Help Me Finish My Sears-Kit Home's Bathroom!
August 4, 2014 5:00 PM   Subscribe

I live in a 100 year old Sears kit home (Dutch colonial). I've partially renovated the upstairs bathroom (trying to be respectful of the period). Could use a little assistance with decor/painting/tiling choices!

See photo gallery.

For your convenience, the following copy is also included in the photo gallery. Any advice/comments on any part of this would be welcome.

1.Tub Area (left)

Viewing from outside, in the hallway, looking through the door.

We will install a glass wall on the right side of the tub. Here's the one I bought:

The shower head will be on the window end of the tub, and we'll rig up some sort of glass wall back there to protect the windows/shelf behind.

We need to tile 6 feet or so up the side wall. The rest of the bathroom uses white subway tiles. I can use 1. a color other than white, or 2. try to kinda match the existing white, badly. Opinions?

Ignore the blue tape on the floor!

2.Left Near Corner
If we use a non-white tile color on the wall to the right, we can either tile, to the left, in that same color, or make a contrast by keeping this part white. Any opinions? Either way, tile needs to extend up a ways.

We may need to add in a curtain or some other way to keep shower water from splashing onto molding and door. Ideas?

Question: do I try to cram a towel rack into the 21" of that back wall (between molding and corner)? It's a 68" shot from the shower head...will towels get soaked? Towels hanging to the right would certainly get soaked. I could put a shower rack on the glass side wall enclosing the tub, but that's a little cheesy, no?

One problem with putting a towel rack here: if I do, then I can't install marble corner shelves for holding soap and shampoo. And there's nowhere else for that stuff to go.

3.Straight-On View
Hate that green chiffon! Should I replace it with anything...or tear it out and just leave the chunky Venetian blinds (I'm afraid it might look like something's missing, given the style/period).

Note: you can get a slightly better vibe of this in the next photo.

4.Right Side
What do we think about the green paint, generally?

Everything on this side of the bathroom will remain the same (unless we repaint), aside from getting rid of the hideous green chiffon thing...and adding a toilet seat...once I find a decent wood one that doesn't slow-close.

We've started re-installing the old white subway tiles under that shelf beneath the window.

I shouldn't have bought that extended-size toilet, argh. It positions the occupant's knees way too close to the tub. You can't really get a sense of it from the photo, but it kinda looks like Paul Bunyon's toilet. Also, it's a different white than the sink (OTOH, it's the same white as the tub, but I'd rather it matched the sink...anyone have any idea what color the sink is? Toilet's cotton white).

5.Right Side (Fixtures)

Need to clean up those floor tiles! Bartenders Friend can't get rid of the rust stains. Suggestions?

The soap dish over the sink leaks drabs of soapy water down the wall, which has accumulated lots of soap scum all the way to the floor. I can't scrub hard or steam-clean, because the tile's just barely hanging on to crumbly concrete (old construction!). Any other tips for cleaning?

A plumber said he'd "braid" the lines going to the fixtures so they're not so sloppy looking.

6.Right Side (Wall)

Notice the ridge in the top row of tile. We'll extend that ridge line on the tub side, as well, but we'll also tile further up that wall, in order to accommodate showering. The tile on this side stays as-is (non-great, but fit for an old house).
posted by jimmyjimjim to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: 1. Don't try to match it unless you can really match it exactly. Otherwise, it will always look wrong to you and bug you forever. Go with a contrasting tile. Or - and I know you will not like this answer at ALL - rip the existing tile and redo the entire job. Personally, I think too much subway tile gets a little overwhelming and would do a contrast. If you love, love, love the subway tile, then go whole hog and get all the tile to match.

2. Use towel hooks mounted to the door (unless it's historic) instead of a towel bar or towel rings. A towel shelf sort of works at the end of the tub. You see that in hotels BUT they are replacing the towels every day and hotel air is dry. In a home bathroom with multiple people showering, I think hanging the towels within a semi-enclosed shower is going to result in musty towels

3. For the window, yeah, you're right on the chiffon - it's gots to go. I'd pull the blinds and the chiffon to do roller shades.

4. That green color is fine and it'll be easy to find coordinating items. Color is individual so if it feels right to you, then go with it. I like more happy, zippity-do-dah colors, so I'd paint, but there's no reason to do it.

5. I had those exact tiles in the bathroom at our last house (1920's bungalow). Lemon juice mixed with Borax is how we got rid of the rust stains....many, many applications. Then regrout and you're good. Braiding the lines will help. Or you could build a little removable/box cover to go along that wall at the floor line and cover the water lines. Looks like you have room behind the fixtures.

Good luck! And post after pics!
posted by 26.2 at 5:48 PM on August 4, 2014

Response by poster: 26.2, thanks so much. I don't want to overdo the back/forth, but two things (to you and to anyone else kind enough to chime in):

1. The tiles on the right (sink) side of the room must stay. The wall behind it is just crumbling concrete. A nightmare. As you can see in the pictures, the tiles are just barely there (a carpenter did some creative affixing, but nothing can be further touched). So with that in mind...I could really use specific suggestions about color and tile (needn't be subway) on the shower side of the room, where we have some real professional wall board up to work with.

2. How/where would I post after pics, don't questions close after a few days?
posted by jimmyjimjim at 6:07 PM on August 4, 2014

Best answer: Instead of the venetian blinds, try plantation shutters (examples here) for periodicity. There are also Williamsburg shutters but I can't find a good example picture of them - they're half-height in the window to block the important bits and with a narrower spacing.

The tile is beautiful - don't strip out period tile if it's just the grout that's grody. I sympathize that the cement/plaster is deteriorating and I'm glad you've been able to stabilize it somewhat. For the bathtub surround, you could find something an exact match in color/size (less likely), something similarly colored but in different sizing (likely), or something altogether contrasting (likely).

Definitely braid the lines - they'll be presentable then. The pedestal has a lot of character that you'd lose if you boxed the whole thing in.

If you have followup pics, you can always message a mod to post them in a closed thread. You have a couple months before it closes.

Feel free to memail me - I'm a fellow old-house owner (104 years old!) that I'm fixing up. I have a bunch of reference books you might find useful.
posted by bookdragoness at 6:41 PM on August 4, 2014

Best answer: Tiles: Do you have a Habitat for Humanity Reuse center or architectural salvage place nearby? If so, I'd check for old tiles that match your white subway tiles. It's very possible that you'd find some from a similar bathroom that was gutted for modernization. Or what about using larger hex tiles on the wall, like this?

Window: How much darkness do you need in there? Could you go with privacy film on the windows? I used it on quite a few windows in my 1915 bungalow. (I had several different patterns by "Artscape" and they all looked nice & held up will in wet/steamy conditions.)
posted by belladonna at 6:49 PM on August 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Really happy and grateful for the great help, everybody (though I'd still love specific tile/tile color reccos for the left wall if I can't match the white)!

belladonna, I hadn't known about privacy film. This looks super cool, but, alas, here are the windows behind the venetian blinds and hideous green chiffon. The panels would make film installation a nightmare.

I could replace with more energy-efficient ones (thus allowing the privacy film), but that'd cost real money (I'd need to find nice ones, they're prominent in the front of the house).
posted by jimmyjimjim at 8:33 PM on August 4, 2014

Best answer: Actually, those windows would be fairly easy to use film. I had windows like that in the bungalow and used film. It was a lot of cutting, but super easy to work with since the sheet were small - no bubbles! Measure the sizes and use the paper cutter at the office to get straight cuts.

And crap - I even had a crumbling bathroom wall with "semi-affixed" tile. Oh, it's like you're living in our old house! If you can't get a reasonable tile match, I would look at the lightest gray subway tile. I'm seeing a lot of subway tile put into angled patterns, but that reads as rather modern and out of period. I think I'd tile light gray in the shower, use a single trim around the room and then paint the walls darker gray. That's totally neutral.

You end up with a final color scheme that looks like this.
posted by 26.2 at 10:29 PM on August 4, 2014

Best answer: If you use an oval ring to hang two shower curtains over the tub, you might not need to tile the wall behind the tub. That's the solution to the tub to shower conversions everywhere that I've lived. Maybe because landlords are cheap? But it avoids the whole tile matching problem. You might be able to attach something like this to the pipe that holds the showerhead for soap. Can shampoos be kept on the window sill? If it is a material that could be damaged by water, put them on a tray. Towels could go on a rack over the door. I'm really afraid that tiling up that wall in another color or a near match will look bad. I wonder if you can make the new tile look like a wide stripe , following the old tile around everywhere there is old tile? Maybe getting a little thicker behind the tub. Otherwise, could you selectively replace a few of the old tiles with a new color and add some near matches to the old tiles in with the new ones to make it look more purposeful? I think a near match might read as the same if it is surrounded by other colors, not right up against the old in a solid block. Or what about large stone tile with a very neutral, subtle mottling, such as sandstone?
posted by SandiBeech at 4:46 AM on August 5, 2014

Best answer: First of all, I am so envious of your Sears-kit house! So cool.

You can always lay your subway tiles vertically instead of horizontally to embrace that they aren't the same tiles. I would say a contrasting color is the go. If you do go for a different white, "frame" it in a contrasting border of color (the classic choices: black or a color similar to the wall color) for that back wall so the white doesn't butt up to a different white. If the color is close, the eye will assume it's the same when divided by a different color.

I had a friend who hung her soap/shampoo rack from the ceiling (she just anchored and screwed a hook in) - she used hanging baskets in the corner, like you'd see for fruit in a kitchen.

My go to cleaning tools for tiles are vinegar or baking soda and a toothbrush. They don't work for everything, but they do a lot!

(Also, posts are open for a year in AskMe, and even then, if you resolve it later, you can email the mods, and they can add a postscript, i think).
posted by julen at 5:51 AM on August 5, 2014

I agree that the film would work just fine on those windows. I had similar small panes & just sliced it up to fit with a ruler & pair of scissors.
posted by belladonna at 9:06 AM on August 5, 2014

Response by poster: Well, these guys have developed a glaze called "Avalon" which simulates old-style tiles. I got a sample tile and find that it's a very close match, plus the tiles are a bit thicker than most modern subway tiles (same thickness as my old ones).

Problem: they're $15/sq foot, and they don't accept returns. Yow!
posted by jimmyjimjim at 4:02 PM on August 19, 2014

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