They say, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” and I’m a firm believer in that. As I’ve mentioned a few times, I’m a true creative at heart. I love to draw, paint, rehab furniture, make things, fix things… you name it. I may not be a master woodworker like my husband, but I know enough to be dangerous. And I owe that both to my Nana and my mother.
My Nana is the original artist. She’s always giving us creative gifts for Christmas. Things she’s made from scratch: paintings, beautiful cards, home decor, etc. So, it’s easy to see where I get my love of art. On the other hand, my mom is creative but in her own way. She’s not afraid to get her hands dirty. To completely build a bed from scratch (she’s doing that now!), or tear out a bathroom and turn it into an oasis (as shown below). While she may say she’s not creative in an art sense, she definitely is in many other ways (so don’t let her tell you otherwise!).
The point is, they’re both equally impressive, and I’m so thankful to have inherited both sides of these amazing women I’m proud to call Nana and Mom.
So, today I wanted to introduce to you and feature one of my favorite DIY’ers and guest blogger, my mom, Denise Watson. A few years ago, she took on a bathroom makeover project… by herself! I love my dad, but he lacks the patience, and the interest, for a project like this. So with a bit of help from a few outside sources, she was able to tackle this beautiful bathroom redo and share some insights from her journey.
I hope you enjoy it! And if you’d like to see more of her projects featured on our blog, let’s show her some love by commenting below the blog or on our social media pages!
Scroll down for her amazing bathroom makeover…
DIY experts don’t know small. I know small.
A double vanity does not make a bath bigger. It makes it crowded. I understand if you have small children. I get it. It takes more than one sink to get the little people ready for anything. But, let’s face it, who really wants to be in the bathroom with another person while that person is getting ready for the day? At my house, I get to go first ‘cause I take the longest. Hubby goes next, and he’s done in 15 minutes. I hate that.
But I digress.
I know small. My bath is 5’ x 9’, the width of a standard tub by the height of my walls. Single vanity, toilet, and shower/tub combo. That’s it!
So when we decided to give our master bathroom a makeover, I had to decide: how do I make good use of the space and make it SEEM larger than it is?
There were options: recessing the medicine cabinet? Mainly because, as you can imagine, it sticks out and is way out of its comfort zone. The pro was, recessing it into the wall would make it feel like there is more width to the room. However, that would mean cutting into the wall and explore what lies behind it. There could be wires, and pipes that could possibly be punctured (Me and pipes go a ways back, but that is another story). So let’s move on to the elephant in the room…
The tub/shower combo. I knew I was definitely getting rid of it. Eager to get to work, I brought out the big guns (saws) and… stared at the space for a week. I was terrified and begged my boys to come over and do it for me. What if I hit a pipe? (Me and the pipes thing again). But the boys had other things going on, and I wanted to check this off my list.
Reluctantly, I chipped away the sheetrock from the tub so I could at least get a good look at the plumbing. I hemmed and hawed some more. Not sure what I was waiting for (divine intervention??)
Finally, I told myself, “Self! This is crazy! Just do it!”. So I got my gloves, baseball cap, and safety glasses and jumped right in. I felt like Rosie the Riveter with the Sawzall(™) going through the fiberglass tub. Turns out, if you work in small increments, you can actually break everything off piece by piece. That made it easier, and I was able to cut around the pipes with no problems (those pipes AGAIN!)
Up next… the countertop. Easy peasy! A hammer alone took that sucker off. No problem! Kept the cabinet. Reuse….Recycle.
The “antique” toilet had to go. It was 25 years old. Time for a water-efficient, chair-height (for old people like us) toyi-toyi model! But toilets, like jewelry, are the finishing touch. It will go in last.
Remember that hole where the tub/shower once was? Well, I know my limitations. I called in a plumber (Brian Rooker, Rooker Renovations, Charlotte, NC ) to move the pipe where a new shower head and single shower fixture would go. I also decided that I wanted wall-mounted faucets for the sink. My sink-mounted faucets have always gotten grungy, so I was hoping wall-mounted fixtures would eliminate that nasty problem.
Pro tip: It’s essential to get those walls around the shower waterproofed. Sure didn’t want any leaking down into the lower level. OMG! Just the thought of it causes nightmares. It is also important to note that I used a product from Tile Redi as the shower basin. There was no pouring of cement to build the shower pan. The best part? It can be purchased with the drain positioned wherever the previous drain exists. So once the drain pipe was connected and the tub walls waterproofed, it was time for me to start on the fun stuff…….
Guess what happened? Life. First, there was Thanksgiving, then Christmas….then, in January, my husband, dog, and I went to Florida to house-sit for my daughter and her family while they took a once-in-a-lifetime trip to New Zealand! By the time we got back, it was the first of March, and we were still having to walk down the hall to the other bathroom in the middle of the night. The horror! And on top of all that, my mom was coming for a visit in six weeks! Six weeks is not a lot of time for a slow person like me. I knew that I had to step it up and get this project done.
First on the remaining checklist: tiling, which is nothing new to me. From small tiles on a backsplash to 12 x 12’ floor tiles, I would say I’m experienced. However, I’ve never done 6 x 36” tiles running vertically on a wall before.
Another pro tip: When you lay tiles to cover a floor, adhere them to the floor first, then walk away for a day or two. Don’t worry; they don’t go anywhere, and they don’t slide around. After a few days, grout them and clean them, and voila! They are ready for use in a week.
However, wall tiles are way more challenging. I first made my level ledge. I then adhered the tiles to the wall, so they were straight (as a side note: did I mention I was OCD??) Three days later, I came back to remove the ledge and spacers, walked out of the room for a split second, and came back to tiles slipping before my eyes! Why? The adhesive was not quite dry! I straightened them up as best I could, re-installed the level ledge and some spacers, and patiently (which was hard) waited a WEEK to make sure that they didn’t move again. Now, I realize that this was obsessive and that if I was a professional, I could have gotten all of it done with the tiles that were to go under the level ledge within a day. But like I said, Life gets in the way.
Fiasco aside, the lower tiles and the rocks that went on the shower floor were a piece of cake. The river rocks used on the bottom floor have special meaning to me. I collected them all from Topsail Beach, North Carolina, where my husband’s family has had a place for over 100 years! As beautiful as they are, not all the rocks were smooth naturally. However, as OCD as I am, I love their character. We’ve been fortunate to find the right spots to place our feet, so we don’t encounter the rough spots that much. Moral of the story? If you’re looking for a silky smooth finish, buy your river rocks from a tile store or take extra time to pick rocks on the beach that are more smooth rather than “pretty.”
I also made sure to seal all the grout joints and shower basin… not once but twice. Not sure if that was necessary, but better be safe than sorry. I will also go back and seal it again in about six months.
For the shower door, I chose what is called a semi-frameless by-pass. I decided this because the door opened into the room, and I didn’t want to go into one side to turn on the shower and then jump out before I got all wet. It is, of course, not ALL frameless. But it is a beautiful door, and the hardware is minimally noticeable. I cannot take credit for installing it. My firstborn son did an excellent job! You can’t even tell where it’s been caulked, and it glides like a dream. (Measure twice, caulk once Scott! See below)
Now we can speed this thing up! I used molding around the shower and construction glue to attach the bead-board paneling. I also beefed up the molding around the door and the window. Lots of caulk!
And then paint, paint, paint! I added some little feet to the cabinet to make it look like a piece of furniture. And the countertop! My son-in-law, who is so handy and crafty, MADE the countertop. It looks similar to wood that was once used on old boats. Perfect! I would use a beautiful bowl I found at an antique store for the sink itself. I have done that before. But I am still perfecting that skill. I felt that it would be best to just buy one this time with my time constraints.
After six months, I was able to call Brian from Rooker Renovations and let him come back to set all the fixtures. He said that six months wasn’t so bad. He once had someone who took two years to finish their project! That made me feel a lot better.
I had to revisit the medicine cabinet decision, and decided not to put the cabinet back into the wall. I know I said I thought I might like it recessed, but I changed my mind like most women. Besides, if I had put it back, I would not have gotten that beautiful, one-of-a-kind piece of art that my daughter made to put there.
I didn’t put the original bathroom door back on the hinges either but instead hung it outside the opening on a rail made from plumbing pipes and connectors.
And now it’s done! And with a little help, and a lot of sweat, I did it….
Yes, my bathroom is tiny. You can do all kinds of renovations, but at the end of the day, it’s still 5’ x 9’. However, it now feels so much bigger. There is no shower curtain to give the illusion that the room stops three feet before it really does. There’s no door swinging into the room to take up precious space.
My hubby and I still don’t go in there to get ready together. After 50 years of marriage, we decided we liked it that way. Now, the only difference is that he goes first, and I go in last. That way, he can take a “cat” nap while I finish getting ready.
I’d like to see HGTV come in and make this space any bigger, or prettier! Unless, of course, they want to come, and free of charge, do an addition (hint, hint).
But until then… I know small…..and I’m ok with it.
May all your bathrooms be relaxing and rejuvenating no matter what size!
Your savvy “biz” friend,
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