Two Throne Rooms

The Art Deco bathroom that adjoins my home office is small but cute. The bath/shower is off to the left. The print on the charcoal gray towels doesn’t show up well here, but it’s the Marauder’s Map. Yes, I’m a nerd.

November 19 is World Toilet Day! Seriously. The United Nations says so. In honor of National Toilet Day, I want to talk about my bathrooms.

My husband and I bought our house two years ago, in November 2018, spent some time getting things painted and fixed up, and then moved in between March and May 2019. (Our old house was only four blocks away and was not on the market yet, so we were able to do it in stages.)

Our new house is a Cape Cod dating to the 1950s. Its 2,000 square feet make it a bit small for U.S. real estate, but it has plenty of space for our needs and is considerably larger than the cramped bungalow we used to live in. Unusually for a house this size, we have FOUR full bathrooms. Four! There are only three of us (and my son is now at college at least some of the time, leaving only two of us here full time) so that’s way more than we need.

Upstairs, the master bedroom and the other large room (my office) each has its own full bathroom. On the ground floor we have another full bathroom, across the hall from my son’s bedroom. And in the basement, my husband’s office has its own bathroom. All except the basement bathroom have bathtub/showers. But even the little one in the basement has a shower stall.

When we bought the house, three of the four bathrooms were scary. We didn’t have much of a budget for redoing them. We could paint and change out things like light fixtures and door hardware, but new tile and such is going to have to wait, probably quite a while. But we did what we could.

I’m going to focus on my office bathroom and the main floor bathroom in this post. I’ll cover the others in a later installment.

The bathroom in my office didn’t need much work. It’s small but has a nice Art Deco vibe, with the original 1950s black-and-white tile on the floor and and walls. At some point someone added a thin line of tiny red tiles across the walls, which looks great. We repainted the white walls to freshen up the look, replaced the light fixture over the sink, and swapped out the inexplicable cheap plastic towel bars for chrome ones. And we added a small, marble-topped cupboard in one corner, because the vanity is too small. Eventually I’d like to replace the tiny, dated vanity with a larger one, and add a glass shower door instead of the curtain that pretty much fills the whole room when it billows out. But it’s a good bathroom.

We’ve already replaced this dated, scratched brass and wood faucet in my main floor bathroom. We’ll have to live with the cracked floor tiles until we can do a real renovation.

The main floor bathroom, on the other hand, will be the first to get a major renovation. Like my office bathroom, this one is, as far as I can tell, original to the 1950s house, and rather small, though not as small as my Art Deco bathroom. The walls here are tiled in 4-inch square pink and lavender tiles. The floors are tiled in smaller pink and lavender tiles. In both cases, the tiles are cracked and stained beyond cleaning. The tub, toilet, and sink are not 50s pink; they are just white. I haven’t decided if this is a good thing. Pink could be cool if it was retro cool pink. But this bathroom does not feel retro. I wish it did! It just feels shabby and dated. The tile isn’t what I would pick, but I wouldn’t mind it so much if it were in great shape.

The ugly wallpaper in the ground floor bathroom was the first thing to go.

This was also one of two bathrooms that had hideous wallpaper when we bought the house. Above the tile, the walls were covered with a horrible textured paper, off-white with big smears of lavender and purple that looked vaguely like bushes. That had to go. Immediately. I chose a lavender color for the walls, since I needed something that would coordinate with the tiles, and my son requested anything but pink. The oak vanity is old and dated, so I had it painted white for now. Eventually I want a new one, but that will wait until I can redo the whole room. Same with the serviceable but ho-hum shiny brass light fixture over the mirror.

This is why we need to scrape and repaint the window in the tub. Daily showers are not good for painted surfaces.

The weirdest feature of this room is the window in the tub/shower. Yes, the shower has a window in it! But since an addition was built onto the house, I’d guess around 1980, the wall with the window is no longer an exterior wall. So the window provides a lovely view inside the wall. Really. The former owners put lights inside the wall and a shutter over the window so light filters through and gives the illusion of natural sunlight outside the window. But they apparently never used that shower. We do, and the moisture has caused the paint to peel and crack. Our plan is to scrape it, repaint with marine-grade or some kind of high-gloss, water-resistant paint, and use stained-glass-look window film over the panes so we can still have light filtering through. Then we’ll seal the whole thing in with plexiglass.

Here is the window in my shower, with and without its shutter. Notice what’s outside the window is, well, inside. It looks into the inside of the wall. This picture was taken just after we bought the house, before the water damage to the paint job. We have since gotten rid of the wallpaper and swapped out the fluorescent lights behind the window for a more natural-looking LED fixture, so the light that comes through the shutter looks more like real sunlight. We plan to ditch the shutter, strip and re-paint the window with marine paint, stick stained-glass window film over the panes, and enclose it all in plexiglass.

So, those are two of my bathrooms, the one that needs the least work and the one that needs the most. Next time I’ll show photos of the poor little neglected bathroom in the basement, and the master bathroom, which wins my personal award for the space in the house I think I’ve improved the most with the least amount of money and effort. Stay tuned.

And on this World Toilet Day, remember to give thanks for your own throne rooms, whatever their style and condition.

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