I Have Got to Do Something About This Bathroom.

Would you like to know something insane? OK I’LL TELL YOU. Last Friday was the anniversary of the closing on my house. 3 whole years!!!!

Just kidding, it’s 4 years.

Actually wait, 5 years.

Fuck. It’s 6 years. I have some feelings about it, as you might expect.

The very first time I came to Kingston, it was for a weekend with friends. We stayed in an Airbnb only a few blocks from the house I’d later go on to buy. Some sleuthing revealed that the owners (now friends of mine—something that tends to happen when you move to a place like this!) were a couple of young guys who had bought the house less than a year prior to our stay. The house was very nice, and every part of it had seemingly received some level of attention to prepare it for comfortable occupancy. Walls had been skimmed and painted, furniture and window treatments installed, and the oak floors refinished to a pleasant shade of medium brown.

So it’s with some cringing embarrassment that I’ll now admit to feeling like the renovation was nice enough, but…could have been better. Freshly painted acoustic tiles still covered some original plaster ceilings, new electrical work had been run in exposed plastic channels rather than behind walls and ceilings, and inexpensive floating laminate flooring hid what was likely layers of old flooring in the kitchen. The bathrooms had been updated with a sheet of linoleum flooring, that unconvincing variety meant to look like natural stone, and the chipped and broken 1930s wall tiles had been painted a deep navy—including the mastic that was revealed when some of them had fully detached—rather than restored or replaced. All of this struck me as kind of a bummer. It was all fine but also not what I would have done. I held this belief with all the authority of somebody whose restoration experience started and ended with spending two years fixing up a 600 square foot Brooklyn apartment. If I’d only had a house, I could show these people how it was really done. Thoroughly. Lovingly. Do it right or don’t do it at all.

Sitting here today, I wish I could go back and slap that judge-y expression right off my dumb fucking face. What these owners had done was not only practical but smart: in most cases they’d done just enough to make the house cozy and clean, which in turn allowed them to begin renting it, which in turn augmented their income, which in turn allowed them to save for the renovations they’d complete down the line. I just hadn’t given them the benefit of the doubt that they had further plans beyond what I could see. Eventually they put in a very nice brand new kitchen. They renovated the bathrooms in a classic and elegant style befitting of a Victorian home. Having a “good enough” kind of solution in the interim took the pressure off to do it all at once, and allowed them to do something within mere months that I have not been able to comfortably do for six years: to stop apologizing. To host overnight guests and dinner parties. To have the flexibility to put the renovation on hold because everything is already fine. 

To be fair: comparing your renovation to your perception of someone else’s is generally unhelpful. All houses are different. While their bathroom tiles on the first floor had been damaged from 80 years of use, mine had been ripped from the wall because they were spattered with human remains. While their exterior work mostly entailed repainting and gardening, mine has involved tearing down multiple additions and reimagining entire elevations. It’s been difficult—to say the least—to prioritize all the many moving parts of renovating this house, and I’m positive I’ve erred from time to time in that agenda-setting. I’m sure I will continue to, because it’s hard. Like everyone else, I’m at the mercy of time and money and weather and a million other challenges big and small with a project of this scope.

And yet: SIX. YEARS. And it’s hard to imagine there aren’t at least another six ahead of me, and probably six more after that. It’s a slog. A satisfying, gratifying, at times exciting, sometimes fun, difficult-to-explain, always educational, and frequently humbling slog. Nothing in my house brings this into sharper relief than my bathroom.

Yes, I have a bathroom. I showed it to you once, almost 6 years ago, when it looked like this. In preparation to sell, obviously someone had done some rushed repair work on the walls and put in a new drywall ceiling, which was slowly being ruined by the still-leaking roof above. Given that the downstairs bathroom was basically a crime scene, this one didn’t seem so bad. As is my habit, I was blinded by a few things.

FOR EXAMPLE, THIS SINK. I mean. There were so many parts of this house that I loved at first sight, but this sink was high on that list. The idea that someone else might buy the house and rip it out made me even more determined to make sure it was mine. Sometimes when people are over I like to joke that I hope the dump will accept it when I get around to replacing it, just to watch the reaction. It’s endlessly fun to me and only me.

Above the sink is this sweet little glass shelf and this beautiful mirror. Of course I can’t be sure, but I’d guess that the sink/shelf/mirror combo hasn’t changed since the bathroom was first installed around 1890.

Where did the 1890 date come from? This hurts, you guys. This bathroom had its original toilet when I bought the house. Most toilet tank lids have a manufacturing date stamped on the underside, and I’m pretty sure this one said 1890. The plumbing wasn’t turned on until a few hours before we had to start living here, so we didn’t realize that none of it really worked—the waste line running from this bathroom to the basement had an impressive crack all the way down it, both toilets in the house leaked…I don’t know, it was a bad scene that we needed to deal with ASAP. At the time, I was precious about plenty of things (see: sink) but not an old toilet—old toilets are finicky and inefficient and a little gross, right?!

DAMNIT, DANIEL. Let’s pretend that the base and the tank were irreparably cracked or something, which might actually be true. But what I absolutely know is true is that I went out and bought a new toilet—a totally basic and inexpensive Kohler—and oversaw plumbers as they removed this one. Which, after lots of grunting and moaning and jostling, ended with one of the guys taking a SLEDGHAMMER to the base to get it out. It was stuck down to that little painted platform (probably installed to cover some rotted flooring—I don’t want to know) with some crazy adhesive putty stuff and they just could not get it to budge.

Hindsight, man. It hurts sometimes. I’m not trying to tell you how to run your life (lol yes I am), but if you have an original toilet…toilets haven’t changed that much since their inception, except sadly in the way they look, and can usually be retrofitted with new parts to bring them back into perfect working order. Pretty much without exception, toilets made before the 1950s are SO pretty, and I really don’t quite understand why nobody is reproducing these elegant old designs. There are decent options I’m aware of for historic renovations—as in, they might fit in more seamlessly than something decidedly modern—but they really don’t look like any actual old toilet I’ve seen. Someone ought to do something about this issue of grave social concern.

Enough about the toilet. I can’t think about it anymore. The nice old shitter with the wall-mounted tank is long gone and that’s that. Keep an eye out for very old toilets because I want to put one back someday.

Which brings us to the tub! This is very obviously not the original tub. It’s probably from the 1960s? But it is enameled cast iron and 100% decent. Never in a million years would I pick it for this bathroom, but there’s nothing wrong with it.

Except for the hot and cold valves, which both leak like crazy when they’re on. I have done exactly nothing to try to identify the source of the leak or improve the situation, in spite of the wild temperature fluctuations that occur during most showers, or the way you have to avoid standing in a certain spot lest the leak from the hot valve scald your delicate ankles.

Also, note the shower surround. That is not tile. That is certainly not a slab. That is…Formica!! In fact it’s the exact same Formica that clad the first floor kitchen’s countertops when I moved in.

I don’t think this has ever been what Formica is for, so on one hand it’s held up impressively well—by which I mean, it’s still clinging to the wall. On the other hand, it’s fucking disgusting and slathered in generous layers of caulk and a light spattering of mold and…sigh, I am a trash human.

The floor, by the way, is a vinyl tile that looks kind of like terrazzo. I am a life-long terrazzo fanatic, and there’s actually something I kind of like about the floor except that it’s in this bathroom. The colors are so aggressively unpleasant and the tiles are lifting off the plywood subfloor and a couple of them have broken. CHIC!

And so. After 6 years of living, the bathroom looks like this. It’s funny—I recently told a houseguest with absolute certainty that the walls have always been exactly as peel-y as they appear in this photo, but looking back I can see that isn’t true. Which really speaks to the extent to which I’ve truly turned a blind eye to this room, to the point that I didn’t notice that it was, evidently, actively degrading around me.

Very small efforts have been made. Very small things have happened by necessity. Note how there is some shelving crammed in there between the tub and the wall. A colorful shower curtain is trying and failing very hard to make things mildly cheerful. I hung a couple hooks for towels.

What is happening in this image? Well. There’s a crumpled fabric bin thing on top of the toilet tank to hold excess stuff because there’s not enough storage in here. That little print next to the shelf is concealing some large holes I made almost 6 years ago, when I was trying to install an outlet and decided a 1″ spade bit was a good choice for test-drilling. First I ran into the cast iron vent pipe. Then I ran into the dead gas line for the original lighting. Undeterred, I then ran into a stud. All with this massive drill bit! I have learned some things, thank god.

The larger print “covers” a hilariously awkwardly placed hole where I did successfully install the outlet, only to remove it a couple of years later when the electric to this room got eliminated in the course of other work. That’s when I ran new electric but in exposed conduit this time, since I didn’t want to take out walls or ceilings. Since there’s no active electric currently in the old upstairs kitchen—the room behind that wall—I stuck a power strip through the hilariously awkward hole in the wall to allow me to power a few tools.

It’s called elegance, look it up.

The light over the sink is a Radar Sconce from Schoolhouse Electric, bequeathed to me by my mother who ordered it for her place but then couldn’t use it. It has got to be the worst-looking installation of what’s otherwise a nice light in history. I’m sorry, Schoolhouse. You make nice things and I don’t deserve them.

The window is nice. The top sash contains the only stained glass in the house, and the bottom sash is one big piece of glass rather than divided like all my other windows. I put a piece of vinyl window frosting over it for privacy.

Note that the formica continues around this side of the room on the lower half of the walls. I got this little cabinet from IKEA, which turns out to be cute but nearly worthless when it comes to storage.

SO ANYWAY. Now you have an intimate and detailed glimpse of the space where I have cleaned my body and wiped my butt for the past 6 years. I have unburdened myself and now you get to live with this very likely unwanted information. No matter how much I clean this bathroom, it always looks and feels dirty, and I’m truly mortified whenever someone other than myself needs to use it.

“You didn’t shower, right?” This is what I asked my friend Anna, the cleanest half-Swede and best caulk artist I know, recently over coffee after an overnight stay.

“Oh no,” she replied. “I’m afraid of your shower,” seeming to imply that she would have showered, had the conditions looked less like a staph infection waiting to happen. I cherish this moment because it was so perfectly honest. A polite stranger might lie about forgetting their shampoo or liking to shower at night, but a true friend gives you the straight dope. I love you, but you’re living like a wild animal. 

It’s hard to imagine that over the course of six years, never has this bathroom floated to the top of a priority list. You might be thinking why not just…and believe me, I have the same thought all the time. But if you’ll excuse some brief self-compassion, it really just hasn’t been a priority. As-is, it’s ugly as hell but it works. It successfully performs all the basic functions of a bathroom—whereas at various times the house has been without heat, hot water, a kitchen, a bedroom, various exterior walls…there’s just always been something that at least felt more pressing or essential.

At the same time, my hesitance to make any improvements to the bathroom has probably been informed by the kind of thinking I described at the beginning of this post: do it right or don’t do it at all. Whether or not the bathroom would eventually need a full renovation has never really been up for debate, so I have essentially been waiting for that full renovation and avoiding anything less. And I really do mean avoiding—I mean, LOOK at those walls. Don’t you want to just yank those peeling parts off?? Can you imagine the prolonged exercise in self-control of leaving it alone? Because I know myself well enough to know this: once I start, I will be powerless to stop. And then I have opened another can of worms when I’m already juggling the dozen cans of worms open in front of me. A small gesture like scraping the walls or re-caulking the tub will inevitably spiral, and it’s a dangerous and slippery slope into total chaos from there. And so: blinders, on.

The problem, of course, with putting this stuff off “until the big renovation” is finally, to me at least, evident: that big renovation is a long way off. Years, not months. And I just cannot anymore. The bathroom is gross and makes me feel bad, and unfortunately it will not improve on its own no matter how much I nag it. So I’m going to do…something.

I’m giving myself a week. A week to deal with the floors, the walls, the shitty plumbing, the lack of storage, the bad lighting, the formica shower surround…all of it. I am absolutely determined to keep all walls and ceilings intact—once the plaster goes, then so does the brick nogging, and then I’m dealing with potential structural issues (no evidence of this, but…ya know) and insulation and vapor barriers and cement board and then what the hell, let’s rip out the tub, and THAT IS NOT HAPPENING RIGHT NOW. I’m also giving myself a thousand dollars, by which I mean my corporate overlords at Lowe’s have agreed to provide exactly this sum in materials and I will gladly take it and very likely spend it all. It sounds like a lot of money but I’m sure it’ll go fast.

Just as I haven’t expended significant effort on fixing up the bathroom, I have not allowed myself to put significant thought into what I would do with it if I could! So…I dunno. Wish me luck? Tell me what to do? My current plan is no plan, so…tell me your thoughts.

And then your secrets.


182 Comments

  1. I’m coming over to fix all of this. And wall paper.

  2. I feel you! I am approaching the same zenith with my bathroom, the only one in my 1940 modern minimal house. Who on earth puts a wood framed sash window in a bathtub/shower area? At this point, about 1/3 of the bottom sash frame is made up of wood filler that gradually replaced rotten wood. The grout is threatening to crumble and I know that wall needs new cementboard. The flooring is dull, the wall tile is almond colored (against white sink, tub, toilet,WTF?)… The diverter valve is permanently stuck on shower. It’s functional but it’s getting harder to make it look like it’s all ok. I’m trying to limp it along because once I address any one of these problems, I will have to address the rest…. and that’s going to get pricey!

    • Ah, the old window in a shower! I’ve seen that a lot—I think a lot of times it’s because the tub originally functioned only as a tub and not a shower? I guess I prefer it to when you see the original window removed and replaced with a teeny tiny one, but yeah…not the greatest spot for a wood window!! Good luck—I feel your pain!!

      • Short term, I will continue the rotten wood to epoxy filler conversion (my last major patch job has been holding up well!) Re-grout where the grout is coming out and give the entire wall (including the wood of the window) a coat of 2 part epoxy paint intended for tile. That should hold it until I can really do it.
        The problem with the current window is the sill is low enough that the shower hits it directly and water can pool. If the sill was just 8 inches higher, the water would miss it.
        Long term, I will replace it with a smaller vinyl window using the top half of the current window space. Then retile the entire room.
        AND the tile will go to the ceiling. I hate the foot of painted wall between the shower tile and the ceiling. It never looks good, but EVERYBODY has it in their bathroom, right?

      • That’s interesting Chris, I have (admittedly unattractive) tile all the way to the ceilings in both bathrooms in my house and I think it looks dated. I’m planning on tiling half way when we remodel and painting the rest. Possibly this looks more appealing to me because I see it so much on blogs, the other part of the appeal is that I can then do a fairly neutral tile and paint with a dark colour above, which can be painted over to not scare potential buyers one day down the line.

    • I love having a window in the bathroom, for natural light and for ventilation. And one of my favorite bathrooms of all had a window – a medium sized, fairly normal size for say, a bedroom, right in the shower, smack in the middle of the wall of the long side of the tub. The problem is not the window, but that people don’t know how to protect it from the shower water.

      This is what I did shortly after I moved into that rental. The window wood was in fine shape in my case (which I get is not the case in yours.) When I went out to buy a shower curtain and rod and holders to install the rod permanently (because I hated the spring-loaded shower curtain rods I’d used that always seemed to come tumbling down at the slightly tug on the curtain- I see they have more secure spring-loaded rod mechanisms options now, but this was 30 years ago, when they didn’t exist) – well, I bought two of everything so I could put a second shower curtain along the window wall to protect the wood window as well.

      I got tile bit for my drill, and I installed those shower curtain holders on both sides of the bath. I used clear vinyl shower curtains, with a pattern in them that obscured the light so that the shower curtain on the window side would act as a privacy barrier as well, and the light from the window would come through the curtain on the other side to light the bathroom as well. When I wanted to protect the window, which was usually, the one over the window stayed closed. When I wanted to open the window and let in some air when I wasn’t showering, it pulled aside on shower curtain rings.

      This seemed like such an obvious solution to me that I don’t understand why people don’t do it more often – it just seemed obvious to me that the wood window frame, molding and sill needed to be protected from water, and an open- and close-able shower curtain was just the right thing to protect it. Which is why I eventually had my bathroom ceiling start coming down from the shower in the apartment above that got into the wall through the window well (I used to see the shower water running down the back of the house from the backyard when they showered up there with the window open in the summer – it just seemed stupid to me for them to do that.)

      • 18 years ago in my first college apartment in Cleveland I should have thought of this dual shower curtain solution. Brilliant!!! Instead I just had a totally rotten window which the slumlord of my highly affordable but dilapidated 3rd floor attic apartment probably almost 20 years since still hasnt replaced…. Ah the joys of the early 20th century bathroom….

        Daniel I can’t wait to see what $1k and 7 days can do! And thanks btw for pointing out that Anna is back blogging. I had given up checking on her when she went AWOL back in 2017.

    • My husband and I straight-up ignored the crumbling, mildewed, rotting wood frame around the window in our 60’s-era shower for 8 years because we were CONVINCED that if we removed it we’d find out that the wall behind it was rotten and then we’d need to demolish the tile shower surround and remove the tub and after that we’d see that the subfloor was ruined and cue hyperventilating because we’re not made of money plus we only have one bathroom so it felt easier to just ignore the whole situation.

      Cut to this March when we finally decided to be adults approaching 40 who aren’t afraid of what’s lurking in their bathroom and ripped off the window frame and found… Nothing. The rot was contained to just one end of the wood frame. We gleefully spent a couple hours over a weeked replacing the wood with PVC trim and then caulking it and I still get a lot bit giddy thinking about the moment we realized that for once a house fix was going to be much, MUCH simpler than we expected.

      • You were lucky! In my case, I hate to think about how much water damage was in that wall from shower water getting to the wall via the open window – the fact that my ceiling got moldy and started coming down until l finally got my landlord to do something about it was proof that water wasn’t just streaming out the window above down the side of the building. (I’ve seen century old plaster ceilings that suddenly gave way and collapsed with a roar and a whole lot of heavy ruble into the tub – it happened in a friend’s apartment – she was lucky she wasn’t taking a shower at the time.)

  3. I’d spend my time patching the walls and holes and putting in new panels in the tub area. Paint, and maybe a temporary vinyl wallpaper over the formica, so it doesn’t have to be removed and a new chair rail. An inexpensive shelving tower could go where the Ikea box is and paint the wood shelves to match. New lighting fixture, but I’d leave the exposed conduit for now. The big problem is what to do about the power strip for the other room?

    • I’d also spend my time and money this way. Getting the walls to stop peeling by either removing the old wallpaper or putting up beadboard on top of it? Fixing the power strip/electrical situation, painting, getting or building some storage situation. Maybe putting up a shower wall panel kit instead of tile around the shower? Would probably be a quicker install, easy to clean and maybe cheaper than tile. A lot of the grimey vibe seems to be coming from the walls, so I think focusing on getting them to a place where a fresh coat of paint is applied and no future peeling would be the biggest visual improvement for you! Good luck! Small changes and a “good enough for now” situation can really make a big difference in our daily lives.

      • We’re all on the same page! I’ve been debating a vinyl panel solution vs. tiling…of course I love to tell myself the tiling will take just as long but look much nicer, but at the same time it’s getting ripped out someday and vinyl would be easier to remove, but at the same time plastic waste is a bummer, but but but…*head explodes*

      • What I would do (I think) in your case is this: I’d stop thinking about putting in things that I will always need taking out and redoing (to my eye) – that just seems like a pain, not to mention a waste of work, time and materials. Instead, I’d do a serviceable renovation – cheap, clean, white tile (maybe with a little black border tile on the wall top). It doesn’t need to be the renovation of your dreams to be a serviceable renovation that you won’t look at every day and say – I need to redo that, it’s ugly – rather, it’ll be fine, and you’ll think instead – someday, I may do the renovation of my dreams in here, but I don’t “have” to anytime soon, while I work on more pressing issues with this house. (This is also the sort of renovation that if you ever decide to sell won’t need to be redone to sell. Think of it as making a serviceable bathroom, as if you were doing it to sell the place – there’s nothing saying you can’t redo it again some years from now.)

        That means, leave the tub. Knock down what’s around the tub, put up the sort of board one puts under shower tile, and tile it with simple white 4″ (is that what those square tiles measure?) cheap square tiles. Put black edge tiles at the top. (There’s no reason to take out the brick noggin, is there – is there a problem with leaving it in place for now?) Tile the walls of the bathroom up to 1/2 or 3/4 if you like as well if they are really holey once you knock off the falling stuff, or just if you want to – or just patch the plaster and paint. Don’t put up beadboard or any such thing – keep it simple. Keep the sink if you want to – or replace it with an old (or reproduction old style) pedestal or wall hung sink, and leave it. Change the tub and sink faucets to something cheap, serviceable, and not ugly design.

        Take up the floor tile, asbestos or not – get rid of it – yourself or pay someone just to have it out. Put in simple small white tiles on the floor (goes with the vintage look) – I had just such white with black trim tile in the bathroom of a place I bought, and it was fine. Didn’t win any design awards, but was clean and serviceable, and you add color with textiles and anything you nail on the wall. Done. Agree with those who say change the door so it swings out – makes a small bathroom seem much bigger.

      • @NestFan Totally agree with you. Making the walls and floor looking “decent” will make a huge difference already.
        Can’t wait to see what Daniel will come up with!

      • While the door to my tiny bath was changed to swing out into the hallway (really, that was the only way it could work after the fixtures were moved around) – in your case, it looks like you have room to have the door open into the bathroom in front of the radiator. But even if it does, consider whether having the door open out into the hallway would work with your other doors and hallway – it does make more room in the bathroom, if a bit odd for a door swing and never original – I just can’t picture whether it would work with your hall layout – it might be right at the top of the stairs – I can’t recall. I had no stairs to work with – just had a hallway with bedroom doors, and all of those opened into the bedrooms, so the bathroom door swinging into the hallway was no problem.

  4. Create a big walk-in shower using tile, but then you’d have to find a style to work with the sink. That might be cheaper than buying a tub to put in.

    • That’s probably on the “someday” list, but both of those options feel too intense and expensive for this!! I really can’t stomach ripping out the tub (no time, no $ to replace it, really don’t want to wrangle a plumber, and it’s one of the things that’s actually OK in here!), so I’m gonna have to make it work!

  5. Hi Daniel, you’ve taken the first step to bathrm recovery. You’ve fully disclosed your ‘problem’ and now you can begin the healing reno process. ;))

    Pls let us follow along. You’ve got nothing to hide now. We’ve seen all the gory details. It’s only uphill from here. And we love following along. Thank you.

    • I’ve accepted the things I cannot change—now to find the courage to change the things I can!! I’ll keep you updated!

  6. Sorry, I would take it down to the studs and salvage the sink. Use your own cool ideas and redo using the money for a nice toilet, tiles and a nicely tiled stand up shower. If anybody can do it, you can. Can’t wait for the reveal!

    • Even with my cool ideas and salvage-it-all-attitude, there’s no way I could make all that happen for 1K in a week!! Quick n’ dirty is the name of the game this round. Someday though, yes!

  7. Finally! My wheelhouse!! I have done SO MANY cheap and maybe upsetting bathroom renos!!

    First, you do the smallest amount of demo you can get away with. You tile over lino, you do not move a single fixture, you leave the mirror where she be!

    Second, we tile. Whatever you pick is fine so don’t overthink it. Make some mildly bad choices so you’re not too attached when the real reno happens.

    Next, replace the faucets and showerhead. Maybe that fixes the plumbing issues, maybe it doesn’t, but if it doesn’t then that’s just not happening right now. ¯\_( ˘͡ ˘̯)_/¯

    We paint, we caulk, we clean, and maybe now everything is… fine? Maybe we should have done this years ago??? We’re really mad all of a sudden?????

    Anyway, love your blog, thanks for inadvertently justifying all my half-assery over the years!

    • Kit you are speaking my language! Yes to everything. Low stakes. And hey!! I already replaced the showerhead as soon as we moved in, so that part’s done! We’re halfway there!

      • I believe in you! I do highly recommend tiling the shower surround. Just pick something really cheap that you don’t completely like, I promise the demo won’t feel harder down the road and in the mean time showers will be nicer!

    • Kit, I love it! What would you do about storage?

      • Plastic bins! The stacking kind with drawers, optional casters. But Daniel’s already killing it with the shelves between the tub and the wall imo.

  8. You can do it! You make everything look so amazing. I just can’t wait to see how it turns out. If I lived nearby I’d come to help you and make you sandwiches and cheer you on. :-)

  9. Also, just have to say the idea of pasting things over things or covering up stuff without dealing with what’s beneath it freaks me out. Remove all of the formica and floor. And keep the tub – it’s cute!

    • In general—yes, totally!!! I think where the “cover it up” mentality is a real problem is when it’s supposed to be a permanent solution, though. I’ve softened my attitude about that kind of renovation for short(ish)-term fixes…sometimes you need a little blissful ignorance to just deal with what’s in front of you and defer the exploratory mission for another time.

      • Ah, I guess I will concede. But at least when you do it – it’ll be done right. I recently stayed in an AirBnB where a new shower head was attached to an old one. Meaning the water went to the original shower head and then was diverted to the second. That kind of patch job made me want to cry. Or maybe it was the ice cold shower.
        On the other more understang hand, I have a couple of friends that purchased a cottage last year – a vintage time capsule with patterns everywhere. It’s a total gem but needs a lot of work. They recently decided to AirBnB it as-is to pay for some of the renos in the future. So I do understand the patch it now make it great later ethic.
        Thanks for taking the time to reply. :-)

  10. OMG that sink!
    I feel your pain. Although it has only been two years since we bought our house, the first time I took a shower in our 1980s bathroom (in what were former maids quarters), I came downstairs afterwards to see three separate pools of water on the kitchen countertops and water dripping in from above in several places. I taped a plastic tarp up around the tub surround, and it remains today. Not proud of this, but priorities.

    As for your bathroom… $1,000 can go a long way towards putting lipstick on a pig… I would do the following:
    1 – A new tub surround (those inexpensive panels they sell at Lowes)
    2 – Replace the washers in your faucet handles,
    3 – A fresh coat of paint top to bottom (consider going dark… That way the problems won’t stand out as much.)
    4 – New peel-n-stick floor (yep, I went there, cause it will look fresh and clean, plus you won’t feel guilty tossing them out when you finally get to the real renovation).
    5 – Then accessorize the F out of it.

    There is my two-cents. I am looking forward to seeing what you come up with.
    Good luck!

    • what he says!

      you can do it… and please instagram story each day… we want to see!

      • That all sounds good to me, Devyn! I’m totally on board with a peel-n-stick floor. Gimme.

      • Completely agree with the dark paint. I have a tiny long, narrow and ancient bathroom. Put up big white marble tiles as wainscotting, fancy marble tile for the floor, it is the smallest amount of floor space imaginable so why not. Tile stores have odd lots from big jobs. Painted the rest with F&B Hague blue with the ceiling 20% lighter was the smartest thing ever. Also you can use one can of F&B to two cans of anything else so worth it for the amazing color. That dark paint with your beautiful sink, mirror, shelf and window would be gorgeous. You could even consider swapping the shelf clear glass for milk glass and use milk glass for that side shelving. Maybe I am getting too fancy but the F&B dark paint really makes a huge difference in my small bathroom.

      • This sounds like a workable plan. You could wire an electrical box back to back with the one you have (two outlets on the same circuit) to get power into the next room for the time being. then you can patch that hole.

      • Gotta say I don’t agree with the peel-and-stick tile. If the current ones are coming up off the plywood below and chipping, this won’t stop happening just because you stick some other tiles on top – the pop up and chip, too. Pull the tiles up, and give yourself a nice solid floor, repairing the plywood subfloor if needed. The little tiles that come in sheets shouldn’t be that hard to lay down on a solid floor.

        Also don’t agree with the shower surround. I just moved (somewhat temporarily, I hope) into a place built circa 1970 when cheap condos were built with those prefab one-piece tub surrounds. It has lost its smooth finish due to scrubbing, and is an ugly tan color (which I hate.) I never realized I was lucky to have lived with nice tiled showers until now (excepting the old clawfoot tub with the shower-curtain-all-around thing I had in one place, which I hope to never live with again.)

        In doing my mental what-would-I-do-if-I-ever-renovated-this-pace, which I do whether I own or rent, especially since I started renting condos instead of apartments since I sold my place, because I theoretically *could* decide to own and renovate someday, I of course would rip that tub surround (and fiberglass or acrylic tub that was installed with it) out in a minute and tile. Though this is complicated by the fact that the walls in this place crack and need to be repaired every few years (place is sinking), and that might mess up any new tile work. So I’m left with thinking I might recoat it with that epoxy stuff in white (as some bloggers have done), but I think, nope, nope, nope – I hate this thing, I’ll take my chances with tile, and repair as necessary. Tile that sucker.

        It is one thing to do things half-assed like vinyl walls and stick-on tiles if you are fixing up a place to make some interim money from airbnb-ing – but as you aren’t, and you’ve waited this long already to do something to this room, do a cheap renovation, as many people do, leaving the fixtures that are service in place – a simple renovation, starting with the floors and walls – and you could be happy to live with that for many years to come.

    • You all are so funny! Daniel was pretty much the originator of black/dark paint in bathrooms! (Probably “trend-setter” is more accurate than “originator”).

      See here (Links)
      http://manhattan-nest.com/2010/10/10/scrubadub/
      http://manhattan-nest.com/2012/02/29/the-bathroom/

  11. Your post has made me review pics of my bathroom and realize I ripped the vinyl off the walls in November, just in time for Black Friday!

    This weekend we’re tiling the tub surround. The end is in sight.

    Your sink is still fabulous!

  12. What a beautiful bathroom. I love the sink, the window, the mirrors, the space. I know the story but it’s nothing a little skim coating won’t fix. I have thoughts about the tub, but admittedly it will be a process and somewhat costly even if you do a lot of the work yourself to find a salvage clawfoot tub in good condition, order the nickel supply lines, waste, shower riser and ring, line up the licensed plumber, remove the existing tub, do the rough in, refinish or paint the existing wood floor I assume is under the linoleum and hopefully in usable condition, then install the salvage tub, skim coat and paint. Perhaps you have already done this and are teasing us?

    • Yeahhhhhhh, none of that tub stuff is happening now!! It’s not a test, haha! I said ONE WEEK, Cate!!! ;)

      • Daniel, I am totally down with Devyn’s plan. I think it’s outstanding. Also, if that is rigid tile it almost certainly contains asbestos and the glue may have it too. BTW we have lived in our Brooklyn house for 10 years and our renovation isn’t done either. Cheers!

      • I don’t think it does contain asbestos! I’ve worked with those tiles and they’re definitely more rigid and usually 9×9 as far as I know. These are 12×12 and more bendy? And no black mastic. Still something to be careful of either way!

  13. Wow- I don’t think I’ve ever seen a shelf like that anywhere else- it’s exactly like the one in my upstairs bathroom. Do you really think 1890? I’ve always wondered when my bathroom was put in….gigantic cast iron slipper tub too. I can’t imagine how they got it upstairs.

    Very cool – good luck! And wait – one week to start? Or one week to do the whole project? Big difference, haha.

    • Ah, cool! I don’t realllllllly know, but they look somewhere around that age to me. If you look really closely, my brackets are stamped “S. Sternau & Co Brooklyn NY,” which Wikipedia says was started in 1893! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sterno

      • Oh, wow! That’s good to know, I’m going to look at mine! Thanks for some insight, because I’ve always wondered :)

  14. My old house secret (confession, actually): I have, knowingly, painted over wallpaper. And regret NOT painting over other paper that I painstakingly stripped (off drywall) from a kitchen that we ended up gutting to the stud 2 years later. I was in the “do it right even if it’s an interim update” mindset. Pshaw. 24 year old me was foolish.

  15. I am inexplicably happy when you undertake a new project. Your work is beautiful and I can’t wait to see how you make this space work for you!

  16. New drywall, tub and surround, keep the sink and mirror, replace tile. Will that be under $1000? I dunno. Depends on what demons are lurking beneath everything. Good luck!

  17. Sorry, I just could not use a bathroom in that state…not ever. The photos will probably give me nightmares for a day or two. Just overly sensitive to peeling paint and cracks, I guess.

    Not sure how far $1000 will stretch. Tub surround already mentioned and is vital. Would electric be in the budget because exposed conduit remind me of a locker room in a concrete building–maybe that will inspire your design. Consider adding an exhaust fan rated to run continuously and hooked to a humidistat instead of a switch–you can preset the humidity level and the fan will run until the selected humidity level is reached. I suspect this will help prevent or at least slow down the peeling paint. I’m not a fan of the sink–I opt for storage vanities in small baths like this one but $$ will dictate. BTW, the cast iron tub in my original bath looks like yours and it’s from the 1930’s. The faucet leaks are most likely from completely eroded washers as someone mentioned so that’s probably a cheap fix.

    Please post the newly renovated bathroom ASAP so I can stop the nightmares.

  18. I’ve lived with many bathrooms this bad (and worse). Oddly the thing that jumps out for me here is the awkward enclosed space at the end of your tub. I get that it’s functional as storage, but something about the cramped-ness of it is just … squicky. Like it would never really be clean in there. Also, that wall crowds that lovely window. Removing that would make the room feel very different very quickly, cover thee end of the tub in some simple way and put in an L-shaped pipe for the shower curtain.

    A ~4′ high wainscot w/ a little shelf on top would be handy — I had that in a bathroom in a past apartment and it was really useful. And scrape off the loose stuff and primer-repaint the walls. But that could be rough; it could be a John Derian-ish bathroom for a few years.

    I’m curious to see what’s under the layer(s) of floor tile …

    • OMG, I COMPLETELY agree about the dumb wall. It’s so bareeeellllyyy functional as storage and so ugly and gross for all the reasons you describe and then some. The side the faces into the shower appears to be small sections of plywood skim-coated in joint compound and then covered with formica, so you can imagine how that’s all holding up. I think definitely take it down to half-height or just remove it entirely and figure something out. It practically gives me hives; thank you for noticing hahahaha!

      • I had one of those walls too! Probably more of a future plan, but you can use half of it for storage in the shower. Essentially if you were in the shower looking at the wall, draw a line down the middle (it whatever dimensions make sense). Open the right hand side and build shelves that face into the shower for shampoo, etc. We used marble tiles from Home Depot as shelves. The left hand side stays as storage on the outside of the tub. It actually works surprisingly well!

      • A place I bought in Brooklyn had been renovated with just such storage at the end of the tub. It was a tinier bathroom than yours, and the storage was much needed, as all there was in addition was a small medicine cabinet over the sink. Here’s how I made it work for me. I ended up loving it.

        First off, the opening didn’t go all the way down to the floor – it was raised (perhaps to hide old plumbing, as that was the original location of the sink before the tub was moved to that wall.) The nook opening went down to somewhere around mid-thigh height (it was taller than the tub, which was a newer, shallow tub like yours), and below that the front was tiled with the same square white tiles that were in the shower, with the black trim at top and bottom, and the “floor” of the opening was also tiled. The tile wrapped around the sheet rocked wall like yours, which will was slightly deeper than tub alcove, and met the tub at the bottom and the back shower wall tile just above the tub – the exposed edge of the wall above the tiled floor of the nook was just sheetrock. (The floor of the nook stuck out a bit further than the tub surround and upper shelves did, which is why I think they tiled it, to make it look neat.). I didn’t have an adjacent window to worry about (or any window – the original two windows to the dark airshaft had been covered up with sheetrock when the tub was moved – just as well, as light only penetrated to the top floor, and this wasn’t the top floor – though the airshaft was useful for the ceiling fan to vent into.) But I’m sure you can find a way to make this look good with your window – maybe frame it out on that side to where the edge of your window sill ends. Just make sure the space you end up with is wide enough for the baskets available.

        The walls and back of the nook were sheetrocked, painted white as the upper walls of the bathroom were, and the shelves were placed on long wood supports screwed into the sheetrock. The shelves were white melamine, and were just sitting on the supports, so I could pull them out and clean them when I wanted. There were four shelves above the tiled bottom of the space.

        Here’s how I made it usable storage. I went and found four long baskets that fit on the bottom and the next three shelves nicely, using up most of the space there was (in depth and width, not in height, though there was a little extra room at the back of the nook behind the baskets.) I think there are called shelf baskets, made for storing stuff on foot-deep or so bookshelves. Mine were dark stained rattan or some such fiber, woven over a wire frame so they were study, with 2 inches of solid wood at the top all around for more sturdiness. There were little cut-outs in the wood on the short ends – they made pulling out the baskets easier – but any long sturdy baskets will do. I used them like drawers, and everything was easily accessible. They stored ALL the bathroom stuff, washcloths, hand towels, bathroom cleaning supplies, extra soap, etc. Even the little fiddly stuff that didn’t fit in the medicine cabinet were stored in the baskets in various little plastic baskets and bins. The top shelf had no basket, I just stored rolled up clean towels there. I’d never been able to store clean towels in a bathroom before – it was nice to be able to grab a clean one coming out of the shower without having to plan ahead and put it in the bathroom, or spread water droplets on the floor while hunting one up from my bedroom closet. So it functioned as a linen closet as well, at least for my towels, if not for sheets – which was great, as there wan’t a linen closet in the place.

        Much later, when I put up a new chrome shower curtain rod, I took the left-over end and had it cut to fit this nook space. I installed the rod just like a shower curtain rod just inside in the nook, and hung a curtain I made there with shower curtain rings (I just pounded some grommets into the iron-on hem I’d made at the top.) This curtain hid the baskets when I wanted (as you could see the taller items that were taller than the baskets.) I made a little tie for the curtain and tied it it in the middle, which gathered the curtain a bit so it didn’t flap around when I walked past it. I used some nice provencal fabric I’d picked up on vacation in France, the striped kind with fruits and leaves. It coordinated well with my solid color cotton shower curtain (I couldn’t deal with a patterned shower curtain in such a small room.) It added some color and pattern to the room, while hiding the stuff in the storage nook behind it from view.

        I really missed that storage space when I moved to my next place, which had a bathroom built in the first decade of the 1900s, and last partially renovated in the 1940s, which also only had a small medicine cabinet for storage. At least it was all white tiles again – simple very old subway naturally crackled ones on the wall and shower, small tiny white ones on the floor (no black border this time). I figured out how to add storage pieces in there, too, and missed it when I moved on. That place also had a much newer version of your glass shelf above the sink – keep that, it’s useful. Leave the mirror above, or put in a vintage (or new) recessed medicine cabinet if you want.

        Also, the place with the tub-end storage nook had a wall that was all flat mirror above the 1/2-tiled wall (which was probably an easy way to hide a wall in not-great shape), which was nice – though my bathroom layout was different from yours, so yours might not lend itself to that. With the mirror to make the tiny room seem bigger, an old-style reproduction pedestal sink, a mid-century vintage recessed medicine cabinet (with sliding doors, which worked better in that tiny space that a door that opened out), and simple white tile with black borders, it was a great tiny vintage bathroom in an 1890’s place, and fit the place well, without being an expensive renovation to do, or terribly design-y. It wan’t fancy, but it didn’t scream “renovate me as soon as you can” – which was just what I wanted.

      • Yes! Bravo for a new project. Taking out that wall is the first thing I would do. And if you can’t, perhaps putting doors over the opening would make it all look much tidier.

      • Also, I meant to ad that rather than closing in the bottom of the storage nook, creating dead space, as was done in the place I bought, you could use the lower portion (below window sill height) for closed storage – either add a frame and a door, and you’d have a large closed space to store larger cleaning items one has around bathrooms, like buckets and plungers and toilet brushes, and the like.

        Or, instead of a door you could leave the space below the lowest shelf as a large open space – where you could slide that laundry basket (or a slightly smaller one if that’s what fits) into, and use as a laundry hamper – it’d be more out of the way under there. Or get really fancy, and have the laundry basket behind a hinged door, with a round hole cut out in it – both for ventilation and to allow you to put stuff smaller in the basket through the door, if you want to hide the laundry basket.

        And here I thought you’d finished a new bathroom downstairs when you worked on the new pantry behind it! Can’t wait to see photos of that one when it is done.

  19. I feel this post so hard. I too have a bathroom that needs a complete gut job after a water leak and rather than go into more debt right now, I have also decided some temporary fixes will be just fine with about the same $1000 budget. My plan: deep clean and regrout the tub surround-mine is not formica but is a cheap plastic thing sitting on top of tile. Put up some bead board on the walls that have been torn out. (Inspired by your basement laundry room project!) Put in a cheap but decent vinyl plank floor. Tear out an old cabinet, put up a new storage cabinet from IKEA. Put up some trims salvaged from the ReStore. Slap a couple coats of paint on the walls and hope it all holds up for the next 2-3 years.
    I can’t wait to see what you do with yours and knowing someone else is dealing with the same issues will definitely inspire me in the dark days of dealing with mine!

  20. I vote for getting a bathtub shower kit and focusing on the shower, the walls, and prettying up the shelving next to the shower. Mildew-resistant paint can go a long way. $1000 should cover that.

  21. Please go check out the bathroom farmhouse vernacular is working on now. I think her sink is related to your sink. I do not think your bathroom looks that daunting but…I do not need to do the work. If you are okay with the layout….it has huge potential. I see hex floor tile, white subway tile…and pick a color paint…I think you can do some built in storage too…. good luck and I am looking forward to seeing what you do!

  22. You shouldn’t feel so bad about the loss of the old toilet.

    For, it appears more 1920s than 1890s.

    Circa-1890 toilets look quite different, and all had high tanks either in wood or metal.

    Toilets are often dated on the very BOTTOM. In my 1894 house, there are no original toilets but several from 1926. They look just like your lost toilet.

    The sink (fabulous!) also looks a bit later than your house.

    • Interesting! I really coulda sworn the tank lid was pre-1900 (which isn’t to say the whole toilet was, necessarily), but I don’t seem to have any photos. Ah well! The house is ~1865, so anything plumbing-related came later.

  23. OMG, maybe no one else is as bothered by it as I am but my #1 would be switching the swing on that door! Its bonkers that it opens into the toilet instead of the wall.

    • oh, yeah that door swing is terrible and would drive me nuts. my sister has the same problem in her bathroom except it’s the sink behind the door. And of course also that terrible wall at the end of the tub – it will feel so much bigger and brighter in that bathroom once that’s taken down to just the height of the tub.

    • bad door swings in small rooms irk me! I like a nice pocket door on a small bathroom…. If there’s any possibility of that.

    • So funny—I mentioned that 6 years ago when I wrote about the bathroom the first time, and then completely forgot that the door swing even bothered me! And you know what? IT DOES! Adding it to the list! Definitely no way to do a pocket door but changing the swing will be a big improvement.

  24. Good luck and Godspeed on your quest, Daniel. I remember that sink from that long ago blog post, it is such a beauty! But yeah, those walls….. Scary. I feel like almost anything would be an improvement, but I would echo the “Get rid of that wall if you can” crowd. Also, the peel-and-stick tile folk are speaking my language. I once redid a bathroom in a 1980s built house that we had put on the market, and man, some peel-and-stick faux stone tile improved it so much I almost didn’t want to move. Cannot wait to see what you come up with for your Design on a Dime challenge! (Anyone else remember that show? I am an old.)

  25. I have zero words of advice, just dropping by with the absolute faith that you will make this better. It’s grim, but honestly, a lot of us have lived in places that looked like this (or looked slightly better but were in fact so much worse). You got this. Excited for modest improvement!

  26. I had a boss who started telling me that perfect is the enemy of good and to just get B level work done. I struggle with the planning and waiting and striving for the best version and so live in a house with holes in the wall in the bathroom with plastic tile covered at the base with brown mastic from a removed vinyl base (I did put in a new tile floor) and bare bulbs in 3/4 of the house as the original light fixtures are being restored, and, and, and…

    Take that 1k and whip the bathroom into shape like you did your rental bathrooms before. It will be good. we will all watch and be amazed at what you can do in a week with $1000.

    fair warning, those shower faucets do probably have bad washers like others have said, but you might not be able to find replacements to match. I had the same struggle but luckily a local plumbing supply was able to sell me replacement stems for only $14 each. You will also need a stem wrench. You might want to get a replacement shower set since you don’t have to worry about disturbing tile or anything.

    • YES, this: “whip the bathroom into shape like you did your rental bathrooms before”
      It reminded me of the miracles you worked on your old apartment bathrooms with some trim, paint, and a healthy disregard for what your crappy landlords would think! OG-style!

  27. I hate my bathroom as well. It has 1940’s grey plastic wall tiles -some are missing, others are failing. The floor is beige and blue lino & is higher than the hardwood in the hallway.. the vanity is an 80’s piece of crap that is lower than standard because the previous owner was 5 ft tall. He installed the GFI in the vanity as well, not the wall. The vanity faucet leaks. The medicine cabinet has attached florescent lights. There isn’t a shower.. 8 years in, all I’ve done is remove the shower doors and wallpaper & window treatments. If I touch anything else, it would snowball which isn’t in my non-existent budget.
    I look forward to seeing how you rescue your bathroom. It’s in good hands.

  28. I can think of any number of things to do long term, like pull the tub and install a fancy victorian shower. (Side note, look, it’s your shelf! AND your exposed steel pipes! https://www.historicnewengland.org/explore/collections-access/capobject/?gusn=200364 )
    So, if this was my bathroom slapdash fix, I would:
    1. fix the plumbing so that the shower isn’t a dance & replace the showerhead & handles with an exposed pipes one that matches the victorian aesthetic; or at least replace the showerhead with one that works properly.
    2. scrape, skim coat, and paint the uppers a deep rich color or a fun blue
    3. paint the door to match your other doors
    4. paint the floor or slap down peel and stick tiles. This week is not the week to tear it all up and install marble tiles.
    5. I’m itching for you to demolish the formica, but if it was me that would lead directly into retiling the bathroom and possibly a full demolish of walls and then down into the spiral of madness. So instead consider popping on one of those paintable embossed wainscotting wallpapers for a short term update? The shower enclosure area almost certainly has to go though. Maybe one of the quick and easy cheap ones from Lowe’s for the short term?
    https://www.lowes.com/pd/Graham-Brown-Eclectic-56-sq-ft-White-Vinyl-Paintable-Textured-Beadboard-Soak-and-Hang-Wallpaper/1000392985
    6. Thin radiator cover across that side of the bathroom with a spot to hang a towel for drying/warmth and shallow shelves up the wall where the cute but not useful cabinet lives. Plus pull out baskets/curtain/beads/teeeny bifold shutters to cover the mess in the niche. Basically convert that side of the bathroom into super shallow storage for clothes hamper and bathroom stuff.
    7. Use more conduit and make a shallow shelf above the toilet to make the conduit look intentional, or paint it chrome. Frame out the large hole and add a little door to look like a strange victorian whimsy instead of “I need to run an outlet to this other room.”
    8. And fix the small holes.

    You will do something great and totally you. :)

    • I agree with pretty much all your suggestions, but my priority list would end with absolutely getting rid of that disgusting formica and fixing whatever lurks behind it:

      “1. fix the plumbing so that the shower isn’t a dance & replace the showerhead & handles with an exposed pipes one that matches the victorian aesthetic; or at least replace the showerhead with one that works properly.
      2. scrape, skim coat, and paint the uppers a deep rich color or a fun blue
      3. paint the door to match your other doors
      4. paint the floor or slap down peel and stick tiles. This week is not the week to tear it all up and install marble tiles.”
      5. DEMOLISH THE FORMICA!!!

  29. The things that make me cringe are the peeling walls and the floor. I just adore that beautiful sink! And the window is so pretty :) I would tackle the walls and floor……..we all know paint does wonders. I know you will make that $1000 go far, and I can’t wait to see what happens in there!

  30. What about a board and batten treatment on the walls with 1/4” plywood, made the same height as whatever shower surround you put in? Then you would only have to deal with the small area of wall above it, and down the line you could remove the battens and plywood and address the plaster underneath. Unless the plaster is so fragile that nailing up the plywood would really damage it, of course.

  31. One word…….”beadboard”.

  32. Thank you for being so honest.
    And, this is going to be fun!!

  33. Knowing how you save & salvage; I’m confident your $1,000 budget will look like more. Especially after the secret ingredients- blood, sweat, and tears. ;)

    BUT – I NEED TO KNOW – how did the awkward storage behind the tub become a thing? Because my 1884’s guest bath has the SAME weird space! It was renovated to all white in the late 80’s so ours has a proper cabinet squeezed into it, but WHY? Were tubs longer in the 1880’s? I’ve seen tubs they “built in” to a wood surround. Wonder if there was a wood seat there or is that too wild?

    This post cheered me a bit b/c my 80’s bathroom is where my house shame resides. Compared to everything else the house needed, it looked okay, so we didn’t even do the “for right now” updates b/c we planned to gut it right after we moved in, but wanted to take a break after the other work we had done. You know what’s coming next, right? 3 years later and nothing has happened and I totally regret that. But I’m glad to know I’m in good company! Maybe next year will be the year. Lol

    • My read on it is that these bathrooms did not have showers originally, so there was just open space at the end of the tub, probably. When a shower/bath combo was put in, the wall is added to hold the other end of the curtain rod… leaving an awkward space for storage.

    • Sometimes, the bathtub was in a different place in the room – as in a place I had – the tub was originally along the shorter wall of the small rectangular bathroom, but later moved to the long wall (I knew because the other apartments stacked above mine still had the original 1890’s layout.) So when the tub got moved, instead of being surrounded by walls on three sides, there was room at the end of the tub. Moving the tub I my bathroom (previous owners of the coop did the renovation), it much improved the space in the bathroom to move and made the open floor space less crowded – it wasn’t a bad thing to do, but a smart reordering of fixtures. In my place, the room at the end of the tub was turned into a really useful and good looking storage place, which was much needed – it can be done, as I’ve described in another reply on this post.

      In other cases, someone has made a bathroom out of a room that was not originally a bathroom, and the walls were longer than an average tub would be.

  34. “It’s called elegance, look it up.” #ded

  35. No plastic panels. Please. Peel and stick flooring is fine. Take the time and install tile in the tub surround. I mean it. You will thank me later.

  36. Daniel, can you write a book, please? I would read it and love it and recommend it. I would vouch for (without having any industry knowledge or connections) your book advance to fund further renovation to provide us all with further hijinks, witty insight, and amazing end results. Or a patreon! I don’t think anyone else has ever made me laugh about bathroom artwork hiding misguided (ha!) holes in their walls like you.

    And don’t be hard on yourself about the years long process. You’re doing great work, you’re creating something a lot of people aren’t able to, and you’re pushing yourself constantly. That kind of drive takes a lot of time and energy and you should be so proud of yourself for all the things you’ve done in those years. Renovated the floor plan of your house! Redid the outside of the house and yard! Made old neglected things look chic again! Built a WHOLE OTHER house! You’re doing amazing, sweetie.

  37. What Caitlin said! Write a book. Most of your material for Volume I is already on your blog – and I’d read it again and again and love it and recommend it, too.

  38. We are 12 years in on our ranch reno. We’ve done some temporary fixes and several complete gut jobs. I completely understand not wanting to start a temporary fix; it definitely leads into more (but I’m not sure I could have left that bathroom alone). We are actually taking a break from small and large projects. They just always lead to something else and more money….I’m not sure we will ever finish this place . Just think, your renovation might not be as long as mine.

  39. Daniel! Please, give yourself SO much compassion, not to mention a huge high five. You have renovated the heck out of this house, while keeping this bathroom functioning, AND resisting the siren song of ripping the whole bathroom apart. All of that is a huge, huge accomplishment.

    If it makes you feel better, in our cringey 1985 beige bathroom, I rocked the colorful-shower-curtain-and-don’t-look-too-closely-at-anything-else look for seven years — longer than you’ve had your house! Then, I painted the walls and hung a DIFFERENT shower curtain! And replaced the beige vanity top with a white one. Which now looks super great next to the beige toilet and tub. Just please don’t look at the moldy caulk and cracked beige tile around the tub. Or the rusty tub overflow valve that might be slowly leaking water downstairs to my neighbor’s unit. We’ll all just back slowly away from that.

    In the other place (the cabin that’s kicking our butts), the 1970s bathroom is the one room we haven’t taken down to the studs because, you know, gotta do our business somewhere. It is rocking truly magnificent vinyl walls with scenes from America’s colonial past depicted in mustard yellow. We tore down the ceiling, I don’t remember why. After a while we tacked dirt-cheap shiny particle board to the ceiling instead, so the insulation would stop falling on us and so the ancient vent-fan hose wouldn’t hang down and knock dudes in the head while they were trying to pee. It has a 3×3 foot aluminum (!) shower stall that the previous owners painted (!) dark green, and a shower head that is tilted JUST SO in order not to leak.

    I swear that to the end of my days, I will close my eyes and see ye olden times depicted in mustard yellow.

    You will rock this slapdash quick fix. I can’t wait to see how it looks!

  40. When you related the exchange between you and your overnight guest, I laughed so hard I cried, and crying is very healthy, so thank you, Daniel! As far as your 1-week bathroom renovation is concerned, I am in camp beadboard, which would be white and installed all the way to the ceiling. I would not dream of repairing, resurfacing, painting, or wallpapering any walls at this time. I would try to get the electrical wiring into the walls, however. And, if possible, I would remove that wall at the end of the tub down to the top of the tub and put up an L-shaped shower rod (with a plain white shower curtain). I would replace the lost shelving space by installing wood boards above the toilet, with the lowest one being level with your cute glass shelf and the highest being a foot or so from the ceiling. Everything stored on those shelves that is not pretty would be in baskets. I’d probably use a pair of nice individual brackets for each piece of wood. (Going back to beadboard for a moment, I’d consider installing it horizontally, except I’m not sure how it would look with the shelves.) I’m not sure what I would use to replace the formica above the tub, but I’m definitely in camp peel-and-stick for the floor tiles. I’d go with black and white tiles installed in some type of pattern. Just my 2-cents worth. I’m sure whatever you decide to do will be awesome. I can’t wait to see it.

  41. Patch/paint the walls is almost free and will make a massive difference. Stick-on vinyl tile is super cheap and will make a massive difference. That’s walls and floor 100% functional, clean and improved. The sink’s in good shape. The toilet’s new.

    Really, it’s just the shower where I can’t see a bandaid holding you for a good long while. You are going to have to tear off the walls and replace them with something. I think I’d just remove the tub too while I’m at it and then spend the bulk of the budget on this (https://www.lowes.com/pd/DreamLine-Flex-Hardware-Chrome-Base-Color-White-Floor-Rectangle-2-Piece-Corner-Shower-Kit-Actual-74-75-in-x-48-in-x-36-in/1000451091) plus some cheap tile for the walls.

    That shower kit is not as long as the tub, so there will be more space between the end of the shower and the window wall. So instead of that super skinny deep storage you have now, you could put a furniture piece that is wider and more shallow. That would infinitely improve your storage situation.

    And lastly, I would reverse the door swing, which would be free.

  42. My votes:
    New tub surround in cheap white tile, block grout;
    Beadboard paneling like the cottage basement;
    Black floor like the kitchen (do you still have any left?)…or like the Brooklyn kitchen?;
    New shower kit behind the wall to fix plumbing;
    New fixtures.
    Boom. You got this!

  43. The best advice I got for renovating a bathroom is: choose a paint color that physically suits/flatters you. It makes so much sense in a room where you’ll be looking at your reflection. Same advice applies to lighting.

    I agree with the “tear the end of the bathtub” part, and let this great mirror/shelf/sink combo shine. I’d put hooks for towels instead of shelving, a laundry hamper underneath, and storage under the window. But it’s difficult to evaluate your storage needs and the space you’ve got…
    I’ll go clean, simple and easy for the flooring/melamine part as it won’t stay. I trust you + your impeccable taste for details I don’t even imagine exist XD

    A little goes a long way, good luck on your reno, Daniel!

  44. Yes, change the swing on the door so it doesn’t bang into the toilet, leave the conduit, vinyl beadboard, nice shelves for nook and I would have to get a bridge faucet for the sink (hate not having warm water). I can’t wait to see the result of your work. You are amazing

  45. After enjoying the heck out of your writing, there’s the great pleasure of your comments section. “Perfect is the enemy of good.” Well said! I look forward to seeing the magic you can work with $1K.
    We spent far more than that renovating a bathroom in our AirBnB (before photos on my blog; have a strong drink beforehand to calm your nerves). In our own home, the “powder room” was completely in Pepto Bismol pink, and the pink tiles had a “drops of water” design. I wanted to flush that room every time I entered it. I tried to downplay the pink by doing the walls above the tile as well as the ceiling in a deep maroon, but it just made things worse. My kid put her foot down recently and made me drive her to the hardware store where we bought white paint for the walls (and primer, yeah, yeah) and tan tile paint to kind of go with the tan floors (because pink and tan worked so well together in the original!). It’s so much better. Husband wanted to rip out everything, but overcoming pink would just never rate the kind of urgency that our other budget priorities have. It isn’t perfect, but it’s much better.

  46. When redoing my bathroom years ago as a new homeowner and nonDIYer my contractor told me they had to remove my 1930s tub and it wasn’t possoble to put back. I had reservations, but let them and have regretted it ever since. Like sick to my stomache when I think of it regret it. I feel your pain. Good Luck on the bathroom.

    • These things happen—ya live and learn! I have various other “oops” moments where I wish I would have made a different choice, especially early on, but I try to keep in perspective that those moments are relatively minor compared with all the choices I stand by and think have improved this home for the long haul. It’s a big learning process and it’s impossible to make the right call every time, especially when you don’t yet know better! Most of my regrets have been related to pressure from contractors too. It just takes time to build the confidence that you might actually know better than they do!

  47. I’m a long-time reader but first time commenter. Your writing is amazing and I look forward to every new post. I’m all for the interim renovation but I have to say… could we please do a Gofundme? I would love to see what you could make that bathroom look like with a windfall :)

  48. I’m sorry about your plight, but once again your writing just amazes me and I thank you for sharing it with us. I literally chortled at “Someone ought to do something about this issue of grave social concern,” and then again at “it’s called elegance. look it up.” At least you have an awesome sense of humor about it. Good luck with the bathroom, I’m looking forward to seeing the beautiful end result.
    So listen…I know you’re beating yourself up about waiting to do it perfectly, but when you really get down on yourself I feel like you should go give yourself a time-out in your closet, to remind you of why you are the way that you are. You really are doing amazing things! They really are worth it! And in the meantime, we can all laugh at you when you write this stuff haha.

  49. Wait. Obviously I meant laugh WITH you. Clearly.

  50. First, “it’s called elegance, look it” made me cackle out loud at my office like a loon. Second, I do worry that trying to zhush this bathroom will be a big ‘ol can of worms. Especially that formica tub surround. You have so much else going on – like the kitchen you are not telling us nearly enough about ;) – maybe wait till the kitchen is totally done before starting to pick the bathroom scab?

    • Ah, alas, kitchen has been moved out of ICU and is currently stable! There’s very little to tell! I’m truly at the end of my rope with this bathroom though, and it’s going to be a super busy summer and I know I can get this done fairly fast. I’ll finish the kitchen when I have some time and money to do it…which is not right now! :)

  51. This all makes me feel a LOT better about our sad tub that works fine but really needs to be refinished. Not to mention the janky hole in our kitchen ceiling that’s been hanging out, unpatched, for 2.5 years. I wish you all the luck!

  52. Maybe some photoshop is all you need here :)

  53. I hope you keep that door! And if you don’t, give it to me! I will pay money and drive from New England to pick it up. That door is the exact door that I’ve been looking for for my bathroom for the last 6 years. I can’t wait to see what you are going to do with this room.

    • Sorry, the door definitely stays!! For what it’s worth, I think it’s possible this door started as a regular 4-panel door and the top glass was added later. I’ve never done that particular project but it doesn’t seem like it would be too hard? Just FYI—to meet modern code, the glass would have to be tempered. Do with that information what you will, but maybe don’t tell the glass people what you’re doing with it if you don’t get tempered glass…

  54. I loved this post. I can’t wait to see what you do. I’d skip the peel and stick and just do an inexpensive porcelein tile on the floor. We used a hex tile from lowes for a cheap reno to our third floor guest bath in our 1920’s home after a leak in the vanity led us to do a quick upgrade to the whole bathroom. It’s a little more work, but looks lovely and would be more authentic to your home.

  55. Daniel– so exciting. I can’t wait to see it in a weeks time and look forward to stealing some of your choices for my own temporary bath updates. Also, on a separate note, I think this is the first time sponsored advertising has actually worked on me… Since buying our old house I’ve found myself going to Lowe’s over Home Depot and have even purchased some of the tool brands you’ve reviewed in your post, siting to my partner “Oh, Daniel Kanter said he liked that one, let’s get it”. You do such a great job at finding the balance between sponsorship and honesty.

    • Saaaaaame!

      • Thank you, guys! That’s really nice to hear. My only goal with sponsored content is that it’s helpful and honest, and it’s great to work with sponsors who share those goals! I’m glad that seems to come through! :)

  56. Daniel- I love the formica shower. I laughed out loud because once I had a contractor in my bathroom and he pointed out that the shower surround was made of a material commonly used as a wall covering in gas station bathrooms. He seemed impressed! You do great work, I’m looking forward to seeing what you come up with.

  57. Hmm. Extra long white waffle shower curtain, mounted much higher up, so you don’t have to look at whatever shower surround is in stock at Lowe’s. Bead board up until the line of trim, unless you can tile? Put a door, or a few doors, over the storage shelves. Probably mount a bigger, not-red medicine cabinet. ;) No matter what, if all you do is patch the walls and get a reallllly big bath mat to cover up the floor, it will look so, so good, until you can make it look great!

    Also, if you aren’t super attached to terry cloth bath towels, peshtemal towels dry so quickly that I can hang mine on hooks inside the shower without them getting mildewy. Saves a lot of space.

    Also also, check out vintagebathroomlove on Instagram. No mirrors as lovely as yours, but some good ideas all the same.

  58. Yay for making your every day life a little nicer! You have always been an inspiration to me. I totally copied your navy apartment bathroom and vanity fix when I decided something must be done in my nothing-original-remaining bathroom a couple years ago. When I removed the bar type light fixture to replace it, I found out the junction box was v weirdly placed with an excessively large hole (punched) in the plaster that would not be completely covered by the new fixture. SO I COVERED IT WITH DUCT TAPE AND PAINTED OVER IT. Sorry/not sorry. Some day we will get around to fixing that…. and the rusting tub filler, 90’s tub and surround, and scary motel vanity. Some day.

    If I were you I would….
    – Scrape and paint walls (duh). I love navy. You are going to feel so. much. cleaner.
    – Take down or shorten the back shower wall, have your towel hooks next to the window, and find a laundry basket that can fit in there – https://tinyurl.com/yy555bkq or https://tinyurl.com/y67kauq6
    – Add a big medicine cabinet where the print is (maybe you have an extra upper kitchen cabinet floating around, or you have proven yourself more than able to build something custom!) and as many simple bracket shelves as you can fit where the Ikea red cabinet is to replace storage lost
    – Floating laminate or peel and stick tile on the floor (I like these https://tinyurl.com/y29gyrpp https://tinyurl.com/y2hj2leu) the peel and stick previous owner did before selling to us has lasted 6 years just fine in our bathroom!
    – This is a big ticket item, but faux marble shower surround? https://tinyurl.com/y4h3bsph
    – There is plastic bead board which maybe would be fine as a 5 year shower surround option? Maybe it would look horrible next to real bead board… or maybe it would be fine! https://tinyurl.com/y6xxt73s

    • Oh gosh, be careful!! Duct tape is metallic and can conduct. But if it’s not near the wiring, I guess, rock on with that tape patch hahaha. And thank you for all the suggestions!!

  59. Have you done any research on your sink? I’d be willing to bet it’s a JL Mott, the Cadillac of plumbing fixtures in the day. Lucky you!! Can’t wait to see your updates!

    • Ah, thank you Margaret!!! Mine doesn’t seem to have any manufacturer marks on it (unless they’re on the back that’s facing the wall), but after a quick google search it certainly appears to be JL Mott. This one is so similar! Thank you for sharing this!!

  60. “I cherish this moment because it was so perfectly honest.”
    This is one of the many reasons why I like reading you. You are also so perfectly honest.

  61. Daniel, we must be cousins! Industrial strength blinders (kept me married 28 years and working until retirement age), enough guardian angels to populate a small town, and trying to make do with the wrong tools. Then making the best of a bad situation? Yep. We are related! Glad you got lots of ideas above because I have none. Outdoors, I know my stuff or how to learn it. Indoors I hire and hope for the best.
    Thanks for the laughs and the headshakes and for just sharing the shame.
    And thanks to Lowe’s for recognizing the world needs real-life, affordable makeovers.

  62. That terrazzo looking tile is exactly where the asbestos was lurking in my layers and layers of flooring in my kitchen. I had it professionally abated, but if I was physically strong enough to pull the underlayment I would have done it myself…. please wear a pro-rated respirator if you plan on pulling up that floor.

  63. I don’t have to tell you this – 1K is not going to go far, and a week is not long.
    I would:
    •Put fiberglass panels in the shower as a temporary fix there.
    •Hang the shower curtain all the way up to the ceiling. It’s hard to tell if the tub wall extends past the window; if it doesn’t you could run the curtain all the way over and hide the storage cubby.
    •Paint, obvs
    •Is it possible to hang the door on the other side? I hate it opening on the toilet.
    •Floors – peel and stick. No time brah.
    •Can you get a pendant light in there? Maybe through the floor boards above? If you had to you can do an old fashion pull chain.
    •I feel like something needs to be done with the walls up to chair rail height. Some of your salvaged wood?
    xo Good Luck!!

  64. My two cents

    1. Cut the wall at the end of the shower to just above the lower towel hanger. Cap off the top of the narrow janky shelves with a piece of leftover butcher block you likely have hanging around somewhere. Extend the shower rod to the wall so that when the shower curtain is open you can slide it in front of the remaining lower shelves. They’re ugly but are serving some storage purpose for you.
    2. Reverse the door swing, my god that would drive me nuts!!! The beauty of living alone is pooping with the door open!! Paint the door black while you’re at it.
    3. Install simple narrow shelves above the radiator, that red cabinet is useless.
    4. Peel and stick tiles for the floor or that flooring you temporarily used for the kitchen.
    5. If you’re not currently patching those fancy holes in the wall, I would choose just one, larger piece of art to disguise them.
    6. Hang a small hook on the wall to hang your hair dryer on if you know yourself well and will always end up leaving it plugged in and out. If your hairdryer doesn’t have a hook (some do some don’t, just tie a small loop in the cord).
    7. This is turning into more like 10 cents….
    8. Figure out the leaking issue, whether it be washers or new handles or whatnot. There’s no reason for you to play the “will I burn my ankles today” game every time you shower.
    9. You learned how to make cabinets for your kitchen, I bet you could make a taller and narrower wood hamper for under the window. Just drill some holes, preferably in some overly fancy Victorian pattern, for ventilation.
    10. Fixing walls and picking colors is something I would never even attempt to give you advice on. You’ll nail that part.

  65. Here’s what I would do if I had limited time, a modest budget, unlimited creativity and mad skills (none of which applies to me but sure does to you).

    1. Make door swing toward tub instead of toward toilet.
    2. Seriously clean or refinish tub. New tub surround, and while you have the current surround down…
    3. Fix/replace all the shower plumbing with something that works and is shiny chrome.
    4. Do something clever on radiator wall. It should involve a radiator cover and lots of storage. Storage can be shallow, like 5 or 6 inches deep which is all you need for most bottles/jars. Towel hooks above radiator for free towel warming.
    5. Extend the clever storage solution into that cavern next to the tub. Maybe add white cabinet doors to cover up the stuff in there and give a cleaner visual.
    6. Lots of bead board. Everywhere except inside the tub. Floor to ceiling. Maybe ceiling also?
    7. Do something about the wiring situation. It might be safe but it doesn’t LOOK safe.Also, you need lots of grounded outlets!
    8. Add an exhaust fan.
    9. Paint everything white.
    10. New faucets for that great sink — shiny chrome! Something like a bridge faucet so you can mix temps to your liking. And the drain pipes and supply lines should also be shiny chrome.
    11. Different vanity light that spreads more light and makes more of a statement.
    12. New floor! I like hex tile, or at least that look. I believe you can get peel-and-stick vinyl tile in a hex pattern? Again, go for lots of white in the design.
    I can’t wait to see what you do and how you do it.

  66. Daniel, you‘ll do just fine! We, the readers, know best! Trust us :-)
    Here is what I would do:

    1. get the peeling walls in okay-ish shape and paint them dark – someone mentioned F&B hague, yes, something like that. The Walls respectively the peeling is responsible for a lot of the grimey feels.
    2. cover the formica. I would go for cheap subway tile but anything is fine. Beadboard/lookalike beadboard, wet-space usable wallpaper, …. (Sorry, I am German, dont know all the correct terms).
    3. get rid of the wall between tub and outside wall
    4. someone mentioned a nice storage space on the outside wall. I imagine something half-high like a long fauxdenza (hi Anna Dorfman) which acts as a radiator cover-slash-long-sideboard. But keep it off the floor, floating.
    5. paint the window frame white
    6. I could not see what else you have in regard of light, but I would und recommend better lights. The schoolhouse electrics is cute but this is not the perfect spot and I hope it is not the only source.
    7. I would rip off the terazzo tiles and put some simple tiles on the floor. E.g. Penny-rounds? They are easy to lay out…
    8. I would reduce the amount of colors that currently occupy the room, and the nick-knacks (is that correct? I mein the number of small stuff that makes the room rowded. E.g. The ikeathing, the pictures, the storage places (See #4)
    9. I would not change a thing about the sink, mirror, etc.
    10. some readers mentioned the door. Agree, if it could swing the other way that would be a lot better.
    …. uff I think I am done.

    But that would be me, and not you. i am sure you come up with some good ideas, as always.

    Greetings from the corner where Germany, switzerland and austria meet!

  67. I laughed SO HARD at this post! Thank you for providing such a good laugh and I can’t wait to see what you do.
    :)

  68. Add to my list of suggestions:
    Locate the studs while you have the old surround off the tub walls, and add a grab bar to the long wall. You are one banana peel from needing a grab bar for assistance in the shower — you don’t have to be old to need that little bit of help. Ask anyone who has had to be non-weight bearing on one foot for several weeks while a bone heals.
    The area behind the door (that you’ve re-hinged) might offer excellent storage, or a spot for a big mirror which can bounce light around as well as demonstrate smudges on your pants or shirt. Or hooks for hand towels.

  69. I’ve throughly enjoyed this post. Only you could make me want to sit and read about someone else’s shitty bathroom. I can’t wait to see what you do. (Going back to read about the crime scene bathroom now.)

  70. So many wonderful ideas! I love the idea of a “Stage 1” renovation, and think it is absolutely necessary. Of course you have plans to completely redo the bathroom down the line, but that doesn’t mean you need to live with a space that makes you unhappy (and scares your friends). You did it with your kitchen when you first moved into the house, so why not your bathroom, too?

    I would definitely tile the tub surround, I think it will be the best, and possibly cheapest, way to also protect the walls from any (further?) damage. Something easy like subway tile from Lowes or something you will like, but not love enough not to demolish one day. Do your beautiful house a favour and get… rid… of… the… FORMICA!! I can’t tell you how much I hate it. I know it’s making a comeback, but as a child of the 80’s with an architect for a father who used it for EVERYTHING… I’m traumatized. If there is damage behind it, just cover it up with faux beadboard sheets, it will look much nicer. I like the idea of peel and stick tile, but didn’t you once use a big piece of black vinyl flooring in either your house or old apartment kitchen? I think that could look amazing as well. As for the walls, yeah, get rid of the peeling painted paper. If the plaster is in decent shape, I’d leave it natural, as I just love the look, and just paint the beadboard. How amazing would a deep teal look behind that sink, though? Finally, I would try to invest in a decent fan/ventilation to cut down on moisture damage and for sure address the leaking pipes/fixtures.

    Good luck and I can’t wait to see how it comes out.

  71. I have a 1910 toilet, but it has a hairline crack in the base. I was unaware that it was possible to repair cracked old porcelain toilets.

    • oh, sorry! i just meant if there are faulty/leaky parts in the tank. i don’t know of a way to really fix the cracked porcelain, unfortunately.

  72. I’ve got nothing to add that hasn’t been said already, other than I vote for coin vinyl roll over peel and stick. Mostly cuz it seems like less work….

    Also my dirty secret – I have crews in place still in my walls from when we moved furniture and art around….6 years ago. Taking the screws out means patching the holes means painting means making decisions and maybe we’ll move next year….?

  73. Totally with Anna!!! How you have lived with this so long with all of your talent. Please do more of a band aid. Subway tile in the bath surround. You may want to go all the way to the ceiling, actually may be quicker. Just cut out the bad, durock, tile, grout. Lowes has a good selection of prefab wallcoverings so you don’t have to patch and try to level the wall for wallpaper. Or just a faux ship lap with your left over wood. Such a small floor, so go with a floating VPT, again basically no floor prep so no uncovering any possible asbestos. Definitely upgrade lighting and the faucets. Good luck with the 1 week!! Cannot wait to see what you decide.

  74. I’m so utterly charmed by your writing style. Just love reading your posts ❤️

  75. I’m saving for renovations to my one small bath – all original from the early 80s and semi-gross. Unfortunately it’s going to be more than cosmetic, because I know I have some rot that needs to adressed ( and goodness knows what else that I don’t know about.) It will be a basic reno: new basic tub, inexpensive white tile surround, porcelain sink and new vanity top (hoping to find a quartz remnant). The toilet is relatively new, so it’s staying, and I’m going to paint the existing vanity. I really want to remove the tub and do a walk-in shower, but everyone says you need at least one tub or you will never sell your house. Anyway, I can’t wait to see what you do. $1000 isn’t much for a bathroom project, but I know you will make it go as far as possible and the result will be amazing.

    • I wonder about that tub advice all the time!! I don’t know how to feel one way or the other. I’d take the walk-in shower over the tub/shower any day, but people definitely have strong feelings on this one!

  76. What’s this I am reading? Is that the Daniel who cobbled a desk out of an old set of drawers? Created an entire wall of shelving using plumbing parts? The Daniel who turns mid century yuck into mid century gold? You sat in the “all of nothing” abyss long enough, now you seem charged up and ready to get to work. All I can say is — I AM SO EXCITED! Whenever approaching a project like this, I always have a mantra and usually it’s “Hey, it can’t get any worse?”.
    Just a few suggestions –
    -storage using Ikea cabinet like Little Brick Home in their bathroom
    -cheap tile like you did before in your apartment – white subway, black or gray grout
    -remember your talents, you will figure it out as you go
    So happy to watch this, thanks taking the time to blog about it.
    Go, Daniel, Go! -Amy

  77. Wow Daniel, how in the F***k did you let yourself get to this level of ghettoness? Jeez man, just admit it now why don’t cha? ;-P

    All kidding aside, that bathroom upon purchase of said house didn’t look too bad but wow, in 6 years, it’s looking like it’s falling down around you in many places and just oh so gross looking.

    Like you, I live in an old house so I know the feeling, but fortunately, my bathroom, though tiny it is was renovated with generic Glacier Bay fixtures, fresh paint and a heat/light/exhaust fan that needs to be vented outside since I had a new roof put on during the purchasing negotiations – and that was 3 years ago now nearly (will be 3 years on July 11th).

    I agree with Devin here, just put polish that turd by scraping down the pealing wallpaper, wipe with TSP (or its equivalent), slap some dark paint on the walls, accent with white or another color, patch the holes over the toilet, straighten that print, paint the conduit to match the wall so it does not stand out so much, slap down some peel and stick tile that will not put you to sleep and so on to get it functional and I also agree, rebuild the faucets in the shower by replacing both the washers and seats if you can, likely may have to go to a traditional plumbing house to get the parts but way cheaper than replacing and agree, get an inexpensive surround to replacing moldy Formica and be done with, use bins and baskets to improve storage while at it.

    It’s sad that some can only think of ripping it all out down to the studs as the ONLY solution, but sometimes, time, budget etc just doesn’t exist but the room itself is still functional enough to get by for a few years but unless it’s trully falling apart with crumbling plumbing etc, best to leave sleeping dogs like for now and spitt if up until you can do a proper reno.

    Good luck and I’m, like others looking forward to see what you come up with!

  78. As someone whose hall bathroom still “locks” with a hook and eye, oh, 16 years after closing day, I obviously have no right to give you either criticism or suggestions. You’re soooooo not alone…kudos for tackling the beast.

  79. I kind of love your quick and dirty renovations. I kind of had a fantasy design session this morning and got on the Lowe’s site to imagine what I would do. I like a concept of making it cool but not too nice so you will want to redo it later (“correctly”!) . So my idea is “renovated over the years, but make it clean, nice and fashun/fun”. And I am also still super inspired by the redo you did of the Olive Bridge basement with the Antarctic Station colors and the vintage paint color in your closet.
    So I really geeked out and made a pinterest board and a moodboard for you!

    https://www.pinterest.fr/susanitaschulz/daniels-bathroom/

    In the Lowes sheet vinyl section I found a very close approximation to your current vinyl- I would replace it with the same but new vinyl! No tile because its costly and time consuming and would require extra work. A cheap tub surround (the cheapest!) because anything nice and new and usable is better than you have now (no offense), and new shower head and tub filler. I would mount ceiling heightish linen-y (from Lowes!) curtains with a long liner to conceal the bathtub. And then use an interesting combo of paints for the rest. Dark blues or greens with a interesting neutral pulled from the vinyl (see inspo pics) and a crazy accent color perhaps? I chose bright orange!) and then a nice sized indoor outdoor scatter rug for your feets (from Lowes!), a few accessories, vintage art and reuse your vintage hardware. And maybe a fern. And a laundry basket upgrade.

    I didn’t have the stomach to keep scrolling through the Lowes lighting section. I added a retro cheap vanity light panel that you could put a cut glass LED lightbulbs (on the board) into or a reflective dome lightbulb- either would elevate it for not much money and a lot more light.

    I know you will surprise me and whatever you do will be excellent, but this was fun! Can’t wait to see the outcome!

  80. The Formica surround doesn’t seem to be in *that* bad of shape: clean/replace the caulking, and put cheap subway tile above the surround. Scrape the other walls, patch and sand, then paint a darker color: emerald, navy or charcoal. Put shelves where the cute IKEA box is. Peal and stick marble-looking vinyl tiles if the floor is in bad shape. That’s all I️ got…I’m sure you’ll do something beautiful and can’t wait to see the progress!!

  81. I’m so excited to see what you do. Love the sink too.

  82. You have so many great ideas here to chose from! But, I think that I would first get to the electricity and fix it right. Then do the leaking shower. That could take a week but then it would be safe and done for awhile. Making something beautiful is a walk in the park for you.

  83. The fabulous sink is at least 1920s. My guess for the sink and mirror both is 1930s; a lot of the US added indoor bathrooms 1920s-1930s. I’d let the 1930s set the tone until you can afford a total re-do.

    For $1k in a week, I’d take inspo from your Bluestone Antarctic basement laundry. Patch dem holes and cover everything 2/3 the way up the wall with board or tile in a darker tone or even wallpaper – navy gloss? And a lighter color in paint, perhaps white or cream, on the top 1/3 of the room. Just cleaning up the walls will help a lot. Treat yo self to some new linens: shower curtain and bath linens, probably in crisp white if you do that on the top of the walls. Get a nice curved shower rod to feel more luxurious in the shower, and plush white cotton bath rugs. Add a sheer curtain to hide the shelves at the foot of the tub, a sleek cabinet over the toilet.

    All of that will probably eat up your time and money budgets pretty handily, but if there’s any money left over, splash out on a nice light fixture over the sink and overhead, and a GFI outlet at the sink. And, depending on what’s under the flooring, rip it all up and put in some of that cheap vinyl flooring that emulates the more expensive stuff. You’re going for clean and not-obnoxious, something you can tolerate allowing your guests to see for the next couple of years until the big re-do.

    And maaaaaaybe get a nice wifi speaker in there too.

    • You could be right! I will say, I took down the mirror and there’s a sticker on the back that dates it at 1908. The first floor bathroom in my house was added in the 1930s and is very different in style/materials, and I know this one came first, so I do think it’s closer to the turn of the century! The shelf hardware appears to have been manufactured between 1893-1910 as well. Hmmmm!

  84. 1000 clams can buy a lot of subway tile. Would look amazing liberally used all over the walls. We found some really cheap but lovely porcelain floor tiles that look like marble at Lowes.

  85. Personally, I would go down to Lowes and look at their clearance sections–actually, I’d go to as many different Lowes-es as I could find and check the clearance sections. I’ve gotten lovely things from their 75% off tables–reproduction Craftsman lamps, close-out tile, carpeting remnants, paint that the original customer didn’t want. I would plan the design around what I bargain-binned from Lowes, keep anything that is moderately functional, rip out whatever is truly non-functional (please use a respirator), cobble it back together, and say “good enough.”

    Of course, I would do this in my imaginary world–in my real world, we ripped everything back to the studs, cut concrete out of the floor to put pipes where they should have gone in the first place, re-poured the concrete, and we’re still putting things back together. Couldn’t help it–the inspectors won’t give us a certificate of occupancy any other way.

    But, yes, in a much more fun world–I would make a game out of bargain-binning things from Lowes.

  86. For $1000- replace/cover Formica on walls with wainscoating. Replace in shower surround with black and white tile-maybe a small herringbone pattern? Patch and paint walls- I’ve always wanted to do Ming Green in a bathroom. Floor- buy nice linoleum or cheap tile, depending on what’s left in the budget.

  87. Okay now, from the hypothetical perspective of me being a guest at your house wanting to use the bathroom without being grossed out, those are the things that needed to change:
    1. The floor. White tiles would be awesome. Or at least something like perhaps the flooring you used to cover up the tiles in the Brooklyn kitchen. Or, well, anything other than that floor.
    2. The wall behind the shower.
    3. The creepy niche/storage shelf contraption next to the shower.
    4. Whatever puts my delicate ankles at risk.
    Can’t wait to see what you do with the space.

  88. 1. Remove that wall at the end of your bath
    2. Remove Formica +/- current flooring
    3. Box out end of bath so that there is a ledge at the end of your bath. Whack up some of your saved timber pieces for wall shelves above this.
    4. New bath taps
    5. White subway tile and beadboard walls and bath surround
    6. Replace flooring with tiles/ vinyl/ lino as remaining budget allows.
    You got this!

  89. Clawfoot. Clawfoot clawfoot clawfoot. Find a vintage one, no tiling, no leveling, exposed plumbing is easy to hook up. Put one in my Air BnB and it was so easy! Wallpaper your imperfect walls and vinyl plank your imperfect floors. Invest in an amazing ceiling fan. Build some cool shelves over the toilet and get some cool freestanding cabinet for under the window. I linked my Air BnB, check it out!

    P.S., Is that an old rotary switch? I have one going to my porch light, the only original light switch in my 1904 house!

    • JEEZ, how fucking cute is your house?! So nice! I would like to stay there please and thank you. :)

      It’s not a rotary switch, but good eye! It’s the old gas line!! I think this house rocked gas lighting until the 1920s or 30s. I think it just skipped knob and tube and went straight to BX!

      • If you’re ever in Seattle it’s just a ferry ride away in Bremerton, where I was born. Now I’m working on the little 430 sf 1901 house behind it! My grandpa stole that tub (and the rest of a pristine 1904 bathroom set I have I storage, to go in my Bellingham WA house) out of officers’ row quarters on the local navy base being ‘updated’. Your same glass shelf, a double American Standard wall sink with iron brackets, a vintage toilet and even a chrome holder for a porcelain soap dish that reads U.S. Navy. It’s the stuff of beauty.

        But serious, do a clawfoot! They’re amazing! And so easy! And Lowes has nice 4×8 beadboard panels if all else fails with the walls.

  90. Don’t you have to remove that shower wall to fix the leaking plumbing anyways? Then you can replace the shower walls with any easy, pre-made shower/tub surround. Pull that peeling stuff off the walls and paint them purple (because a lovely lavendar would look really cute with the current floors). While the current floor isn’t ideal, can you replace the tiles that are coming up? Otherwise, they are making some really good laminate these days – like wood looking sheet laminate. Do what YBH did in their upstairs bathroom at the end of the tub where those shelves are and maybe install a medicine cabinet where all those holes are. Voila!

  91. Oh dear God Daniel. You are so good to us. Your last post was only like three weeks ago, and you’re probably going to do the update in a fortnight or so! So much Manhattan Nest goodness!

  92. Hi Daniel,
    I can’t wait to see what you come up with. I love to see your creativity put to the test under budget and it’s always so fantastic. For the shower walls – it would be cool if you could paint the formica and then cover with sheets of glass. Not sure what that process would be but imagine it involves some silicone ;) This eliminates some of the potential future waste and it’s not plastic. By the way – I grew up in a very old farmhouse with formica shower walls! I always thought my Dad was so creative to use that material (family of 8 and strict budget!) Excited to see what you come up with.

  93. I’d buy an entire house for that sink too. :)

  94. Whatever you do, heat the floor.I leave the chic to you. But who cares how swell if you’re freezing your skinny ass off.

  95. I’m late to the conversation, but can’t resist tossing out these few thoughts among so many great solutions (and please forgive me if they’ve already been covered):
    1) Could that gorgeous mirror hang vertically? If so, and if the electrical conduit could go straight up to the ceiling and across, then hang two simple modern pendant lights to the sides of the mirror– it would be very elegant and the light is more flattering that way;
    2) If you go for new tiling in the shower, take the wall at the end of the bath to half height, just under the window sill (it’s better at tub height but hard to manage the water); add a pre-fab box/niche in this half-wall for bottles; close and tile the top “shelf” to the window wall; keep shelves in the nook below with a cabinet door to hide the contents (it would open under the window sill); and hang a towel shelf and/or bar in the space above (like a hotel);
    3) If that works, install a shower curtain rod very high from the sink wall to the window wall, or an L-shaped curtain rod to keep it in the tub; and
    4) Re-glue floor tiles and paint them with marine paint — maybe with decorative stencils or a striped border for fun — just to get through until you can retile the floor later.
    Good luck!!! And I look forward to seeing what you do!!

  96. They’re both probably too far away from Kingston, but Significant Elements in Ithaca and Olde Good Things in Scranton both have old toilets. OGT prices are approximately one million times better in Scranton than they are online or at any of their NYC locations.

    http://www.significantelements.org/
    https://ogtstore.com/

  97. Daniel,

    I just want you to know that your blog is the ONLY BLOG I have ever subscribed to. I’ve been reading and following your endless remodel journey on your home and it is all at once harrowing, hilarious and horrifying. Your ‘voice’ is so strong and I feel like you’re sitting there telling me about this reno downstairs at the coffee shop I’m sure you escape to as respite form all the work. The piece on installing the faux fireplace was insane. It came out so beautifully. Truly awesome work and so imaginative. You’re very inspiring and since having just done some seriously minimal fixing up to my guest house here in Venice Beach CA, we’re talking installing blinds, putting up shelves and fixing up an old Eames table base, I can see how this can all become very addicting. Keep up the great work. Look forward to seeing the bathroom remodel…holy shit that sink/mirror/shelf combo! Jealy!
    Mucho admiration,
    Sam

  98. J’aime and J’adore

  99. is that floor made of headcheese?
    the walls are very “World of Interiors”… and they look kinda cool from here!
    :-)

  100. ok, so the pinterest mood board called Daniel’s Bathroom has 221 followers so there’s that! oh and tile the shit out of that thing.

  101. Well, this bathroom reno will definitely have killer “before”s! Sometime on blogs I get tired of sponsored posts, but not on yours. You are still so you, and Lowe’s is just great. In fact, I actually like your sponsored posts better. We are not tight friends, like Anna, but I’m going to tell you straight up why and hope you don’t mind. I actually don’t like cussing/swearing/profanity however you want to refer to it. I’ve never mentioned it because who am I to tell you what/how to write. So, that is not my intent, just putting it out there for you to have and no. LOVE your content. SUPER LOVE your humor. And I stick around for those things but cringe with some of the language. (Feel free to completely ignore my feedback. It’s just why the sponsored posts are a treat because they tend to be cleaner language.) (Also why I haven’t followed you on insta, but I have otherwise wanted to!)

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