Ready to reno… something… anything…

I’m getting antsy for a project.

I have to admit, I loved the little lull we had after garden season ended and we started spending more time indoors. Summer was busy and I always felt like I was eight steps behind all of the work that I should have been doing outside.

But now, I’m ready to get moving again.

I like to have something to work on, I love how our house looks after I finish, and plus it gives me some good content to share here with all of you. (Confession, I’ve felt like things have been a little dry this fall).

When I was cleaning the bathroom the other week in preparation for our annual Christmas party, I thought to myself, “Can I just rip out this linen closet? Even just the top part?”

Main bathroom before

Uh. Yeah. That sounds like a good plan when you’re having 15 people over for a full Christmas dinner.

I was able to restrain myself and returned to my scrubbing. (Anything to avoid cleaning the bathroom, right?) I’m usually not the type to just dive right into a reno without thinking it through and planning it out. That might mean projects happen more slowly around here, but it works for us.

I think I will likely end up leaving the bathroom alone. I want to tackle the whole thing at once, not just the linen closet.

Instead, I have my eye on my office, or our third bedroom. It’s the last bedroom that needs to be painted, and I think it would make a great project for the Christmas holidays. Then there’s the storage hutch makeover and finally unpacking the last of our boxes… only five years after moving in.

VIew from my office doorway

It’s become a tradition over the last two years that we scrape the stipple off the ceiling of one room over the Christmas break. We can’t break with tradition, right?

… Although I just saw Aniko’s (Place of my Taste) bathroom makeover with her chunky DIY shelves and the linen closet is calling my name again.

What would you do, office or bathroom? Do you ever antsy for a project? Are you a planner or a “let’s-get-this-party-started” kind of person?

Basement bathroom details

Small black and white bathroom

Today is about diving in to all of the details on our basement bathroom that you saw on Friday.

This is a small space–5 feet by 7 1/2 feet. But it makes a big statement, if I do say so myself.

As you saw, what we started with was not great. We ripped everything out right back to the concrete. We reframed the walls, our plumber ran all new waterlines, our electrician fixed the unsafe wiring we uncovered, we had sprayfoam insulation added, and then we put up drywall and cement board.

Along the way, Matt broke up the concrete floor so that we could reposition the shower drain and toilet (a lack of insulation in the original walls made them very thin. Once we reframed and reinsulated, we had to bump the toilet out from the wall by a few inches).

We also flipped the plumbing in the shower so that the shower head was on an interior wall rather than the exterior one.

And the other change was a small bump out into the hallway outside the bathroom. We have a very wide hallway leading to the laundry room–7 feet wide. So we borrowed about 2 square feet of it to make a little storage nook in the bathroom.

Here’s the floorplan.

Bathroom floorplan

And here’s how the bumpout looks from outside the bathroom. It’s not obtrusive and gives us a nook perfectly sized for a storage cabinet just outside the laundry room.

Storage bumpout for the basement bathroom

Let’s step inside and take a look at some of the details of our new basement bathroom.

The shower is big (3 feet by 5 feet), beautiful (marble! white! clean!) and has a few special features that I’ve always wanted (the soap niche and bench).

The main tile that we used is a 4 inch by 2 inch white subway tile–a bit bigger than the standard. It runs up half the wall behind the toilet and then floor to ceiling in the shower. Inspired by Lindsay Stephenson and her beautiful DIY shower, I added an accent band of grey marble mosaic tile. The shower floor is also a grey marble mosaic of little hexagon tiles.

The niche and the bench are two things I knew I wanted from the start. The niche is 12 inches wide by 15 inches tall and the bench is 32 inches wide by 16 inches deep by 18 inches high. On every horizontal surface, I used a solid piece of marble to protect against leaks. For the curb and the niche, we were able to find marble at Home Depot. For the bench, it took awhile, but we eventually found a remnant that was big enough for the top.

White subway tile shower with a marble seat

It may sound funny, but the shower curtain is what pulls it all together for me. Early in the bathroom project, I fell in love with Cole & Son Woods wallpaper. It was an organic pattern that would be a bit of a rustic element in the bathroom. Since moving to the farm, I’ve come to want to incorporate something rustic in all of my interiors. However the fabric version–like the paper–is way more $pendy than my budget.

I considered all kinds of alternatives, but nothing panned out. Then this summer Jen at Rambling Renovators posted about a Woods knock-off. And it was from a Canadian company and already made into a shower curtain. Before I finished reading her post, I had already placed my order. It’s perfect.

Someday we might add a glass enclosure (there’s extra blocking in the wall to support glass), but that’s more money than we want to spend, and Matt’s satisfied with the curtain.

As I mentioned in Friday’s post, we reused the original vanity and sink that were in the bathroom. We didn’t have a lot of space, and they fit perfectly, so there was no reason to reinvent the wheel. Looking at these photos, I see the finish of the vanity looks very creamy next to the white toilet and tile. However, in real life, it doesn’t bug me.

Matt selected the faucet, and his choice was driven purely by budget. If it had been up to me, I would have chosen something square, like the towel holder and light fixture, which I picked. However, in hindsight that might have ended up being a bit too many squares. The faucet matches the hooks that we chose and the variety of shapes work well.

Small black and white bathroom

There were two things I wasn’t sure about in this bathroom: the black paint and the huge mirror.

In a small room, I was worried the black would be too much. But it’s only one wall, so the black doesn’t overwhelm the small space (it’s Wrought Iron by Benjamin Moore). The contrast with the white tile and fixtures is dramatic.

In a small room, a big mirror is a no-brainer. But sheet mirrors like this aren’t exactly in style anymore. Running it from the corner right over to the shower and from the vanity up to the ceiling modernizes it a bit. Installing the light fixture on top of the mirror also modernizes it–although the process of measuring and hanging this mirror was nerve-wracking. But the mirror does its job of doubling the light and appearing to double the size of the room.

Small black and white bathroom

With limited wall space, we didn’t have a lot of room for towel bars. Two hooks behind the door–each with three individual hooks–give Matt space for his bath towel and clothes–although pants still end up on the chair in the family room outside the door. Argh.

Built in shelving in a small bathroom

Even if the hooks don’t work quite like I intended for storage, the built-in works very well.

The closed cabinet on the lower part hides the less decorative things in the bathroom. Plus the cabinet door that I found at the Habitat Restore is a perfect match for the doors on the vanity. Originally, I’d planned to build a drawer inside the cabinet, but some dollar store baskets are much simpler and work just as well to organize Matt’s toiletries. The guy’s deodorant collection is ridiculous.

Built in shelving in a small bathroom

The upper part of the shelves gives more storage and a spot to decorate, which makes me happy. The back of the open shelves is lined with barnboard–that I actually went out and cut off the side of the driveshed. It’s another rustic touch that I love so much.

Built in shelving in a small bathroom

This might be a stretch for anyone except me, but I had a loose chess theme in mind when I conceptualized this bathroom. We have kind of a fun and games thing happening in the rest of the basement. Matt’s game–although I’m not sure you can really call it a game the way he plays–is chess.

When I thought about going black and white for the bathroom, I thought of a chess board.

That also led me to incorporate a photo of Matt’s grandpa, who was an avid chess player. And to ask my Dad to make a large rook–Matt’s favourite chess piece–on his wood lathe. (Beware, any time you play with Matt, he will always castle his rook and king).

Built in shelving in a small bathroom

For all of the time that Matt and I have shared a house, we have not shared a bathroom (aside from the short time span when this bath was under construction). So this room is all about him.

Happily, the finished product is something that works for both of us.

Basement bathroom before & after

This post has been a long time coming. Loooooooong.

I first posted befores of the basement bathroom on April 12, 2012. We had owned the farm for a month.

We have now owned the farm for 56 months. That’s four years and eight months.

And we’ve finally finished the bathroom.

It’s been pretty much done for most of those 56 months. Matt’s been using it quite happily.

However, I had three pieces of trim to install, one cabinet door to rehang and I still hadn’t found the perfect shower curtain. Those niggly finishing details that dog you for four years. Ugh.

The perfect shower curtain was found this summer when Jen at Rambling Renovators posted her mood board for a modern farmhouse bathroom. That was the impetus to finally finish the rest of the bathroom.

Are you ready for our most dramatic before and after yet?

Who am I kidding? This isn’t the most dramatic before and after yet. This is the most dramatic before and after we’re going to have at the farm.


Basement bathroom before


Black and white bathroom

We called this the psycho shower.

Shower in our basement bathroom

It was tiny, orange, and for some reason built up on a platform. Everything was just all around gross.

Psycho shower on a platform

But no more. This is definitely not a psycho shower.

White subway tile shower with a marble seat


Gross was also the theme for the sink and vanity.

Decent sink, but ugly faucets and some spray issues

But with a good cleaning and a new faucet, they were redeemed.

Small bathroom sink and vanity

Above the sink we started with a small mirror, an off centre light and a random vent. If I’m recalling correctly, I think the vent was an access panel for either plumbing or electrical. It was not actually acting as a vent.

Off-centre light

After reframing and reinsulating the whole exterior wall, we held our breath and hung a huge mirror. The light fixture, which is centred over the vanity, sits on top of the mirror.

Small black and white bathroom


Along the way we fixed our exhaust fan issues, including evicting the snake my Dad discovered in the vent.

Broken exhaust fan

Disposed of the old toilet including its cushy illustrated toilet seat.

Cushy toilet seat

And added all kinds of storage by bumping out a small shelving area.

Built in shelving in a small bathroom
Aside from the bumpout, we kept the layout the same. But what a change.

Looking back at those before pictures I can’t believe we bought this house.

I’m so proud of what we were able to do with this bathroom, though. This was a huge DIY for us, and really pushed us–tiling that shower was a daunting task that still has me questioning whether I ever will tile again.

The design was a stretch for me too. Four years ago, dark colours weren’t as popular as they are now. Taking the plunge to paint a small windowless room black was a bit daunting. I love the black and white design so much and how it and all of the other little touches came together.

I’ll be back soon to share all of the details on this little bathroom.

Is there anything you’d like to know more about? Feel free to leave a comment, and I’ll do my best to answer it in the next post.

DIY doldrums

I’m in an uncomfortable stage right now. I have unfinished projects staring at me from all over, and I’m not liking what I see.

Usually, I try to be a one project kind of woman.

However, I currently have a mudroom that’s half-way through a makeover, a new feature in the kitchen that’s spawned other updates (mysterious, I know. I’ll have lots of posts soon), some outstanding finishing touches around the basement and the beginnings of a spring to-do list.

In the mudroom, the sticking point is the trim. We’ve stripped the wallpaper, patched holes, painted the walls, installed new baseboard, made an umbrella stand, built a bench, hung some hooks and fit out the closet with new shelving.

The baseboard is fully painted, but the window trim has just one coat and the trim around both doors and the closet is still the lovely flesh tone.

Mudroom painted Wythe Blue by Benjamin Moore

Trim painting is slow and tedious, and not my favourite way to spend my time. Some of the more appealing jobs that are also on the mudroom to-do list are refinishing the closet doors and staining the bench.

The basement bathroom is some trim (seems to be a theme), a drawer and a single hinge away from being finished. I bought the trim and the drawer guides–both for the built-in storage unit–at least a month ago. I hung the cabinet door on the built-in also about a month ago, but couldn’t get the hinges aligned properly, so it hasn’t swung smoothly in all this time.

Built in bathroom shelving

Building a drawer, painting and installing the trim and trying a new hinge would probably take less than one day. For a little amount of time, the satisfaction of finally crossing one room completely off the to-do list would be large.

In the rest of the basement, I’d really like to branch out beyond the TV area and begin to furnish and decorate the other rooms. These bigger to-dos are accompanied by smaller ones like fixing a shelf in the front hall closet and repairing the window screens (remember this one from the fall to-do list?) so they’re ready to install as soon as warm weather arrives. Oh, and then there are the mysterious kitchen fixes.

Fortunately this weekend, I have not just one day, not just two, but four thanks to the Easter holiday. I have grand ambitions for the next four days.

What are your plans for your weekend? Is it all about chocolates and family dinners, or do you have a project list too? Happy Easter, everyone, whatever you get up to.

Mirror, mirror finally on the wall

For the past few months, we’ve had a big blank unfinished wall in Matt’s bathroom.

Blank wall

Attractive, no?

It’s a small bathroom, so I decided that covering the whole wall above the vanity in one big mirror would help to make the space look bigger.

Me and my bright ideas.

We ordered the mirror just after New Year’s, and the supplier cut it right away. After a nerve-wracking evening of transporting the mirror in the back of Matt’s Dad’s truck, the mirror sat in the basement, propped against the wall just outside the bathroom.

The idea of actually hanging it was a little bit intimidating. I mean, it was more than four feet wide by four feet high. If we broke it, the bad luck would be exponential!

Plus the fact that it covered the whole wall and included a cut out for the light fixture presented some installation challenges. Everything had to match up perfectly and we had nearly no wiggle room.

Well, I’m pleased to say everything matched and, even better, nothing broke.

Mirrored wall above a bathroom vanity

The mirror definitely brightens up the room–and gives you a sneak peek of the shelving unit.

We have a few more things to do before the final reveal:

  • Light fixture
  • Toilet paper holder
  • Trim for the shelving unit
  • Cabinet door for the shelving unit (it’s cleverly just propped in place in the picture above)
  • Hooks for hanging towels
  • Heat register

Fortunately, none of these is as intimidating as the mirror–and I don’t know of any bad luck curses associated with toilet paper holders.

Caulking within the lines

Growing up, a pristine colouring book was a treasure. I carefully chose my colours and then filled in the drawings making sure to always stay within the lines. I started at the beginning of the book and worked through it page by page.

My younger sister on the other hand went through all of our colouring books putting blush, lipstick and eye shadow on all of the people–men, women and children. It was always a disappointing moment when I opened a book and found the characters covered with red, pink and sometimes even purple splotches.

Staying within the lines is still important to me, especially when it came to caulking the new shower. However, I am not a tidy caulker, so to ensure I had perfectly straight and even seams, I employed a technique I found courtesy of This Old House.

Caulking with painters tape

I laid two strips of painters tape on either side of the joint, squirted my caulking in between the strips, smoothed the bead with my finger and peeled off the tape.

The result was perfectly straight lines.

Caulking with painters tape

It’s definitely not a quick process to put on all of the tape, especially when the shower stall includes a niche and bench that all needed to be sealed, but the results satisfied my childhood hang up for staying within the lines.

Even my sister was impressed.

My Christmas cold may have knocked me out, but at least my tile are grouted

For the second year in a row I have been struck down by a doozy of a Christmas cold.

The fatigue, fever, headache and muscle aches are not conducive to writing… or thought, so for today’s post, all I have for you is a low quality picture of our grouted tile.

Tiled shower stall with bench and niche

You’re not tired of hearing about tile, are you?

The tile are grouted, the bench top is in place, the fixtures are all installed, and we even have running water.

Germs aside, it’s a merry Christmas in the basement.

How tiling is like reality TV

I should have known. It was like a scene out of reality TV where someone says, “I completely trust my alliance. That million dollars is mine.” You just know that they’re going to be the next person voted off.

A month after  I naively wrote “I actually enjoy [tiling]. It’s not hard work.” the reno gods were still chuckling at me as I glowered at the untiled walls of the basement shower.

I decided I really do mind tiling, and I did everything I could think of to avoid it. I delayed, I procrastinated, I spent my time on other things (important things like baseboards and tractors and carpet, and less important things like parties and first snowfalls). However, none of these were tiling and none were enough to distract me from the ugly cement board, the cartons of tile and the need to bring the two together.

So I appealed to my alliance.

I negotiated with the reno gods: “I don’t need the whole Lotto Max jackpot. Just a little bit will be enough to finish the tile!” I bargained with Matt: “I don’t think I’ll do a good enough job. What if it ends up crooked and we hate it?” I pleaded with my Dad: “Please call your tile guy!”

The reno gods were silent. Matt was supportive: “You’ll do a great job. I have confidence in you.” My Dad was befuddled: “You, the woman who drywalled her own basement, are now intimidated by a shower stall?” But because he’s my Dad, he called his tile guy.

The tile guy said it would be $900.

$900? Just for tiling? With materials I already own?

$900 for professionals versus $0 for me. Ummm… “I guess I’m tiling a shower.”

So I booked a day off work. I booked my Dad. Just like the challenge part of the episode, I threw myself into the mud pit (mortar bucket?), and we got to work.

The first step was to figure out our starting point. Between the bench, the niche, the accent band and the vanity, there were lots of spots that I wanted to line up. However, the most critical was the top of the vanity, so we drew our level line from there.

Level line for tiling

Despite any appearances, the line is actually in line with the top of the vanity, and it is level.

Once we got going with our tile, the most important objective was keeping everything level and even. For me the solution was using spacers. I wanted fairly narrow joints, and every single one had to be the same. I may have gone a bit overboard.

Tile spacers

Too many spacers?

I had two bags of spacers, but those were quickly emptied. As I progressed around the shower, I kept going back to areas that had already set up and removing the spacers so that I could reuse them.

The other spacing issue I ran into was with the accent band. I’d chosen a marble mosaic tile that was slightly thicker than the white subway tile I was using the rest of the shower. I could have camouflaged the difference with a chair rail or another type of tile, but I really wanted a flat, clean, simple look. My tile supplier suggested putting a little extra mortar on the subway tiles to build them out to the same depth as the mosaic.

Back buttering the subway tile

Back buttering the subway tile

I back buttered for two rows on either side of the accent band. Because I only did it in this one spot, the walls have a very slight curve. I’m hoping it’s imperceptible unless you know it’s there (obviously, all of you will be diplomatic enough to not point it out when you come to visit, please).

Carrera marble tile accent band

Everything looks pretty even between the carrera marble accent tile and the subway tile. Doesn’t it?

The back buttering was tedious, but not particularly difficult. The trickiest area–and the point that I started to go slightly insane–was the niche.

When we were building the shower, I thought the niche was a great idea. No bars of soap and bottles of shampoo set on the bench or the floor. No caddy hanging from the shower head. Just a convenient built-in shelf.

It turns out niche functionality, good. Niche tiling, bad.

Because I’m a glutton for punishment, I wanted the pattern to continue from the walls right through the niche. That meant dozens and dozens of cuts. In the whole niche, there is only one full tile. Ugh. But, I have to say, the result was worth all of the extra figuring and cutting. And yes, the next photo is completely bragging.

Tiled shower niche

Look at that brick pattern marching right along!

We used a small piece of marble we picked up at Home Depot for the base of the niche, as I wanted a single solid piece on any horizontal surface. It’s slightly sloped so that the water, but hopefully not the soap, will run off.

In the end, tiling the shower is not as fun as sitting on the couch all weekend watching a reality TV marathon, but my early fears proved unfounded. I did do a good enough job, I think. Everything is nice and straight–and it will look even better when it’s grouted.

I may not have won the million dollars, but I didn’t get voted off the island.


No post today. I’m in a tile coma.

Tiled shower

The result of three days of labour

Obviously, I still have to put the seat on the bench and the top on the threshold, take out all of the spacers and grout everything, but the hard part is done.


Thank goodness.

Sorry for the brevity today. Full breakdown… project breakdown, not personal sanity (already had my “I’m going crazy” moment at the end of my 12-hour second day)… will come later.

How did you spend your weekend?

William Wallace by way of a wet saw

Saturday morning, Matt’s bathroom looked like this.

Shower with cement board

It’s not just Saturday. The bathroom has looked like this for the past several months while our attention has been on finishing the drywall in the rest of the basement.

By Saturday evening it looked like this.

Tiled bathroom and shower floor

Beautiful tile. Finally progress!

I’ve tiled before, and I actually enjoy doing it. It’s not hard work, but it does require planning.

My Dad and I spent several hours in the morning laying out the shower floor, carefully fitting and figuring. When we finally spread out the mortar, we had a really good idea of how everything should go.

The marble mosaic hexagon tiles that we used on the shower floor are all on a mesh backing that basically makes them into 12×12 tiles. It’s important to  pay close attention when you join the sheets to make sure the gaps between the tiles are consistent. Despite our best efforts, I did still have a bit of difficulty keeping everything perfectly straight all the way across the floor, but I was able to adjust the spacing on the individual hexagons, and I think it will all look okay once it’s grouted.

Here are two lessons I learned about how to work with mosaic tile:

  1. Don’t start with your first sheet tight to the wall. Keep it off an eighth or even a quarter of an inch. This will give you more room to make adjustments on your other sheets as you progress across the floor.
  2. For areas like the drain, remove all of the tiles that come into contact with the drain. Lay your (mostly) full sheet as you usually would, and then insert individual tiles (or pieces of tiles) into the gaps as necessary.

On the main area of the floor we used actual 12×12 tiles, which were a piece of cake to install. The biggest piece of figuring we had to do was determine where the middle of the floor was and then centre our tile along that line.

The only sour bite in our cake was cutting out for the toilet. I know other people have used dremels or other tools to get nice round circles. We used the wet saw, which only cuts in a straight line. With lots of patience, lots of back and forth and even trading off cutting duties between my dad and me, we got the tile cut on the first try.

Tile cut around toilet flange

The cut of the day

It’s not as smooth as it would have been with another tool, but it will all be hidden under the toilet. That works for me.

What didn’t work for me was the William Wallace/Gene Simmons makeup I had going on after using the wet saw all day. All of the tile dust mixes with the water from the saw and from my waist to my hairline I had a dusty grey stripe in line with where the saw blade had sprayed me all day long–attractively along only the right side of my face.

Cutting tile on a wet saw

Thank goodness for safety glasses

Next step is grout and then I can move onto the walls. Who knows, someday we might even move on to installing the actual fixtures and using this bathroom.

What’s your tiling experience? Any tips for keeping things straight and even? Or cutting a curved line with a straight saw?