Brainstorming for 1915 Craftsman Main Bathroom - Lots of Pix

LaurieAugust 12, 2012

Hi everyone.

I'm almost at the end of my kitchen renovation, have some minor things to do on a powder room (it was very minimal to begin with) and now, the absolute bane of my existence looms in front of me. I have no idea how I'll pay for this right now without dipping into retirement funds but, I honestly feel I can't live with it the way it is much longer.

A little background. When I purchased the home, a little over 2 years ago, the prior owner had literally done nothing to maintain it for 30 years, or certainly in recent ones had let it slide into a sad state of disrepair. The bathroom, barely functional (the shower didn't work at all), has been falling apart bit by bit since then. I swear, tiles fall off the wall and floor daily and I won't bother to regale you with all the other stories of plumbing disasters which had to be attended to (the pictures will certainly give you an idea of what happened).

Anyway, I hate living with it. I've done a lot of work on the home to bring it up to code, and better up to date while keeping it as much as possible to the style of the home as I can, which is Craftsman. Not literally, but at least I haven't gone and modernized or put in other elements which scream eras which wouldn't work in it.

My main objectives for the bathroom are as follows:

1. Flip the sink and tub areas. I'd like to put the tub on the opposite wall, near the shower. The shower was re-done already on an emergency basis but obviously will have to be done again as it's too small an area and somewhat cramped. I'd like the sink(s) under the window where the tub is now.

2. Can not move the toilet as the plumbing stack runs down into the already renovated kitchen. However, I do want to do something about the radiator position under the window near the toilet. It is too close (especially with the size of it's cover) to allow comfort while on the toilet and, makes it impossible for woman to attend to certain hygiene related tasks. Thankfully, I have another bathroom!

3. I need someplace to put the litter box which won't be in the way. I can not put it anywhere else in the house. The basement is unfinished and not safe for the cat and the other bathroom far to small to accommodate it.

4. I'd like to do something clever about the large closet. Some kind of system inside. While it's very big, it's inconvenient as is - the shelves are too deep and I'm short, and my arms can't reach to the backs, let alone all the way up top. Maybe something getting rid of the door itself since it smacks up against the entry door. There is a lot of junk in there which could better be stored in a vanity, in drawers and under the sink.

Actually - I'd love to take the door off, which is original to the house, and use it as the door to the bathroom itself, which was replaced with an ugly solid core door at some point.

5. Electrical must be updated. There is no overhead lighting at all. Plus it is likely knob and tube in this room.

6. Subfloor most likely needs to be addressed. When we took down the kitchen ceiling, the tub above was barely being held in place, and I really would like to make sure everything is stable there. Plus, one of contractors said all the weight of the amount of tile in that room may have had an impact over time. So, finding materials which are less "heavy" will be an important aspect of this remodel.

7. I'd like to take down the wall separating the toilet area from the rest of the room. I'm pretty sure it is not load bearing, but I could be wrong. Might still want a pony wall to hide the toilet somewhat.

8. It has no exhaust. This must be addressed.

9. Speaking of the radiator - would consider removing this radiator if I could be assured that under the floor heating would effectively warm the room 24/7 in the winter.

10. Finishes: While I do like the vintage tile in the room (and it IS unique in color!), I do not think I'd want to repeat this sort of "deco" theme that one of the older owners put in. I want a vintage look - but one that is timeless and classic.

11. Prefer 2 sinks both for resale and for own needs. My BF is quite messy and it makes me nuts to share a sink with him.

12. Debating if having a one piece tub/shower might be a better way to go to save on space. However, neither of us ever use a tub. It would be put in for resale purposes more than anything - we do not need anything special for that; just a decent tub with good capacity (if by some chance I ever do decide to take a bath, I want to make sure I can actually soak in it).

13. Easy to care for surfaces; i.e. not a lot of grout lines, undermount sink, etc.

14. I'd LOVE to be able to make the boxed in area where the plumbing stack comes up the wall near the toilet, less prominent, if at all possible.

15. Really could use a built-in laundry hamper somewhere.

16. We can not do any of the work on our own. Aside from the fact that we know we're just not capable (age, health, work), it would take us SO long and we'd be out of commission on a way to bathe ourselves for far too long. We need someone to come in and bang it out for us. Plus I'm not so sure about what they may find while doing demo either that could get us in trouble. And, getting all the debris out of the house, well that too. Nope, let a contractor handle it. I'm happy to pay them :D

Ok I blathered plenty there!

Here's some pix. I didn't draw up a floor plan yet but the room is a decent size, approximately 10' x 12' if not more. And I think from all the photos I took you can pretty much see what the room plan is, more or less.

All ideas welcomed! And if you don't have any, well this is what happens when someone doesn't keep up with repairing their home as problems crop up. My neighbors even told me the prior owner was constantly complaining about plumbing issues in the bathroom. No doubt!

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Wow, what an interesting project! I'll start by saying I would love to get in there and restore that bathroom; the tile and fixtures are so charming. But you're ready to move on, and maybe you'll get some help here.

First, I hope you'll be able to remove the good stuff without destroying it; then you can donate it to a salvage shop that donates to Habitat for Humanity. In our area, the store's crew would probably come out and remove the stuff for you, as some of it could be pretty valuable.

Here are some things I would keep in the layout if at all possible: I like the wall separating the toilet from the rest of the room, and I like the separate tub and shower. Architecturally, that arched alcove is a gem. Are there things you could do to make that back alcove more useable?

Unless you live in a super cold area, I think you could remove the radiator and depend on a combination of floor heat and an overhead fan/heater combo (lots of people on gardenweb rave about the Panasonic WhisperWarm).

As for the shower, does it feel tight because of the arch and shower curtain? I love the arch, but maybe just opening it up and adding a frameless glass door would create a feeling of spaciousness. If you absolutely want a bigger shower, you could remove the entire alcove wall and put the tub and shower next to each other. The end of the tub deck can serve as a bench for the shower, with the glass enclosure coming down between the tub part and the shower part.

It makes sense to me that you would put a long double vanity under the window, assuming you have the space for the tub on the other side of the room.

I'd keep the closet where it is, but look at ways to organize it. I got the Ikea Pax system and stuck it inside a useless closet in my vintage house. I love it because of all the pullout drawers and available accessories! If you're lucky, it might fit in your space too. (The frames come in 20", 30" and 40" widths, and 2 different heights.)

You could let the cat box occupy the bottom of the closet - maybe even creating a separate upper and lower closet. If you give the upper closet area its own door, that would help block odor travelling up from the lower portion. Alternatively, if you have enough space on the vanity wall, just leave an opening in the cabinetry at the far end and put the catbox there. You could extend the counter over it so it looks more built in.

For a laundry hamper, you can buy custom vanities with that feature, or add your own using Rev-a-shelf or similar products. For my budget remodel, I'm using salvaged kitchen cabinets for the vanity and linen closet. One of the cabinets was a trash pullout in a former life, and will soon be a pullout hamper.

Hope this helps get the discussion going!

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 1:55PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

You gave me a lot of great ideas there Kmcg.

First of all, much as I love the tile, I would rather donate it and do intend to do so. I already have a large pile of it at the bottom of the closet and will absolutely save as much of it as possible. I didn't know HFH would potentially come and do that removal so I will contact them to find out about it in my area (I'm in NJ, there's one here but somewhat far from me).

There are other aspects of the room I love, like the hand plastered walls but they are also starting to fall apart; large cracks are starting to appear and there appears to be old water damage at one area near the ceiling. Plus the ceiling in the toilet area seems to be some kind of acoustic tile painted over, so it doesn't match the rest of the room (I believe that part of the bathroom may been added on later on in the home's life).

I love the arch, but the area is SO cramped for the uses that are there, especially for woman. If, I could get rid of the radiator, that would solve the problem completely I think. Or, a more compact radiator that doesn't come so close to the edge of the toilet, which would then give me a smaller radiator cover. If I could get 2-3" inches there, it would really make a huge impact in comfort and use.

I probably could live with the shower size if I had to. I'm not large, nor is my BF and there is lighting inside of it. It's just not as good as I know it could be although I suppose we could improve on it when we renovate - and give more thought to it this time around. Probably the fact that the contractor forgot to put in my niches contributes to the issue. Having shelves in the corner for shampoo, etc. is annoying and it would have been better to have them tucked into the wall.

Overall, however, it may be better to remove that wall to let better light into the room and give more room for the tub and shower to be next to each other. Those several inches may make a world of difference there. On the other hand, it would save money not to take it down.

I looked at the Ikea website. The Pax would solve my closet problem really well. I had also thought about putting the litter box at the bottom of the closet - I'm pretty sure that wouldn't be such a problem as far as odors. I could keep towels elsewhere if need be (my desire to hide the box is higher than keeping towels in a closet), maybe keep most in my linen closet in the hall with just enough kept on a wall or vanity shelf for instance in the bathroom. I'm not keen on hiding it inside the vanity. I just keep thinking about how we're going to get inside there to cleanse the interior of it because you know inevitably that will become dirty even though the cat is using a box. I don't relish getting on my hands and knees and poking for that task lol. Although, perhaps we could have the vanity built so that it does not go all the way to the floor, and tuck the litter box under the vanity so it can be pulled out easily for cleaning.

I have two cabinets left over from my kitchen remodel - it's too bad they aren't quite what I want to use in the bathroom. Although, maybe I can somehow make them work for the closet situation :)

Thanks again for taking the time to write out such a well thought out reply. It helped me a lot.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 3:06PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

This looks like a project that I would really revel in. Were it me I would not get rid of arches, bathtub (That tub is gorgeous, sexy and irreplaceable!) or the tile as much as possible. Find a stainless steel tub tray and load it with great bath salts, a nice loofa, sponge and a candle or two and you'll look forward to a nice soak in that beauty! Next I would steal what tiles I needed to repair the larger area from the alcove area and salvage what is left over. The floor tiles same thing. Then I would use the same tiles used in the shower to redo the floor and walls in the alcove. Just use a black tile divider bar between the two spaces to transition from one floor type to the other. The radiator can be easily and inexpensively replaced with a new and much smaller model. They are available as small as baseboard heaters now. Be sure to consult with a plumber on that to be sure that the replacement radiator can handle the same amount of pressure that the old one can. I'm looking into adding steam heat to my home and I am surprised how simple and affordable it is now. The options out there for radiators is quite surprising too. Rennai even makes a broiler that's no larger than a kitchen waste basket and for less than a $1K. Remember those giant octopus broilers old houses used to have?? Wow! Anyway, at the bathtub, you could move it but you're looking at a lot of expense to move all the pipes and drains around where you need them to do the things you talked about. I would simply find a nice set of stand alone fixtures that are used for certain styles of the old claw foot tubs and install them in place of the cabinet that is meant to hide the pipes. That would leave you with a small corner for the litter box or a pretty little table to set a stack of bath towels etc. on. Check out Vintage Tubs online to see lots of beautiful examples. While having the sinks in front of the windows would be nice, you could also place them along the length of the wall where you were talking about putting the tub. Place a couple of mirrors above them to reflect the outside view and double the natural light in the room. If you have enough cash for one splurge, I'd make it a pair a gorgeous sinks. Pedestal, chrome frames with sinks on top, something that compliments that wonderful bathtub.
It's a shame that more care was not given to the house but that is more often that not the case with large old homes. These simple fixes would go a long way to restoring what you have and I think you'd still be happy for several years until you have saved enough to tackle an all out remodel of the space. All you really need is a tile worker and a plumber to make the repairs needed to carry you through a while longer. BTW...the shower looks really nice! Best wishes.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 1:33AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hi memo, thanks you too for your thoughts.

The tub is a giant thorn in our side. When we were working on the kitchen, we had to open the ceiling and discovered that the tub was literally being held in place with sticks pretty much. Someone had done some plumbing repairs at some point, and had not thought to stabilize the tub properly underneath. The tub was in danger of coming through the ceiling to the kitchen, a la "The Money Pit".

My contractor did sister everything up, but we wouldn't get into that tub at this point if you paid us. We're terrified the weight of the water might still cause it to crash through the ceiling. So, it needs to be removed, along with the floor in it's entirely so we can have a good look at the whole floor underneath to correct whatever is happening under there. I have already had 2 contractors that I trust completely (one, a good friend who was the one that worked on my kitchen) tell me that all the concrete in that room has most likely taken it's toll over the years and removing all of it would help enormously. Did I mention my home is built of terracotta block? We even found historic encaustic cement tile under the old vinyl tile in the kitchen, set in a cement bed! We tried to hard to get that rehabbed to no avail, it was too badly ruined and it was going to cost me something like $5000 to remove it and set a new subfloor so, it's still under the new tile that got laid.

Anyway - off track. The tub, has already been painted over several times. I have no idea what color it was originally even. I have had my architect (again, a friend, someone I used to work for) also tell me if at all possible try and keep it. That, and the wall tile, but the problem with the wall tile, but the problem with the wall tile is we will have to take down the walls to reuse it anyway to be able to set them correctly.

In any event, I have not been able to find anyone anywhere near me that does this kind of work. It does not seem most contractors in my general area know much about being able to reuse existing vintage materials.

And then there is the electrical problems that really need to be addressed as the lighting is so awful and becoming more useless as time passes.

What kills me about all of this, is when I bought the home it didn't quite look so bad. I swear, as soon as I moved in tiles started falling off the falls immediately! It may have had something to do with the construction going on right underneath, the kitchen is there, perhaps all the banging just loosened everything enough to be that "last straw". I don't know. But I really thought I was going to be able to just come in, fix a few things and get away with spending maybe $5-$8K at most, not to be faced with having to gut the room :(

There is a part of me which realizes switching the room around will add cost, which you point out. I could live with the layout as is, if need be. I think the worst part of it for me is the radiator issue - we really do need more leg space there; and getting another sink into the room if possible or at the very least, a vanity with more counter space and better storage (BF is not exactly the easiest to share a sink with). Even if we get a new tub - and keep it in the same place, I do like your idea of the vintage looking stand alone faucet sets, and will look them up from that website as you suggest. Tucking the cat box in that area would work also, at least it would be out of the way and perhaps we could have something custom built, with a slide out tray or something, to hide it further.

Thanks again - you gave me more to think about. I did get the names of 3 contractors this past weekend from the bathroom supplier I used to purchase my two new toilets from and some accessories, one of which did say they have worked on historic properties, so maybe I'll luck out?

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 7:20AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The space is really unique and I think you're going to end up with amazing bathroom.

Can you put a radiator directly across from the toilet? I'm not quite certain whether there's room or not. If you're keeping the arches, I think you should consider keeping the toilet room. I find the arched little toilet room appealing. It seems to frame the window while hiding the toilet.

Could you remove the closet door, and have custom cabinetry built? Make a separate litterbox section at the very bottom with a cat door in a cabinet door that opens to allow access to the litterbox. Put drawers above that. And at the top, more cabinet doors with shelves.

Do you have a tub somewhere else in the house? If so, then maybe you don't need another tub. Though it seems as if the space is quite large, so perhaps you could put a tub where the sink is now and run a long vanity on the wall where the tub is now. I see used vintage free standing tubs on CL in my area all the time, perhaps you can find a vintage fixture to help save money.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 11:19AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hi Memo.

I'd love to do something about the closet. I was considering taking off the door and making something else out of it, so yes, your idea is exactly in line with my thinking; including tucking the litter box at the bottom.

We do not have another tub or shower in the house. It's a very small home, we don't even have a family room. The 1st floor is only the kitchen, dining room, living room and the powder room with a large closet. There is a basement, unfinished and I can't ever see doing anything about that, probably ever. We're only 2 people here, in our mid-50's and I really don't need to spend the money down there. If anything, I rather finish off the attic space, which is walk-up, some day. But that would be years away, at the rate all the other renovations are going lol!

The other bathroom is only the small powder room on the first floor. It used to be inside the kitchen (yech, I know!) and when the kitchen was renovated, I had them turn the entry around to have it inside the butler's pantry (or whatever it is, sort of a very large closet area off of the dining room). This isn't ideal either, however, at least it isn't in the kitchen now and, since you have to walk out of the dining room, through another area and then again into the powder room (and we added good insulation plus a loud fan lol), it really isn't so bad. I don't entertain very much in this house anyway since it's so tiny so it really doesn't matter much.

So, that bathroom upstairs is the main bath and I need to make sure it is as useful as possible. I'd love to pull it out altogether but that would be awful for resale value and I recognize that. Nowhere to bathe a child in that case.

Last, the radiator has to stay where it is. The shower stall is directly across from the toilet - it probably wasn't clear from the photos but it's in back of the sink, in the arched wall area, to the left of the window. Which is one of the reasons I considered tearing that out; it would buy me great space on that side of the room for 2 sinks (and yes, I prefer pedestal for sure). I could do a shower/tub combo where the existing tub I guess, there certainly seems to be plenty of room on that wall to do so and the plumbing is there already. I'm just concerned about the window being there as far as a shower is concerned but I suppose if it was done correctly that wouldn't be an issue.

BTW, I have some pix of the house and kitchen if you're up to searching them out here in the This Old Home forum (or whatever it's called) and the Kitchens forum too :) It was built in 1915, as far as we know, mostly Craftsman influenced with some Victorian touches as well. We think it was a custom build, due to it being terracotta block, which is very unusual in my area.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 3:26PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I don't have layout ideas for you, but do have an idea about radiators, if your heated floor and fan idea isn't sufficient. We have been looking at radiator options and came across this company in Massachusetts that makes wall-mounted hot-water or steam units that can replace traditional radiators. We haven't talked to a plumber or the company yet, but we are very intrigued.

Here is a link that might be useful: radiator options

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 8:51PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I actually had run across the Runtal site myself a year or so ago or more and bookmarked it. There was a point when I had considered replacing the radiators throughout the house but realized the cost was just too much with everything else I had to take care of.

Thanks for reminding me about it. I think it would be a great replacement choice for sure, and probably would be less expensive than in-floor heating - and I could live with it too.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 10:07PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Newbie needs help with bathroom remodel
As a disclaimer, this is my first time remodeling a...
Xpost: Economical FLAT subway tile?
Hi everyone! If I had my druthers, we'd be ordering...
Finishing touches – Towel Ring location, need opinions
Hello. My bathroom is starting to come together and...
Master Bath Reveal - Small space, big style
We don't have the bathroom shade installed yet, but...
Builders Depot Direct for marble?
Anyone ever ordered from them? Their prices are tempting...
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™