Bathroom Reveal

At long last, Phase 1* of the bathroom update is DONE!


Remember what we started with?  Believe it or not this picture makes it look significantly better than it did in real life.

And now?


I am thrilled with the result.  Instead of dingy and depressing, it’s bright, cheerful, and practical.


Finding a vanity I liked was difficult, but after a coat of paint and some adorable knobs from Anthropologie I think I picked a winner.


I used the same window panels that I had hung in the bedroom so we could have both privacy and natural light. I also PAINTED ALL THE THINGS and successfully patched the missing chunk of our window trim


If you remember the picture I posted a while back of the tub base you’ll see I changed my mind.  Originally I had freshened it up with a coat of white paint and some gunmetal feet, but after bringing in the vanity I wanted something to balance the dark gray.  The tub base is now the same color as the vanity and I repainted the feet silver for contrast. We also had to bite the bullet and hire a plumber to switch out our old leaky tub faucet.


We now have a bright, practical closet and convenient towel hooks (before the only hooks were on the back of the door–nowhere near the tub).


I brought in some more shelving above the toilet and added a hamper since laundry always seems to pile up in the bathroom.



*Long term plan is to gut most of the room, tile the floor and partially tile the walls, but it will be quite a while before that happens because moving our cast iron tub and radiator is definitely not a DIY.

Weekend Report

My mom and step-dad came up this weekend to drop off a snowblower and spend some less chaotic holiday time together.

  • Cookies baked: approximately 4378 dozen
  • Cookies decorated*: All 4378 dozen
  • Christmas shopped completed: 85%
  • Bathroom knobs replaced: 2
  • Bathroom shelves fitted: 3**
  • Presents wrapped: 11
  • Cats who don’t understand personal space: 2***



*After the parents left I had people over for more cookie baking/decorating.  Less of a cookie party and more of a “I have baking to get done, you have baking to get done? Come over and we’ll get shit done together.  With wine.” sort of deal.

**Just have to paint and screw into place!

***Schmutz especially does not really understand people with cat allergies who don’t want her all up in their face.  She thinks they just need more snuggles to make them happier.

Weekend Report

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas….

  • Hours stuck going into work: 3.5
  • Feet of lights hung: 36
  • Christmas trees decorated: 1
  • Feet of edging painted: 20
  • Shelves hung: 1*
  • Hardware store trips: 1
  • Craft store trips: 1
  • Christmas presents purchased: 1
  • Messiah concerts avoided: 1**
  • SPCO concerts attended: 1***
  • Hanukkah meltdowns witnessed: 1****


*While writing this I just realized I managed to hang it upside down.  It’s a floating shelf where you mount a support bracket to the first and I very carefully made sure I had the guide arrow pointing down. Doh!

**Matt plays viola in a community orchestra and while I try to go to every concert, I put my foot down at the Messiah.  I went 2 years in a row and decided I REALLY do not like it. Actually, the majority of Christmas music makes me twitchy after too long.

***Their violin section is incredibly dramatic; this time I was mildly concerned there was going to be a horrible collision between the Concert Master, Associate Concert Master, and the next person down that line of chairs.  Matt also got to have a fan boy moment since a group of them took the table when we out for dessert after the concert.

****Don’t ever get me started on the “war on Christmas.”  Row after row of Christmas decor at Target and one teenie-tiny end-cap of Hanukkah decor.  Little boy was near tears because he couldn’t find a dreidel and Mom was getting a little flustered since no one was apparently selling gelt (chocolate coins).

Out With the Old

In a perfect world I’d love to reconfigure the bathroom.  It’s a pretty good size bathroom, but the layout doesn’t make the best use of the space.  Sure it would be fabulous if I could rotate the tub so the plumbing connections are against the wall, and swap the toilet and vanity around so I could fit in a sink with actual counter space… but rerouting plumbing is pricey and probably not going to happen.  This means I have to work with what I have, which happens to be enough room for a 24″ vanity. Sigh.

It gets even better though. The plumbing for our sink comes up through the floor instead of through the wall so anything raised on legs is out as well.  I also had to wave goodbye to a practically perfect option because the drawers were a 1/4″ too wide to accommodate our existing plumbing. That was devastation right there. I found another practically perfect option, but not only was it raised (I could work around that if I had too) but it was nearly all sink and no counter.  No bueno.

There was only one option left at this point.  Custom.  Not 100% from scratch kind of custom, but a custom mod to a mediocre cabinet.


I ended up with this as my base for several reasons. 1) I liked the counter top on it.  Too many had goofy recesses (mini soap dish? really?) and backsplashes that were unnecessary.  I wanted a white, streamlined sink and didn’t want to shell out another several hundred bucks to replace it in the future.  2) I liked the overall shape–simple and reasonably classic.  3) Price point was good.  I almost picked out a boring-as-hell builder-grade yawn-fest that was cheaper and the only reason I paid more was to get the counter/sink I liked more.


We also picked up this lovely little faucet.  I am absolutely crazy about the ceramic X shaped knobs.  I really wanted a wide-spread faucet with 3 separate pieces instead of everything mounted on a base, but that was over 3x the price so I had to pass on absolute perfection. This one is pretty near perfect though and so I think I can live with that.

Next up we ripped out the old vanity/sink.  In the process we discovered the shut-off valves were not completely shutting off the water so we had to turn off the water to the house, cut the pipes, install new compression fittings and shut-offs, turn the water back on, and pray we go it right.  We did.


The line of black on the wall is some rubbery adhesive I had to scrap off with a putty knife and razor blade.  And that wood pattern on the floor? Vinyl. Thank god they covered that up is all I can say! Then we measured where all the pipes were and cut holes into the base of our new vanity cabinet.

Luckily the sink did not come attached to the cabinet (which would have been good to know before we hauled the whole box up the stairs) so it was easy for one person to lift and the other to make sure everything was lining up right.  We also discovered this cabinet was  deeper than our old one (measure people!) and had to rip off the baseboard on the side wall (it will be going back once we trim it down).

The sink itself just attached with some silicone caulk so that was pretty simple.

Getting the faucet in was another story… Actually the faucet was easy, the pop-up assembly was the hard part.  If you’re just switching out a faucet you may not even need to deal with the pop-up assembly (drain stopper) but if you’ve added a brand new sink you’ll definitely have to.  The instructions that came with ours were AWFUL.  Part of the reason we were confused was that the part that came with our faucet was designed for a sink with an overflow, but our sink didn’t have that. We got it all sorted out eventually though.

So we’ve got the vanity cabinet in place.  We’ve got the sink installed.  We’ve got the faucet installed.  Go us!  Me being me, this wasn’t good enough, so then I painted the vanity.  The existing color wasn’t bad, but there were going to be some additions made and I didn’t want to stress over getting an exact finish match.


I wish I could tell you the color I used, but I can’t.  I started out with Benjamin Moore Temptation (Advance, satin) and thought it was too light, so I brought it back to get it re-tinted.  The next shade darker was French Beret and the awesome paint people couldn’t quite get that because of the amount of white in the previous mix so the color is somewhere in between the too, but still probably closest to Temptation (you can see the difference where I tried the dark version on the doors, although you can barely tell in real life).

Looking pretty good, right?  Not even the vanity is done yet though…

Weekend Report

Oof-dah this weekend was a trip.  Off went our water, out came our vanity, and in went a new vanity, sink, and faucet.

  • Hardware store trips: 7
  • Paint store trips: 2
  • Hours spent without water to the entire house: 3*
  • Days without being able to use our upstairs bath: 2
  • Pipes cut: 2
  • Feet of PVC replaced: 2
  • Compression fittings bought: 4
  • Compression fittings used: 2
  • Holes cut in bottom of brand new cabinet: 3




*This was better than expected, but somehow I didn’t think about things like flushing the toilet, or washing the paint off of me.  Consequently Matt informed me if I had to use the bathroom I could use the one at the hardware store and pick up new compression fittings while I was there.  Also we went to dinner at friend’s house, she saw dark splotches all down my arm and asked what the heck happened to me.  Paint.  Paint happened to me.


Original image: Hyperbole and a Half, Modifications: me


This is basically the mantra for the bathroom.  The vinyl is nasty, the wood is in sorry shape, and the wall color is just plain unfortunate.  Because I don’t know when we’ll have the budget for a full gut job I’m pretty much painting every square inch of this room.

After I tackled repairing the window trim, I moved on to demo-ing the closet shelves.  Their configuration was bizarre and they’d be annoying to paint around.  Unfortunately as I removed them I notice the paint on the inside of the closet was peeling badly.  Bad news: it will probably need to be skim coated.  Good news: it’s the inside of a closet so I probably can’t fuck it up too badly.

Luckily, skim coat or not, priming everything was the first step. Ok, second step.  First I scraped off all the really lose bits with a putty knife and filled in what I could with spackle and then primed everything in sight.


Doesn’t that already look so much better?  The beigey vinyl was absolutely disgusting and even just seeing it primed makes a huge difference! The tub base got primed too since it is certainly not staying it’s previous dirty-beige color.

Personally I think it’s easier to paint trim first.  My dad disagrees so this is a clearly a personal preference thing.  Coat #2 for me though was all the vinyl and trim.  You don’t need to worry about a clean edge, just a smooth edge.  Basically any paint you get onto the next surface you’re going to paint make sure you feather out so you don’t see brush lines or blotches. The trim, vinyl, and closet interior are all Clark + Kensington (satin) tinted to Benjamin Moore Simply White (mostly because I had it to use up… I was unimpressed with Clark + Kensington for trim*). The trim did get a second coat of Benjamin More Advance too.


Aaaaannd now for some blue (Behr tinted to Benjamin Moore’s Opal Essence to be exact).  MAN this was a long time coming! This is just a sneak peak for you.  The bathroom’s not quite done yet–we have a new vanity and faucet to install, closet shelves to rebuild, and additional shelving to add.


Up next we tackle our pretty dismal counter space issue.


*Still love it for walls though–that and Behr are my go-to for walls, but BM Advance has won my heart for trim, cabinetry, and furniture.

Bathroom Prep

Hey look!  It’s progress!

Besides patching the giant fracking hole in the wall there were a few other areas that needed some TLC before we could paint.  The most noticeable of these was chunk of window trim that someone cut out to fit in that nasty old light fixture.


We’ve acquired a number of random wood scraps from other projects and luckily the 1×2’s were the perfect depth for the trim.  Unfortunately they were just a hair too wide… and the only power saw we have is a miter saw.  No sane person is going to put their fingers that close to the blade to shave a 1/4″ off of a 1×2. I could have picked up a hand saw, but it would still be difficult to safely hold a piece of wood that narrow while cutting.  Instead I screwed a few pieces of wood together to lengthen the piece I needed to cut and keep my fingers well away from the blade.


The wood got cut and I still have all my fingers.  Win.  It’s a little too small, but I can hide a gap a lot more easily than I can hide a too-wide piece of wood.


Then I picked up a couple little strips of craft wood to mimic the raised edge detail on the out edge of the trim.  It was a little too high so I used my palm sander to knock it down a bit.


After that it was a just a matter of evening everything out with wood filler.


The only thing left to do now is paint it since there’s no way you can stain over this patch job and have it look good.  Luckily I wanted white trim anyway.

There was more work still to be done on the window frame though.  When we moved it we ripped out some glass shelves that were built in across the window. This left some glue residue behind and exposed some foam insulation along the window frame.  Not so great to paint over.


I started by sanding off the glue residue.  Next I cut down some quarter round to hide the exposed insulation. Based on the other windows in the house there should be a larger piece of trim here (that would actually cover all the damaged wood) but I didn’t think I could find something that would work without a lot of custom cuts and routing and I just don’t currently have the equipment for that.


We pulled off the closet door earlier too, opting for a curtain instead (the cat box is in the closet so it needs to be very easily accessible).  Unfortunately the hinges were glued in place so we had more glue residue to contend with.  I scraped and sanded the glue off, but left the holes.  The curtain should hide them well enough and if we (or future owners) decide to swap the door back in it will be way easier.

I also ripped out the old shelves in the closet since they’re rather haphazard.  The closet’s getting painted too and I’ll be putting up new shelving so it looks more organized.  I’ve also added the person who installed these shelves and painted over the screws eleventy-billion time to the People I Want to Punch list.  There’s a fair amount of peeling paint I’ll need to scrap off the walls too. Urgh.

Everything else was just a matter of patching the normal holes, cracks, and gaps that you encounter when painting.

Hole Patching 101, 202, and WTF Did You do to Your Wall???

In our quest to replace all the light fixtures in our house we’ve run into some interesting… situations.  In the bathroom we discovered an existing hole in the wall once we removed the medicine cabinet and old light fixture.  In our bedroom we, once again, had no electrical box, couldn’t mount one where the existing hole in the ceiling was, so had to put a new hole in our ceiling for the electrical.  When we moved in there was also some existing awfulness by the window on our stair landing, so this weekend we had 3 different repair/patch situations to deal with.

The Basic


Removing the old make-up mirror in the bathroom left more than a couple screw holes.  It looks like they painted around it multiple times so there was actually a depth change in the wall too.

What you need

  • Spackle
  • Flexible putty knife
  • Sandpaper

Start by cleaning up the existing surface.  In the case of flaking paint, try and take off all the loose stuff you can.  For holes just make sure there’s no unevenness (especially with plaster walls since they can sometimes bubble when you try and screw into them).

Next, cover the hole, dent, divet, whatever with a thin layer of spackle.  Use the putty knife to smoosh in the spackle then drag the blade of the knife even against the wall to scrape off excess.  Like spray paint, the trick is working in thin layers.


Once the first layer has dried, use your putty knife to lightly scrape off any ridges and sand down any noticeably high points. Then add another thin layer and repeat.  You’ll probably use around 3 layers, so don’t try and gob a ton of spackle on all once.


Once you think you’re done, run your hand over the area to make sure.  You may feel lumps and bumps you didn’t see  and they’ll stand out more once you paint. Sand/spackle as needed until everything feels nice and smooth. Then you just need to prime and paint and voila!

The Intermediate


If you have a larger hole, spackle alone isn’t going to cut it. Maybe a doorknob tried to show your wall who was boss. Maybe your teenagers had an unauthorized rowdy party.  Maybe the idiots who wired your house didn’t believe in electrical boxes and you need to patch the old hole where the wiring came in.

What you need

  • Wall patch
  • Spackle or joint compound
  • Flexible putty knife
  • Sandpaper


The steps are pretty similar to patching small holes, but you need to cover up the hole first because there is no way you’re going to fill it solid with spackle.  You can find  wall patches at your hardware store in a variety of sizes.  They’re pretty much an adhesive mesh over an aluminum panel so they’ll stick over the hole and then you spackle over them.


The trick here is to gradually feather out from the patch since it’s going to be slightly higher than the surrounding wall.  Again, build up thin layers until everything’s hidden and smooth.



Once the ceiling gets repainted it will disappear completely, but even now you can’t notice it unless someone points it out to you.

The Maybe-I-Should-Just-Call-a-Pro


Dude, you got this. It looks scary, but it’s not that bad.  Even if you have plaster walls.

What you need

  • Drywall (Home Depot sells 2’x2′ squares, Menards sells random sizes for patching… other places probably do too)
  • Drywall Screws
  • Utility knife
  • Stiff putty knife/5-in-1 tool or drywall saw (depending on your wall type)
  • Paint stir stick/thin scrap wood (optional)
  • Wood glue (optional)
  • Joint compound*
  • Flexible putty knife
  • Sandpaper

When you have a hole this big they don’t make adhesive patches big enough so you’ll need to fill it with drywall.

Safety note: make sure you know if there are any electrical wires behind the area you’re patching since you do not want to accidentally cut or drill through them.


Start by evening out the edges of the hole so it’s rectangular.  If you have drywall you can cut out the rough edges with a drywall saw easily.  If you have plaster walls… it takes some more effort.  This video can probably explain it better than I can. It’s a little putzy and time consuming (and dusty!) but not incredibly difficult.


Cut (really score with a utility knife and snap) your drywall patch to fit your new, squared hole and screw it into place.  If you’re missing lath  or not near a stud you may have to create a surface to screw into with some scrap wood. Again, there’s already a video that should help explain that better than me.  He’s patching a pretty small hole, but the concept’s the same.


We had to cut a hole for the wiring too.  I traced the electrical box in the right spot, drilled holes along the perimeter, then used a drywall saw to cut it all the way out. The drilled holes just make it easier to cut a rounded shaped, if you’re cutting out a square you probably just need the saw.


Tape the edges with an adhesive mesh tape and feather out those edges just like you did for a smaller patch. We ended up taking off more plaster so we could expose some more stable laths to mount the drywall on.



Still working on this one since it will take some effort to completely hide a hole that big, but by the time we paint you’ll never even know it was there.


*Ok, so I used the same wall patch spackle I used on the bedroom ceiling… time will tell if I royally flubbed it.

Lighting Round 2

A couple weeks ago we started tackling some of the upstairs light fixtures.  The vanity fixture I ordered for the bathroom finally arrived and the bedroom ceiling fan was making some unpleasant grinding noises (and wobbled when you pulled on the cords) so we decided those 2 were up next.

We started in the bedroom and dismantled our sad old fan.


No one will miss it.

I got a little excited at first because there was modern wiring!  Modern wiring! There would be an electrical box! This would be as easy as it should be! Right?




There was modern wiring, but no electrical box and the new fan was significantly heavier than the wussy little old fan. Shit.  We’d have to do this right.

The good news was that since we were on the second floor we had ceiling access through our unfinished attic.  The bad news was that the way the joists and other supports were configured left no space to mount an electric box over the existing hole.  So we had to cut a new hole in our ceiling.  Joy.


Cutting a hole in old lath and plaster (with a crappy saw no less) is mildly terrifying.  At least it was for me as I stood underneath and started yelling at Matt to stop what he was doing because some hairline cracks started to form.  The take-away here? Just buy a good saw already.

We did successfully cut a hole in the ceiling AND securely mount an electrical box.  After that installing the fan was pretty easy.


Much better! I agonized over a ceiling fan for he bedroom for a while (like I agonize over nearly all lighting choices).  The ceiling fan was a must since we don’t have A/C and I don’t sleep well if I’m too warm.  I eventually settled on the Hampton Bay Havana ceiling fan from Home Depot.  I usually think the fake palm blades are a little kitschy, but something about this one just seemed nicely textural without totally screaming tacky Palm Beach hotel.

Up next was the bathroom.  That fugly vanity light HAD to go.  During our demo process we discovered the medicine cabinet was hiding a hole in the wall and the light fixture was hiding even more of a hole in the wall.


And an absolute cluster fuck of wires.  You can’t really see what’s going on here, but there are 3 hot wires, 4 neutral wires, and 2 grounds for a single light fixture. There was some crazy splicing happening to get everything hooked up to power and to the light switch above the sink.

We also had to enlarge the hole in the wall so we could center the new fixture the best we could and, you guessed it, install an electrical box. It was a giant headache and we were left with a big honking hole in the wall that needed patching (more on that later) but once again we had a HUGE improvement over the the existing light (even if it’s a little crooked at the moment).


We went with the Contour Double Sconce from West Elm and I may order another on the these for the downstairs bathroom cuz I kind of adore it.

State of the Bathroom Address

You know how I was all gung-ho about the bathroom makeover a few weeks ago?  You might be wondering what all I’ve accomplished.

Absolutely nothing.


Well, ok, I painted the radiator and we replaced the vanity light (with a new crooked vanity light that will need to be re-positioned ), but other than that, absolutely nothing… and given how long ago I started this it does really feel like nothing.

Yup, that’s right.  I caught the plague or mono or malaria or something* and it lingered forever. Even after I thought I was better it came back with a vengeance and I had to take another sick day from work.  I was utterly exhausted constantly and one of my co-workers tried to convince me I might be pregnant (spoiler alert: I’m not). So yeah, I was barely getting off the couch much less tackling the bathroom.  Then the first weekend I was back to normal we skipped town to visit family (and attend a friend’s baby shower. A comic book themed baby shower with no stupid games.  This is why we’re friends).

Once I finally felt alive again we started working on reinforcing our windows (they’re triple paned so super heavy and awesomely sound-proof, but the upper sash is only supported by some plastic pieces which have started to give way) and getting the porch painted before it’s too cold

Now we have a giant hole we need to patch around the new light (thanks for nothing previous homeowners) and THEN we’ll probably actually started painting.


*I actually still have no clue what I had except that it wasn’t strep.  After over a week of a killer sore throat and general malaise I was really hoping it would be so antibiotics would actually make it all better.  No such luck, I just had some sort of wait-it-out viral awfulness.