The First Floor Bath Begins!

Now that we’ve talked about how much I love designing bathrooms, and what Victorian bathrooms were like, and what we’re dealing with, we can finally get started on our first bathroom in Martin Place – the first floor bath!


My goal is for this to be complete by the end of the summer – things like this take a long time when you both work full-time jobs and are doing all the work yourselves. Doug’s goal is to get me to stop making goals and deadlines (spoiler alert – he won’t succeed).

The bathroom is inside a room just off the Butler’s pantry that had been turned into a “bedroom” with a closet when the house became apartments. Luckily, the pocket doors to the library remained intact – I could see people VERY easily walling those doors off to make the room FEEL more like a bedroom. Here’s the room when we bought the house, still with carpet.


Another view of the room. The door you see in the picture is the door to the bathroom. Though we REALLY suspect this bathroom was added, details like the mouldings were certainly taken into account, which is nice!


If this HAD been one big room at one time, looking at old floorplans of Victorian houses from this time period, our best guess has always been that this room was the casual family dining / breakfast room. In the picture below, you can see the wall that was added long ago, with the bathroom on the right, and closet door on the left.


Our other best guess is that if this IS the case, then there wasn’t a bathroom originally on the first floor. The room itself is going to be turned into a Study / Office for Doug, and the bathroom will remain a full bath – just, more time-period appropriate.


There aren’t many redeeming factors in this bath, but the faucet is cute. It’s going to a friend’s house.


Less cute? The shower that never worked, that just had open, gaping holes behind the handles.


More cute: This creature who thinks she’s being helpful by lying here in the middle of the only floor space.


Demo step one is Mirror Removal!


Oooh! A new wallpaper!


And now, the tarp is a clubhouse! Best manager ever.


Here’s why we can’t have a TV show on HGTV (oh, let me count the ways): We don’t destroy things when we demo. This vanity is not pretty – but it’s solid, and someone will love it. It was tucked behind the wall on the left, and it took a lot of finagling to get it out in one piece. But it’s going to Habitat for Humanity, and not a landfill, so that makes me happy.



Here’s the wallpaper that was under the mirror. Nothing really old – it seems like it might be a coordinating paper to the wallpaper in the adjoining room.



BUT WAIT! There’s more! Behind the vanity on the back wall (which would be an original wall), I found something DELICIOUS!


Look at this wallpaper! It’s amazing. And it’s CLEARLY a kitchen wallpaper (I would guess from the 30s), so it bolsters my thought that this room was originally a breakfast dining room.



And with the vanity out, we could see some wood floors underneath. Also, I found EVERY EARRING BACK YOU EVER LOST under the vanity, including a few single earrings. If only one of them had been a diamond. That would have been helpful.


Next, we took out the toilet, and discovered the evidence of years of a super slow leak. Gross.


The shower came out next – the panels were in awesome shape. They almost look like they hadn’t been used. There are heading to Habitat, as well.





This paper doesn’t seem very old.


(I’m not sorry to lose this.)


It looks so much bigger now!


We ripped out the vinyl to see what kind of water damage we were dealing with.


I guess it could be worse?


This isn’t totally heartbreaking. We were planning to remove the floor for plumbing and move the toilet to a new location. So this isn’t really a loss. In fact, the fact that there is enough surrounding wood that we can save to use for patches elsewhere in the house is a pretty nice unexpected surprise!


The tub came out next, and it gave us surprisingly few issues on the way out.


Look how pretty the floor under the tub is!!!


Next up, the ever popular universal Old House Renovation Featurette, “I Wonder Why the Hell They Did THAT?” (Or, a second popular feature, “What’s Hiding Behind HERE?”)

The downstairs ceilings are 11 feet tall, but the bathroom ceiling is only 7.5 feet. We figured some of that was for venting for the exhaust fan, but that’s a LOT of extra room. If we can raise the ceiling, it gives us WAY more lighting possibilities.


Here we go! This is “End of the Demo Day” video quality, and not “Emmy Worthy” video quality. But I wanted to film in case zombies or gold doubloons dropped from the ceiling. YOU NEVER KNOW.

Look how much space is up here!!!!!



Not quite a blank slate, but it’s getting there!





So, what’s the plan?

Well, we’re changing up the floorplan a touch. It’ll give a little more room, and I feel like it makes more sense. floorplan-scans4

I haven’t fully decided on a wall tile plan, but I’ve been sketching and playing with some options.


For the floor, I wanted to do a marble hex pattern that’s just a bit crazy. I had so much fun creating the pattern for the kitchen cart, that I wanted to continue.

This was the first motif I liked as I started coloring.


I love the idea of doing the room in greys and yellows. I kept playing with the shapes…..


And now I’m REALLY excited about the floor design.



I’m planning to do a dark grey and a white marble, and the yellow will be a yellow onyx tile. It’s not a SUPER bright yellow, and that’s perfect. I’m hoping the floor looks like it was born in this house.


We have a couple of fixtures already! I’m going to restore this 55″ clawfoot tub for the room. It’s been hanging out in the backyard. It looks rough, but it’ll clean up fine.




The challenge will be finding a new spot for drinks for our holiday party (yes, that’s the same tub, in a super blurry picture, less rusty a couple of years ago).


We also have a sink! This was on Craiglist, being removed from a house similar in age to ours in Indianapolis.


While I’m sad it was removed from another house, I’m thrilled to give it a new home. I’m even more thrilled to give it a new faucet, because that is seriously horrendous. This should clean up beautifully!



We didn’t get the legs or brackets with this, but we’re planning on using brackets to support the sink, just like this picture from a Victorian bath catalog.


That’s where we are! The next step is to remove the ceiling, walls that will get tile, and the floor, and do the rough plumbing and electrical. Stay tuned! (But, not tomorrow. This is going to take a while!)



  1. You people are amazing! I would have lost my mind 20 rooms or 400 projects ago, whichever came first!

    LOOOOOOOOVE the tile that you designed!!!!!! WOW!!!



  2. Love the tile design, too, it’s gorgeous.
    Better not let Ross see that sink.
    But I held my breath as your husband opened that ceiling without a mask.

    1. We thinks it’s either to keep the heat in, or that they just wanted to use 8′ sheets of drywall, and not have to put multiples together to build the wall. But who knows!

  3. Confession time….

    I’ve been hanging out on your site for quite some time but this post has inspired me to post a question. I see that some of the wood flooring (especially the gross parts around the toilet) will get replaced by tiles (awesome pattern and mock up technique, by the way). However, how does one go about sealing up the wood and prepping the floor to lay down the tiles?

    1. Hi Brandy! We’re actually going to lay a new subfloor, and take that floor up. We’ll salvage what we can for patches elsewhere in the house. We’re going to slope the new floor and put a drain in it (like a wet room), so we’ll start from scratch. Once the subfloor is down, we’ll lay cement board, and then the tile will go on top of that. If the wood floor there was PERFECT, and we wanted to use it, we could just lay the cement board on top of that. 🙂

      1. Wow, sloping to a drain, that’s hardcore! Planning for messy houseguests?

        One thing I’d recommend considering with your tile is electric radiant heat. We did it in our bathroom, as I always am annoyed by cold tile in bare feet. We’ve been living with it for 6 years now, and I still notice and enjoy it daily. The materials are pretty cheap (a couple hundred, less if you find a sale), but it is a bit tedious to install. We used small tile in our floor too, so we actually built our layers up-side-down, with the cable directly on the wood subfloor, then buried in thinset with 1/4″ hardibacker on top. That gave us a smooth, flat surface to lay the small tile on. The recommended construction is to put the cable on top of the backer, then put a layer of thinset down to bury the cables, then lay tile on another bed of thinset after that’s dry. It’s tricky to get the layer on the cables flat enough for small tile, so that’s why we came up with our strange approach. The only tricky part was being VERY careful with our layout so we didn’t hit the cable with the backer screws when we screwed it down.

        Our total floor construction is 3/4″ plywood subfloor, then heating cable, then 1/4″ cement backer, then tile. It worked out to be exactly the same thickness as the wood floor in the adjoining hallway, so there’s no awkward transition, which is something I really like.

        With your bathroom being downstairs, perhaps it won’t see bare feet as often as ours, but I’d still recommend considering it. It adds a warm treat even to our mid-night visits to the bathroom with a cranky baby.

      2. Amy (and Seth) – thank you so much for your reply and thoughts. This is some really good information to consider. – Brandy

  4. I loooove the pattern you designed! i even like it with the purple-ish grey-ish colour you used! Ah ah I totally thought of Ross too when I saw the vintage sink!

  5. We made a similar decision to switch from wood flooring to tile when we renovated our bathroom. The original flooring had bad rot around the toilet, which had been crudely “patched” with OSB before the entire bathroom was carpeted in gray shag carpeting. When was wall-to-wall carpet in a bathroom EVER a good idea? We salvaged all the solid flooring, which came in very handy for patching other areas of the house (and spared us from raiding closets for matching heart pine).

    I appreciate your deliberate approach to demolition, rather than the ridiculous sledgehammering from the stupid renovation shows. Not only does it allow you to reclaim useful materials, but you often learn valuable clues on the history and construction of the house.

    Can’t wait to see the rest of it come together!

    1. Thanks, Seth! We were planning on raiding closets, too, but I think that we’ll actually be okay with everything we found here! This bathroom also had carpet in it when we moved in. So gross – and one of the upstairs bathrooms did, as well. I have no idea what people were thinking!!!

  6. So exciting! Part of me is so thankful to have all of our original blueprints, no guess work. But, part of me is also jealous of your opportunity to have a creative design adventure!

    And thank you for sending what you can to be re used. I cringe so hard every time I see someone swing a sledge hammer on those stupid DIY reno shows.

    1. I would LOVE to have original blue prints – that would be amazing! How awesome! I’m glad we can donate things, as well. That’s the thing I hate the most about TV shows. SO much is in decent enough shape – I wish it could be used, but they always smash things to pieces. I know there’s so much that goes into landfills from us as it is – you can’t help that. But if we can help out a little, I’m glad we can.

  7. I found Ross over New Year’s and through him I found you. I enjoy your blog and your solutions for your homes. I am so grateful that you don’t just rip out and discard things that can be donated for reuse. Thank you, thank you.

  8. Just discovered your blog and have been bingeing for the past several days. Love what you’ve done but know I would never have the skills (or patience) for it. Victorian isn’t my particular design cup of tea but I love seeing any type of restoration blog because I appreciate the value of saving existing homes rather than keeping on building new places. Most of these new homes just don’t seem to have a “soul”. I would love to live in an old home but can’t talk my spouse into it. Keep up the fantastic work.

  9. I love that sink, Amy! I scour Craigslist almost daily looking for finds like that, but no luck so far…

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