...because home doesn't happen overnight.

It’s official. We have a deadline for the main bathroom. My sister is coming to stay with us in about a month and it would be really nice to have two fully functioning bathrooms by then…if not sooner. Vanity installation is in full swing and I’m already thinking about fun little things like a mirror, shower curtain, wall hooks and towels. I’ve been looking at a lot of pictures of bathrooms online lately and something struck me.

modern bathroom

Have you ever wondered where the ventilation fan is in minimal bathrooms like this one? These are the menial things I waste my time thinking about. We have a recessed light over the shower / tub area and a separate box fan in each of our bathrooms. They’re definitely an improvement compared to what was there before. (Nothing.) But when I take pictures of the bathrooms I notice the fans. Such buggy lil’ eyesores.

Our friends are remodeling their master bathroom and they mentioned a bathroom fan disguised as a recessed light. Say what?! Apparently, Steve and I have been living under a rock. Had we known about this clever fan a couple of years ago we definitely would have incorporated it in the bathroom renovations. I’m putting it on the “next house” list. Ha!

Did you know about the sneaky fan / light thing? Why didn’t you tell me?! I did some checking and it looks like there’s an LED version available now, too. Gah!

image: Marmol Radziner

A bathtub in a bathroom. It’s a novel idea.

tub in bathroom 1

And we finally executed it in the main bathroom! (Don’t mind the masking tape on the floor. The toilet isn’t set yet.) Steve and I designed the tub’s base. He created two wood saddles from a reclaimed beam to support the tub. I primed and painted the tub’s exterior. I have an entire post coming on those projects. We hired a plumber (it was actually a two man job) to install the fixtures: water supply lines, drain, overflow, faucet, shower head support and curtain rail. We’re really happy with the final product! We do a double take every time we walk by the bathroom and see a tub in there.

tub in bathroom 4

The install wasn’t without a few hangups. We fully expected some to pop up since we were flying by the seat of our pants. There aren’t too many homeowners bringing in old clawfoot tubs and modernizing them with wood cradle bases and new fixtures, so there’s not really that much information out there on the subject. I’d like to share the issues we ran into with the tub install just in case it’s something you’re considering for your own home. So, here goes… (Again, I will address the tub’s base and paint job in a separate post so this mainly concerns the plumbing install.)

1. Things go missing. The day before the plumber came, we brought in all the fixtures for the tub that we’d been storing in the garage. When we took inventory, the shower head (just the head, not the support) was nowhere to be found. We looked everywhere! We ordered the parts over two years ago and somehow, amidst the renovation shuffle, the shower head was misplaced or thrown out. Ugh. We felt stupid and irresponsible, said some four-letter words, then sucked it up and ordered a replacement. Renovating is a humbling experience ;)

2. Chrome-plated clawfoot tub drains are typically special order items. When the plumber came to hook up the tub, all he had on hand was a standard brass drain. I love me some brass but we had already chosen chrome for the rest of the plumbing fixtures. We thought a brass drain and overflow would look out of place (especially since it would be visible) so we had to hunt down a chrome-plated one which added time and cost to the install.

tub in bathroom 5

3. There’s nothing standard about vintage clawfoot tubs. The drain end of the tub has a slight slope on the vertical where the fixtures go. This means the fixtures don’t meet up with the tub at a 90º angle – which isn’t ideal. This posed a problem when installing the water supply lines, drain, overflow and even the faucet and shower head because each fixture relies on the placement of everything else. It was difficult to get the fixtures straight without compromising watertight seals. Obviously, it was important to us not to have leaks but we also didn’t want noticeably crooked fixtures. Our plumber was able to strike a good balance between function and aesthetics but not without some finagling. His exact words were, “Plumbers did a lot of cussing in the 1800’s.” Haha. Anyway, we decided to focus on lining up the drain, overflow, shower head and curtain rail and not worry too much about the water supply lines. (I.e., if the supply lines were perfectly straight, that would offset everything else.)

Another issue arose when we discovered the curtain rail was meant for a standard 5′ tub. Our vintage tub is 4½’. (The room is only 5′ wide.) Steve had to shorten the curtain rail by cutting out sections from each side of the rail. (The rail kit is made up of two symmetrical rods that meet at the shower head and ceiling flanges.) It wasn’t difficult but it was another hiccup that held up the install.

4. Four hands are better than two. It’s crazy how much the placement of one fixture affected the position of subsequent fixtures. There was a lot of “hey, hold this while I do this.” At one point, I was called in because a third pair of hands was needed. This was especially necessary when the ceiling flange was mounted. One person was in the attic holding an anchor block in place so that a second person could drill into it from the bathroom. I was holding a level to make sure everything was plumb. It’s not rocket science but there’s only so much you can do with two hands.

So, yeah, the install wasn’t a standard run-of-the-mill install. But it’s done and we have a working tub! We haven’t used it yet but we did fill it up and drain it to test things out. No leaks!

tub in bathroom 7

tub in bathroom 6

We’re crazy in love with the fixtures. The porcelain handles are so charming. Similar fixtures will go on the sink to help tie the old tub in with the new vanity.

tub in bathroom 8

Once the tub was in, we were itching to set the toilet. We chose a sleek, contemporary model to contrast with the old tub. I am so intimidated by this toilet!

tub in bathroom 9

It has a dual flush button on the tank, an elongated seat with a soft-closing lid and clean lines. Can toilets be sexy? I say yes. Steve worked on installing the toilet the day after the tub was finished. He was two screws away from having it set when one of the brackets at the base broke. Two screws away from not sharing one toilet! So close. At this point, it’s par for the course. We’re waiting on a replacement. Hence, the masking tape on the floor until it’s officially done. The brick on the floor to the left of the toilet is covering a heating / cooling register to keep Cheetah from disappearing down into it. She’s one curious kitty.

tub in bathroom 2

I’ll share details of the tub’s base and paint job next week. And I will include a source list when I post the final reveal. But if you have any pressing questions that just can’t wait, I’ll try to answer them in the comments section.

We’re getting there. What do you think so far?

P.S. – It was such a gloomy day when I snapped these shots. I had to lighten them quite a bit to get the base of the tub to show up. The photo quality isn’t my best but hopefully you get the idea.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

painted bathroom 1

Staying true to the “slow and steady wins the race” motto, we’ve been plugging away at the hallway bathroom when time allows. All the grout has been sealed. Baseboards have been installed, painted and caulked. The walls are painted, too. I’ve been doing this for a while now but the effect of finishing touches (like baseboards and paint) never ceases to amaze me. All of a sudden a project feels like a room!

painted bathroom 2

We had to order additional base molding to match the baseboards in the rest of the house. We had a small section leftover from the whole house renovation but were ~20′ short. The baseboards in the rest of the house are painted Benjamin Moore white dove but when I held a swatch up to the subway tile in the bathroom, it was too creamy. I ended up painting the baseboards in Benjamin Moore super white. It’s a great match but I’d be lying if I said having a different white in the bathroom doesn’t make me the slightest bit twitchy. The tile is a very cool white with bluish undertones and the room itself is north-facing so the light in here isn’t as warm as in other areas of the house. But it’s all good. I think repeating black and wood accents in the bathroom will help to tie it in with the rest of the house.

painted bathroom 3

Steve and I had assumed I would paint the walls Benjamin Moore tapestry beige to match the hallway and main living space. But when I painted a swatch on the bathroom wall, it looked so wrong (i.e. dirty) in the context of the bathroom. That’s when I made the executive decision to stop worrying about “matching” the bathroom to the rest of the house. Instead, I focused on selecting a paint color that suits the room and its cool light.

I considered painting the whole room out in BM super white but, (I think I’ve mentioned this before) as much as I like looking at white rooms online, they don’t feel right in real life…at least not in this house. The super white looked, well, super white. So stark, so cold. I kept looking and searched hundreds of paint colors and finally landed on Ace Paint lost spur. (The color number is D35-2. Ace Hardware should have an Ace Paint color deck at the paint counter. If it’s not on display, ask for it. My local store doesn’t have it on display.) I had it mixed in Clark + Kensington primer + paint in one. This is my go-to brand ever since I painted the mudroom walls black. I’ve used it in the boys’ room and on the brick fireplace and TV surround. The coverage is great. (Not sponsored, just sharing.)

painted bathroom 4

painted bathroom 5

I love the color. It’s a subtle green-gray with some blue in it. It’s one of those colors that looks different every thirty minutes. Sometimes it’s white, sometimes gray, sometimes green, sometimes blue. Sometimes it’s warm, sometimes cool. I love chameleon colors like this – colors you can’t put your finger on. I like that it’s light but not an obvious match to the tile. Also, this room is so difficult to photograph. I wish you could see it in person. You really have to be in the room to get the full effect.

painted bathroom 6

Steve and I installed the wall sconce last night. It’s the same light we have in the master bathroom. I’m itching to get the vanity in so I can start The Great Mirror Search. But, first, the tub.

unpainted tub

Here it is hanging out in the garage in all its one-legged, heavy cast iron glory. We recently cleaned out the garage (yep, this is the cleaned up version) to gain access to the tub. We hadn’t looked at it in years and were pleasantly surprised to discover the inside is in excellent condition. (The previous owners had it reglazed.) There was a lot of drama surrounding the acquisition of the tub. So much so, that I think we forgot about the condition. To be safe, I tested the interior and exterior for lead. The results were negative. I know it looks kinda shabby but I think it just needs a good cleaning and a few coats of primer and paint on the exterior.

black jack paint swatch

We’ve already agreed on a paint color for the exterior. It’s Benjamin Moore black jack. I’ll probably go with an oil-based paint in a satin finish for durability and ease of maintenance.

reclaimed beam

For weeks we’ve been scouring the internet for wood to attempt a DIY cradle base for the tub. We were looking for specific dimensions. The ideal beam turned up at a local reclaimed materials supplier this week. It set us back $40 and Steve hauled it home in his truck on Wednesday. After some deliberation, it looks like we’ll need to take it to a saw mill to have it cut. We don’t think the rough cut of a chainsaw is the look we’re going for. We don’t want perfection (it is a reclaimed beam after all) but we don’t want rustic either. We’re hoping to have it cut to size this weekend. Steve and I both predict that once the tub is in, things will roll pretty quickly. Let’s hope so!

painted bathroom 8

So that’s where things stand with the bathroom. We ran out of caulk and still need to caulk around the window and where the tile meets the drywall but that’s small potatoes. I swear. Gathering supplies is almost always the rate limiting step for us in any project.

painted bathroom 7

In other news, Cheetah is my shadow and quite the camera lover. Such a photobomber! Is cat modeling a thing? If so, I’m signing her up for the next animal talent search.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking