When we started shopping for our first house together back in 2010, the must-have list included two bathrooms (or at least 1.5 bathrooms). At the time, we were both in our mid-twenties, newly married and working full-time, trying to get out the door and onto the crowded (always delayed, always hot) subway and downtown at a reasonable approximation of 9:00. In my mind, two bathrooms were going to be a key to our happy marriage.

Of course, a $400,000 shopping budget didn’t afford us many options in our desired neighbourhood in Toronto (not in 2010 and certainly not now) and so one day I reduced the MLS search parameters to one bathroom and our house popped up. Adorable, affordable and right smack in the middle of where we hoped to live. As soon as I saw it in person I knew I could live without the second bathroom (and without a linen closet, front hall closet and anything resembling a normal sized bedroom). How has it already been one year since we called that place home?

When we started shopping for our second house in 2017, we had a much larger shopping budget and our family had grown (by a cat and a kid) since buying that first house seven years earlier. However, we found our needs/wants in a home had remained exactly the same. Floor plans containing two bedrooms and one bathroom were the only ones I would consider. I had gotten used to cleaning just one bathroom (after dishes, my least favourite chore) and had no desire to add several toilets, tubs and floors to my chore list.


Besides, if I had more than one bathroom, how would I have chosen which bathroom to put this perfect specimen in? Out for a run last fall, I spied this turquoise toilet peaking out of a damp cardboard box next to a dumpster behind a Chinese restaurant. I circled the block, thinking about it, and then, on my next loop, approached the dumpster to inspect it. It looked to be in perfect condition, so I ran home and begged Pierre to load Frankie in the car and help me bring it home.


He was extremely unhappy with me (it was pouring rain after all), but I knew this piece would be worth the fight. Replacing our old grimy toilet was on the list for the second phase of the bathroom renovation (you can read about the first phase here), but never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined finding the perfect toilet on the side of the road (okay, on private property). It is quite literally the exact same shade as our living room (and now, house exterior). The one little chip (middle photo, above), I touched up with nail polish, just to protect it. The chip is covered by the toilet seat, but I didn’t want it chipping further.

Pierre cleaned the tank and bowl and we discarded and replaced all the innards, so it’s a brand new toilet on the inside. The Bemis-brand retro style seat (fits like a glove) was $35 at Home Depot. I decided to bring a plumber in to install the toilet. It’s one-of-a-kind and I knew I’d be so mad if either of us cracked it. Between the two of us, we’ve installed exactly one toilet in our lives (made necessary because we cracked the one we already had), so I wanted someone who had installed thousands of toilets to install this one.

Incredibly, there were no issues. I’m so used to everything-that-can-go-wrong-will that I was bracing myself for the bolts to not have the right spacing, the seat to not fit or the tank to crack.


Removing the old toilet and installing the new one (though it’s definitely older than our old toilet — the inside of the tank is stamped Dec 10, 1963) kicked off phase two of the bathroom renovation. Phase two was a pretty quick one. It consisted of replacing the toilet and replacing and painting the casings around the window and door and the baseboards. Our carpenters did the trim in the bathroom at the same time as the trim in our den.

It was actually supposed to be the carpentry that kicked off phase two (rather than the other way around) because it’s obviously easier to install baseboards without a toilet in the way, but an issue with our kitchen sink — turns out water and gravity worked together to pull a steel wine stopper into our garburator — necessitated a call to our plumber a few weeks earlier than planned.


Phase three will be even quicker — just replacing the countertop on the vanity — and phase four (replacing the tub fixtures) will be completed at the same time as our hallway renovation, which I’ve decided won’t be happening until Frankie gives up napping. I am just DONE with trying to keep my toddler asleep while saws, drills and nail guns operate at full throttle so there will be no more (loud) interior projects for a little while.

All in all, this has been/is planned to be a very simple and inexpensive project for once. After all the time/money spent elsewhere in the house, we need one like this! We have kept the tub, tub surround, floors, vanity, medicine cabinet and cabinetry (it all matches the kitchen), and changed out very simple things like hardware, light fixtures and paint to get what feels like a freshly renovated space. The one thing I had budgeted to spend some money on — the toilet — ended up being free.

Are sliding, frosted shower doors my favourite? Would I prefer a proper tile (instead of fibreglass) for the tub surround? A hundred times no and yes. But, like the toilet (a fight worth having), I feel like you have to choose your battles in a house like ours, which draws a fine line between historic charmer and money pit. There’s a rotted out corner of our house frame (a leak from an outdoor tap remained unaddressed for God-knows how long) that’s begging for our chequebook right now, so pretty happy with what I’ve been able to do in here for a few hundred dollars.




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