Need some help brightening bath

hosenemesisFebruary 21, 2012

I have run out of ideas, and I have always been out of money, so I thought perhaps I would swallow my pride and turn to wiser minds for suggestions. My house is rustic by design and necessity, with flagstone floors and french wood windows, to give you an idea of my taste.

I built a small bathroom where a closet was seven years ago and never finished it. Most of the materials were scavenged or bought on clearance, except for the toilet. Unfortunately, I did not do my homework and pooh-poohed those who told me I should not use the materials I had in stock, including cheap slate, a scavenged particle-board dresser, and pine doors. I had fallen in love with a busy copper-colored slate wall tile pattern and oil-rubbed bronze Delta fixtures, and had a muddled idea of an indoor-outdoor feel crossed with New Orleans style brick and iron antiquity. All in a 10x5' room with a 7' ceiling.

I have never grouted the slate shower because I fear it will melt. It took me weeks and weeks and WEEKS to cut all of that slate and lay the tile. It has to stay. I can't face removing it. Same goes for the impractical slate wall-tile floor that hates water.

I hate the black toilet. It looks dirty all of the time, partly because the exterior doors are so poorly hung by you-know-who and partly because a contractor lives on the acre of dirt next door. I want a shiny white toilet, I think.

I hate the copper sink. It is impossible to keep clean looking, and it does not drain well because there are no overflow holes. I want a shiny clean white sink, preferably something with a rim so water does not dribble down the back of the cheap particle-board vanity. Kohler Serif? Kohler Devonshire? AS Savona? (It's only 17.5 inches deep).

I hate the dark particle-board vanity with the cleverly rebuilt drawers that provide lots of storage and that took DH a week to rebuild. I just scraped joint compound over the top of it and painted it to look like concrete and then put four coats of polyurethane over it, and it's not quite so bad, but it can go. I can get DH to build me whatever I want.

I just stained the pine doors weathered wood colored with vinegar and steel wool, and I dislike them a little less than when they were yellow pine, but I'm still not tickled.

I switched out the never-used oil-rubbed bronze fixtures for chrome and that helped a bit.

I feel like lighting a cigar when I walk into this bathroom. Do you think the white or bone toilet, shower curtain, and sink will make it feel less like a man cave?

Your bathrooms are all so beautiful. Thank you for your patience.

Here is a link that might be useful: Bathroom photos

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Well, the potential is amazing, as are those doors to the outside...gorgeous. I think one of the biggest problems, besides the black toilet, is the gray walls and ceiling. It is very cold and oppressive to me because it mimics a cave carved into stone. Before doing anything too drastic, I'd get a lighter toilet, paint the walls and ceiling a creamy, lighter color and paint the door frames and vanity a lighter color. If you could live with the vanity, that is. Or you could switch out to something more like your kitchen cabs in a natural wood.

Personally, I love the copper sink in there, but it doesn't matter what I love! Same for those gorgeous doors. But I'm partial to natural wood. Glad you like the niche!

I think getting rid of the gray (it's fine on the slate trim) and dark vanity/toilet would do wonders for not too much effort or $$. Maybe a bit of color with towels/rugs/shower curtain would add some punch.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 6:45PM
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First, what do you mean by "I have never grouted the slate shower because I fear it will melt"? It needs to be grouted and sealed if you intend to prevent moisture and damage behind the slate. Sealing it will bring out it's rich tones and sealing the floor will also bring it to life.....unless you're wanting to keep that 'rustic' look.

I agree with the painting suggestions above and would also add that I think the mirror, or frame, needs to be changed out. A silver frame would look nice with your chrome fixture and new white sink.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 7:02PM
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There is not an easy, inexpensive way to make this bathroom read more feminine. However, I really like this bathroom; it's quite different than most bathrooms that you see, and it definitely has personality!

I don't like the idea of a white toilet in that bathroom. I think it will stick out like a sore thumb. What I would do is paint the ceiling and walls the same coppery color so that the colors of the wood, floor and wall tile all blend together more nicely. I'm not sure what color of a shower curtain but not white, black or grey. I think you want to stay in the warm tones.

My two cents. I really like your bathroom! I think most people will tell you that no room is perfect, and that there are compromises in every remodel and design process. Try to embrace it for what it is and enjoy it!

let us know what you decide.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 7:15PM
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Fori is not pleased

I think it looks gorgeous and not dark in a bad way. Warm and cozy and...okay. The shiny potty is bad. Not because it's black but because it's SHINY! An almond one might work but not white.

I love the slate (lose the black stripe).

Do replace the vanity--get one with a builtin counter/sink combo that includes a little lip on the back of the counter to catch drips. Again, not white, but almond or cream or bisque or whatever it's called these days. That will give you a larger area of bright.

It's hard to tell from photos but it seems as though the shower and floor complement each other or at least don't fight. They are different zones, so it's okay for them to be different. If the grey on the walls is too gloomy, go bright. Find a light apricot or a yellow that works.

The shower is sort of a focal point and it would be a shame to curtain it off just for color. I'd prefer to see it with either glass doors (assuming I wasn't going to have to clean them) or a clear curtain stuffed to the side and not being part of the overall design at all.

Well, I like it and it's worth fixing it up so YOU appreciate it! (O yeah--if it turns out half as well as your kitchen, it's a winner.)

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 7:49PM
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Wow, what a treat- all of these quick and thoughtful responses. Thank you. You have all been very kind.

olychick, I shall begin with your suggestion and paint the walls, ceiling, and trim a creamy color. Perhaps I will try, as andreadeg and fori suggest, coppery or apricotish color on the walls first, and then if I don't like it paint them to match the trim and ceiling.

annz, never fear- the shower has never been used in all of these years. All of the stone has been sealed- the shower with a silicone type sealer and the floor with Jasco. I think your idea of a silver mirror frame is inspired. I was ignoring it, because I had the oil-rubbed bronze mirror frame built and did not want to try to paint metal that slides. I'll think about just getting new hardware for that medicine chest and painting the wood antique silver or something.

Fori- I will sand off the black stripes and reseal. That will remove all of the black from the room, giving me a more neutral starting point.

I have been searching online for vanities, and the only ones I like cost a small fortune and have lovely white vitreous china tops. That would not work with a bone or almond toilet. I may have to get DH to build me one. If I paint the one I have, I could do this color. Maybe the walls would look good the same color as the vanity?

This is what I really want, but it's one-of-a-kind. I have tried to age wood this way and it comes out okay, but not this nice.

I have a white toilet in the other bathroom, so I might set it into this bath to see if it looks too stark. I'll take a photo if I try this.

Thank you all again. I'll have plenty to start on this weekend.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 8:51PM
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I really like the copper sink in there, but if you truly hate it, help it find a good home.

The one spot I'd want to see you spend time or money first would be to change out the vanity. Particle board without a splash back and water just sounds like trouble.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 10:42PM
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I love the 2nd vanity you posted; I think the first one is just not right with the rest of the bath, but maybe once the paint is lightened??? I know you're looking for feminine, but I think the contrast with the strength of the slate is just too, too.

Since you can have your hubby build whatever you want, what about looking for an old chest of drawers or buffet that is past its prime and using that aged wood? CL in my area is filled with stuff that might work. There is lots of rustic hand forged hardware available. If you go that route, you might want to wait on mirror finish until you see what other metals you end up with.

I think the white toilet seems stark, but if you go to Houzz and search for slate baths, they all seem to have white toilets and it looks fine, but many of them have used a light grout. When there is more light colored paint in there, it probably will help ameliorate the starkness of white, but maybe bone would work? And with the dark vanity gone, it won't be next to such a stark contrasting piece. You could paint out the vanity that's there, just to see how you like a painted vs. wood piece. If you try it, then when you remove it, you could move a wood dresser in there to see if you like the wood tones there.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2012 at 12:23AM
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I really love the feeling of your bathroom, it's got that dark Moroccan style. I agree about the walls and ceiling being much lighter but you can still use moody colors in a lighter tone. An antiqued green vanity would look great and I'd keep the copper sink. I'd look for a brown or dark tan toilet. The black is too much.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2012 at 1:54AM
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I think it looks beautiful and has lots of potential. I love the cave shower! :) I also love that you have done all this yourself. Good job.

That vanity needs to be replaced, imo. Your inspiration vanity would be perfect. I think you could age new wood yourself (with different techniques than last time) and achieve a similar look. I agree with scouring craigslist for dressers or even for free wood.

The black widow toilet definitely needs to go. Did you paint the black items throughout (trim, vanity, etc) to try to tie in the toilet? I don't think the black touches are working..... so if the toilet goes, they should too. Maybe the trim could be a beige/taupe color...

Are you putting up a shower curtain? I am not noticing the contrast of the different slates you mention..... from the photos, they look fine. I think if you grout the shower to match the floor grout, it will help tie it together more...... With that said, a shower curtain would distract and cover the difference too. I am imagining two shower curtains that look like aged lace that open in the middle (like window curtains would) ... with tie backs. Maybe even just a piece of string tying them back on each side...

RE: toilet/sink... get the white/non-spider ones. :) White doesn't necessarily match the look in there, but they would match each other and look.... new....clean..... inviting.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2012 at 10:34AM
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I agree that the overall feeling of your bathroom is great. The doors are amazing. The tile is beautiful and rustic. And it looks like you get a lot of light coming into the bathroom. I think a few changes might help you love your bathroom.

I'm guessing you're afraid the tile "will melt" with grouting because it's cheaper slate? Perhaps one of the tile experts will chime in, but as I understand, a tile installation is generally made significantly stronger once grouted. Did you do proper waterproofing in the shower before tile installation? Also, I've read that in general a proper slope is difficult to achieve with large format (larger than maybe 4-6"?) tiles on a shower floor. Assuming your shower was properly constructed with waterproofing and drainage in mind, I think you should go forward with grouting it. In my opinion, tile work almost always looks better when grouted and your installation looks really lovely in the pictures. My first tile installation took forever, especially the tile cutting. It gets easier with practice, but I agree it's a labor of love (and frustration). I can absolutely understand your trepidation.

I also agree that the shiny black toilet isn't quite right for the room. Do you have a local Habitat for Humanity Restore? When I have been to mine I've seen numerous colored toilets for sale. Perhaps you can find a more mid-toned neutral color. If not, I checked the Kohler site and they have a huge variety of colors. I think a mid-tone like Thunder Gray or Cashmere or Dune or Sandbar or Mexican Sand might work. I agree with the others that white might be a little stark and not in keeping with the soothing rustic character of your bathroom.

While I like the gray on your walls and ceiling, I do think it's making the room feel much darker. I would try a lighter color, maybe a light creamy beige or lighter gray. I also think keeping the ceiling a light color (maybe cream or creamy beige) would help.

You said your sink isn't draining properly. Is it properly vented? I am no plumbing expert, but the lack of an overflow should not affect the way the sink drains. Proper plumbing including ventilation is generally key to good drainage. Also, I believe copper will naturally patina, so it will probably never look sparkling clean. But isn't that part of the point? Your bathroom has a lovely rustic quality and I think the copper sink enhances that.

Personally, I would work on replacing the vanity. I agree with others that a poorly constructed particle board dresser might not be the best idea around water. Personally, I also think the brown paint is not working very well either. I think a rustic stained wood piece in keeping with the doors would be better. In my local area there are always fantastic solid oak old/antique dressers for sale on Craiglist and in the classifieds. I think your husband could work his magic with a good quality antique and you'd have a much more beautiful vanity that will last. If you do purchase an actual vanity, I'd go with something maybe oak or pine or with other strong grain and slightly rustic. I'm including some pictures of what I mean. I realize the Restoration Hardware vanities are probably way out of the budget, but I wanted to show some general ideas of what I'm thinking.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2012 at 10:48AM
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This is some "rough" photoshop, just to give you an idea of what it could look like with a different paint color, toilet, and vanity.

The vanity I used in the photo is expensive, a cheaper alternative might be something like this Rustic Pine Vanity $439.00

I kind of like the idea of a rustic pine vanity stained to match your doors. I also like your copper sink and would keep it to go with the new vanity.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2012 at 11:58AM
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Wow roobear! Your photoshop looks fantastic. That's exactly what I was thinking. A rustic pine vanity to match the doors and a mid-toned toilet. I think that lightens up the room considerably.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2012 at 1:09PM
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Some of the ideas already proposed could potentially be expensive. Here's some simple, inexpensive & cosmetic changes that may make enough impact in your space.

*First off, grout. Use a dark grout to create an illusion of lighter shade tile. I suggest grey because it's most neutral and will create the illusion of more color.
*I suspect your trouble with the toilet may be the high gloss sheen that contrasts the 'rustic' muted texture of your other materials. I say the color is fine. Try a pale grey, slate blue or yellow ochre scatter rug on the floor, fingertip towels on the tank cover or other fabric. The softness of fabric will contract the harsh coldness of the other materials.
*Think balance.
*You could add a budvase on the toilet tank and vanity top to warm it up too. It's amazing what life/light a couple little buds, flowers, leaves or other living things can do to a space.
*I like the copper sink in there; mixes nicely with the other materials; appears to go together with your other materials. If it's not draining well, that could be a birdnest on the top of the pipe (on your roof) or something else clogging up the 'suck'.
*I like the vanity top, again, blends well with your other choices. Sounds & looks like your DH took that piece and transformed it with his bare hands and God-given talent into a one-of-a-kind piece. I would not lose that vanity and discard all that with it. It's beautiful.
*As far as the 'yellow' tone of your door, try a diluted violet stain. Violet will mute the yellow enough so it will blend. Practice on scrap board first to play with the shade; adjust the mixture to suit your palette just right. That will also make the copper shades and terracotta shades 'appear' brighter.
*I love your use of natural light with those exterior doors! Soften the doors by adding a cafe rod with fabric.
*You could add a floor lamp to introduce warmer yellow tones of incandescent light to warm it up too. I would have to have a light fixture at the mirror. Layers of light will enhance all the colors in your materials. Light warms up any space.

If this was my bathroom, I would keep all the materials. They work well with each other. They do NOT fight each other. It just looks unfinished to me without the grout and furnishings. I suspect your 'cave' feeling could just be because your space is like a cake without icing; a face without makeup; salad without dressing. It just needs some enhancements to tie it all together. No need to remove & replace with mismatched elements; rather, just finish off with some accessories!

    Bookmark   February 22, 2012 at 2:21PM
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I would refinish the vanity to a rustic natural wood or paint it a lighter color. Your tile has lots of warm shades, I'd pick one or two and eliminate all black and gray. And maybe you could find a toilet in a peach shade.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2012 at 2:25PM
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Here's tip #1 to make the place lighter and brighter: more light. Use LED bulbs in the recessed fixtures that will provide more lumens but do so with lower electricity costs. I'd switch out the trim on those recessed lights to a covered light like in the shower. It will diffuse the light, reducing glare, making the space brighter and less contrasting because of the way the light is put into the room.

And you don't have any good light over the vanity area. It needs a smaller mirror with sconces to either side, or a vanity light above it. I'm thinking of something like this punched tin fixture that will bounce the light off of the ceiling onto your face.

If you found a couple of inexpensive sconces, you could do the punched tin yourself. The silver color would tie in with your new chrome fixture direction but still be rustic.

Or something like this Varaluz fixture, out of a neutral but light stained glass. You sound handy enough to DIY the glass portion yourself on top of the guts of an old vanity fixture.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2012 at 2:55PM
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As you think about making changes to your room you'll need to be careful about any new undertones you add to the space. for instance in the photoshop picture above you'll note that the toilet has a yellow undertone but your floor has a strong red undertone. Although the new toilet may lighten things up, it does nothing to keep your room coordinated.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2012 at 3:19PM
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Fori is not pleased

How bad would it be to replace one of those can lights with a crystal chandelier? A small, but sparkly one. C'mon, even the French Quarter is full of bling. I'm not asking you to paint in purple, red, and green! (But I might try green...)

You made me laugh when you talked about getting the toilet from the other bathroom to see how it looks in there. Where I come fro, we don't even JOKE about toilet moving! :)

Now, if you're on a budget and have no use for this toilet elsewhere, you could MAYBE get a new seat in the shade of your counter and do a faux finish on the exterior of the potty. Would it hold up? I dunno. Could be fun. I have never seen a decoupaged potty. Betcha there are several reasons why not. But some sort of sponge paint treatment might tone down the shiny.

Or just go all out with a spooky theme and paint a red spot on the widow toilet.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2012 at 3:51PM
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Your feedback is invaluable, and you have all inspired me to start the grout project. It will be the same natural gray that is elsewhere in the room, as per your suggestions.

I painted a wall creamy white. Ick! Andrea- you are right- the lovely creamy colors have too much yellow for that room, and it looks like nicotine stains. Amazing- I have Dunn Edwards Cottage White everywhere else in the house, and it looks great. Not here! I guess I'll try a coppery color next.

The vanity is out, the copper sink is on hold. I just spent a few hours on Craigslist. DH is getting excited from your comments and he thinks he can build something really wonderful. I may pour a concrete top and go with the natural wood- the color of the weathered Restoration Hardware vanities- which I think looks fantastic in that room.

Yes, Lolauren and Kathy, the black was to try to blend in the toilet. I will sand out the strips and reseal. I will get rid of most of the gray too. I tried painting the dark espresso trim a warm gray with a whitewash, but it looks terrible. I'm not sure where to go next- someone suggested taupe, but it always looks pinkish or lavender when I try to paint with it. The slate has a touch of green and copper, so I don't think taupe would work. It's possible I may have to replace the molding with wood, but since everything is SO out of square that gets very tricky. Caulk and paint hide so many sins, and wood hides none.

Thanks to roobear's Photoshop, I can see that the gray chair rail does not look much better than the black did if the walls are painted lighter. I may end up peeling them off of the wall and finishing the tile edge with something else. Ugh. Thank you, roobear- the photoshop made all the difference! I think a vanity in that color will work very well.

Livewireoak, you have my taste down pat. I love those tin sconces, and I have tin mirrors etc. in my other bath. There's just one thing: I designed the lighting specifically to take fifteen years off of my age. Having natural light right behind my head from those two big windows bouncing off the mirror does the trick, it's almost as good as vaseline on the camera lens. No direct or side light on the face allowed!

Cienza, yes- I have some pretty things to put in this bathroom to warm it up. It makes a big difference when the glass shelf, the perfume bottles, etc. are all in there. And Fori, since the ceiling is only 7' tall, the chandelier would take a beating from my head :)

Here's a little table top made of concrete that I made a long time ago. I think I could do much better now. I might be able to embed some of the little coppery colored slate tiles in it.


    Bookmark   February 22, 2012 at 5:54PM
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