Master Bath, Part 2

“Two roads diverged in a wood and I–

I took the one less traveled by,

and that has made all the difference.”

–Robert Frost

If any room represents the road less traveled in our little cottage, it’s our new master bath.  It might just be my favorite room in the house:  perhaps because I have a thing for preserving the past, or because I root for the underdog, or simply because it’s a complete rush for me to turn a cast-off into something beautiful.  I think it’s all of the above and then some.  Grab yourself another cup of coffee and enjoy this less traveled road we’ve been on for the last nine months.

Our bathroom started life as an office/shower room.  Let’s call it a multi-purpose room in order to make it seem cooler than it was.  The flooring was carpet over industrial tile over concrete slab.  It had a popcorn ceiling that had seen better days.  The steps to the add-on shower had long since lost their dazzle…and tile.  Doesn’t such a place scream “POTENTIAL” to you?  It did to David and me.  Why not turn this into our master bath?  At under ninety square feet it wasn’t gargantuan or luxurious, but it was large enough to shelter everything on our wish list.  The main requirement was a double sink vanity.  Isn’t it funny what things we prioritize?  Even in our 3200-square-feet-city-house-with-the-jacuzzi-tub, we had to share a master bathroom sink.  Considering the fact that we would need plumbers to dig new sewer lines for this addition (as well as the powder room), this wasn’t exactly going to be easy or fast.

After no less than 3 visits by plumbers to fix the old, broken sewer lines and install new ones, we now have the bathroom of our dreams.  I will let the pictures and captions tell most of the story.

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Left:  You can see the original door from the family room to the bathroom.

Middle:  Another view of the original shower

Right:  Concrete slab is jack-hammered to prepare for new sewer lines

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Above:  I found matching farmhouse sinks at a junk shop.  I paid $50 for the pair; they are deep, porcelain over cast iron, and well-loved (imperfect).  The faucets came from Ebay and were a steal at $20 for the pair.  I love the retro look of the attached soap dishes!  The picture on the left is the vanity being built.  Yes, my wonderfully talented husband built it himself to accommodate these salvaged sinks!  It’s made of cedar and has some iron pipe accents.  The lower shelf is made of FREE cedar fence wood I got on Craigslist.  The total cost of our double vanity came in right at $100 for everything.

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Above:  I found these old wire baskets about a half-mile down the road from us at the neighbor’s trash heap!  Can you believe that??!  I didn’t even care that they were speckled with chicken poop.  I brought them home and discovered that they fit perfectly on the lower shelf of the custom vanity!  I gave them a vigorous scrubbing and disinfecting.  I then sewed liners for the baskets and accented them with mini-chalkboard tags and jute ties.  A little hand lettering personalized the trio.

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Left:  Soap dispenser I made from a Patron bottle.  I love the shape of it.  I also have a thing for the bee design on the label.

Center:  Outdoor fixtures as vanity lights?  At $32 for the pair, you bet!

Right:  An iron star adorns the cheap mirror.  I bought the mirror because it was the right size, even though it was less than elegant looking.  I painted it to look like old wood.  Adding the star was my homage to the great state of Texas, where I grew up and two of my children were born.

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Left:  This is the space where the door was removed, the wall filled in, and the new shower took up residence.

Middle and Right:  Your eyes do not deceive you.  It’s a galvanized shower!  Hubby built this out of roofing material.  I love the juxtaposition of industrial metal with the modern glass doors. It’s trimmed out in cedar.  I was inspired by this and this.

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Left:  This is the wall that encloses the shower.  I wanted to do something interesting with it.  The poem is by Robert Frost and was on our wedding invitation, so it’s very meaningful to us and a little mushy.

Right:  I know this is a quirky piece, but I couldn’t resist it.  I think it needs a name.  Any ideas?

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Above:  The tub space before and after!  The painted tub is flanked by an upcycled door mirror that was original to the house.  I added stained shim wood for a custom look.

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The towel storage above the tub was part of a group of old wood crates garnered from an estate sale for $5.  Thanks to David’s great Aunt Jane for the vintage lanterns.  I made the artwork with two recycled canvases, masking tape, craft paint, and jute.  It’s part of my mother-in-love’s favorite poem and sums up our journey completely.  The tub faucet came from Signature Hardware.

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Left:  Galvanized pipe and fittings gave us an unconventional curtain rod.

Middle and right:  I used a window panel and stenciled it with 8 different birds to remind us of our children.

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It really deserves its own paragraph, having been salvaged from a construction site by my husband’s grandfather prior to the 1950’s.  In fact, he used salvaged materials to build most of his lake cottage in Wisconsin.  Many happy summers were spent there by David and his family as they grew up.   We discovered this door last summer as my father-in-love showed us around his storage barn; it had been moved a few times after the original cottage was sold. It was dirty with chipping paint but had the original etched glass intact.  What a gorgeous treasure!  David’s parents graciously gave us the door for *our* family cottage.  I can’t even convey how special it is to me to have such a piece of family history in our home.

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Left:  The original space before the toilet was added.

Right:  The glorious after!  Daughter #2 exclaimed that we were practically the Rockefellers now that we had 3 toilets!

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We used the door to provide separation between the toilet and tub.  We added some shelves to the tub side to add stability as well as functional space.  That first shelf holds a lotus candle; it was my mom Bee’s favorite flower.  The second shelf is for my beverage of choice as I soak in that extra-long claw foot tub!  Did you notice the little handle in the middle of the door?  It’s actually a working doorbell!  Twist the copper handle and the sweetest sound rings out, similar to a bicycle bell.  I tease dear husband that I shall use this bell to alert him that my beverage glass needs refilling.  The toilet paper holder is made from galvanized pipe.


This is not quite the end of the bathroom redo.  We still have to add doors to the opening; this is the next project.  Right now the wide bathroom entry is being covered by what I refer to as the “bachelor blanket.”  It’s a ratty, old thing that hubby has used in the past in lieu of actual doors and which wife finds less than attractive.  Soon enough the blanket will give way to sliding, barn-style doors.  For now we are soaking up the history and comfort of this room with the satisfaction that we pulled off another project together…wing to wing and oar to oar.


Going Places

“It is good to have an end to journey toward;

but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”

–Ernest Hemingway

A new yet old thought occurred to me a few days ago as dear husband and I talked about which project to start next:  what does it matter?  It’s certainly nice to finish projects and check them off the list, but just as important is the time spent together learning, making mistakes, planning, solving challenges, gathering supplies, and verbalizing dreams for the future.  We are on this incredible journey of turning this old house into a family home, and what a journey it is!  Each small step is as important as the destination.

We’ve been gathering various objects over the months with no real goal in mind.  An old, forgotten window given away at an estate sale, a dusty suitcase, a handful of pebbles, an outdated road atlas, weathered and discarded cedar fence boards, a hefty slab of maple butcher block (thanks to our friends Summer and David)–all these have been patiently hanging out at our house, waiting for new life.


To use all our found objects, we decided to pay homage to wanderlust in our cozy home.  We would build a tiny, travel themed powder room (31″ by 64″), borrowing space from what will eventually become our family room.  We knew this would be a long project, since we needed to employ plumbers to dig up the concrete slab and add sewer pipe.  There are many construction tasks we have idealistically attempted with stars in our eyes and a can-do attitude, but tapping into the septic system would not be one of them!

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Once the pipes were laid and connected, we began our work.  Superman and I built the walls together.  He spent a sweaty afternoon carving and shaping the butcher block to fit in our guest bathroom as a counter.  I used up countless sanding pads removing the old finish from the thick maple slab.  We scouted a small vessel sink and farmhouse faucet on Ebay for less than half of what they would cost new.  The solid wood door was a castaway from the Habitat Restore.  For the ceiling we used some of that old family room paneling and painted it white.  The cedar fence boards added texture and interest to one of the walls.

For me, putting down the floor was therapeutic.  I knew I wanted to try a river rock floor.  Lowes even sells pre-made river rock “tiles” that are easy to install, but at $11 a square foot I knew there had to be another way.  I cleaned up some pebbles I had saved from our family vacation last year to David’s parents’ place in the north woods of Wisconsin.  Their idyllic place on 240 wooded acres is often the inspiration for the things we implement in our own home.  Those lake pebbles were added to others that I purchased from the local dollar store.  Although I’m a novice at this type of floor and made some minor errors, I’m happy with the overall results.

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My free window from an estate sale, repainted and adorned with some scrapbook paper, hand lettering, and cool knobs was transformed into a place to hang hand towels.  My $2 vintage suitcase found new purpose as a storage cabinet.  The free book of road maps was used to decoupage an old mirror frame, highlighting birthplaces of our family and favorite travel spots.  A decorative oar found on clearance was turned into a toilet paper holder.  David brilliantly suggested converting a metal globe to a light fixture to top it all off.  Who would think that adding a toilet and sink to our small home would make such an immense difference?

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Just a few days ago we celebrated owning this house for one year!  Signing on the dotted line for this property was just the beginning of the journey.  Much has been accomplished in the past year with more to come.  Every step has brought unexpected challenges and joys.  Through the remodeling, dust, materials, sweat, ideas, and exhaustion, we have learned innumerable lessons about construction, family, love, and ourselves.  Isn’t that the journey that matters, in the end?