Thursday, June 9, 2016

A Tale of Two Bathrooms

Hello Chickens!  

Popping in today with a quick house update.  The next few weeks are going to be somewhat quiet here on the blog, as my next novel, Happily Ever After Forty, is due on August 1, so I am going to be hunkered down getting that finished.  I may pop in briefly to say hello, but know that the summer hiatus will be well-spent.

In the meantime, I wanted to update you quickly on the new bathrooms that have been completed!  While our primary construction focus was on the second floor, the second floor bathroom and first floor bathroom are stacked right on top of each other, which, from a systems standpoint, meant that we had to treat them as one big bathroom project.  

The different floors of the house have different personalities.  The first floor is very formal, traditional, special occasion kind of spaces.  The second floor is day to day, uber functional, more casual spaces.  

As you can imagine, Charming Suitor and I, while enormously aesthetically compatible, do have some places where we diverge in our style.  He has always leaned in an Arts and Crafts simple elegant function direction, while I have always been a little more Art Nouveau with swirls and pretty stuff putting the fun in functionality.  Or as CS will say, I am A LOT more decorative than he is.  So when we were presented with the need to design two complete bathrooms at once, we decided to divide and conquer.

CS took the second floor bathroom, since that is the one we will use the most, and he was inspired by one of his favorite artists, Robert Ryman.  Ryman is famous for his white paintings, which, while completely white, have depth and texture and stuff that actually makes them interesting.  I swear!  The second floor bathroom is almost a bridge between the two guest rooms, which are colorful and visually dense, and the kitchen, which also has a lot going on.  So CS thought that a clean, white bathroom would be a nice breath, a bit of respite for the senses.  Taking his cue from Ryman, and wanting to keep a space that at least nodded to the history of the building, we went to meet with our tile guru Rachel at Fine Line Tile and gave her the brief.  She immediately knew what we were going for, and pulled a bunch of tiles that would fit our budget, and be the right thing for the space.  We embraced clean white porcelain tilework in pieces that would be period appropriate.  The floor is hexagonal penny tiles, which is actually what we found when we pulled up the linoleum, but not in good enough condition to save.  The walls are wainscoted in subtly beveled subway tile for texture and depth, with porcelain baseboard and chair rail, all very affordable choices from Sonoma Tile Company's Pure line.  We painted in Sherwin-Williams Superwhite.  For fixtures we went directly to Kohler, choosing a toilet and pedestal sink from their traditional looking Tresham line, and polished nickel faucets and sink fixtures, as well as shower set.  As we did in the basement bathroom, we added an old railway shelf for some interesting wall storage.

A local glass place called GlassWorks did beautiful frameless shower surrounds, and our geniuses at StoneMasters and Cosentino provided the smartest Silestone shower threshold and surround shelf, as well as a very key corner piece on the exterior of the shower, since beveled tiles need something flat to end into, so we needed a piece to cover the outside corner.  We also extended the surround shelf four inches into the shower so that we didn't need to add any nooks or hardware to deal with shampoo and soap etc.

The view from the door

Kohler Tresham toilet and old railway shelf, you can see the cool corner piece on the outside of the shower

Tresham sink with mirror and sconces from Restoration Hardware


Deep interior shelf keeps things clean on the inside while still providing storage

The original window with leaded glass sidelights and bottom of window converted to mirror

CS was very pleased with the choices, and I love the clean simplicity of the room.  It really does have a soothing effect to go into such a lovely white space, and with the addition of an old rug, it is surprisingly warm feeling.  I was worried it would come off cold and surgical, but it really turned out beautifully!

Of course, then it was my turn, and as you can imagine, I went in something of a different direction.  
The first floor bathroom will eventually be entered through the library, which will serve as something of an anteroom between the formal dining room and the bathroom, just that added layer of privacy.  I hate houses where they have bathrooms or powder rooms that open right into a dining room, it seems very gross to me!  The old bathroom didn't quite do that, the door was in the hallway and opened essentially just North of the dining room, not ideal but not awful.  But when we do the new dining room, it is doubling in size and then the hallway goes away and the bathroom door would indeed have opened right into the middle of our dinner parties, which is gauche and I was not having it!  So we moved the doorway into the library, CS's former mancave and dressing room, so that everyone's privacy will be protected.  

I also knew that I loved the wainscot detail on the walls of the white bathroom, but that tile was not going to be the right choice for a more formal space.  We toyed with the idea of marble slabs, but while period appropriate, that would have been egregiously expensive. But the other period appropriate choice was wood.  Now, I have to point out that while this is a full bathroom, so there is a shower in it, it will only be used as such during such times as we have a 100% full house with everyone needing to shower at once.  Something that might occur once or twice a year.  If this were going to be a full-time bathroom, I would be very reluctant to do wood wainscoting, since the moisture would be a big issue.  If you love the look of wood, but need to be able to shower in your bathroom daily, look into some of the naturally water-resistant woods, like Ipe.  They will be more expensive up front, but will save you from warping and cracking issues down the road.  Lucky for us, we could go with white oak, which is the predominant wood in all of our original millwork.  Our amazing contractors were able to design a pattern for the paneling that pulled details from the original woodwork, and once it was stained to match, you would never know it wasn't original to the building!

The paneling on the walls immediately sent me in a rich, saturated color direction.  I had fallen in love with a marble called Verde Luna, sort of a mid-tone green with ivory veining and little bits of sparkle, and knew that I wanted to do the shower interior in those tiles.  The only company that I found that works with Verde Luna is New Ravenna, and one of the other products they produce with it is a fantastic, and shockingly period appropriate floor tile called Euclid, which merges it with creamy New Horizon marble and dark brown (near-black) St. Laurent in a cubist design.  Rachel at Fine Line suggested we go with a large scale brick pattern in the shower to the wainscot height, using 6x12 tiles, and then a pencil tile of cararra marble to have a break, with herringbone 3x6 tiles above.  

We had an antique dresser that we knew we wanted to repurpose as a vanity, and I had fallen in mad love with an art nouveau cast bronze sink from Kohler called Lilies Lore.  Again, the intricate carved detail of the sink would not be great if you had people brushing teeth and shaving over it on a daily basis, but for a formal bathroom that will mostly host party guests four to six times a year?  Totally worth it!

Cosentino found us a Silestone quartz product that was a near perfect match to the St. Laurent in the floor tile, so we could use that as vanity counter and the shower surround pieces, and Kohler stepped up with great fixtures in oiled bronze, and a toilet in an ideal shade of medium gray.  

Yes, a gray toilet.  Because in a room of such deep richness, with no other white anywhere, a white toilet would stick out like a sore thumb.  We didn't want to go black, after all, we were shooting for more1890s not 1990s, but gray turned out to be the perfect color.

Our darling general contractor Patrick gifted us an antique mirror he had in his garage, we found yet another railway shelf, this one in wood and cast iron, and the same sconces from Restoration Hardware that we had used in all the other bathrooms, these in oiled bronze finish.  The final touches were a deep rick peacock teal blue in high gloss on the walls, Sherwin-Williams Ocean, and mounted three antique wood paper maché forms from France to serve as art.

It is about as opposite a bathroom style-wise as CS's Ryman inspired bathroom upstairs, but it works beautifully, and even CS has fallen in love with it.  

The view from the door

Yep, a gray toilet.

Verde Luna tiles from New Ravenna inside the shower

Same interior shelf detail as upstairs, in a different rich Silestone

Original windows with new sconces

Railway shelf and wood moonface antique paper maché forms from France

The floors. 

Kohler's Lilies Lore sink.  Shut the front door!  I love this thing.
So, there you go, a full tour of two very different bathrooms!  I adore them both, frankly, and cannot choose a favorite.  And even though there were some times on the first floor bathroom that I thought I might have lost my mind and was going to create a bathroom that looked like fruit salad, I think we are both glad that we took the design risks that we did.  It is an inviting space, with great details, and I think if we had backed off anywhere for "safer" choices, the room would not have come together completely.

I send you all off into your summer with many hopes for good weather and great barbecues and fun times with friends and family.  If you don't hear from me until after August 1, know that I am still thinking of you, and as soon as the new book is finished, I will be back with updates on the rest of the renovations!

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath