Toni: Reconstruction Thursdays — KISS (Keep It Simple, Silly)

I know, I know, it’s technically “Keep It Simple, Stupid,” but I am not a fan of the word stupid except for the drunks who end up face down on Bourbon and wonder why.

And a few politicians, but that’s a whole other bag of worms.

When we first moved into the house in Baton Rouge, the master bathroom was, hands down, the ugliest room that had the most potential. It was a shockingly large room for an en suite bathroom due to the U-shape of the house. The master bathroom was at the very tip of the left-hand side of that U, with the master bedroom right in front of it, and it spanned the entire width of that leg of the U. Since we had come from a one-bathroom home that was drafty and horrible, where there were space heaters that sort of laughed and spit at you, a nice big master bath should have been the crowning jewel.

Except… you remember the ugly dragon faucets that I mentioned here? I am kicking myself for not getting a photo of them before we started to do the remodel, because in the master, they had them everywhere. Two sinks, the bathtub and the shower. Those people loved them some dragons, baby, and I still shudder to think of them. I tried to find some on the internet, and even with googling the ugliest damned faucets ever, didn’t even come close. That’s how bad.

Somewhere, on my oldest computer, are the original photos of the house with the best “before” photos. I got to the remodel a day after the demo started, having forgotten to take newer “before” photos, so I apologize. You’ll have to trust me that it was kinda awful. The cabinets were falling apart, as was the big (plastic-y faux marble-ish) tub:




That tub was kinda hideous, and was stained like you see it before we’d ever moved in. It was also really BIG, which was a plus, and we had had dreams all along to make the whole room really spa-like.

::::cue knob theory music::::

It got worse, much worse, before it got better and spa-like. What bogged us down was having big dreams and no budget. Not for a long long long long time did we have any money to spend on that house, and when we did, there were other things that were much higher priorities than having a fancy master bath. But that didn’t stop us from dreaming and scheming and trying to figure out what we wanted.

The problem was, we wanted it all. Every time we’d see some cool design, we’d step back there and step it off to see if we could make it so. A fireplace in the master bath? Of course we can! We just have to move this wall here and that tub there and then…oh, wait, no room for the toilet if we do that, oops. No problem, just move this vanity over there and do this L-shaped vanity and then… oh. No way to get through the door. And it kinda lessens the impact of the fireplace if you can’t enjoy it while in the bathtub itself… and wouldn’t it be really really awesome if we could also use the fireplace when we’re in the bedroom. (Never mind the little itty bitty insignificant detail that we live in south Louisiana and have winters that barely dip below 40 degrees, if we’re lucky, and would use a fireplace about…. um… two times, and that’s if we turn the air conditioner on so it’s cool enough.)

Then some new fad would come out and we’d decide that’s what we wanted, and go try to figure it out, only to realize that we’d essentially have to chop off the back side of the house and start over for many many thousands of dollars we did not have. Kinda like the kitchen problem in the Knob Theory version, only this time, Carl was more the culprit than I was, because he was convinced he could redesign that room to make much better use of the space. And really, this was a man who managed to hide an entire tub under a chair, so I don’t doubt him one bit.

The room is roughly 17′ x 10 1/2′, big enough really to be a bedroom. The downside to the room is that it’s almost all hallways, so a lot of space is sort of wasted. The upside–everything has its own private space.

When we finally got to the point where we realized we were going to sell the house, all the crazy fancy ideas went out the window. What we needed to create was a sort of classic space that (a) went with the other bathroom and (b) fit the house without being too crazy and off-putting to buyers. We didn’t want to have our own equivalent of the dragon faucets.

Here’s a couple more mid-demo before photos:



That entrance on the right is the hallway coming from the bedroom. Our two clothes closets (unseen here) face each other in that hallway. I’m standing in front of the bathtub above, looking across the length of the room. There are three doors to my left in this photo. The first one is the main (deep) linen closet. The second is the entrance to the toilet / shower area. The toilet is right behind that closet, facing the shower, which is right behind that third door nearest the window. That third door was a very shallow closet that I cannot, for the life of me, understand why they installed it. It forced the shower to be this tiny, dark, cell of a place. I’m 5’2″ and even I felt like it was too small of a room. Plus, the walls were make of a really cheap grade of faux yellow marble that had cracked when someone fell against it at some point. Hideous little room.



A close-up of that closet after it was demo’d. The wall in there that you see (the back wall of the closet) is the outer wall of the shower. I kept making the argument for years that we should just lose this closet and open up the shower and make it bigger. The one negative was that the shower pan (what the shower was built on) could not be enlarged without re-routing a lot of plumbing, and that would be expensive because we have concrete floors. (More on this in a bit.)

And here’s the ugly shower after it had been demo’d:



I really really wish you could see the original “before” because someone (probably the original contractor, but I’m not sure) had decided at some point to build a corner “seat” in this shower. Not that there was any room for it, but it was there–a tiny triangle an elf would have a hard time fitting on, and it had broken off at some point. I’m not surprised, since the material was very flimsy, but some genius had gotten the bright idea to glue it back on, and they did manage to stick it… but they didn’t realize that the glue would drip, turn orange and then blackish-orange with age, and never, ever, ever come off that marble. It also didn’t help that they’d glued it in crooked. I was thrilled to see it gone.

So now, the after — completely without staging. I didn’t think to put the towels, decorations up before taking these. Keep in mind we wanted to match the sort of classic look in the other bathroom. Here’s a view of the room from right in front of the window seen in a photo above:



The color on the walls is a silver-gray, and it’s one of those colors that’s very flattering to the skin. It also goes with just about anything, including the soft yellow I have in the master bedroom. I needed something not too girly, not too masculine, and not too strong of a color.

The tile is a fairly cheap Home Depot tile that has the look of the more expensive hex tile we put in the other bathroom, without actually being expensive. We did learn a hard lesson here, though. These tiles come in one foot squares with the little tiles attached to a grid-like web backing. You’d think all of the tiles in the same box would match, but every once-in-a-while, one whole square of tiles would have a pink cast to them, instead of being fully white. I don’t know why–nor why they were mixed in sealed boxes, but we ended up having to pull up some of the tiles and replace them because of the mis-matched color. Home Depot replaced them for free, but it didn’t compensate us for the lost time. Next time, I won’t trust that they’ll match–I’m going to pull everything out and make sure before we start the installation.

A close-up of the new tub:



The tub is slightly smaller than the original (which was rectangular as you can see in the first photo above), but we made use of that extra corner by bringing the frame for the tub, and therefore a small seating area, flush with the wall there to the right. Originally, they had hung big honking mirrors both on that back wall and opposite it, so that you saw yourself in your infinite glory in multiple versions. Hated those mirrors.

I’d always wanted a chandelier above the tub, so we put one. Those globes are glass, so easy to wipe off and keep clean. Carl put all of the lights in the bathroom on dimmers, so you can adjust how much light you want at all times.

We kept the tile simple, and I like it… but it isn’t the easiest to clean. Next bathroom will have some sort of solid surface surrounding any tubs that we put in, because the grout + dirty water or soap = mess. I’ve realized that this remodel taught me a lot about looking at the object to be installed not only for its potential beauty, but how to keep it up and how hard would that be on a daily/weekly basis.

Here’s the toilet area:



The vanity:



That white door on the left is my clothes closet. Carl’s faces mine and they’re big–6′ deep. That little hallway leads to our bedroom.

Those cabinets were super cheap. That granite as well, but both were because we had discovered that my husband’s younger cousin had gotten into the cabinet business with his delightful new wife, and the cabinets were made by the same manufacturer as KraftMaid, but without the logo. Solid wood (maple) cabinets, but they arrive flat in a box and you have to have someone who knows what they’re doing install them, or have them installed by a pro. We chose the pros because it was a lot of tedious steps and they were fast and very good. And seriously cheap. These cabinets were about 1/3rd of the price of those you can find at Home Depot (and the same quality). You can find these types of stores all over — IKEA has them, but there are places like my cousin’s wife’s shop in Metairie, LA ( or other places, like Cabinets To Go.



The entrance into the toilet / shower area. Behind that door, the other closet door is gone and it’s been sheetrocked /painted. No one who goes in there now would ever know it had once had a weird, shallow closet there.


Here’s the shower:



Where that seat is on the right was the original wall of the shower. The height of it stopped right about where the top of the door frame is. When we gutted it, we discovered no reason at all for it to have been made so short, so we opened it up. That seat covers where the original piping came into the slab, and so it turned out not to be a problem–even an advantage, in fact. We have a nice deep seat there, and we didn’t have to move plumbing.

There are two soap dishes / shampoo recesses built into the shower walls and that door swings in or out. I made two mistakes here. I should have put the door opening from the left side (where the shower head is) and I should have put the handle to turn on the water under the faucet instead of the far wall. I was thinking about stepping in, sitting down (if you wanted) and turning on the water. Didn’t think about the fact that the water would be cold at first. Also didn’t think about just reaching in to start the water… because your head will be under the faucet and bam, cold water. Duh. Dumb rookie mistake, and by the time I realized it, it was too late to change. However, it reminded me to walk through each room in the building and think about how we’re going to use that room. I’ve been going over to that project every week, visualizing all of the set up, where the furniture will go, where I will need outlets, how I will be using the space, and already this has saved me a ton of money and time and mistakes. I doubt I catch them all, but it doesn’t hurt to try.

Finally, my favorite thing in the room:




I found a high-priced version of this and groaned. It was exactly the look I wanted, but at over a thousand dollars, it was ridiculously out of reach. I found something okay-but-not-great at Lowe’s, and then discovered — same as the fancy high-priced faucet and a tiny fraction of the price. Comes in other finishes, too. No more crusty, impossible-to-clean dragon inlays.

And then we moved. (sigh)

But it’s pretty. I’m hoping it’ll help sell the house.

Next time, I’ll have before and after photos of the kitchen remodel, and possibly the master bedroom. I’ll be spending time over there doing some of the final stuff we need to do to get it on the market. Finally. After a year of not getting finished, I will be thrilled to have this off my plate.

So there you go–keeping it simple (simple colors, simple tile choices, simple floor-plan changes) enabled us to do this big bathroom cheaper than the other one. (I think we spent around $7K on this one, since it was gutted and redone from the floor up.)

Okay, that’s it for this time… how are your construction / remodel / redecorate plans going?



33 thoughts on “Toni: Reconstruction Thursdays — KISS (Keep It Simple, Silly)

  1. Love your bathroom renovation tales, Toni–that’s next here at my house. We have 2.5 bathrooms, all still circa 1983. Time for change! Husband is balking at the idea because he’s worried about how the tear-out process will affect the new kitchen below, but I’m hoping our contractor will reassure him that all will be well. Oh, and great tip about keeping the area around the tub a solid surface…hadn’t thought about that. I want easy to clean and simple! Thanks for sharing this with us!!

  2. I second the smooth surface idea. Just finished cleaning the cottage, after moving out, and I gave up when it came to grout. I want an easy-care, but non-plastic home! No more rough beams or walls that attract dust – they were all either rough brick or old, non-vertical plaster. However, Mum has a cleaner once a week! (I’m hoping I can take on the garden, and leave the house to her!)

    I like my 8ft 9 square space. Need to finish putting everything away, but it’s a great nest. The window’s at the foot of my bed, and I’ve been sleeping with both sides open wide to the garden – great in the heat.

    Interesting contrast between the cottage with me extracted from it – simple and bare and not home any more – and my new room which is home concentrated: all my favourite inspirations and creative tools within a few square feet.

  3. Hi,
    I did my backsplash, finally: Screwed it up the first time and picked tile I loved, but really didn’t go with the countertops. So I took it down and put up the other one.

    I’d never put up tile before, but I figured out how to do it really easily. 1. I used the new double-sticky paper-like stuff. No messy gunk on the wall first. 2. Learned that if you get the tiniest mosaic tiles, you never have to cut the tile itself. You just cut the mesh. Could not be easier. Love what I ended up with.

  4. Maine Betty says:

    That’s a beautiful bathroom.
    My tiny single bathroom has peach tub/sink/toilet with mint green/black plastic tiles, and a great formica floor with asbestos tiling underneath. So, I’m not going to pull that up, I’ll probably paint over it. It’s a grungy little room for now, the old mirror/cabinet has a slot to dump your razor blades down. I wonder how many are in there?

  5. Toni, I love the clean, simple and elegant look you created! I so know what you mean about looking at ease of maintenance when planning. We have square green and white tiles in the master bath here and the previous owners had, of course, white grout to match the tile. It’s pretty.

    BUT. We live in country that has red clay. So all the grout (except in the master closet) is basically orange. With six cats and two dogs and us walking in and out of there, it would take near-daily cleaning to keep that grout white. And I am not doing near-daily grout cleaning, so… I live with orange grout and dream of the day we can re-do the bathroom. I love the tub and the shower needs to be re-done – it too has tile on floor and walls and that is less of a cleaning nightmare but still more than I like to put into it.

    In our old house we ripped up the bedroom carpets bathroom vinyl and put in huge Italian tile and dark grout. It was beautiful and so easy to maintain. Thankfully there is no carpet in this house, and thankfully they put big tile/darker grout in the laundry room and guest bath. This master bath was just trying to be fancier, I guess, and sadly it always looks dirty no matter how many times I mop the floor.

    Anyway, love the things you did. The great thing about the design is that it is a beautiful base on which to build – anyone can use their colors with towels, wall decor, etc. That’s really the best way to go, imo.

  6. Damn. I love reno posts.

    Well done. And thanks for sharing the “shower” mistake. It reminds us to think about usage and design carefully.

  7. I think the chandelier over the tub might be my favorite part, but the entire room came out gorgeous. I never thought of gray as a neutral color until recently. Now considering it for my main bath. Which is a someday project, like the rest of my house.

    My family is coming to house/pet sit while I’m at Nationals. The entire bottom floor is concrete with area rugs. I hate that, especially since the concrete looks horrible and is not sealed. Sigh. But there’s nothing to be done, and in all honestly, my parents apartment is horrid, so I know they could care less about my floors.


  8. Cindy says:

    I love that bathroom. I can’t pick a favorite part, I lust equally after all of it. Gorgeous!

  9. Yeah, I’ve become a fan of those big porcelain tiles and the tiny tiny 1/8″ or less grout lines, with darker grout. As we’re looking at the bathrooms in the building remodel, I’m all for the dark grout.

  10. okay, I’d have to take that apart to know! And it makes you wonder… did they think it would never fill up? Ever?

  11. liz says:

    i remember that bathroom well… and i MAY have a photo of the dragon faucets… from wedding day! let me check, however, if i am in the photo you may not get it! 🙂

    ya’ll did a beautiful job!

  12. YAY, a witness to the horrenditude that was the faucets. You were a gorgeous bride! And thank you–you won’t even recognize the kitchen when I post it.

  13. I’m trying to figure out what to do about the bathroom door. Long story short, one of my dogs got trapped in the bathroom during a thunderstorm and destroyed the original door. The opening is non-standard and I didn’t want to pay for a custom door. (I happen to have this on my blog at the moment.)

    I’d love to make the door I got into a slider (barn door hardware) but many people are advising me not to do that. Sliding glass door with teenagers… but if I frost it and put it on hinges I’m afraid she’ll get stuck in there again and shred the walls and wood again. I don’t suppose she would shred the glass, but she could do a bunch of damage and cut herself…

    I don’t know what to do. And no one likes the interim solution which is a curtain.

  14. Kate, your door is going to be on the hallway side of the bathroom wall, right? Well, on the inside of that door, you could use an eye-hook latch like this:

    (hmm. let’s see if that posts a photo)

    well, crud–it won’t post the photo alone. But if you go to that link, you’ll see a type of eye-hook latch that can be used when the surfaces are not flush. (Meaning, the door isn’t completely flush with the door frame.) Since, in your case, it won’t be, you could mount this on the inside of the door and it would swing and latch, even when the door is offset from the frame. You’d have to be careful where you choose to mount the receiver for the hook. (I’d put the receiver on the door itself, as close to the edge as I could. Then the door could slide almost all-the-way open–the receiver would stop it at the outer edge of the other frame. When closed, it would be close to the nearest frame. Then you mount the hook part wherever you need to mount it to allow it to swing and latch closed.)

    There are a bunch of different styles of these and sizes… from small screen-door types, to bigger, industrial types.

  15. I want one of those retro pink and black bathrooms, but I can’t. All of my bathrooms are going to be white because some day I will wake up and say, “I’m tired of pink” and then there’ll be all that retro tile.

    Pink paint is nice.

  16. I just googled for “Dragon Faucet” and there are a ton of DIFFERENT ones. You’d think one version of “dragon faucet” would take care of the market, but evidently not.

  17. It boggles the mind, doesn’t it? And even all of the crazy dragons ones I found were still not as ugly as mine were.

  18. We’ve been touring houses because my housemates have been considering moving. She hasn’t ever really liked this house, but it’s large (she tends to collect furniture, decor accessories, china, vintage clothing …) and it has a great view and is in a quiet neighborhood that is near her parents.

    What she really wants is Victorian, or failing that, cottage (on a larger scale). You wouldn’t believe the kind of bland crap there is on the market, even the high-end market that she can buy in. After paying that kind of money, you don’t want to then spend a boatload more money just to add character.

    So I listen to ideas about “can we make this Northwest Contemporary look cottage-y?” and “can we move a house she likes and if so to where?” and so on. I don’t imagine I’ll ever be living in houses on this level of cost, and I will be happy with a smaller house, so I have completely different ideas and needs, so it’s definitely interesting observing this. And yeah, I don’t much like this house either. 🙂 Except that it has a fabulous view.

  19. I don’t know if you saw that bathroom I pinned on Pinterest which was mostly white, a little black, but a pink ceiling. That pink ceiling was beautiful, and had the added bonus of giving off a nice color for when you’re looking in the mirror. If I didn’t have a guy here who is totally allergic to pink, I’d do a pink ceiling in the master bath in the building remodel. Bonus is, it’s not on the walls where you’d get tired of it as easily.

  20. Sheri Hart says:

    DH and I are neck deep in a basement reno which involved moving the laundry room. Turning old laundry room into a bedroom for 7 year old son and fixing up existing tiny guest room for 15 year old niece who is moving in to go to school here in September. We are trying to cram it all into two weeks while the kids are visiting grandma. We have until Sunday at 2pm.

    We’re just finishing up the last of the painting today and floors start going in this afternoon.

    Fingers crossed we might be able to put my son to bed in his own room on Sunday night. He’s been sharing with his little sister.

    Then DH heads back to the day job Monday (film construction manager). I’m trying to juggle my communications business with a paintbrush in hand. LOL.

    Really enjoying your reno posts, Toni.

  21. Toni, I can’t visualise what this is supposed to do. Will it latch the door open so the dog can’t trap herself? Or is it for the slider?

    I’m sorry I’m such a visual person that sometimes the obvious escapes me! 🙂 But if it’s an answer to my problem I really do want to understand!

  22. I was thinking it would latch the door closed when someone was using it. The latch would be on the inside of the door. Think of a hotel door– that flip-latch thing that they all have at the top of the door to prevent someone from opening it? That’s the same essential concept. Something like this design means that if the door slide along the outside of the wall and the latch is on the inside, it will swivel to hook into the latch. That mechanism you see in the photo lifts up and out of the latch and then swivels out of the way. When the door is closed, it swivels back to latch fully.

    There are two ways to mount a latch like this — one where the big swinging part is on the door and the hook is on the frame. The downside to that with a sliding door is that when the door slides over, the hook will hit the inside of the door frame. Since the hook part is the biggest part, this means your door won’t fully slide open–you’ll end up with a narrower entrance.

    However, if you put the big hook part on the frame itself (think again of a hotel latch–those big flip-latches are on the frame and the little knob they hook onto is on the door), then when the door slides open, only the hook part (slim) is protruding, so the door will open most of the way.

    If that’s not clear (and I understand why it wouldn’t be), let me know and I’ll draw up a photo.

  23. I’m determined to be in a new place by July of 2015, but it will be at least next year before I can do anything baout it, so in the meantime I’m living vicariously through Reconstruction Thursdays and Cottage Saturdays.

    On a completely unrelated topic — I just wanted to say how much I’m enjoying “Bobbie Fay’s Very Bad Day,” [sorry – I can never do italics or bold in html without forgetting to end them or something else goes wrong, so quotation marks are easier], especially the little quotes at the beginning of each chapter.

  24. No. I get it now. Simple and effective – thanks!

    Some people have been cautioning me against a sliding door because they come off easily and I’ve got a handful of teens. (Although we haven’t had any trouble with the sliding door on our actual barn…)

    Do you have any opinion on sliding vs swinging, Toni? I like sliding because the dog can’t trap herself, but if the kids are going to be too rough and cause it to come off the track then maybe not.

  25. Kate, I think it all boils down to the quality of the hardware. Good quality hardware should hold onto the rod without a lot if trouble unless someone’s being insanely rough with it. With teens, I’d simply tell them that if they screw up the doors, they screw up their own privacy in the bathroom. It’s amazing how much teens will do to insure their privacy. 🙂

    Not all sliding door/barn door hardware is created equal. you’ll want the kind that has the sturdiest wheels and a deeper track on those wheels. From what I’ve seen, the bigger the wheel, the deeper the track in those wheels. The deeper the track, the harder it is to bump the wheels off the track, so go for bigger/deeper. They have them in so many styles now, you should be able to find a style that matches your decor pretty easily. Google-image barn door hardware and you’ll see what I mean. Good luck! (I hope you post a photo later.)

  26. Thanks, Gin! Glad you’re enjoying! Also, just because I’ve had enough people get confused, I want to warn you that the first two books were later re-issued in mass market (and kindle) under new titles. The third book only has the one title. So just for clarification:

    Very Bad Day ended up being Charmed and Dangerous
    Family Jewels ended up being Girls Just Wanna Have Guns

    third book is When A Man Loves A Weapon

  27. jinx says:

    How about a dog door in the bathroom door itself? You can make them opaque, for gentility’s sake. 🙂

  28. jinx says:

    I’m adding this to my mental list of decorating commandments, which begins with “Thou shalt buy sofas which match the fur of your housepets.”

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