Home Projects | Updated Bathroom

The upper bathroom renovation is complete and beautiful and one million times better than it was a few weeks ago. Nate even said to me, 'the bathroom is so awesome, it just makes me want to smile when I walk in there.' This is saying a lot since Nate was the one who did a lot of the intense, manual labor with his dad while I took care of the children over at my in-laws for three days. I'm not sure which part of our deal was more challenging but we all survived and got a new bathroom out of the chaos, so it's a win. And isn't it a pretty transformation??


Things we updated when we first moved into the house: we replaced the sink and console cabinets, replaced the medicine cabinet and mirror above the sink, updated the laundry chute and shelves to be white and less hideous, and painted all of the trim white instead of the horrifying creamy yellow that screamed at us from every square inch of this bathroom. I had originally painted the walls a light blue and found a shower curtain that sort of pulled together the creams, browns, and blues together. It worked, it was 'fine' but the speckled tile ate at my soul a little bit every morning. We talked about just re-glazing the tile, or paying for a gut job but both options were super expensive, and we really do enjoy the DIY process.

I mean, this tile and these towel racks...
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Also, there was just entirely too much tile in this bathroom, not sure why it was necessary to have a renovation sometime in the 1970s that included tiling all four walls? We are also assuming they did the floors then, too. I wish I could have seen the original 1920s tile floors, I bet it was amazing! We left the 70s speckled floor alone with this renovation since going on top of it would make the floors way too tall and tearing it out would be a ridiculous headache. We just hoped that removing the speckled tile walls would make the floors look less ugly somehow. Because really, here is the 'before' in all of it's glory. The old lady grab bar will not be missed.

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So what did we do this time around? Number one, we tore out the god-awful speckled yellow tile and replaced it with white subway tile. THIS PART IS MY FAVORITE. Nate and his dad started by pulling off all of the old tile on Friday 8/21 around 1:00. This is when I took the kids over to the duplex, along with an obscenely full van packed with 1/2 of our belongings, and we began our weekend-o-displacement so that the dudes could work late into the night without waking the children.    They tore down all of the tile pretty quickly and then started scraping off all of the nasty glue that was under the tile. This is the part that really sucked, I guess, and it was so so so messy and dirty. Some of the walls were in really rough shape and this is when they had to tear out the plaster walls inside of the shower all together. Always odd to see inside of walls that were put up ninety years ago, a little eerie or something.

It really scared me to see it like this. Walking up to the bathroom to see it in person after this part was also horrifying, the mess was all the way up the stairs and all of the hallway. Nate could tell I was freaking out and later did a great job cleaning everything thoroughly but yeah, pretty horrid.

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Sometime on Friday afternoon, Nate texted and asked how I felt about wainscotting for the lower half of the walls outside of the shower, since there were a lot of cracks that would probably not ever look good painted even with a lot of patching. I was into it since we added it to the lower half bathroom and it looks really good, so that saved them some time with the scraping and patching. But they still had to add cement board to make walls in the shower, Tony had to re-do some of the plumbing (I know, right?!), scrape glue, and patch the heck out of the walls. Nate ended up coming over to the duplex around 11pm that first night to sleep, and so did Tony, because we didn't have running water at our house by the time they stopped.

The guys went back over fairly early on Saturday and Tony kept working on the plumbing while Nate   continued to work on the walls. So much prep work before it was ready to tile, but eventually Nate primed the walls and ceiling with Zinsser. Our ceiling was pretty nasty with some mildew from the shower that just wouldn't quit and a big crack, but both were fixed with scraping, patching and Zinsser stain blocker. Once the plumbing, new walls, scraping, patching and priming were done it was time for the actual tile!

Saturday after dinner they started tiling the shower. Nate thought it would take 'a few hours' which means at least a day, obviously. After I put the kids to bed at the duplex, I asked Lois to listen for them and I went to Home Depot to pick out wall paint. Nate thought I could feasibly start painting the walls that night and I was skeptical, but figured it would be nice to have the paint on hand in case. We discussed gray paint but couldn't decide between my favorite light neutral gray (Behr's Dolphin Fin) or something a little darker. I couldn't even find the card for Dolphin Fin at the store and took that as a sign to go a little bit bolder, so I picked a new gray: Pencil Sketch, and bought a gallon of the high-end Marquee paint in satin finish. The guy sold me on upgrading to Marquee in the hopes that I would only need one coat and I prayed that I liked this fifth shade of gray in our house. Cue the jokes about Fifty Shades of Gray...we are getting close to that around here!

I got to the house around 9:30 armed with the paint. The tiling was going well but was slowing down significantly as they had to make more cuts for the side walls. Tony was the tile cutter with his station set up outside on the airing porch, and Nate was the tile layer. The two guys work really well together even though Tony is much more patient and methodical with projects like this. For instance, Nate didn't use the little tile spacers for this project and I could tell it was driving Tony nuts but they managed to work together without damaging their relationship. I think any DIY home project can be a critical point in marriages and personal relationships, so coming out with ours in tact is a big plus. There was not space for me in the bathroom with them tiling, so I headed back to the duplex that night. I hear the guys stayed up until 1:30 am tiling the bathroom, determined to get it all done before bed. Yawn. But I applaud their work ethic here!

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Sunday morning: Nate started grouting the tile right away and Tony headed back over to help a bit, and they returned to the duplex victorious around 9:30. We had chocolate chip pancakes and a big eggs/bacon breakfast to celebrate the huge achievement of the weekend. The bathroom looked so stinking good already and the grout made it even brighter somehow!
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After breakfast they spent the rest of Sunday adding the new hardware for the shower head, faucet, and handle which took longer than expected. Nate also pray painted the radiator, since I bought six more cans of the paint we needed on Friday and dropped it off on one of my numerous trips back and forth to our house. He and Tony had to unhook the radiator and take it outside to our upstairs airing porch so they could pull the tile off behind it, so spraying it when out of the room was SUPER easy for him. I wish they could take all of the other radiators out of the house so I could spray them easier but apparently they weigh hundreds of pounds or something, blah blah blah.

New shower hardware!
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So beautiful to me. And you can see on the left side of the shower, where the guys had to cut the tile super tiny. I love how old walls in old houses are never quite level and make projects like this incredibly easy.

Radiator! Come to mama. Wainscoting looks so good behind it, too.

After the radiator was sprayed, the brought it back inside and hooked it up again. The grout was finished and once the hardware was installed in the shower, they caulked all around it and the edges of the tile. They hung the new shower curtain rod which is AMAZING, since it bends out away from the shower stall to make the whole thing seem ginormous when your showering. Take my word for it, pure luxury.

Next came time to start on the wainscoting for the walls and the baseboards and I know the men were getting really freaking tired at this point, but they plowed through until Sunday evening when they just had to stop. BUT! We had a working shower which was the main goal for the weekend, since Nate was leaving for Chicago the next day and I did NOT want to extend my stay the duplex into the week. I was so proud of the guys for doing this mammoth project in a weekend and also so happy to be back home.

The displacement was fine and kind of 'fun' in a way, but I hated feeling like we were inconveniencing Lois the entire weekend by wrecking her pristine house and increasing the noise factor by about a hundred. She said she had a ball though, and didn't mind us crashing her pad. We stayed really busy too, having a big pizza dinner on Friday night with the guys, too. Saturday I walked with the kids to a nearby playground and then we walked straight to McDonalds for lunch (treats abound!). After naps that day we went to a birthday party, which took up our entire afternoon and dinner time. Sunday I went grocery shopping with just Cecelia and Porter while Truman stayed back with Lois, and then after naps we had another get together with friends out at a family farm. So lots of solo parenting by me but it was totally fine, the kids did sleep fair away from home, and we didn't drive Lois too crazy.

Oh, and if curious, my in-laws have three spare bedrooms in the duplex: Truman and CC slept downstairs on Tony and Lois's level, one kid in the bed and one on a twin air mattress. Then upstairs, I slept in a bedroom and put Porter in the other one, in a pack and play. All kinds of emotions and reminiscing going on for me this weekend, since living in the upper flat was a huge part of our lives as newlyweds and when we only had Truman. So surreal to sleep in that same bedroom, then walk to the same 'nursery' where we brought Truman home from the hospital....but to see Porter's smiling face instead. Deja vu, memories, all of the above.

But back to the bathroom, here is what it looked like Sunday night after 2.5 full days of work!
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So we moved back home on Sunday with the bathroom in a functional and improved state. Then Monday night I painted the ceiling white with a satin finish. The next weekend Nate and I painted the walls our Pencil Sketch gray, and throughout the week Tony and Nate worked more on the wainscoting. I bought a new shower curtain from Deny Designs and it's definitely a favorite part of the room for us now. If you haven't been on that website before, watch out---there are about 9,000 options to choose from. I finally settled on the Gabi Into the Blue design, and each of the pieces can be turned into phone covers, throw pillows, blankets, prints, clocks, etc. Like I said, DANGEROUS!!


Porter approved:
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Painting process during the week, aka my contribution besides spending money on finishing touches:

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I hate painting ceilings so much. But hi, shiny white tile behind me!
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I bought new brightly colored towels from Kohls which felt amazing, since our old ones were from our wedding and did not age very well at all. I bought a new throw rug, some hand towels, and Nate hung the towel hooks in respectable locations (high above the radiator so the towels don't always plop on top of it, next to the sink so you can actually dry your hands without reaching over the toilet, a towel on the side of the sink console so the kids can reach it without using our bath towels). The previous bathroom remodel included absurd amounts of tile AND towel racks, so it was very freeing to pick the hardware and locations for our towels this time around.

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The only thing left to do in the bathroom is for me to select a print to frame above the toilet. I have lots of ideas but can't quite decide between a quote or a photograph. I might just design something in photoshop and print it myself but we'll see. So glad there isn't any tile on this wall anymore!


Other than that? It is finished. And glorious. And no, we didn't plan for our shower poufs to match the new curtain. That's just fantastic luck, I promise I'm not that psycho.


Wall with the sink:

Floors that stayed and don't look too bad anymore without the wall counterpart.
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So welcoming and modern now. I just love it.

I did take videos before and after the renovation if you are interested. But hopefully pictures do the change justice. It's like a brand new bathroom and suits our style so much better than before. Major check mark on the House Projects list, complete!


  1. My one time doing a bathroom renovation was when my mom and I attempted to pull the wallpaper down in my bathroom at their home - I think I was in college and it was some trip home - we ended up tearing off part of the sheet rock too (the glue was INSANE) and my parents had to have the bathroom totally re-sheet rocked before it could be textured and painted. Oops. Glad yours went much better - it looks AWESOME!!!

  2. Love it! Your remodels are always amazing.

    Thanks for the link for the shower curtain. I ordered mine today. :) Fits perfectly with the color scheme I was going for. May I ask where you purchased your teal rug? :)

  3. Looks great! We have only partially done a reno of our only full bathroom in our house but taking down wallpaper and painting when I was 36 weeks pregnant! We need to find some inspiration and money to do everything else that needs to be done (removing the BLACK bathtub, the awful tile floor, the awful tiled walls, the horrible vanity, etc. etc.). One day.....one day.

  4. Looks great! We redid our bathroom last year, and ours too was completely covered in yellow tile (though we didn't have the awesome speckle detail :-)) We also had the same problem with the walls behind the bath tile. It was a huge undertaking for Steve, but we love it so much now! So worth it!!

  5. Looks great! I love that shower curtain!

  6. looks great! kudos to Nate and your FIL for getting it done so quickly!

  7. This looks fantastic!!! We desperately need a bathroom reno, but we definitely don't have those tiling skills. You guys are awesome!

  8. I started a comment DAYS ago but was interrupted by a certain SOMEONE..... anyway, I love this!! We have a curved shower curtain in our house too and it is life changing, coming from an old tiny bathroom with a curtain that had to go around the whole thing at our old house. Our current tub/shower is probably larger than the entire old bathroom. Anyway, I love it, and I can't wait until the next time we visit to see it in person!

  9. Man, it looks incredible! I love what the guys did and then all the fun touches like paint, towels, and that gorgeous shower curtain that you picked out! Our house was built in 1940 and has an orangey-yellow bathroom (and we're renting, so we can't do much). I'm going to check out that site and see if I can find a shower curtain that makes it look a little nicer!

  10. Great Job ! It is amazing what a little sweat can do for an outdated space !

    I love your color choices, I re-did our kid washroom with the same scheme, not too boyish or girlish !

    Enjoy your new washroom !!!

  11. Looks great! Yeah, Dolphin Fin isn't on a color card at HD anymore, but they still have it in the computer, so you can still get it mixed up!


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