Here are some of the biggest lessons we learned when doing our bathroom renovation. Enjoy, Mari & Paul
Demo & Planning
- Turn off the water to the bathroom and be careful not to nick the pipes when demolishing
- Invest in a reciprocating saw (aka Sawzall), especially if you have a fiberglass tub/surround to cut up
- Wear long sleeves, a mask, and eye protection during demo, again, especially if you are dealing with fiberglass and/or popcorn texture
- Enlist the help of friends!
- You don’t need to use that much thin set/mortar under your backerboard/cementboard
- Mix small batches of thin set/mortar at a time so you don’t waste it (that goes for grout, too) and use warm water to make it easier
- You don’t necessarily need thick board – opt for a 1/4 inch if you can to make install easier
- Predrill the holes in your board if you’re having trouble installing it
- If you are not using a waterproof barrier underneath the board then you should paint a waterproof membrane on top of it (the green stuff)
Tiling the Surround
- Plan out your tile pattern before starting and determine the best placement for your shower niche if you are including one
- If installing a niche – consider buying a plastic one instead of building it yourself and screw it directly into the studs
- Invest in a GOOD tile saw (ours was not and it caused many headaches)
- Keep your area clean and wipe down tiles as you install – don’t wait until later when the mortar hardens
- Wear gloves! I didn’t and my hands suffered for it
Grouting the Surround
- Wear gloves for this part, too!
- Sponge down the tiles as you are grouting, again, don’t wait until later when it will be much more difficult (we know from experience on this one)
- Cure the grout by spraying it with water twice a day for a few days
- Seal after curing – it might take a few passes with the sealer
Tiling the Floor
- Plan our your design and start with the most important/visible area – in our case we wanted to control the look of the tiles abutting the tub
- Clean as you go
- You can reuse spacers as each area dries
- Use knee pads – they really do help!
- Cure and seal as you see fit
Installing the Vanity & Fixtures
- Enlist the help of a professional – in our case we hired a plumber to install the tub and fixtures
- Make sure your vanity and toilet and tub are the correct distance from one another according to code in your area
Installing the Toilet
- Read the manual for installing your toilet ahead of time
- If you opt for an apron type toilet (see above) know that it will be a more challenging install
- Invest in a GOOD diamond bit to drill through your tile – we broke several economy diamond bits and would have been better served with buying the expensive one off the bat
We’re finally done with renovating the bathroom! We did everything but the plumbing ourselves (and even then Paul and his dad had to pitch in). That included ALL of the tiling – the new shower/tub surround in addition to the floor.
I have a newfound appreciation for any person who has ever tiled anything – who knew a shower niche would take so much time and energy and that I would literally lose the skin on my hands while laying tile.
Some of my favorite parts of the new bathroom are:
- The hex floors
- The Delta shower and tub faucets (partially obscured by the blue whale in the photos)
- The metal bead on the shower niche (that was the easy part)
- The beautiful handmade wooden stool gifted to us from our realtor
- The Joe Hill poster and the Jane Mount Ideal Bookshelf 364 print
Enjoy & Happy Renovating!
We’ve been hard at work getting the new house in shape and it’s coming along little by little. The first room we have finished is Brook’s room. Below you can see more before and after pics as well as additional detail shots. She loves her new room including her two closets – one for clothes and one for playing in! Pics of the play closet coming soon.
I had so much fun making this room into a special place. I especially love:
- The awesome frames wallpaper we bought here.
- The chevron blackout curtains we bought here.
- The cascading metallic circles that I made with silver contact paper cut out with 1.25″ and 2.25″ button punches.
- The black frame on the circles wall, which is actually a mirror that I rescued it from the downstairs bathroom.
- The school desk from the 70s we found at the recycling center.
- The bookcase from my own childhood I transformed with black paint and yellow chevron contact paper.
- The gallery wall with frames we’ve collected through the years, including hand painted ones from Ecuador.
More Detail Shots
My parents got me a dollhouse when I was around 9 years old. I wish I could say I decorated it and played with it for hours on end but the truth is I was never that into it and the only decorations it had were some wallpaper samples on a few walls and one bedroom of Victorian furnishings that came with it.
Recently, I found this old dollhouse in my parent’s basement and decided to take it on as a project. I joked to Paul that I was in the mood to renovate a house so why not start small! As we embark on full-scale renovations of our new house (more details to come) I thought I’d share the after photos of the dollhouse. Unfortunately, since one of my cameras was stolen and my external hard drive broke (don’t ask) I no longer have the before images. Click on the pics above to see larger images.
While Brook is still too young to play with the dollhouse she loves to look at it and name the things she sees. Her favorite thing is the rocking horse probably because she has one in her own room. You’ll notice the dolls are the I Am Elemental action figures from this blog post here. I think they look quite at home!
Some other highlights from the remodel:
- Miniature books I bought from Jo-Ann Fabrics that I covered with some of my favorite children’s books including Little Women, A Wrinkle in Time, The Phantom Tollbooth, Matilda, and To Kill a Mockingbird. You’ll see the books all around the house.
- Decorations from board games: Settlers of Catan, Pandemic, Ticket to Ride, Scrabble, Bananagrams, Lotería, and jacks.
- Most wallpaper is scrapbook paper from Michaels and most fabric I either had from previous projects or I also bought bandanas from Michaels for $1 each.
- I made the rugs from hand stitching plastic canvas with yarn – took forever but I love the rugs.
- Framed family photos I created by finding digital images of frames, placing family photos into them in Photoshop, printing them at home on our photo printer, and then laminating. I also recreated my favorite calendar, Massimo Vignelli’s Stendig calendar, printed it, laminated it and mounted in the living room.
- I found a few other favorite artworks and paintings online and printed them, as well. You’ll see an image from Cindy Sherman’s Untitled series, a painting from an artist I saw in Quito, one of the portraits from Ellen Heck’s Forty Fridas, a Nikki McClure print, and the same hallway image by Nathan Rohlander that is featured on Modern Family (not pictured). Other images I cut out of magazines and design annuals.
- I made the mobile in the nursery from buttons and I spelled Brooklyn’s name out with alphabet bracelet beads on the wall. I also sewed the beanbag chairs using fabric scraps and a pattern for hacky sacks.
- The two miniature reproduction designer chairs I splurged buying them on eBay: the Eames lounge chair with ottoman as well as the Eames RAR rocking chair. I also got the kitchen set on eBay. The rest of the furniture I either had from the original set (basinet, bed, lamp, side table) or found the rest of the furniture for free.
Now that we’re starting to renovate a full-scale house I’ll be updating the blog with progress. I hope it’s as fun as the dollhouse!
Paul and I found these delightfully painted wooden blocks during another trip to the recycling center. I’ve never seen these childhood staples with quite the same designs, which harken back to the 60s or 70s. My favorite block is the Town Hall and I also love the little trees. In the photos you’ll see a mix of the blocks that we found (skyscrapers, trains, trees, houses, tow truck) mixed with our Spanish wooden blocks and a few other goodies from our toy chest. Brook had fun knocking everything down once I had taken the photos!
On a recent trip to our local recycling center Paul found the vintage game, World of Wall Street. Our recycling center has an area with free items for the taking that people drop off. It’s a great resource but I wish it was mission-based like the Free Store in Braddock, PA (check it out here).
Paul spoke with the woman dropping off her old board games. She said that she was cleaning out her attic and had a bunch of games that she had barely played before. This one had never been played – the cards and money were new in the package. Aside from a slight mildew smell and a bit of spotting on the board, the game is in perfect condition.
World of Wall Street was made in 1969 by NBC (yes, like the TV Network) and is a primer for understanding buying and selling stocks. We’ve played a few times and much of the game is luck-based but it does reinforce the concept of buying low and selling high.
My favorite part of the game, though, is the incredible graphic design. These days, designers work hard to achieve this mid-century aesthetic. This game is an actual example of what mainstream designers were doing in 1969 – complete with a slide rule!
See for yourself how simple and beautiful the game pieces are.
I took myself on as a client and worked on Brooklyn’s party from the invitations (the New York Times image) and signage, to the baked goods, labels, buttons, and table design. Not shown are the flags made from subway maps, the theatre area where we showed her video montage, the play area, and the activity tables.
- Individual mini-cheesecakes with tiny spoons (I love tiny spoons!)
- The smash cake with the skyline around it
- Subway-inspired signs
- 5th Avenue Bar favors
- NYC-themed coloring pages
- Brooklyn Lager for the grown-ups
- Classic NYC coffee cups
- Black & White Cookies (which I didn’t bake)
- Subway-themed and pixelated temporary tattoos
- A crown made from a subway map
Part of the reason I’ve been too busy to post is because I’ve been making a lot of video montages like the one above. I make these tribute videos for birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, nonprofits, and lately a lot of Bar Mitzvahs.
In addition, I work on branding events including logo design, place cards, t-shirts, stickers, giveaways, and personalized gifts. Recently, I designed place cards meant to look like NFL tickets, a vintage logo for a 40th birthday, a surprise tribute video, and everything you can imagine for Brooklyn’s first birthday (lots of images coming soon).
In the video you’ll see a taste of the kinds of animations and transitions I use in my videos with some clips from families (including my own!) who let me share their images.
This time last year, almost to the minute, I was looking into the face of our daughter for the first time. Although I had been in labor for almost two days, I was surprised by how quickly it all happened in the end. They lay her on my chest and she was so soft and warm and clean and new. I think I cried. I think I smiled. More than anything, I remember how right it all felt. How I already knew this little person. She had been a part of me and was now a part of me out in the world.
I guess that’s how other mothers feel about their children and why it must be so painful when they grow up and leave. It’s like a part of you is missing – walking around out there in the world.
Until then, I’ll enjoy the time we have together. I feel so grateful to have this kind, curious, intelligent, funny, and strong little lady in my life.
Happy First Birthday, Brooklyn!
I love you.