Toni: Reconstruction Thursdays – The Tub Dilemma

If you haven’t been with me thus far, I’m in the process of remodeling an old building in the French Quarter. We gutted the building on the inside, getting rid of things like salmon pink cubicles (it had been an office building in the 80s and 90s), and some truly abhorrent carpet. What I was left with was glorious 107 year-old beams, and exposed brick walls like this (this is the second floor):

 

Second floor demo'd area

Ignore those boards running through the center of the trusses–those are temporary; they have been acting as a platform in order to do some work on the monitor (the big skylight) above, and they’ll come down soon so that all of that area is opened up.

 

Downstairs (and entering this room to my right) was a staircase built some time in the 70s. It blocked the street entrance of one of the big front doors (there are two), and you could not even access the bottom of the building in a logical manner. The previous owners had done this on purpose because the bottom floor had been rented out to the restaurant next door as their overflow dining area, and they didn’t want customers to be able to exit through this part of “their” restaurant. (They already had another exit just a few feet away, in their own building.) This staircase allowed the restaurant to occupy the entire first floor, and then the owners of this building could rent out the upstairs (access via the rickety staircase) to other tenants. There were far smarter ways to have constructed the staircase, but why do smart when you can do stupid and cheap? (grrrr)

One of the really weird things about buildings in the Quarter is that they’ll do stuff like this–rent half a building to the people next door and create a new access for the upper floors somehow. You’ll go into a hotel, or an apartment complex, and from the outside, you may look at a single building and think “oh, that’s small,”, but inside, it seems to go on forever. That’s because they’ve rented or bought the buildings next door, cut holes into the walls, and annexed the additional space. It can be very maze-like.

The bottom floor of our building was decorated exactly like the restaurant when we bought it, and we spent several weeks working with the former lessors separating their stuff from our stuff. They’d rented that space for 25 years, but had recently bought their own building (instead of leasing it), and were building their own overflow dining upstairs. Win win, for us, but it was a tangle of electrical–half of ours ran over into their building; some of the sprinkler systems were all tied in together, as well as the plumbing. Kinda a mess.Β 

Here’s the opening of that staircase that was downstairs blocking our front door had to be taken out.

Where the staircase used to be

 

And here’s the hole left after we removed it — Β this floor needed to be repaired. The best way to do it was to use the same wood from the same era, and the only real certain match was flooring already in the building. We knew we were going to build a kitchen/butler’s pantry in this great room, and the floor of that pantry was going to be tile (and a lot of the floor would be hidden underneath cabinets). Instead of covering up that floor, we opted to steal it from there so we could cover the hole above.

Removing the floor of the butler's pantry

 

While we were doing this, Carl removed the old joists, because they are gorgeous 107 year-old heart pine, and there were a few other areas above on the ceiling which had the same sort of joists, which had to be removed when we added the third floor structure. Those joists have now been planed, and we’re going to make all our own doors, from wood that was original to the building. (Instead of just covering up the wood and then making doors out of new.)

Here they are, planed and ready:

Planed joists

 

Gorgeous old heart pine

 

Here’s the butler’s pantry with its first wall, and the new subfloor behind it:

The butler's pantry with the sub-floor and first wall

 

Here’s a photo of us “threading” the old wood in such a way that it will look like it was always there (over a new subfloor):

Threading or weaving in the boards

 

I cannot figure out where the photo is that I took the week after this showing the floor whole again; I’ll get a photo of that this week and show that next week. You cannot tell that this floor wasn’t always there. Kinda neat.

Simultaneous to all of the framing (which is just about done) and electrical and plumbing rough in, are the decisions I mentioned last week. One room I’m trying to make up my mind on is a guest bathroom. There will eventually be two full guests baths, and one ADA bathroom, but of the two full baths, I wanted one of them to have a clawfoot tub. Maybe you could weigh in on your choices of the ones below:

 

Copper cast iron clawfoot tub

 

 

black and white pedestal clawfoot tub

 

 

modern simplicity freestanding tub

 

 

Three very different aesthetics, which is what’s making it difficult. The decor style of the whole building is what I’m calling “industrial chic” — which will have some old features, and some more modern ones woven throughout. I love the first one, the clawfoot, because that was my original intention, and then I saw the other two, which both have a “wow” factor. I’m pretty sure that one of the other baths will only have an ADA shower (no tub), and the last room, (assuming it stays a guest room–that’s up in the air right now), would have a soaker tub/separate shower. But this little bathroom doesn’t have room for both tub and shower, and I really want a beautiful tub. A wow factor.

What’s sort of worrying me is that my guest will be uncomfortable because I had a hankering for something I’m not forced to use.

The type of shower/faucet combo I’d use for all three would be something like this:

shower bath fixtures

 

For the top tub, it would be in rubbed bronze. Middle tub, probably chrome or brushed nickel. For the bottom tub, something a little more modern. All three with the big oval shower ring above.

I still have time to change my mind about this. The plumber has wisely brought the pipes to the right location, but he hasn’t cut holes through the floor until I make up my mind.

But I really need to make up my mind.

So if you were visiting, and you got to choose which tub above you’d love to try out, which would it be?

(Oh, the top two tubs both have the same depth of water–it’s deceiving, looking at the photos, but there’s 15 1/2″ from the bottom of the tub to the overflow. The bottom tub has another inch, or inch-and-a-half. In case that matters.)

 

62 thoughts on “Toni: Reconstruction Thursdays – The Tub Dilemma

  1. RanchGirl says:

    Personally I would go with the claw foot tub. If you have a guest who might not be comfortable using couldn’t they always use one of the others for bathing? It would probably be a very small minority who would have a problem, and if that is what you really want, you will always regret not doing it.

    Love your posts – my husband hides the Lowes and Home Depot catalogs when they come πŸ™‚ Unfortunately for him, he is VERY handy and I am an excellent helper, and there is always SOMETHING that can be improved.

  2. Liz H. says:

    I am incredibly jealous. I love old houses/buildings, and have a special love for old industrial lofts. Your new home is going to be amazing.

    I vote for the top tub. I like the appearance far more, but on a practical side, is the back slightly more angled than the others? That will make a much bigger difference to comfort than an extra inch of water.

    I grew up in an old victorian that only had three giant cast iron claw foot tubs until I was in high school (i.e. no showers). When we finally put in showers we used similar hardware to what you have above, although connected to curtain rods anchored in the ceiling, rather than the wall. It will look even better in your place, as the exposed piping will match the industrial look a bit better.

  3. C.G, Morrison says:

    The top one’s very nice, but the middle one is almost as nice and will be the absolutely easiest to clean. No gaps, no fiddly bits, no floor underneath to try and get a mop and broom. The bottom one is probably the most industrial looking, but also does not look as comfortable as the top two.

    I’d go with the middle one because it’s almost classic, but easier to maintain.

  4. Susanne says:

    Hi Toni,

    Thanks for sharing those fabulous photos, and letting us get a sense of the detail that goes into planning such a renovation. I love New Orleans, and to get an inside glimpse is such a treat.

    I like the top clawfoot tub. I had one years ago, and it was by far the most comfortable tub I’ve used. The slope is made for relaxing. It’s also airy looking, which is in keeping with what I see in your photos. The other two are nice, but they’re a solid block of bathtub, whereas the clawfoot is so gracious in design.

    I can see all the loving work that has gone into what you’ve done so far.

    Thanks for posting these!

  5. Kieran says:

    Adore the look of the top tub–the traditional claw foot, but am loving the last tub–first, it holds the most water. Next, to me it has the most industrial design chic look of all three. I vote for that one!

    How cool, Toni, this whole thing!

    When my dad was building our house, we kids used to sneak out of the trailer we were living in and run across the beams holding up the second floor, right over a lot of rebar sticking straight up out of some concrete. I think it was in the fireplace area. The fireplace went through the middle of the house.

    Mom and Dad never knew, and now that I look back at how easily we could have fallen and been impaled, I shudder!!

    πŸ™‚

  6. I a top tubber, too! I have always wanted a tub like that. It’s not likely to happen, but I do appreciate you letting me live vicariously through these blogs.

    We’ve finished all the must dos in the downstairs now, so now I’m seeing want tos. Kiddo gets all huffy when we’re in Lowe’s because I want to look around. She’s no fun at all.

  7. German Chocolate Betty says:

    Yes, I’m an old fashioned girl too — I vote for bath nr 1. Have always loved the traditional claw-footed tubs. The others are cool, don’t get me wrong. Tub nr 2 would be my next favorite, whereas tub nr 3 is neat but, well, somehow not my thing. Jenny’s point about stretching out and relaxing is, from the perspective of a “daily soaker” pretty high on the consideration list and tub nr 1 beats the other two…

    So fun to hear about your reconstruction work. I would soooo love to be doing something like that myself. I love planning stuff like this and it would be fun for me to do some of the work myself. (Although Jenny’s house is more my speed from the dimensions point of view…)

    Ah, great to be able to live vicariously through your stuff.

    BTW, the “borrowing rooms from the house next door” scenario is used a lot in Europe in the old city neighborhoods… I have seen it used in restaurants, hotels, apartments, you name it!

    • I had heard this, but hadn’t ever seen it firsthand. I think this happens in the big (older) cities — probably in NYC, and Chicago as well. (?) But definitely has that European feel. We’re keeping up that theme as we’ve added onto the building; even a couple of hidden passageways.

        • I know, me, too! One is kinda not-so-hidden, but one is completely hidden. πŸ™‚ Of course, I love it so much, I’ll probably show everyone, so there goes the “hidden” part.

      • Kelly S says:

        I never saw businesses renting space in the building next to them in Chicago to expand their space, at least in the “Loop”. However, many of the buildings are connected both underground and via enclosed walkways above the street. It is possible to nearly cross the city all indoors.

        • Oooh, really? Kelly, you have GOT to write a story about that (and, of course, you’ll have to do this awesome research beforehand)!!! Please please please PLEASE!

  8. Maine Betty says:

    Wow, that is going to be a fantastic place.

    I would go with the claw foot tub, since it’s so cool looking and you can recline.

  9. Dawn Morf says:

    Toni, my vote (as well as my husband’s, because I couldn’t be absolutely certain) is for the claw foot tub. We have a friend in Los Angeles that we visit often and the guest room he provides to us has one similar that is solid copper. The aesthetics of it is what instantly draws your eye and summons you to relax in it! I hadn’t realized you were blogging your entire project and now realize I have much to catch up on….wish I’d done this with the restaurant renovation πŸ™ Let us know what your final selection is.

    • Jane, nope. All of these are online. I have sat in similar, though, and the first is definitely more comfortable for sitting. Less comfortable for standing for the shower, but it’s not bad.

  10. Gaylin says:

    I still have strong, fond memories of being a kid and going to my great-grandmother’s where she had a clawfoot tub like the first one. Even at 7 years old I knew it was an awesome tub! Leaning against the end of the tub and soaking – awesome.

  11. Cathy M says:

    I haven’t read all the comments, but I like all the tubs but think the first would give the old time feel if you want to pair that with other more modern elements.

    While looking at tubs for remodeling in our home, I came across the following website and contacted the company. As they don’t have showrooms, they send samples of the material used in the tubs they make. I got the samples and they’re really nice. I like the one claw foot tub they have as it’s a modern take on the old style and the prices seem to be good.

    badeloft.com

  12. I adore tub #1.
    Love reading about the reconstruction/restoration. What a fab idea of using the original floorboards from the kitchen to fill in the gap. Can’t wait to read more on the project.

  13. Tub #1, for sure! I love that coppery-brown body and think it would meld well with the old/industrial vibe. Second choice is the 3rd tub.

    What great photos and work! I love how you fixed the hole in the floor using existing flooring, and I REALLY love that gorgeous heart-pine wood! Yummy. So looking forward to seeing more pictures of the progress and, eventually, the finished home. You guys do awesome work!

  14. I love the first tub. It’s beautiful. I had a tub (original) similar to the second one in the 1918 Airplane bungalow we once lived in. The third one is cool but just too modern for the space, even though there are lots of modern touches in your plans. πŸ˜‰

    One thing to consider is ease of cleaning. Not the tub itself, but the area around it. I can’t remember exactly where it will be placed but you’ll want to be able to mop/clean around the base. Yeah, yeah. Practicality.

  15. KellyR says:

    The top tub for sure. My first apartment was awful (never rent anything to spite your mother ffs, she’s a nice lady who is just looking out for your best interests!) but the tub was an old clawfoot and it was AMAZING!

  16. Edie Jagielski says:

    I LOVE the clawfoot tub… which is the top tub. I think it will “make” the room. I’m all for old-fashioned with a little modern thrown in. I hope my room has this in it??? Ha!Ha!

  17. Test ’em and get the one that’s the most comfy. The bottom one looks like the sides are kinda straight. Can’t really tell about the middle one, but the top one has a nice slant to the back and a wide lip you could rest your head on. I think if you’re gonna spend the money and the space on a luxury tub, it oughta be the kind of tub you can take a nice long soak in with a paperback and a glass of wine and not want to get out of even when the water’s cool and your toes are pruney. Otherwise, it will only get used as a shower, so you might as well put in two ADA-compliant showers. I’d vote for tub #1!

  18. jinx says:

    Wow. I’m shocked that so many people like the clawfoot tub! To me, when I’m staying as a guest at someone else’s house, I don’t feel like lounging and reading paperbacks in the tub — I feel like taking a shower and getting on with my life as a guest — either visiting, or sightseeing, or doing whatever I’ve come to the hosts’ house for in the first place. And I’ve hated every shower I’ve ever had to take in a clawfoot tub, because I find them hard to clamber into, wet & cold & yucky to climb out of, and slippery to the feet — moreso than a rectangular tub.

    I’ve never tried a tub the shape of either of the two modern ones, but those are the ones I would prefer a hundred times to the lovely Victorian nightmare. πŸ™‚

    Offering this two cents worth because you always need a minority voice or two!

  19. Caryn says:

    Have you sat and stood in each? I love three, but wonder what a soak in it would feel like. I love One for the look. Two is nice but doesn’t Wow me, it’s just a suitable compromise between One and Three.

    This is going to be a gorgeous place.

  20. Arlene Smith says:

    My vote is for the 3rd tub, it looks so cool and hey it has a place to sit the wine bottle. Definitely a must while soaking in the tub.

  21. Kelly S says:

    I love tub #1! It is SOOO pretty! I hadn’t thought about cleaning it until CG mentioned it. Regardless, I’d still go with the claw feet & get a swiffer.

  22. Micki says:

    Toni, this remodel is just fascinating! Thanks for sharing it with us.

    I love tub number one as a visual. But as a very big woman, I would be very worried about using it and spilling all over your floor when I displaced water. I think I’d displace faster than your overflow valve could get rid of water. As a guest, I would be super-concerned, and probably wind up having mini-baths of just a few inches, contorting myself to wash my hair under the tap.

    Or is the entire bathroom floor a tiled drain sort of thing?

    Or, let me use one of the showers in the other rooms (-:.

    That tub really is gorgeous.

  23. Micki — the entire floor will be tiled (I hadn’t thought to do it to a drain, but now that you mention it, that would be a helluva lot easier to mop up, when needed).

    And I’m worried about the size, too. I was all set for tub #1, especially after so many of you voted that direction, but then I looked at the specs again (to see exactly where the overflow valve was) and it’s skinnier than I realized. I’d looked at so many tubs, I hadn’t realized I’d focused on one that was only 29″ across the back (top) and a measly 17″ across at the bottom. That would be uncomfortable for most of us. grrrrr. So I think it’s back to the drawing board, to find something that works better.

    I may not stick with the clawtub look, if I can’t find one wider / more comfortable.

    • I’m going to do that drain in the floor thing when I put in the second bathroom. The first bathroom is done that way and it’s been so amazingly easy to clean up, I may even do that if I ever tile the kitchen.

      • Jenny, I like that you did the drain in the floor thing in that one bathroom. Anything that makes cleaning easier gets a big plus from me! Of course, that’s what we had in the dorms, because of all the water and splashing and not being responsible for cleaning up. I’m sure it made the housecleaning staff much happier having the floor drains!

    • Toni, too bad about the sizes on that tub! I like the 3rd one because it reminds me of modern Japanese tubs, which are made for soaking. So that would mesh with modern industrial meets historic perhaps. Or do you have room for a tub surround? Then you could put a large soaker tub inside a surround. The surround could have tile around it and thus places for candles and wine glasses, and you could have a heating/cooling vent inside the surround so that you’d have an appropriate-temperature tub at all times!

      What about one of those ADA tubs that open on the side? You could probably add a shower to one of those. Of course, I don’t know what they have in the way of aesthics available.

      Good luck. Hope you find just the right tub.

      • I did a tub surround in the master bath in Ohio and it was great: plenty of places to put things like towels and soap, a wide edge to sit on if I wanted to get into the tub that way, and just a flat wall to clean around. And it still has a classic look.

    • Cathy M says:

      Toni, what about the modern slipper tub at Badeloft (BW-02)? It should be comfortable to sit in and looks wider at the bottom. I rather like the look of that one.

      • Cathy, I really like that one. I’ve asked for them to send me the specs on it. I’m not sure it’s any wider, though. Or rather, that’s it’s enough wider to really make a difference. If it’s only an inch or two, that wouldn’t really help. Ten inches would, but I don’t think it’s that much wider.

        I think comfort has to trump the clawfoot look, as much as I hate to say it. So now the challenge is to find a tub where I can do a beautiful surround and still feel like it packs that “wow’ factor.

  24. Chris J. says:

    First what an amazing experience to remodel a older building and make it into your own vision. Secondly, I love the claw foot tub and the pipes/fixtures shown seem like from your description they would fit in with the theme. If I were the guest, I would love to take a bath in this tub. Like something extra ordinary, a very cool experience πŸ™‚

  25. McB says:

    Oh, tub #1!!! Although it might be tricky for some people to get in and out of, since the floor is a few inches lower than the bottom of the tub. Some kind of steps/plaform type of thing leading up to it, maybe?

  26. ruthie says:

    Toni,

    On that ADA bathroom, have you thought about those walk-in tubs with the bench seat inside? They’re not pretty, but with your great crews you could build a gorgeous facing for it and make it fit in.

    For the other two baths, do they have to have the same tub? I like the old clawfoot a lot, the black one not so much. And although the white one reminds me of a giant soapdish, it does fit the industrial chic look. How long are they?

    I love the way you’re saving and incorporating the old wood. So much better than sticking in new that will never match the patina (or whatever it’s called for wood).

    I want to extend the covered side walkway of my mom’s house and make it more of a veranda where we can put a couple chairs to sit out on nice days (and we have a lot of those in the wine country. πŸ˜‰ There’s still a stack of wood from when the original decks and walk were built that we’re going to try to braid into what’s there to give it more of a been-here-all-along look. So, seeing what you’re doing has just convinced me it’s the way to go. I love Reconstruction Thursdays!

  27. ruthie — I haven’t seen any of those bench seat bathtubs that I’ve liked much. My mom pointed out that you’d have to sit there until the water drained out before you could open the door and get out, and she would feel trapped. I’m going to do the ADA shower so that she and my dad, for in their mid-70s, can move about easily. They’re both pretty mobile right now, but I know that may not always be the case, and I want them to feel like they can come stay.

    The tubs will likely all be different, but I may abandon the idea of a clawfoot completely, since they are a lot narrower than I realized. I’m going to try to find some to go sit in and try out next week. If I can’t find one that’s wide enough, I may do a soaker tub instead (built in, nice tile or stone surround) and forgo the old fashioned look. If it’s not comfortable, then my guess will not enjoy it, and the point would be for them to be able to enjoy it. So I’m re-thinking.

    • ruthie says:

      Ah, I didn’t realize the ADA was for someone specific. Nice that you can get their direct input. I hadn’t thought about having to wait for the water to drain. That is a problem.

      Some of the old clawfoot tubs are quite roomy. Are you against getting an older one? I don’t know what the new ones cost, but an older one you might have to have refinished, but it would be what you wanted. The feet can be replaced, as well as the hardware. I have an old one sitting out by the barbecue with plants in it. πŸ˜‰ Someday when I can find someone to refinish it, it will go back in the house.

  28. I am DROOLING over the heart pine – wow! As to the tubs, I think clawfoot tubs are gorgeous, but I’m intrigued by the white one. I haven’t seen one quite like it before, and I like the clean lines of it. (Plus, it’s deep – always a plus.)

  29. Cath G says:

    I had a tub like the first – and I adored it. It was deep enough to cover all of me. One of the best parts was the slopped end – very easy on the back. It did need a surround, my cats took great joy in putting nasty things under it.

    Good luck, I know that whatever you get will be perfectly suited to your home,

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