Rendering vs Reality: A Full Bathroom Reveal
Hello again. We're emerging from the shadows once more with another long-anticipated blog post. These past two (or more??) months have been quite chaotic here, and we haven't really had time or mental bandwidth to focus on anything else besides making our home as livable as possible. For the unaware and uninitiated, we've been undergoing a primary bath renovation (if you haven't read our blog about the design, check that out first) that included quite a bit of demolition. Our loft bedroom became a storage facility, a giant closet, and a dust bowl covered in plastic sheets. With that said, we're very fortunate to be in a situation where we can design and build our dream bathroom- however, everything in between hasn't been the most ideal, but more on that in a bit. Yet alas, we've finally reached a point where we can fully reveal our primary bathroom. Ironically, I'm currently writing the rough draft of this blog post before our shower enclosure has arrived or been installed. But I'm getting ahead of the curve here, and by the time you read this, (perhaps) it will be done! So let's just jump right into it.
How Our Plans Changes From Concept to Reality
In our previous post, we showed you some of the lovely renderings we had done. They were great, they were elegant, and if we had ended up with that bathroom, we'd still be extremely happy. Nevertheless, home projects never really go exactly according to plan, especially not ones as big as this. But for the sake of posterity, let's revisit some of those initial ideas.
Initial Plan: Hexagonal floor tile throughout the bathroom, a completely drywalled ceiling, and a sliding door from Wayfair.
With these renderings locked and loaded, and the material list all mostly in-hand, our contractors got to work. We were settled on the concept and looking forward to its execution. But, unsurprisingly, things quickly took a turn. The demo crew ended up demoing more than we'd anticipated. Not only did they rip out the entire ceiling and the whole plaster wall, but they exposed something we weren't expecting to find: the original hardwood floors beneath the heinous tile we had in the old bathroom (photos below).
(Pictured: exposed ceiling, the other half of our original hardwood floors, and a closeup of the exposed stone wall)
This is where we faced our first real dilemma: what now? The demolition had steered us in a direction we didn't intend on going, but now, we were presented options we didn't know existed. Should we find a way to leave the ceiling exposed? Could we have an exposed stone wall in the bathroom? Would we rather have a bathroom with hardwood floors? We didn't have much time, and it was obviously going to take a bit of negotiation with our contractors.
Hugh and I took a day to ask ourselves which features were most important to us, and we both decided if we could get two out of three things (exposed beams, exposed stone wall, or refinish the hardwood floors) we would be satisfied. We tried chipping away some of the grout in the stone wall to expose that a bit more to see how easy the task would be (spoiler: it was tedious and difficult). It then became clear to us that exposing, refinishing and resealing this wall would probably require the skills of a stone mason, and that would likely blow up the budget. We crossed this item off the list, somewhat reluctantly, and told our contractor they could drywall it up. And just like that, our list of three dream items was narrowed down to two, and it was time for more negotiations.
As all the materials were already ordered, we asked our contractor how much it would cost to insulate and drywall in between the ceiling beams, leaving the beams themselves exposed. Our thought was that it would just require a few more cuts of drywall and additional spackling work, but that no additional materials would be needed so it shouldn't be too much of an undertaking. Needless to say, but... our contractor did not agree with that thought process. At least, not according to the number he came back to us with. Hugh and I put our bargaining hats on again and thought, "Well, what part of this are we capable of doing ourselves?". Clearly it was not leaving the stone wall exposed, nor was it the insulation and drywall of our ceiling (although after seeing the process, we're tempted to recreate that look in the guest bedroom at some point and confident in our ability). What we could do (and when I say we I mean 99% Hugh), was refinish the floor. So, our proposition was: we'll do the floor ourselves, remove a day or more of tiling work from the schedule, and you guys can do the ceiling the way we want it at no extra cross. And to our anxious delight, they agreed.
This is where our project seemed to enter the Bermuda Triangle, where nothing ever happened and progress was few and far between, with days passing and us wondering if anything at all had changed, or if the contractors were even showing up that day. Seriously, the month of October was a drag. Walls were again hidden by purple sheets of drywall, our floorboards were labeled and removed (to be stored in our bedroom, of course), and our world was nothing but dust and debris. Somewhere in this nebulous period, some electrical work was done, some plumbing was done, some spackling was done, but mostly, it was a whole lot of waiting.
We couldn't proceed with the floor- the planks were sitting in our bedroom, and it seemed like everything else was hit or miss and relatively directionless. For example: the insulation and drywall was put up, spackled, and painted without cutting any holes for electrical in the walls or ceiling. To further that conundrum, the walls were actually tiled and the ceiling completely finished off without any access to electrical. So when it did come time to install light switches, fixtures, and the like, contractors were undoing and redoing work again. Spectacular.
Pictured first: the floors are sanded and labeled to keep them in the right order, next they are removed for access to plumbing and electrical work, and lastly floorboards are relaid and covered with cardboard for protection and drywall is installed.
Anyway, less dwelling on the month that never was. We did finally get around to restoring our floors to their righteous beauty, and we were rewarded greatly for it. These pine floors ended up having such a rich amber hue and character that could not be beaten by any tile, however chic the hexagonal designs were. The tile itself was already on site and could not be returned thanks to its "special" design, so we'll use it in our guest bathroom once we get around to that project. But now, the reign of hardwood floors had begun.
The floors: after another fine sanding and three coats of polyurethane
Aside from refinishing the floors, we took a few other tasks into our own homes so at least something was being completed. We refurbished the antique door we found at Philadelphia Salvage, painting it a lovely blue (Salty Dog by Sherwin Williams FYI) and installing a fun, vintage-style "WC" sticker from Philly Transom (for Water Closet, fellow Americans). We also made the wood shelves for our bathroom wall near the vanity. We'd already repainted the clawfoot tub a beautifully-chic black a few weeks ago, so we took it upon ourselves to bring both of those items up to the third floor ourselves. At this point, if there was anything we could do to inch this project forward even a little, we were doing it.
But I digress. Here we are, almost two and a half months after demolition started (and an entire year and a half since we first spoke to contractors about the budget for this project) ready to show you the full reveal. My only qualifier is that there is still some styling and art additions to be done, but nonetheless, enjoy. I know we are.
A Few Things We Learned Along The Way
I've been overlong in this post by now, so I'll keep these to bullet points:
Construction projects are always hard, but we couldn't anticipate the level of difficulty this bathroom remodel would be
Check in with your contractor as much as possible and ask them questions (i.e. Are you showing up tomorrow? What work is on the schedule for next week? etc.)
Don't be afraid to keep negotiating with them even while work is underway
Similarly, don't be afraid to do some of the work yourself if they won't budge
Lastly, we learned that we'll probably want to do the guest bathroom remodel ourselves (no plumbing or electric is necessary, and no structural demolition is taking place)
I'll end with a few more landscape photos of the bathroom because I feel like those never really get the love they deserve anymore in our portrait-style, iPhone-centric social media world. If you're reading this on a or laptop, however, you'll reap the full-screen benefits of these. Also, this project was a lot of time and money, so let us bask in its beauty for a few more scrolls.
As we part, we'd like to thank you again for reading, following, commenting, and everything and anything in between. All of your support and kind words have helped keep us going these past few months. If you have any questions, want recommendations, advice, please reach out- we love helping and sharing our experiences! We will try and have another hot n' fresh blog post ready before this one cools, but no promises. Adios, y'all! :)