The ’80s Called and Wants Our Master Bathroom Back / Reno Part 1

Demolition started today on our master bathroom renovation. I can hear the tile guy and his son in there pounding away on our walls as I pound away on my keyboard. I asked them to come get me to watch the destruction of that goofy blue flower-heart the original owners put on the long shower wall.

Ugly, isn’t it? See the hearts? See the flower they make with their points? It’s just too-too cute. Yuck. I hate it. Good riddance!
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As is all too obvious, the surrounding tile is a sickly pink. It looks dirty even when it’s clean. I don’t have anything against pink per se, but this condo was ALL pink when we moved in. Not a vibrant spring pink or a yummy magenta, but a pale and pukey pink, like this tile. We still have pink tile and a pink tub in our guest bath, but its days are numbered, too.


1 step forward

Here’s what we’re putting up in place of what’s coming down:

Home Depot

It’s Daltile Marissa Carrera ceramic over-size subway tiles (10 by 14 inches). The tiles can be installed horizontally or vertically, and we’re going with horizontal. The accent strip, called Snow Illusion, will run the perimeter of the shower at about eye level.

We considered porcelain tile, which is a bit more durable than ceramic and evenly colored from surface to base. But we liked the patterning in the ceramic better. Durability isn’t a concern because ours is a wall installation rather than a floor. And since the tile finish is white anyway, the ceramic base in its natural state matches the surface.

Here are some photos I found online that show how the tile looks installed, both with and without the accent strip:

Pretty convincing, isn’t it? Here’s how the cost difference shakes out, per square foot:

  • Ceramic, $2.21
  • Porcelain, $2.29
  • Real Carrera marble, $7.86

Our shower is 106 square feet, so real marble would have cost about $600 more. Yes, we could have afforded it, but marble requires periodic sealing, and we didn’t want the maintenance hassle. Besides, we have another ugly pink bathroom to redo, as well as a kitchen that is, thankfully, not pink, but just as dated. Ceramic means we’ll have some $$ to spend another day on another reno.

6 steps back

Before I explain more about this present stage of our renovation, let’s backtrack to what we’ve done to this bathroom since we moved in four years ago. Granted, renovations in stages can be tricky. But this condo had a lot that needed done to it functionally and cosmetically right away, so we tackled first what bugged us most.

#1 issue: Flooring

Instead of the pink wall-to-wall carpet (oh yes, all through the house, including baths and kitchen) we had Armstrong Alterna “luxury vinyl” tile installed in the two full baths and the front entry.

It’s textured, colored and grouted to look like stone, but not cold like the real stone or tile. We chose the Mesa Stone pattern, which simulates slate, in a coloration that includes both browns and grays to give us flexibility in future décor.

#2: Sift-and-shake lighting

Existing lighting in both full baths involved a dropped ceiling of plastic grating with 10 (!!) fluorescent tube fixtures shining through. The grating collected A LOT of dust and had started to become brittle with age.  


Plus, the lights were way too bright (not to mention fluorescent light causes cataracts). We had the whole lot removed, the ceiling plaster repaired, wiring run for a single fixture over the vanity and mirror, and the light pictured above installed. It’s the Portfolio Lyndsay Brushed Nickel Bathroom Vanity Light.

#3: Color, color, color

We bought this condo from Chris’ mom when she moved into assisted living. She was the second owner and moved here in fall 1996, at which time Chris and his brother painted every room off-white. We moved in March 2012, so it was due for new paint.

As far as the master bath went, I tried to match the shade of blue in the tile “heart-flower,” but I couldn’t get anywhere close. I brought home enough paint chips to open my own store, but all of there were either too green or too blue or too purple.

So I gave up and painted it the color I really wanted, Martha Stewart “Milk Pail,” which played well with our master bedroom décor. I knew we’d eventually replace the puke-pink tile and blue heart-flower anyway, so I chose to keep the shower door pulled shut until then. (More on that nasty shower door later.)

#4: Sleek and modern accessories

We also replaced all of the towel bars and toilet paper hangers. Some were broken. All were bottom-of-the-line cheapo plastic. All three bathrooms got Glacier Bay Dorset in polished chrome, shown here.

We wanted a modern vibe, and these echoed the curve of the light fixture. We opted for all hooks instead of towel bars in the full baths because of personal preference and the hooks were more functional for the room’s limited wall space.

#5: Rattle-trap shower door

Ever since we moved here, I’d been trekking to the guest bath every day to use the tub shower because the sliding door on the master bath shower made me claustrophobic. It also made the shower difficult to clean. Our sliding door looked like the one in this picture, but imagine it rusting, rickety and clogged with soap scum and hard water stains after 25 years of use.

So last summer, we got the idea to remove it. Chris plugged up the screw holes, repaired grout where needed and hung a shower rod, while I shopped for a shower curtain. Now I no longer have to trek down the hall to shower, nor do I have to risk slipping as I step over the tub wall.

We’ll continue to use a shower curtain after the tile’s replaced because:

  • We both hate sliding doors, and there’s not enough clearance for a door that opens out.
  • Any sort of door would make a shower this size seem claustrophobic.
  • I don’t feel claustrophobic with the curtain, and it allows for some “nudge” room.
  • I hate cleaning shower doors, but I also hate the spotted, hard-water look.
  • The whole bathroom feels much larger without the doors.

We chose a Hookless Escape Fabric Shower Curtain and Liner in Seafoam Blue, pictured below, with an easy-on/off grommet header. It matches the wall color perfectly, and it’s much simpler to throw the curtain in the wash every week or two than struggle to keep water spots and soap scum off a glass door. The liner also snaps in and out so you can wash it separately.

Bed, Bath and Beyond

Wait until you’re my age—you’ll opt for safety, utility and ease, too.

#6: Potty wobble

The toilets in this condo have always wobbled. Chris tried to fix them with plastic shims as we replaced the various pink ones with white. It was better but not great. The shims worked their way out and also collected dust and bathroom grime.

When we had some other plumbing work done, we had the plumber look at the toilet bases. He said the concrete slab around the plumbing needed to be ground down. The estimate to do this was prohibitive, so Chris searched for and found another solution, the “Bigfoot III.”
Quick Fix Plumbing Products

It’s a foam pad you install between the floor and the toilet base that can be trimmed around the edge to fit the base precisely and not show. It eliminated the wobbles, and it only cost $30!

However, while Chris had the toilet off to install the floorplate, he accidentally dropped it and it cracked (oops!), so it was back to the home store. Nothing’s ever simple, is it?

Back to the future

So here’s how everything I’ve shared so far looks together with existing decor:

Tune in tomorrow for demolition photos from today

 …as well as more details on the overall renovation, including a few projects Chris and I plan to tackle ourselves.
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