This is not a project that came together quickly or easily. Our “bargain” vanity cost us countless hours reinforcing it and trimming it out in a way that suited our vision and our budget, for example. On the other hand, the angled and beveled mirror that perfectly complements it turned up in Wendy’s inbox—on sale!—in an email blast. She all but tripped over it.
Some last details still need attention before we declare the bathroom complete—we’re looking for polished nickel keyhole covers for the vanity—but we’re both very happy with how the bathroom turned out.
Alex compares a 12” showerhead from Restoration Hardware with a 6” showerhead in the guest bath. By the time the makeover was complete—too late for this project— the store had begun offering an 8” head.
Bathroom Design Tips
1. Scour all resources to find just the right fixtures, materials, and construction approaches to fit your taste and budget.
> 2. Talk through every design decision with your partner.
3 . Measure, measure, and measure again before buying.
4. Do trial runs on design elements that may seem insignificant but have big impact, like grout color for a mosaic hex-tile floor. Radiant Heating
“No longer do we fear stepping barefoot out of the shower, or making a midnight trek to the loo without slippers. Since the bathroom is much longer than it is wide, we decided to install a radiant heating element in the primary walking lane down the center of the floor. • “Not only did we get a chance to perfect our self-leveling concrete skills (for more on that, see the blog oldtownhome.com), but the radiant strip from Warmly Yours is also more than adequate to keep the floor toasty, our feet warm, and it even adds a little heat to the room.”
“We knew we wanted a dark grey grout for our 1″ hex tile floor, but initially came home with grout that was second-lightest on the color chart. Fortunately, this wasn’t our first grout rodeo, so Alex mixed up a little bit of thin-set. Paying no attention to the fact that we were spending a beautiful Friday night to test grout colors, we popped the cork on a sparkling wine and did some experimenting on a sample board.
“As the grout began to cure, the formerly perfect shade of grey transformed into a color that looked almost white next to the stone tile. The next morning, we swapped the light grey grout for the darkest shade, testing it on our trusty sample board over an outdoor lunch. This one looked too dark.
“Frustrated but determined, we headed to a big-box store (there goes Saturday night) in search of more options. We found a color called “
Delorean Gray,” named for one of the most famous time machines ever created. On the test board it started out quite dark, but the next morning the color had dried to that soft medium grey we were searching for.”
Moving a Salvaged Tub
Cleaned, primed, and painted, the cast-iron clawfoot tub they’d picked up for a song a decade ago was finally ready to be moved up two flights of stairs. The two had dreamed about and dreaded this day. For Wendy, fear grew so overwhelming (what could go wrong, moving a 350-pound behemoth?) that she couldn’t be home. So Alex supervised the team on the day of the event. “I have to admit I smiled when the first guy got to the tub and said, Wow, you mean, this is all solid metal?” Alex remembers. “ I said, Yes—yes it is. That’s why we called you.”
With one man on either end of the tub and a third as spotter, the team made it safely up the first set of stairs. The next flight was more treacherous. Not only were the stairs steep and narrow, but Alex knew they were unsupported at the back. He advised the men to step only on the front of each step, and the team moved slowly upward.Then the lead carrier lost his footing—nothing terrible, but enough to stop forward momentum. Alex flashed back to when he was helping two others carry a massive piece of tempered glass. The lead man took an awkward step as they passed through a doorway, causing a ripple effect that allowed the edge of the glass to strike the door frame. The glass exploded into pieces.
“I remembered that huge explosion as I watched the tub begin to shift backwards, down toward the first floor,” Alex shudders. All of the weight of the tub shifted onto the rear carrier. Potential disaster flashed before his eyes. But the spotter tailing the two carriers planted his feet and put his shoulder against the lowest man, shifting his momentum forward. That boost steadied the rear of the tub—probably only two seconds, though Alex says his vision of the tub crashing down onto the movers, through the floor, and back to the basement was so “vividly realistic.” He came away impressed by the professionalism of the movers. “And that’s why Wendy didn’t let me do this job with a friend,” Alex concludes.
“Needing just a few pieces of custom-cut Carrara marble for the vanity and
shower bench, we were astounded to receive quotes that averaged around $2,600. This, for two smallish counters plus trim that could easily have been cut from waste marble. It worked out to about $160 per square foot.
“Discouraged, to say the least, we decided to shop further afield after a friend told us of her experience sourcing affordably priced marble—well outside the Washington, D.C., Beltway.
“A serendipitous trip to Chantilly, Virginia, led us to The Stone Studio. After we met with the owner–manager, he worked up an estimate based on Wendy’s rough sketch. It said $1,250—just $1,250!—and included measuring, fabrication, delivery, and installation. We had avoided the dreaded Beltway markup after all.”.
Vanity from Salvage
Thinking of transforming a vintage buffet into a bath vanity? Expect complications. At minimum, you’ll need to:
• Plan for a plumbing chase—two if it’s a double vanity.
• Lower the height (typically 36″–37″) to the more comfortable 33″–34″ usual for pedestal
sinks and vanities.
• Rebuild and beef up the framing around new plumbing.
• Tighten structural joints, especially if you plan to add a stone countertop.