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Lessons Learned: The Bathroom

by - Thursday, February 05, 2009

With the bathroom renovation almost done, its time to reflect on some of our Lessons Learned. There’s not much I would have done differently with this project as all in all it went fairly smoothly. But here are some tips which you may find useful in planning your own bathroom renovation:

Space planning is key. The more rooms we renovate, the more important I find this aspect to be. With renovating, its very easy to get caught up in the décor and frills, but really, all the luxe fabrics and stellar finishings in the world can’t cover up a poorly planned space. Focus on function first. Think about traffic flow, sightlines, efficient use of the space. How can you lay out a space to make it feel bigger? How can you make it feel open and airy without resorting to taking out a wall? What do you want to stand out in a space (the awesome view out the window?) and what do you want to hide and minimize (the toilet?)? The answer to these questions can greatly impact the design and layout.

For our bathroom, I wanted it to feel light and open. This meant emphasizing the window; using open-legged furniture; not ‘blocking’ the view from the entry door; and keeping to a simple, clean cohesive palette. We tucked the toilet in the back corner, and put glass above the half-wall so light bounces around the room. We’re also putting in a half frosted door so light spills from the bathroom out into the hallway.

Don’t be afraid to bring in the pros. HandyMan and I are DIYers, always eager to tackle things on our own. But for this job, I’m glad we called in the pros. Yes, we were motivated by a tight timeline, but even we had to admit there were things in the room that even we had no idea how to do. The plumbing was a bit tricky and installation of the new dual-flush toilet was a pain in the butt. We’ve never installed a tub or hooked up a tub drain either. We even had a tile guy do the floor – the room wasn’t square, we were dealing with expensive large marble and basketweave tiles requiring lots of cutting – so yeah, best to get the pro in!

Tile design is harder than the installation. Even though HandyMan has tiled bathrooms, entryways, kitchen floors, and walls before, we approached this tiling job much more differently. Because we were using a very simple white subway tile, the challenge was to keep it interesting. I learned from the pros that mixing sizes, shapes, and a little bit of colour would do the trick. We spent time putting together a mockup board. We figured out the tile carpet design (again, another key feature in the space) and wall tile options. In the end, I think we ended up with something much more thought out, interesting, in keeping with the period look, but still simple.

One other thing to think about before you grab that first piece of tile: determine your starting point. For us, it was the tile that sat right above the tub. We wanted it to be a full piece of tile (we didn’t want any rough cut and possibly uneven edges visible right from the door) so that determined where our rows fell horizontally around the room. To space things vertically, HandyMan took a bit of trial and error to make sure we didn’t ended up with small slivers of tile at the corners. Because this first row of tile determined all the rows around the whole room, it was important to get it right! Funnily enough, we ended up with a problem where the wall tile meets the floor tile – we planned for just one 1/2x6 grey strip atop a 6x8 tile, but that left a whole 1.5” gap to fill. We solved it by adding two additional rows of 1/2x6 white strips… using the white instead of grey kept the bottom from feeling too heavy, and provided a nice change in texture. With tiling, sometimes you have to plan on the fly!

Not everything is a showstopper. This is especially true in a small space. Pick a few highlights and spend money on them! For us, this was the window and the floor. So we tore out the old ledge from the window and replaced the trim. We’re also going to prettify it with a new roman blind. For the floor, we splurged on marble tile and marble basketweave. They’re sure to grab your attention now!

And that’s the bathroom in a nutshell. It’s a small space where so many things can go wrong and small changes can have a big impact so take the time to plan and end up with the bathroom of your dreams :)

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