute is our little bench and shampoo/soap niche?  The niche was one of the most clever ideas.  I love being able to stow all my bottles in the shower in a hidden place.  The tile guy recommended using the small-sized shower floor tile for the niche backer for a little pizzazz.  Genius!

Weirdest moment of the renovation: when the contractor walked in on me measuring my shampoo bottles to be sure we built the niche tall and wide enough to accommodate all my girly items.  The best part was after I gave him the measurements I wanted and specified that I wanted two shelves in the niche, he tried convincing me that it was too big and that I didn’t need all that space.  Ha!  You know a guy’s a single bachelor when….

Biggest surprise of the renovation: the color of the cabinets.  I was all set to pick-up my paintbrush and recover the cabinets with my typical white cabinet paint but my mom suggested stepping outside the box and going beige.  I was hesitant but vowed to give it a try.  I could always paint over it if I didn’t like it.  A few strokes later and I was sold.  The color really compliments the granite well and ties back to the stone-look of the shower.  Nice call, Mom!

Biggest stress of the renovation: locking Chloe up everyday.  It broke my heart confining her.  I mean, she had her food/water/litter box plus two nice big windows for bird/squirrel creeping so she was fine.  Or so Chris said.  At least the renovated bathroom gave her a new hobby: watching water drops fall down the frameless glass shower door.  And it only took her a few weeks to figure out the shower is blocked by a solid wall and has finally stopped pouncing headfirst into the glass.  Ah, Chloe, all cuteness, no brains.


Well, it’s over… FINALLY. Seriously, this entire project was a nightmare- we had no bathroom, a bedroom that was being used for equipment storage, a living room that was a dusty path between the front door and the bedroom, and a backyard that was mostly trash. Needless to say, we were pretty glad to see it all go, but all the frustration was totally worth it. Below, I’ve chronicled some of our best moments.

My favorite part post-renovation: the shower. When you use a typical shower/tub combo or standard-size standalone shower, you don’t realize just how cramped it is. In fact, it felt a little weird the first few times I used the new warehouse-sized shower, but now that I’m used to it I’m not sure I could ever go back to one of those wimpy showers again. I mean, seriously- I could probably park my car in there.

Weirdest discovery: At some point, someone attempted to take down the wallpaper, only to realize it wasn’t wallpaper- it was the paper covering of the gypsum panel that make up the drywall. That’s right- no texture, no plaster, no wallpaper… just paint over bare drywall. What’s really weird, though, is that someone tried to texture it with… sand. Like, the kind you’d find at the beach. Sand. I think the most reasonable conclusion in that an old Navy vet had a flashback and got the bathroom wall confused with the floor of an aircraft carrier, and mixed sand into the paint for traction. Or something like that.

Most satisfying moment: sorting out the plate of spaghetti someone once called a wiring job in the attic above the bathroom. I detailed it in an earlier post, but basically I combined circuits so that every stupid light in the room didn’t have to have it’s own switch, eliminated a fair number of redundant circuits, and relocated the switches to a wall that would still exist by the end of the project. The reason it was so satisfying, though, was getting to see the look on the contractor’s faces when I demanded to do my own electrical: it was clearly the kind of job they planned on making the most money on, presumably by taking advantage of people that think it’s too complicated and/or dangerous to DIY.

Most frustrating moment: the shower door. Again, this was detailed in a previous post, but the jist of it is that our original contract clearly stated a frameless shower door, but what showed up was something with a horrendous chrome frame. During the transition from bid to contract, we did a bit of haggling and some items got cut or changed. Apparently, one of those items was the frameless shower glass, but the actual contract didn’t specify one way or the other. We assumed we were getting the previously discussed frameless shower glass, they assumed a framed shower was acceptable. Moral of this story: if it’s a “must have,” make sure it’s specified in black-and-white!

Overall, this project was worth every minute and every penny. We transformed an area of the house we were once afraid to enter into a completely custom bathroom. I think we had some great work done at a fair price, and at minimum will break even in terms of the value it adds to the house. And we only had to paint it twice!

Materials Breakdown:

  • Wall Paint Color: Behr, Pewter Tray, Satin
  • Cabinet Paint Color: Behr, Wheat Bread, High-Gloss
  • Cabinet Hardware: Lowe’s, $3.12 each
  • Sink Faucets: We reused the existing faucets which are Pegasus brand and are discontinued.  This one from Home Depot is a close match and a good deal at $88.
  • Sinks: Our sinks were included in the cost of our granite installation but here are similar white undermount sinks from Home Depot for $78.
  • Granite: The type of granite we used is called Delicatus
  • Floor Tile: Floor and Decor, $3.79/sq ft
  • Shower Faucet: Home Depot, we got it on special for $70 but now the price is up to $169.
  • Shower Tile: Floor and Decor, $2.19/sq ft
  • Shower Accent Tile: Floor and Decor, $8.49/sq ft
  • Shower Pencil Bullnose: Seconds and Surplus, $6.99 each
  • Shower Floor Tile: Floor and Decor, $12.99 each
  • Wall Hooks: DIY project, details to come soon
  • Wall Shelves: DIY project, details here
  • Pot Lights: Home Depot, $18.76 each
  • Vanity Light: Lowe’s, $99
  • Mirror: DIY project, details here
  • Towel Rings: Bed Bath and Beyond, $19.99
  • Toilet Paper Holder: Bed Bath and Beyond, $29.99


Filed under Bathroom, Renovation

The Bathroom Saga: Part 3


The rewiring for the master bath was done (more on that here) but we still had A LOT left to do to turn our ugly beast of a bathroom (view pictures here) into the serene retreat we so desperately wanted.

To recap, here was our renovation check list:

  • Demo shower
  • Demo tub
  • Demo toilet
  • Move shower location to old tub location (meaning our foundation needed a little jackhammering)
  • Move toilet location to old shower location (aka more jackhammering)
  • Demo shower wall and turn into a pony wall
  • Transform linen closet into a built-in cabinet
  • Replace sinks (goodbye yellow shell sinks!)
  • Replace counter with granite
  • Replace cracked tile floor with faux wood tile
  • Install HUGE newly tiled shower, complete with a built-in nook for shampoos and such and a bench
  • Install frameless glass shower door
  • Install new shower head and handle
  • Install new toilet
  • Tear down wallpaper
  • Retexture walls
  • Repaint walls
  • Replace old hollywood light above sinks to something a little less… hollywood… and less brass
  • Install can lighting
  • Demo heat lamp (not really needed in our very warm, very Southern bathroom)
  • Install new fan cover
  • Paint cabinets
  • Install new cabinet pulls
  • Dress up mirror
  • Install two new towel hangers
  • Install new toilet paper holder
  • Install some sort of wall storage
  • Dig up some wall art

Phew!  We had quite the list to get through!  As many renovation horror stories as I’ve heard, we got by pretty easy.  Once we settled on a crew, they worked quickly, which was nice considering we had to lock up Chloe, our cat, all day for a few weeks.  She’s quite the nosy cat and not the brightest crayon in the box so we knew disaster awaited if we let her roam around in the midst of all this chaos.

That said, we still had our fair share of small hiccups along the way.  Like when we signed off on a frameless shower door but a framed door arrived.

Or when Chris came home to find the high-end sink faucets (one of the only items we decided to keep from the original bathroom to save moo-lah) tossed in the trash.  A day before the trash came.  Phew!

Or when our crew decided to go all telenovela on us when the main contractor and his carpenter stopped speaking and they refused to be on-site when the other was… causing our bathroom progress to stall for a week (which was especially frustrating because all that was left to do was install the shower head and handle).

But, we lived to tell the tale and, honestly, would be up for enduring the craziness again for a big project we needed help with.  The crew did amazing work, kept out of the way of the rest of the house, and were very understanding when it came down to the things we wanted to tackle ourselves.  That said, we were SO glad when it was over and took a big, long break from renovating afterwards.  Sometimes, you just need to stop and enjoy it for awhile… well, until I get antsy for change again!


Where was I? Oh, right. Our bathroom was destroyed:

After I finished all the electrical and installed the lights, the crew could see to do their major work. The biggest job (and literally the only reason we hired professionals) was the plumbing work. We were moving the shower to the tub’s old location, moving the toilet to where the shower was, and wouldn’t be installing a new tub. Now, at first glance it seems like this might actually be a simple swap- after all, everything had a drain and a water supply so one might assume it wouldn’t be too involved. Well, bathtubs have 2″ diameter drain pipes, showers have 3″ pipes, and toilets have 4″ pipes. Just our luck, everything would require larger pipes than what was already in that location. Yikes!

Now, since all these drains were literally cemented into the floor, a jackhammer would have to be used to break up the foundation. I came home one day and the plumbers told me that the contractor hadn’t delivered the jackhammer yet, so they had started busting up the concrete with a sledgehammer- now that’s dedication! Although I must say, I wasn’t really prepared for how strange my house looked with a hole in the middle of it:

And here it is, new plumbing in place and patched back up:

And now the shower can be framed out:

When we took out the furdown, we realized that part of its purpose was to hide this little guy, the vent pipe for the sink drains (it’s also a proof of apparent miscommunication between the original plumber and framer of the house).

Look at that wallpaper! Fortunately our carpenter specialized in trim, so he hooked us up with some crown moulding that completely hides the pipe.

Our sink area served as a workbench throughout most of the project:

Finally, after all the electrical, plumbing, framing, and drama, it was time for drywall. If you look in the shower, you’ll see that it’s actually concrete backerboard, since the typical gypsum sheetrock (i.e. drywall) isn’t strong enough to support the weight of tiles.

And in goes the floor- we wanted wood but knew it would never survive in a bathroom, so we found a wood-look tile that fools everyone… or did, until drywall dust got into the grout.

One final light to go in before paint and moulding:

And the tiling of the shower. Note the levels- our tile guy did an awesome job, and everything is perfectly flush.

Finally, time to paint! Since this is a high-moisture area, I primed everything to help keep moisture out of the walls. Has anyone noticed that there are no pictures of Julie working on this entire blog? Hmm…


Um, excuse me.  Someone had to take these pictures!


After a bit of drama and miscommunication, we got a frameless shower door installed. It’s difficult to keep clean, but when we do, the cat can’t stand it.

True to form, Julie decided she didn’t like the original color, and we had to paint again.

By this point everything worked, and it felt magical for at least a month. Just a few final touches, and we were almost done!

Stay tuned when we (finally) unveil the after pictures!

To read part 1 of the saga, click here.

To read part 2 of the saga, click here.


Filed under Bathroom

The Bathroom Saga: Part 2


And thus continues our epic journey into renovating our master bathroom.  If you missed the walk-thru of our outdated, non-functioning, mess of a bathroom, you can catch up on it here.

In short, we wanted to go from this:

To this:

And from this:


To pretty much anything else.

We had work to do!  First, we had to settle on our overall look.  We thought back to the most relaxing, serene place we’d been to and our honeymoon resort, Excellence Playa Mujeres (we highly recommend it!), immediately came to mind.  Join me in drooling over this little slice of paradise.

Nothing like a winding river and bed of hammocks overlooking the Caribbean.

And did we mention having a private, rooftop pool above our room?

And now for the bathroom.  We loved the rich, earthy tones and the glamour that the hint of bronze brought.  We also loved how large the bathroom felt with a frameless glass shower door and open concept.  We knew this should be the inspiration for our own master retreat.

We wanted to go for something a little lighter in tile color, bring some color to the walls (rather than beige), and go with brushed nickel (instead of bronze) but we’d keep the incorporation of the natural stone look and the openness of the layout.

We also needed something that would look great without breaking the bank so we scored some awesome deals at Floor and Decor and Seconds and Surplus.

Here’s what we ended up with:

Shower Tile: Antique White Porcelain Tile 13″ x 13″, Floor and Decor, $2.19/sq ft

Shower Accent Tile: Cappucino Beige Mosaic Marble Tile, Floor and Decor, $8.49/sq ft

Shower Accent Pencil Bullnose: Bottocino Marble Bullnose, Seconds and Surplus, $6.99 each

Shower Floor Tile: Cappucino Beige Mosaic Marble Tile, Floor and Decor, $12.99 each

Bathroom Floor Tile: Exotica Walnut Porcelain Tile, Floor and Decor, $3.79/sq ft

Granite for Sink Counter

Now it was time for the fun part- knocking down some walls!  It’s funny how swinging a hammer into a wall can bring out the inner-bulldozer in you.  Chris had to hold me back from taking out the rest of the walls in the house.  Apparently we needed those.

I don’t know if it’s because I was raised cheap or because I am cheap, but I can’t stand paying someone else to do something I can do myself. In the case of this bathroom, it was strictly a lack of equipment and time that led me to hire a professional. Naturally, though, I couldn’t give in entirely- I wasn’t going to go down without a fight, and I insisted on doing at least a few things myself. The most obvious to me was electrical.

Now, please don’t let me lead you to believe that electrical work is easy. You can get killed, burn your house down, or both. That said, I was going to need a hammer.

In the toilet/shower area, we had five switches (three lights, one fan, and one heat lamp), which means we had five circuits. I wanted two circuits: one for all the lights, one for the fan. This meant that in addition to installing new lights, I’d have to completely change the wiring for them as well. Since I’d be eliminating circuits, I’d also be eliminating switches, but here’s the kicker: all the switches were located on walls that would not exist in the new plan. So I was basically starting from scratch, starting from the power source all the way to the wall switch.

Here’s what the shower area looked like after I started ripping out wiring. Both of these walls were going to be completely torn down, so I relocated the switches to the wall adjacent to the closet.

The trick to electricity is to remember that it only flows one way through a circuit, so you have to be absolutely sure you’ve got your wiring put together in the proper order or you might get some interesting results when you flip the switch. If you don’t know the difference between a parallel circuit and a series circuit, your DIY wiring probably shouldn’t go beyond plugging something in.  Hire outside help!

Anyway, I removed the spaghetti-plate of wiring in the attic and replaced it with one clean, simple circuit for all the lights, and spliced in one more for the fan. Builders, if you’re reading this, note: bathroom lights don’t all need their own switches. With all the lighting done, the contractors could finally see to complete their work, which will be unveiled soon.  *Cue the suspense.


Filed under Bathroom, Renovation