VICTORIA | OAK HOUSE

BIG BATHROOM POST

If you’ve been following along for a while, you’ll know that we’ve been tackling our bathroom renovation in stages. We only have one, plus a small child, and I knew early on that my capacity for living without a washroom while managing plumbers, tilers and drywallers was going to be non-existent. There are just certain compromises you have to make if you live in the (small) house that you’re renovating — and a designer bathroom in this stage of life was one of them.

Enter the mindset of working with what you’ve got — I think of it as a renter’s mindset — asking what small changes you can make to improve your space without actually inconveniencing yourself too much.

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Oh, hello again, 1993.

In the bathroom, updates started with hardware (on the vanity, slim cabinet, window and door), changing out lightbulbs (over the vanity) and replacing the overhead light fixture; replacing the floor grate; spray painting the toilet roll holder black; painting the walls, window and door; hanging art and new towel rods.

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A few months later, we had new trim installed along with a mint green 1963 toilet that I found sitting next to a dumpster outside of a Chinese restaurant near my house.

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I think that about catches us up to this month. I felt that I had made a number of improvements without spending much (the most expensive thing was the toilet installation at $400, though the toilet itself was free), but, as I looked around, I still felt the bathroom looked stuck in the ’90s.

Note: While we’re completely capable of installing a toilet ourselves, I hired a plumber so that he could replace all the innards with brand new parts. I also wanted to put this one-of-a-kind toilet in the hands of someone who has installed hundreds of toilets over the hands of my husband, who has installed exactly one toilet. 

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Part of that persistent 1993 vibe was definitely coming off the vanity countertop, which we updated recently to match the kitchen. Replacing the countertops, sink and faucet really helped our kitchen feel finished and I think the same result was achieved in the bathroom!

For the curious, the countertop is a Cambria product (pattern Dovedale) and the faucet (Purist in matte black) and sink (Vertical in white) are both Kohler products. 

I also feel like our VCT flooring plays a role in the bathroom’s dated appearance (oh why wasn’t matte black hex tile “in” in 1993?), but, unfortunately, with the toilet and baseboards now installed, the VCT isn’t going anywhere for a while.

Which leaves our almond-coloured fibreglass tub/shower surround and the frosted doors on a chrome track.

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Since redoing the tub/shower just doesn’t feel like an option (both for budget and sanity reasons), I started thinking like a renter and Googled “replacing shower doors with a curtain.” I had spent 18 months thinking this was an impossible task in our bathroom, since our tub isn’t in an enclosure to which you could mount a shower rod. (That track wraps around in a kind of half wall that you can see above.) But once I found this Apartment Therapy how-to, I looked again at how it was all constructed and realized that, so long as I was okay with leaving that frosted half-wall as well as a supporting piece of the track frame (I would have to be if I didn’t want to embark on a huge renovation in here), I could remove the doors and track and mount a shower rod. Or, more specifically, my dad could remove the doors and track and mount a shower rod when he visited in October.

Not only does a shower curtain look way better than frosted doors (in my opinion), but they’re much easier to keep clean (replace an inexpensive lining and/or throw the curtain in the wash), very customizable (literally tens of thousands of shower curtain designs to choose from) and they’re an inexpensive change down the road, should I ever crave different colours or pattern in here. Pulled closed, a shower curtain hides a dated tub/shower completely, helping to manage my visceral reaction to almond fibreglass whenever I enter the bathroom. Plus, a track makes it impossible to sit on the edge of your tub, so annoying for me as that’s my preferred toenail painting spot.

I ran the idea by my dad and then — how big of me — ran it by Pierre, too. I ordered a shower rod, rings and curtain from Wayfair; picked up an inexpensive curtain liner from Canadian Tire (my favourite IKEA liner isn’t available online); checked my supply of caulk and waited. (I resisted asking my dad to tackle this the moment he walked in the door. Instead, he changed the flat tire on my car. Welcome to Victoria!)

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A few weeks in, I can safely say replacing the track and doors with a curtain was a great call. It looks way better, Frankie can play with cars in the bath, I can sit on the edge of the tub and even set a bath tray across the tub — so key as I enter month seven of this pregnancy (how?!).

With the countertop, sink, faucet and shower curtain updates all having happened in the same week, I was feeling pretty inspired in the bathroom and so I lit a candle, put on a podcast and took a closer look at the tall custom cabinet in here. This cabinet was put in at the same time as our kitchen cabinetry (hello, again, 1993) and we’ve kept it fairly empty for the entire time we’ve lived here. (It has, however, come in handy for holding extra toilet paper rolls.)

I painted and moved the tall chest of drawers that was in the hallway and serving as our “linen closet” into Frankie’s room recently (more on the changes in her room soon), leaving me with nowhere to store sheets and towels. I assumed I would find a new dresser for the hallway as this tall cupboard is very shallow, not great for bulky towels (or so I thought!). Surprise, surprise, everything fits in here — the extra sheets and mattress protectors for both girls, extra towels, toilet paper, wash cloths and bath toys. Feels so great to use the bathroom storage for maximum efficiency while also freeing up space in the hallway for something useful. If we end up losing the desk/chair in the den for a crib, the little corner of the hallway formerly occupied by the dresser might make a great spot for a fold-down desk or even just for the chair, which is an extra for our dining table and could come in handy for putting on boots/shoes (which we keep in the bedrooms).

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Finally, we swapped our hollow core door for a solid core heritage reproduction door this past week. I’m going to do a whole post about the doors (HOW COULD I RESIST A DOOR POST? IT’S BEEN SO LONG) because you bet I couldn’t stop at just one heritage reproduction door, but I will just say I’m so happy we made this change. Not only do all the interior doors in our house now match (I was pretending to be very chill about the fact that they didn’t), but solid wood doors are just so satisfyingly substantial and also great for noise transfer in a small house.

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One last thing I’d like to tackle in the bathroom (it’s going to go on our 2019 House Project List) is replacing the tub/shower fixtures with matte black options as best we can. We’ll be limited by size and spacing (since we don’t actually want to replace the tub/shower surround), but I’m hoping to say goodbye to the almond grab bars and chrome shower head. In the meantime, I’ll just pull that shower curtain closed.

To sum up!

Some befores:

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Some afters:

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8 thoughts on “BIG BATHROOM POST

  1. This is so fresh looking! I love-love that toilet and how that mid-century-mod picture with the squares fits so perfectly. I prefer these ”work with what you have” reno’s because they take more creativity and are more unique in the end (anyone can throw money at something to gut and fill it with Houzz cliches). Btw. If you were to change out the floors with a Linoleum-type flooring (some are very hip) you don’t have to pull out your baseboards – just the quarter round and that’s cheap and easy to re-do. You can do this with tiles too – but you would have a “ raised “lip”at the doorway that I can say from experience will jam your toes and send toddlers flying until everyone gets used to it (though they do sell wood edging that creates a tiny “ramp” if the tiles abut wooden floors).

    1. Yes! Wish I’d known about some of the laminate/linoleum options before I decided to leave both the kitchen and bathroom floors as-is. I’m less worried about the small cost of replacing or reinstalling the quarter-round and more worried about the one-of-a-kind toilet. Like, can I tile around it? Because the base is siliconed to the floor and if it cracks, it’s gone and can’t be replaced. Something to mull over in the future.

      1. Ah yes – the toilet! I think they are pretty removable (silicon stays pliable enough to cut) but definitely something to check with a plumber first. But honestly – the floor doesn’t look so bad at all. The shower curtains and new counter/sink and everything makes it much brighter. It’d be easier to update flooring in the kitchen for sure. But with a baby on the way I’m sure it’s a thing that can wait and have some hours of research dedicated to it in some wee hours coming up soon 😉

        1. PS Old-fashioned authentic linoleum is a “green” biodegradable product too (if you’re into that) and quite nice underfoot (soft and warmer than tiles). My parents spent my childhood covering it up with carpet or tearing it out of my Beach home. Everything mid-century was bad in the 1970-80’s! Oh – what lovely furniture they chucked for big poofy stuff!

          1. Thank you! In both cases (kitchen & bathroom) we felt the linoleum was “fine.” Not our first choice flooring by any means, but it wasn’t so terrible that we wanted to endure a reflooring project with young kids around. I do think we’ll get to it eventually — likely in 8-10 years when we’ve finished everything else and feel like making a few updates to spaces that’ll have looked the same for a while! So weird to think about being in one space for long enough to make changes to things we’ve only just finished!

  2. I think it’s looking great especially considering your limitations. One idea I have is painting the raised panel part of the cabinet doors black. One or two might be just enough to take it out of the ’90s. Maybe tape a piece of black tag board on the panel and see what you think. The room could take a strong graphic feel like that. If you figure out what to do with the almond shower surround let me know because I’ve got one too. 😉

    1. When we first bought the house panting all the honey oak wood cabinets (they’re in the kitchen, too) was a definite DO. Then I did a simple hardware change (wasn’t ready to prime and paint but wanted things to look a little better) and I was surprised by how much I liked the result! Painting all the cabinets is still a “maybe someday” though, especially because we have original fir floors underneath all the linoleum tile (in the kitchen anyways). If we ever refinish those floors that would be WAY too much wood and I’ll definitely be painting.

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