...because home doesn't happen overnight.
08.12.14 / The Master Bathroom

When we bought our house three years ago, the plan was to scrub the original bathrooms really well and live with them for a few years before renovating them. But in the midst of demolition, we discovered black mold behind one of the bathroom walls when we demo’d a shared kitchen wall. Upon further inspection, there were cracked shower tiles in each of the bathrooms allowing water to seep into the walls. We ended up gutting both bathrooms to remedy the mold problem. We finished the master bathroom before moving in and it’s been our only functioning bathroom for the past 2+ years. Yep, all five of us use one bathroom. And I’m still alive to tell its story.

master bath before 1

master bath before 2

The original bathroom was pink and gray – complete with a matching vinyl shower curtain, window curtain and valance (!). The vanity was way too small. The fluorescent lighting had to go and the only ventilation was an open window. However, we didn’t mind the layout and the window in the shower provided a decent amount of natural light.

master bath after 1

To save time and money, we kept the original layout and toilet but all the other fixtures and finishes are new. The electric was upgraded to service a sconce above the vanity, a can light above the tub and a proper ventilation fan.

master bath after 2

The original aluminum window was replaced with a vinyl one featuring privacy glass. The glass is smooth to the touch (and easy to clean) but textured in between the double panes for privacy. I am so, so, SO happy to have a window in the shower! It’s as close as I’ll ever get to an outdoor shower in Ohio.

The original shower tile was only installed about two-thirds of the way up the wall. We chose to take the new wall tile to the ceiling to give the appearance of taller ceilings and a bigger space. We contemplated a glass door or partition on the tub / shower but the placement of the plumbing would have made entry / exit into the shower tricky. We opted for a simple floor-to-ceiling shower curtain instead and it works great.

master bath after 6

Bathrooms tend to feel very slick and sterile but I’m drawn to natural, nubby and woven textures. To achieve that tactile vibe I love, I chose tiles with interesting textures. The shower tile almost has a glittery appearance. It shimmers in the light from the window. Not to mention, the reflective surface is another way to trick the eye into seeing a brighter, larger space.

master bath after 3

The sink area of the bathroom is visible from our bed(room) so I wanted something super simple that would tie in to the bedroom and not look too utilitarian. I had my heart set on a floating vanity but Steve requested drawers for all of his beauty supplies. (He’s kinda high maintenance.) The compromise was a floating vanity boasting two deep drawers. It was the perfect solution! We have plenty of storage and I can slip the kids’ step stool underneath the vanity. The floating design makes for quick and easy floor cleaning, too.

master bath after 4

Eventually, we added a small wall cabinet to the left of the sink to house Steve’s electric razor, electric toothbrush and more of his manly toiletry surplus. (I told you he’s high maintenance.) I got tired of knocking over all the charging stations on the sink. We cut a hole in the side of the wall cabinet to gain access to an outlet so Steve can charge his grooming tools sight unseen and no one’s the wiser. THIS IS HOW YOU STAY MARRIED, PEOPLE. You won’t read about this in any of those self-help marriage books. Good communication? Showing appreciation? Healthy sex life? Yeah, those are all noteworthy and all but, I’m telling you, hidden charging stations are where it’s at! And they lived happily ever after…

For warmth, I hung a round teak mirror above the sink. I didn’t seal it or anything and it looks as good as new. Teak has a good reputation in wet conditions so it’s kinda perfect for a bathroom.

master bath after 5

The original floor tile tested positive for trace amounts of asbestos but there was no way we were keeping it. Now the proper way to remove asbestos tile (at least in the great state of Ohio) is to hire a certified abatement contractor for anything >50 square feet. (This one bathroom contained less than that but we were dealing with two bathrooms which put us over by ~20 square feet.) But that is expensive and Steve will try anything at least once. So he removed the asbestos tile himself using a wetting method along with full-body coverup gear and a respirator. I was pregnant at the time so the kids and I steered clear of the house during and for some time after removal. Steve did dispose of the tile in a landfill that accepts asbestos. In sharing this, I’m NOT saying you should attempt this yourself. I’m just being honest about what we did. You should probably follow your state’s regulations, m’kay? M’kay. Now that that’s settled…

The new floor features (asbestos-free!) penny rounds and they lend yet another texture to the bathroom. It reminds me of reptilian scales and, after we first installed it, I wanted to rub myself all over it. We chose a sandy, dirt-colored grout that has held up well over the past two years. A woven trash can disguises ugly water lines. The basket on top of the toilet tank holds toilet paper. We couldn’t decide on a good place to hang a toilet paper holder (I vetoed the side of the vanity because I didn’t want to see toilet paper from the bed) so we threw a few rolls in the basket temporarily and, well, now it’s permanent.

master bath after 7

master bath after 8

master bath after 10

master bath after 9

master bath after 12

master bath after 11

I don’t think either of us expected to live with only one bathroom for this long. (We’re slowly plugging away in the other bathroom as I type.) But if we must share a bathroom, I’m happy it’s this one. On any given night, you can find all five of us squeezed in here getting ready for the kids’ bedtime. It works but, man, I am totally looking forward to having a second bathroom. It’s going to be a game changer. No more difficult questions about what happened to my penis!

Resources of note:

wall & trim paint – Benjamin Moore white dove
floor tile – penny round moss from The Tile Shop
shower tile – capua blanco from The Tile Shop
tub, drain, shower fixtures – Kohler archer
shower curtain – 96″ seersucker curtain from Amazon, discontinued
double hook shower curtain rings – Amazon
shower curtain liner – Amazon
toilet – reused, Kohler
wall sconce – Barn Light Electric
mirror – Home Emporium
vanity – Ikea GODMORGON, high gloss gray
sink – Ikea ODENSVIK
faucet – Ikea DALSKÄR
soap dispenser – Target
wall cabinet – Ikea, painted white
towel holder & hooks – Lowe’s
trash can – Target
wall urchins – Target (I spray painted them gold because that’s what I do.)
hand towel – West Elm
peshtemal towels – etsy

Curious about the evolution of this bathroom? Here are a bunch of bathroom-related links:

























You can now access this master bathroom tour (along with a general house tour and individual room tours) under the “See My House” tab in the side bar. I will be adding more rooms in the weeks to come. Thanks for reading!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

A quick update on the bathroom…

bathroom tile progress

We have two walls of subway tile! Tiling the uneven window wall was difficult. Tiling the smoother wall on the left was like tying a shoe in comparison. Steve knocked it out in one evening.

bathroom tile progress 2

Look at those perfectly wrapped corner tiles. Reason #99 you should marry an engineer.

In case you’re just now tuning in (or maybe you didn’t even know we had a second bathroom because we’ve shunned it for the last two years), this is the main bathroom in the house. A freestanding shower / tub will eventually live right in front of the back wall. We’re taking the tile to the ceiling around the shower / tub and the rest of the room will have tiled wainscoting. After much debate (I wanted tile. Steve wanted baseboards.) we’re installing the same chunky baseboards in here as the rest of the house. That’s why you see a gap at the bottom of the walls between the wall tile and floor tile.

As the shell of the room started to take shape, I got to thinking about how we would trim out the wainscoting and shower walls.

tile molding

I don’t even remember doing it but I selected this curvy tile to act as molding atop the tiled wainscoting. I don’t know what I was thinking. Oh, wait, I was pregnant. I probably wasn’t thinking. Maybe I was thinking about lunch. Maybe I was thinking about a nap. Most likely, I was contemplating how I could eat lunch and nap at the same time.

But I digress.

There’s nothing wrong with the tile itself but when you butt it up against the skinny modern subway tiles it looks strange. The profile is all wrong. And Steve and I were confused about where exactly to install it. Just along the wainscoting? Up the side of the shower walls? It would look weird if we ran it along the top of the wainscoting and dead-ended it at the shower. And it would look just as weird to have a mitered inside corner at the shower wall and continue the molding up the edge of the shower only to dead-end at the ceiling. We were at a loss.

That’s when an image of black pencil liner popped into my head. It was similar to this. I tried explaining my vision to Steve but he wasn’t catching on. (This happens a lot.) It was decided that I would head to The Tile Shop the next morning to scope out some options to help Steve better grasp my idea.

I wasn’t there five minutes before I found exactly what I wanted. Which was a good thing because my kids were play fighting in slow motion and everyone was staring. I quickly snapped a picture of the simpler design I had in mind and sent it to Steve. “Gorgeous” was the reply back. We had a winner.

pencil liner + bullnose trim

I bought the imperial bianco bullnose to match the subway tile and the noir honed somerset to tie in to the floor tile. We’ll run both along the wainscoting and shower. The end result will be similar to the last photo seen in this bathroom renovation post. The pencil liner is a little thicker than the subway and bullnose tiles but I think the difference in profile will be a nice finishing touch. I love that the single black stripe will pick up on the hex floor. And you know how I feel about stripes in general! The liner is also a subtle nod to the bathroom’s midcentury roots. Many ’50′s bathrooms boasted contrasting pencil liner. This is my attempt to bring it back in a modern way. What do you think?

Can’t wait to share more progress as we make it!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

unfinished bath 1

Someday this is going to be a really awesome bathroom. For the past two years, it’s been this unfinished eyesore that I shield my eyes from every time I pass by in the hallway. I pretend it’s not there. When we have guests over and they want a tour, I’m all “…and here’s where we hold our Amazon deliveries for inspection…” When I’m embarrassed, I try to be funny but I think it comes across as awkward instead and then everyone ends up feeling uncomfortable. And even though we don’t mind guests traipsing through our bedroom to use the only functioning bathroom in the house, I’m guessing they feel a little weird doing it. So for the sake of our houseguests comfort, we really want to tackle this bathroom. Getting the mound of bathroom finishes (tile, tub, toilet, vanity, wall sconce, plumbing fixtures, etc.) out of the garage would be nice, too.

Maybe 2014 will be the year we park a car in our garage?!

unfinished bath 2

Two weeks ago our plumber adjusted the water lines for the tub. We tried leveling the concrete floor in here over a year ago (life has totally gotten in the way of this project) but the water lines needed to be sunk a little deeper into the slab for us to tile over properly.

During renovation we had the plumber update the water lines for the tub. At the time, he was afraid they were too high and he told us to give him a call if we needed him to adjust them. So two years later that’s just what we did. He didn’t charge us for this most recent work since it was his error. I love our plumber. He’s a man of his word, returns our calls and shows up when he says he’s going to. (He’s Pete the Plumber in Lebanon, Ohio for any locals needing a good plumber.)

Some jackhammering was involved in sinking the lines so Steve patched the floor this weekend. We have to let it cure for a while before we can start any tile prep but the good news is the floor is level! Dirty, but level!

We also decided to create access to the water shutoff in the bathroom. (We’re overly paranoid about water leaking, pouring, seeping, dripping and flooding into our home.) Our hope is we’ll never have to use it but if we need it, it’s there.

access to water shut off

The bathroom shares a wall with my workspace in the kitchen. The water shutoff is located behind this base cabinet. We thought creating access to the shutoff within the cabinet would be discreet but effective. To prep for an access panel, Steve removed the cabinet doors (Ikea cabinets make that super easy, btw.) and emptied the cabinet.

access to water shutoff

Steve picked up an inexpensive access panel from Home Depot for about $12. He traced its dimensions onto the back of the kitchen drywall from the bathroom. (We had already cut out a panel of cement board for access to the water shutoff during renovation. It goes back in place with a few screws.) He drilled a small hole in one corner (seen above) to get started then used a small hacksaw to cut out a square. He did this from the bathroom side and was careful not to cut through any pipes.

access to water shutoff 2

He cut right through the drywall and the back of the cabinet.

access to water shutoff 3

As you can see, he had some helpers. Everett was so excited. He thought we were making a secret passageway. Sorry, buddy, just trying to give you somewhere else to pee.

access to water shutoff 5

Then Steve slipped the access panel into place.

access to water shutoff 4

The cabinet frame and new access panel are both white so the result is pretty inconspicuous.

access to water shutoff 6

Then we loaded everything back into the cabinet.

hidden access panel

It’s like it never even happened. Having access to the water shutoff gives us peace of mind. Man, I hope we never have to use it. Now we’re just waiting for the concrete to cure and then it’s on to tiling! We don’t have a set deadline for finishing the bathroom. We’re working on it when we can – in between the kids’ activities, Steve’s work and business trips, episodes of New Girl, birthday parties. But it’s something we’d really like to see to completion before nicer weather hits and all we’ll want to do is GO OUTSIDE.

The plumber asked to see the floor tile and tub fixture for measurements when he was here adjusting the water lines. I sorted through the beast that is our garage to find them and then I got excited all over again about this bathroom. After sharing one bathroom with four other people for the past two years, having two working bathrooms is going to be such a luxury!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

And they all live happily ever after. The end.


Okay, there’s more to it than that.


So, by now you know that I’ve partnered with Target to bring you the best of Threshold. {If not, you can catch up here and here.} This month I was asked to feature Threshold goodies in my bathroom. I’ve been wanting to add something to the wall above the toilet. {On a side note, do guys care what they look at when they pee?} I browsed the Threshold aisles and immediately zoned in on a trio of sea urchins.

I have a peculiar fascination with anything urchin-esque. I can remember going to my grandma’s house when I was maybe 5 and she had a children’s book {couldn’t tell you the title or story line} that included a picture of a child stepping on a sea urchin in the ocean. I read the book every time I was at my grandma’s and I was so infatuated with that bothersome urchin. That’s how it all started.


Now, thirty years later, there are three sea urchins hanging above my toilet. I am not normal. Off the shelf, the urchins were a little too dark for my liking so I spray painted them gold - the same spray paint I used on our garden stool. If I may, let me correct myself: Now, thirty years later, there are three gold sea urchins hanging above my toilet. Still, not normal.


I brought in a few gold accessories on the sink top so the urchins wouldn’t be all “Damn it! I knew the one time I made an effort to dress up for a dinner party everyone else would be wearing jeans and loafers. I’m overdressed and under-appreciated. Never again.” I bet you didn’t know sea urchins were so temperamental, did you?


The soap dispenser and tumbler have an antique brass finish. My bathroom is quite the melting pot for metal finishes.

threshold bathroom

Shop the look: brass soap pump / brass tumbler / rattan wastebasket / metal urchin


I apologize for the artificial light in these pictures. It’s just that HH and I spontaneously decided to landscape our front yard. By ourselves. With three kids. {That’s contradictory, isn’t it?} As in digging, trenching, planting, shoveling, watering, wheelbarrowing, sweating, raking and seeding our crack house into submission. In the midst of our spontaneity {which totally isn’t like us}, I forgot to take pictures of the bathroom before the sun went down.

I am tired. I love Target. Sea urchins are fascinating.

***UPDATE: Daytime urchin pictures because I felt guilty.***





This post brought to you by Threshold, a Target collection. The Threshold collection focuses on specialized design techniques including hand-painted accents and artisanal touches to make each piece unique yet affordable. What differentiates Target’s new Threshold collection is its unprecedented style coupled with its high quality and affordability. Thank you Tar-jay!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking