REBIRTH OF A BATHROOM

Just looking at this bathroom makes you want to take a shower…except if you took a shower in this bathroom, you would probably feel dirtier than when you started while picking up a case of athlete’s foot in the process. Don’t break open any skin in here or you may wind up with all of the Hepatitises.

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Believe it or not, when we bought this place this unit was occupied and tenants were paying decent money to live here. I think I would pay a month’s rent just so I wouldn’t have to use that bathroom. And it’s not just that it was gross and dirty (a lot of tenants’ bathrooms are gross and dirty!), It was truly in disrepair. So even though we weren’t originally planning on gutting this bathroom right away, when the tenants said they were thinking about moving out I knew it needed to be done ASAP.

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Bathrooms are not cheap to renovate and we can be cheapskates every once in a while. Not a great mix. But, we knew this bathroom was a major problem going into the purchase and had set aside money for that project. Unfortunately, it happened that we were going to take on that project sooner than we anticipated.

Because we were first timers with bathroom renovation, we had to do a lot of planning, so it probably took us quite a bit longer to pick out our fixtures and layout than it would have for a seasoned design professional. We wanted to put our own touch on the room, while learning a ton about the process along the way. Even if we weren’t going to be living there and using the bathroom, it was still our property and we take pride in that.

We wanted a particular look – let’s call it “vintage modern” – where we did as much as we could to incorporate the building’s historic nature (built in 1890!) while making sure that the room was functional with certain modern creature comforts and aesthetics. But we didn’t want a stark, modern, European looking bathroom in an old Chicago cottage. That just wasn’t the look we were going for in this particular space.

Part of that particular look is that we wanted matte black plumbing fixtures. Admittedly, we were swagjacking from Pinterest. But I strongly recommend jacking people’s swag, particularly when you’re not a design professional. Finding matte black fixtures for reasonable amounts of money was difficult, particularly in the USA (a lot of the coolest bathrooms on Pinterest are from Europe or Australia, and the products are from those places too). But we managed to find both a sink faucet / drain as well as a shower / bath faucet as well. The sink fixture is from Signature Hardware and the shower / bath fixture is from Jason Wu for Brizo. These looks definitely skew more toward the “modern” side of vintage modern, but we think they work well.

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To incorporate the vintage look, we did the following:

  • kept the old window and its trim

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  • kept the original, solid wood, 5 panel door
  • got various hardware / fixtures (towel holders, toilet paper holder, etc.) from Rejuvenation
  • bought vintage pharmacy-style vanity and medicine cabinet from the Restoration Hardware outlet. Vanity style with more enclosed storage here.

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Yes, this project cost us a decent amount of money, but it was necessary. The previous bathroom had so many problems, like:

  • openings in the wall that could lead to water damage and mold

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  • generally gross condition would discourage prospective tenants from renting the unit
  • lack of storage space (no medicine cabinet, open vanity, no shelves)

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  • improperly grounded electrical outlet

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  • bad natural and artificial lighting
  • poorly functioning plumbing fixtures (old pipes)
We addressed all of those issues, ultimately improving the unit while commanding a higher rent too. We didn’t do a perfect job, but we think for our first bathroom, it’s pretty good.

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