Plaid - yeah, you read that right.

cloudbaseMarch 17, 2012

Inspired by large-scale mosaics by Bisazza and a few beautiful ones on Houzz, I decided to take the plunge and get wild on the accent wall in the shower. This is technically a remodel, as we're turning what was once an office into an apartment, so there was no shower before. The floor and two shower walls are Ottimo Nature tiles in Black (really a warm charcoal) 12x24".

The mosaic are 3/4" clear glass by Modwalls - "Brio Clear White". I will be painting the backs of each tile with a bake-on heat hardened acrylic made especially for glass. Yeah, crazy AND ambitious.

So give it to me straight - am I bonkers? Because the more I look at it, the more I want to make it happen. The tile is bought, the paint is bought, it's the pattern that has yet to be finalized.

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No need to paint, and I'm not sure that would hold up at all well well in a wet location anyway. Grout isn't waterproof and will wick the water into the thinset behind the tile.

Hakatai has a custom program with a plaid pattern that you can plug in whatever color you want. They make it and it arrives already done in sheets just waiting on your to install it.

I would also suggest rethinking the black tiles. Black in a bathroom will show hard water deposits, toilet paper lint, and soap scum quite readily. It will never look quite clean.

You also look to have some clearance issues with the toilet. You need a minimum of a 30" space for a toilet by code, but 36" is about as small as an adult human feels comfortable using. You might consider doing a wall hung unit with the tank in the wall for a cleaner look. You might also consider removing the glass wall and doing the whole thing as a wet room to help out with the clearance issues.

Are you planning on using a trench drain with your shower? You will need to if you are going to use large scale tiles for it. You cannot get the slope needed for drainage because the large tiles cannot follow the countour. Or you can divide the shower into quadrants with a disctinct cut line from corner to corner and have 4 sloping planes to a center drain. That's not the easiest thing to accomplish though, and not that many pros can do it.

I do like the juxtaposition of the green with the black, but I think that a medium to not too dark gray would be less maintainence. And then possibly include a gray in with your plaid to tie it all together.

Here is a link that might be useful: Hakatai Plaid

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 12:18AM
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Generally, I like your design plan alot. I would be concerned about painting that much tile and having it come out right. Better to order tile that is finished in the plaid design, I would think.

it's always nice to see someone do something a little different, and in a way, I think it ends up being a little more timeless because it won't be like every other bathroom that was remodeled in the last 10 years. It will be harder to peg the bathroom as having been remodedled in 2012.

Is this an apartment that will be for rent?

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 11:12AM
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Wow, live_wire_oak, thank you for the thorough response! I love these forums!

I did look at Hakatai extensively, and there were a number of things that deterred me from ordering their products. First of all, the vitreous tile has an opaque, speckled look to it that I am not a huge fan of.

Secondly, all of the greens available in opaque vitreous tiles are either grass greens or sage greens, and it was very important to us that we achieve super vibrant apple/lime/chartreuse shades (which are absurdly difficult to track down, incidentally - I've got mosaic tile nearly coming out my ears with all the samples I've gotten, salespeople I've tapped into, and websites I've browsed).

This is my boyfriend on the cover of a magazine, and trust me, the bike is even louder in person. So you can see where we're coming from with lime lime lime.

In addition, back-painted glass has a vibrancy and glow that I have been drawn to ever since I started this whole remodel project. Like I said, the glass tiles and paint are already bought, I'm crazy and committed and it's about time I put my art degree to good use.

As for the dark tiles, they aren't quite as dark as the computer monitor shows (and the tiles on the walls were oriented incorrectly, they will follow the flow of the floor tiles and run vertically up the walls). The reason we chose a raised shower with a teak slat floor is because we loved the look of the big field tiles - and you can't really grade a walk-in without tiny mosaics on the floor. Plus having the shower a little more self-contained seemed smart (there will likely be a lime green bath mat next to the shower and the towel bar will go on the wall opposite the showerhead). I also played around with light tiles in the shower stall, but there was just no comparison to how the dark tiles really make the mosaic pop. I spent a lot of time and vetted exactly which dark porcelain 12x24 tile to stick with, and durability and ease of cleaning was definitely a huge factor in the decision. The tile actually has a lot of activity in the color (think like a stained concrete, almost) and the surface is a bit more polished than leathery - smooth enough to be easy to clean, but not so shiny it shows dirt, and not so smooth as to be slippery.

The paint I'm using on the backs of the tiles is extremely similar (if not identical) to the paint they use to produce commercial back-painted tiles, so I have no worries about the long-term durability of the paint and finish. Consistency isn't a problem either - I'm a painter, and if I can't get four colors right, I might as well hang up my brushes and call it quits :).

The shower pan is actually going to be poured concrete, which will be painted with a mildew resistant epoxy paint, all hidden by the teak grate, so the grading is very simple.

The clearance on the toilet is only a little less than 36", the sketchup is a little deceiving in that regard. I really wish we could get a cooler toilet, but we're re-using the one that was original to the bathroom out of simplicity and budget concerns.

As an aside, here are the actual fixtures we're using:

Andreadeg, we'll be living in this apartment for the next few years at least. We're running our business out of the shop space below. The apartment is 900sqft, 1 bedroom with an open kitchen/living room.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 2:44PM
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Here's my test sample swatch. Do you think I should go with a white, light grey, medium gray, or tile-matching-charcoal colored grout? The cluster of four on the upper right are the painted colors on clear glass.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 5:21PM
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cloudbase - I love your design. The greens you are considering are fantastic and I love the plaid. If you are confident in your ability (and have the time) to do the painting, go for it. I love your fixtures too.

I generally leave grout colour choices to others, but I might lean to a light grey or white.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 6:16PM
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Okay, threw in two shades of gray just for kicks. Too busy, or is it worth it to pull in the neutrals from the rest of the bathroom?

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 6:27PM
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I like it.



From the design point-of-view, I like the hints of the lime tile elsewhere in the room.

From the technician point-of-view, I highly encourage you not go off the reservation with the epoxy paint and instead use a proper membrane on your shower floor.

Your application is perfect for a topical membrane like Hydroban. Cement board on your walls for the tile backer. Then form your sloped shower floor. Then hit everything with Hydroban. It paints on just like an epoxy paint would, but it's formulated to be a proper waterproof membrane. Then you tile right on the Hydroban.

Light grout or dark charcoal grout, it's an interesting choice. I'm normally a huge fan of charcoal, but for your case, I'm reluctant, so I'd recommend you make a mockup of each.

The light grout you have now will cause the green colors to shine, the wall will blend as a whole. Well, it'll blend as well as a wall of lime plaid mosaic can blend. lol

Seriously, with light grout your plaid pattern right now runs on a diagonal and it allows the greens to shine. If you go with dark grout, it'll accentuate the horizontal and vertical crosshatch pattern of the grout.

It could look awesome. Or the vertical/horizontal of the charcoal grout might neutralize or conflict with the diagonal plaid. But my gut instinct is to stay away from charcoal grout, I think it'll detract from the overall effect you have with the wall as is. It might look great, but it'll certainly take you down an alternative design path as far as the diagonal plaid.

White grout or silver or light gray...tough. A silver might look nice, but I'd want it to be a very light silver or a light gray. If not, then white. And as a crazy thought, look at a grout with a hint of green, the only one I can think of off the top of my head would be Laticrete's "Sea Glass."

You probably know this, but when you set the glass, use a white thinset. Gray thinset can muddle the color of the glass.

As to the tile mix, I prefer your original without the neutrals. Stay bold.

Good luck with your project!

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 7:19PM
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Huzzah! Fantastic. I love it that there are people in the world who create such beautiful and shocking things. The samples show what the shadows will look like through the glass- fabulous.

There's one big problem I can see- get ready for some really high water bills. And some wrinkled skin.

Oh yeah- I think a light grout would show off the plaid more, and not make that grid pattern that dark grout makes. Maybe glow in the dark grout :D

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 11:25PM
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I like the second round of plaid in the picture with the gray. I don't know if gray is the color to add or not, could be browns to match the wood too, but an addition of something other than the green gives the plaid pattern some depth. Sounds like a fun project.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2012 at 7:56AM
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I understand the attraction of Kawasaki Green! I love the color. :) Are you using Liqutex Glossies or one of the Pebeo glass paints? Custom mixing the color?

But I just have to say that that's a LOT of 3/4" tile to hand paint! 10,000+ tiles for a 6'x8' wall. Would you be painting loose tiles individually and then using a mosaic template creator and paper sheets to create your own sheets or are you thinking of painting already joined sheets individually? My suggestion to make this go easier would be to use a foam roller to paint entire sheets (if they are paper faced) and then pick the sheets apart to put into the mosaic template and repaper the face. You can get a lot done at once then, and the trickier step is in the configuring. The only issue that I can think of would be the paper and adhesive going through the heat set process. I wonder how easy/difficult that would make the adhesive to remove when you wanted to after the thinset dries?

I also suggest that you do your pattern straight up and down rather than diagonally, and just install the sheets diagonally. That will help to better create the plaid pattern without the crosshatch effect of the pattern itself being diagonal with square tile. (Unless that more muted linear look is the look you are going for.) You will have cut tiles at the corners, but you'd probably have that anyway. If you do the glass wall first, then the large format tile can help to cover the cut corners---with caulk of course at the change of plane to finish it off.

I like the introduction of the grey, but I think it should be the darkest tone in the palette instead of the darker green. Keep the lime the lightest tone, then a mid tone green, and maybe a light and dark grey or another green with the darker gray. I would also suggest carrying the pattern onto the ceiling or else planning something equally spectacular (but subtle) for the ceiling if you don't want to wrap the tile onto it. Maybe silver metallic paint to go with the chrome fixtures? Aluminum diamond tread? Formica has a series of Decometal laminates that come in a shiny polished silver metal finish or diamondplate that could be quite something on the ceiling!

An epoxy coated concrete floor won't pass inspection most places for a shower floor. I suggest using a trench drain and sloping everything towards the front curb. It will be a LOT technically easier! Then you can cover the floor with the Hydroban and the black tile and use your teak mat or not. That's the beauty of a trench drain. You can use very large format tile for it and not have to cut it.

The clear glass partition wall will be the expensive part of the equation, so if you're on a budget, just put in a tension pole and shower curtain for the meantime until you can afford the glass. I'd want Starphire (low iron) glass for the partition because it's perfectly clear with no hint of the green that most glass will have. But, it's expensive, so that's why I suggest the shower curtain as a temporary solution.

I hope you take pics and document the project, because I think this will be a great look!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2012 at 12:10PM
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Wow, thanks for all the help guys! Such lengthy and thougtful responses - this is such an insightful community! I am definitely taking all your input into consideration. I've settled on including just a touch of gray in the final pattern (I will upload an image when I have the laptop again). Basically the same thin line idea, but dashed to make it a little more subtle; the gray will match precisely the color the walls will be painted. A warm dove gray.

Step one: inspect all the tiles and pull up any that are chipped, cracked, or discolored. Stinky Airedale included for scale.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2012 at 10:43PM
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You can definitely find lime green glass tiles. I have a bunch of them I use for mosaic art work; they came in sample collections so I can't tell you the manufacturer, but I swear there are MANY shades of lime and chartreuse for you to find without resorting to painting.

The cheapest glass mosaic tiles (spectra, I think) are those with the speckles, but skip those and you will find gorgeous vibrant colors. I did a preliminary search; the results below also include some other colors but you will see lots of lovely chartreuse and limey lime-lime!

Also, I'll bet Susan Jablon mosaics can set up a plaid design for you--they do all kinds of custom mixes. You can call them at 1-866-939-1033; they are very responsive and helpful.

Here is a link that might be useful: sample of lime green tiles

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 10:12AM
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It's on now! Painting takes about three thin coats to eliminate any brushstrokes. Hour wait between coats and before baking. I am super happy with the colors I have mixed so far (2 out of 5). The lightest green has a lot of yellow in it, it almost has a lemony glow to it which I think is just superb.

The tiles are baked at 350 degrees with a ramped heat/cool cycle. Paper burns at 451 degrees so keeping them on the paper backing is perfectly safe - and keeping them on the face paper protects the tile faces from errant sponge brush strokes.

Bless all of you who have tried to deter me from this project, but I know I wouldn't be satisfied with anything less than my vision, since I know it's a reachable goal. I've never been daunted by large or tedious work, and since DB (dear boyfriend?) has insisted on subbing out pretty much everything else in this whole apartment project, I have to hold on to what little I do get to dirty my hands with. I'll be attacking concrete kitchen countertops with equal gusto.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 2:05PM
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I can't wait to see it!

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 12:03AM
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This is not a project for the faint of heart.

Each tile is removed from the original paper, rinsed, dried, inspected, dressed of any stray paint blobs, and sorted.

Each square foot is arranged carefully. The two dark shades are oriented with vertical tile ribs, and the two lighter are horizontal. The \ diagonal tile is oriented vertically, the / horizontally. As an added touch of awesome, I matched the grey shade of tile precisely to the paint color on the walls.

Our tile guy did an amazing job with the field tile and the shower pan (including the appropriate lip for the slat shower floor).

I am so in love with this Ottimo tile - it was everything I hoped it would be.

So, the mosaic installation begins today - the Gardenweb captive audience will have semi-finished pictures by the end of the week, and you can all help me pick out grout!

    Bookmark   April 9, 2012 at 2:51PM
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wow - amazing! Can't wait to see it finished!

    Bookmark   April 9, 2012 at 3:16PM
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ooh, I am so glad you are keeping us updated on your progress. It is looking good.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2012 at 5:47PM
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Amazing, great work. Can't wait to see it finished.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2012 at 8:39PM
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Waiting with bated breath! It already looks fantastic.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2012 at 1:47AM
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It's up! I just finished "gluing" all the tiles that fell out after de-papering (too lazy to take a pic I guess). Whew! I have my kitchen back again! I have to say, this looks pretty awesome, and once it's grouted and we trim in the field tile, boy I can't wait!

    Bookmark   April 13, 2012 at 7:47PM
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Cloudbase that is totally awesome, congratulations. What patience. Great job!

    Bookmark   April 13, 2012 at 9:29PM
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Awesome is right. Good for you and your fortitude. An inspiration to us all.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2012 at 10:17PM
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That looks awesome! All that work paid off big time. Enjoy!

    Bookmark   April 14, 2012 at 9:01AM
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That is so great! Love it! You've got to do a primer with the products used and the steps you took so that others can follow your footsteps. :)

    Bookmark   April 14, 2012 at 8:08PM
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Wonderful!! Truly one of a kind!

    Bookmark   April 14, 2012 at 9:49PM
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Ahhhh. What a treat! It looks so fantastic. Great job. Now I can't wait to see the whole bathroom together.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2012 at 1:38AM
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Like a boss!

Mosaic is grouted - wow, what a difference! It really pulls everything together. Tile guy is gonna grout the field tile tomorrow, glass is coming Thursday or Friday. Vanity will be done tomorrow or the day after - we are going to make a stainless countertop for it! I'll probably make a new thread for the project.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2012 at 1:59PM
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Looks fabulous! I love it when someone does something creative and different. Please post a link to the new thread if you start a new one so we can all see it.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2012 at 6:16PM
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It looks fantastic. That close-up of the tile gives the feel of what it will be like in the shower. Congratulations!
Be sure to post a new thread, so we can all find it.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 1:28AM
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This is awesome! Thanks for the follow up and pics!

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 12:32PM
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Marvelous, and I'm glad to see the sealant and cement board and all the underpinnings so it doesn't fall off the wall in a couple of years.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 5:21PM
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I love when people think outside of the box and you really did! That is really cool looking!

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 5:23PM
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The whole area is cool! The tile is awesome!

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 5:47PM
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Just saw this -- and YOWZA! I LOVE IT! beyond cool. A person after my own heart.

I did a variation of an amish quilt pattern for my kitchen backsplash (18 sf) with 1/2" Sicis waterglass -- a 'pattern' that only looks like a pattern if you really pay attention to it -- otherwise it can look random, but it's not. I didn't even have a grid to set them in, because grids didn't come in that size, so I had to set each one individually on top of gridded paper I printed out to the exact size of the tiles. *Oh* yeah I did. Over a long period of evenings in front of the tv.

And being a HUGE fan of green, especially chartreuse (people who know me know that my name means 'spring green' in a particular language), I am grooving even more on your choice of colors and attention to shades. I know that technically you could have done something else with your time, and that after all it's 'just a bathroom', but sometimes people like us just have to do something precisely our way Because It's There. : )

So BRAVISSIMA! If you'd had Sicis or Bisazza do it for you it would have cost thousands of dollars. Might be fun to calculate it sometime to make yourself feel good : )

Next question: you're making a stainless countertop? I'd love to hear about that too.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 6:38PM
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Wow! I didn't realize you had gotten this far! Tremendous job!!!!!!

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 12:33AM
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THAT is unbelievable!!!

Bet you were good with Legos when you were a kid :)

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 7:20AM
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so cool, you are so talented !!

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 9:17AM
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You know, when you first posted about this I was a little dubious, but it turned out just amazing.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 10:22AM
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That us just SUPER cool! Love plaid, love green, fabulous combination!

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 12:15PM
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Beautiful! Glad I caught this thread. It makes me feel like anything is possible:)

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 12:58PM
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Whoa! This is totally awesome. I'm sure you're very proud - and if not, you should be! I, too, would love to hear about your stainless steel counter. Please post the details when you're ready!!

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 1:24PM
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Thanks for all the props guys! My next insanely tedious project is a hand-painted topographic map of the Hyalite Creek region of the Gallatin National Forest, on an 8ft x 17ft stretch of wall - you can safely call me masochistic at this point, I think.

Just thought I'd point out some things and put up another progress pic. The stainless countertop is being made right now, but the plumbing will probably get finished up this week and you can see the bathroom cleaned with all the fixtures.

It appears in the photographs that there are a lot of "sheet lines" or odd delineations in the pattern, but you're gonna have to take my word for it that they're completely not noticeable in life size (shrinking it down to photo size exaggerates it for some reason).

The glass installers were great - the brushed nickel channel is so nice and crisp and the single pane allows the mosaic to show its full glory.

This pic does better justice to the actual experience of the tile pattern:

    Bookmark   April 30, 2012 at 8:34PM
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Still loving it. I'm a map freak too, so I'd love to see your next project as well.

What is the size of your glass panel? I'm about to order ours, same idea ...

    Bookmark   April 30, 2012 at 9:09PM
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Sochi, the glass panel is 3' wide and 7'6" tall.

I'm in need of some wisdom here. So, all our windows are sill-less, and in other parts of the apartment, we painted the interior of the window space with the color of the nearby (but not attached) accent wall. We're considering doing the same in the bathroom with the lime-iest lime green.


Bonus eye candy:

Ipe is in - with a light steel-wool sanding, it feels heavenly under my toes. I can't wait to take a shower!

    Bookmark   May 7, 2012 at 3:32PM
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WOWZERS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :)

    Bookmark   May 7, 2012 at 4:08PM
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Thanks for the info.

I like the lime green accent around the windows, I think that will look sharp. It seems logical.

Love the Ipe too. Why choose ipe over teak? I'm assuming I'll do teak, but haven't seriously considered anything else, your Ipe looks lovely.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2012 at 6:47PM
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Ipe has all the same properties, but it is a LOT cheaper than teak. Got ours from Advantage Lumber's online store.

Also pondering storage options. We're considering making floating ipe shelves and installing them in the tile wall where the temp control and showerhead are. The other option would be a bench with a caddy underneath that would live on the other side of the raised shower area, underneath the towel bar. A quick scootch to the edge of the decking and you have a seat and your shampoos.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2012 at 7:05PM
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I'd have to see the rest of the bathroom, but right now I would vote no for the lime green around the window. I think it will detract from the gorgeous tile. You want the tile wall to be the showpiece and everything else to "fade into the distance" so to speak.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2012 at 7:05PM
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    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 1:34AM
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"This is not a project for the faint of heart."
That made me laugh out loud!!! I am in awe of your ability to carry out this idea. I need to lie down after just LOOKING at the time/energy/effort you put into that! Those greens are amazing with your slate!

My white subway tile now looks ridiculously boring. Thanks a lot...

Here is a link that might be useful: Our Bath Renovation

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 10:26AM
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Victoria, thanks so much for the kind compliments.

I don't think your subway is boring at all - and if you'd believe it, the original idea for the bathroom looked an awful lot like what you have going on. I had in my head a crisp and 'retro' look, cross handles and octagon floor - inspired by the old train station across the street. White, pale blues, and chocolate brown all centered around this poster:

Since the rest of the house had a decidedly contemporary bent, I had to scrap that dream. Maybe in 5-10 years when we get a real house (this is just a 1BR apartment over the shop where we run the 'family business').

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 9:30PM
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Any final pictures of the finished bathroom cloudbase?

    Bookmark   July 9, 2012 at 5:53AM
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