The Cottage Bathroom : Post One

I haven’t blogged in a while, and I’ve missed it. Primarily, I haven’t written because of the insanity that is fall and marching band season, and adding to the usual chaos of this time of year is that our wonderful painter who painted our house wants to move into the Cottage and be our super tenant. Awesome – except that it’s not finished. So, we’re racing in every bit of free time that we have to get it done, and choosing to hire out a few things in order to get it moving faster. Ironically, hiring out part of the project to make it go faster is actually a learning experience, because things aren’t going in the order that I want them to go, and so it feels like it is taking longer….. I definitely know now that I like doing the work ourselves, and I want to be in charge of the timeline!

Just a quick recap – “The Cottage” (as we call it) is an adorable 1876 Victorian Cottage, with about 900 square feet. It has two bedrooms, one bathroom, and a living room (parlor), dining room, kitchen, and utility room/laundry room. We’re doing a complete renovation : every surface is being touched. The bathroom is large! When we first looked at the house, it had a toilet, vanity, and clawfoot tub. After it was foreclosed on, someone snatched the clawfoot, which should involve some jail time for someone if I had my way. The house has never had a shower in its 138 years!

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The wallpaper….. it makes me dizzy.

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There are two closets in the bathroom (none in the rest of the house). There is a large reach-in closet, and a huge walk-in closet. The closets create a wonderland of doors – it’s bizarre, but the storage is pretty amazing.

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And there was no exhaust fan – just a ceiling fan. In a bathroom. Clearly, since our plans include adding a shower, this is going to be resolved rather quickly.

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The floor was toast, and so we ripped it up, which allowed us to add support for the tub, and also to run all new plumbing (pex), and move the HVAC, since the current vent emptied where I was planning on putting the shower. We also moved the toilet to its new home, and added HVAC to the walk-in closet. Doug thught was was weird, but if that was MY closet, I would really want to be able to stare at my clothes and pick out outfits without freezing. I mean, I know it’s “just a rental,” and we aren’t making it to the standards that WE would want, but my rule of thumb has been to make everything as period-appropriate as possible, and I want to make it something that I would want to rent. So, HVAC in the closet it is!

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With a new subfloor in, self-leveling concrete went down to make a base for the tile.

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The tile was a Craigslist score from about a year ago. Normally, I would think that this is a bit too large for a bathroom – the tiles are 8 inches. But, we bought them for about $.03 a tile, so I decided it was fine. They came with green floral 2″ squares, which I switched out for black. We cut the single tiles from a 12×12″ mesh sheet.

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This is where I get sad. We hired out the tiling. I mean, it’s still my design, but we hired it out to get it done quicker. As we know from previous bathrooms, tiling is my favorite, and bathrooms are my favorite, so letting someone else do my favorite job has been hard for me. But it looks really good so far.

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I picked out the shower tiles and design by playing around on the floor at Menards. Classic black and white subway, of course! Sometime, I’m going to do colorful tile in Martin Place and break the black and white mold. But, not in the rental – neutral all the way here!

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The new bathroom will have a double vanity, tub shower combo, and toilet. It will be nicer than anything I have at Martin Place, so I will be jealous. It was a big BIG GIANT struggle to NOT put a clawfoot with a shower in here. I really wanted to , but I opted for what would be a bit more practical. I’m just about at peace with that decision.

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New lighting was added – the ceiling fixture is an exhaust fan, and some simple sconces over the vanity. Let there be light!!!

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The hole in the wall in the left is from closing up a window – we did this shortly after we bought the house. There were two windows in the bathroom, and leaving them both would have made a shower very difficult. So, we closed one in, and restored the siding outside. Plus, there’s no reason to have two windows on the first floor bathroom of a house. Unless you’re an exhibitionist. I suppose there’s that.

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Next we removed the plaster in anticipation of adding backerboard for the shower walls.

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This job was the dustiest.

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I wonder how many people find plaster and lathe to be as lovely as I do.

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We scored the edges with a circular saw, and knocked out the plaster with all the pent-up aggressions of a 1,000 years.

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We knew the vanity was going to get moved into place soon, so I started working on the baseboards, so we could have at least one in place before the vanity went in. Since the whole cottage has painted woodwork, I kept with that theme, only I chose black for a bit of drama.

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I like it! The door, closet, and window casings will remain white. I chose black grout to bring out the pattern of the tile, and for ease of cleaning.

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The shower was framed, plumbing in place, and the tub moved in and set. (The blue is the protective coating. Don’t worry.)

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I worked on plaster repair to get the walls smooth and pretty before the vanity was moved into place.

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And plaster repair in the reach-in closet, plus priming.

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I chose a cheaper, less fancy baseboard for inside the closet area, and got those painted as well.

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The vanity wall is primed!

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The vanity is moved into place. Another Craigslist score – this has never been used, and has a marble top and oodles of storage. It was a little low, so we added feet to it it raise it up, which makes it feel more like a piece of furniture anyway, which I love.

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The walls for the shower are in, and now you can really get a feel for what the room is going to look like. It certainly doesn’t feel as large anymore with everything in place, but I really like the layout I came up with.

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The toilet is tucked behind the shower wall in its own little niche.

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And I found cast-iron vent covers that tie into the tile pattern.

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Some touch-up paint to do, but we scribed the baseboards around the vanity to make it sit flush to the wall.

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The last major wall repair – which will HOPEFULLY be finished this week – is the walk-in closet. Once this is done, major priming and painting can occur, and the installation of woodwork!

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So, it’s coming along, and hopefully, it will be all finished with a tenant in about 3 weeks. In the meantime, pray for our sanity.


  1. I should have used a circular saw when I cut my plaster. But I guess it’s no big loss since the electrician wrecked the parts of the walls that I didn’t wreck anyway right?

    And, I totally thought about looting abandoned buildings in Philly to finish my house.

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