Friday, August 13, 2010

Our new bathroom

This posting is a little late, but the construction of our bathroom was so traumatizing I just couldn't post about it for awhile! Actually, that sounds a lot like the very belated wedding posts that I promised about a year ago... can't believe it's already been a year! Ummmm, soon... I'm still recovering from that! :)

Anyway, so when we first moved into this apartment, the bathroom was in "ok" shape- probably last renovated in the 1990s. Besides the mismatched tiles and the missing tile/hole in the shower, it was just beyond the acceptable level of normal wear and tear...

September 2008

In our excitement of buying the place, we never noticed that the bathroom didn't have an electrical outlet! Then we noticed on windy days, we'd get a breeze down the vent shaft and air would blow down into our bathroom from the passive wall vent. (Sometimes the wind also blew in the smell of our neighbors' cooking.) Soon thereafter, we noticed a hairline crack in the basin of the pedestal sink.... and then the wobbly tile floors... and then the beadboard wainscoating started to break apart... and this past spring, the decision to renovate was cemented when our toilet tank developed a crack and started leaking!! The plumber temporarily epoxied it, but warned us that it wouldn't stick around for much longer. Plus, it was a HUGE water waster since it was an old fashioned toilet, using about 3 gallons per flush! (All toilets nowadays are maximum 1.6 gpf)

Using vintage hotel bathrooms, Waterworks, and the beautiful bathrooms at the bed and breakfast we stayed at in CA earlier this year as our inspirations, we set off to redesign our bathroom. Since our building is over 100 years old, we decided to stick with a classic, historic design, but we wanted it to still be a little modern and fresh, as well as water efficient.

At first we were going to go with a dual-flush toilet, but in the end we were really pleased with the classic look of the 1.28 gpf Toto EcoPromenade (and its fancy high tech flushing mechanism)! Finding a small, good looking pedestal sink narrower than 20" was a huge challenge since we didn't want to relocate the plumbing fixtures (nor did we have the room). Since there were no cracks in the tub, we decided to just reglaze it instead of getting rid of it. We had been completely sold on this gorgeous creamy hand molded tile but our hopes were dashed when we found out the finished bullnose tiles were unavailable and they were discontinuing the line altogether. So we ended up with a similar looking tile by American Olean that was machine made, much cheaper, but also much less interesting. We punched up the design factor by using several different tile sizes and intentionally using a cream and white palette rather than white on white. It was a roller coaster of a ride to deal and coordinate with ordering all the different components- backstock, availability, shipping deliveries, returns, delays, etc...

P and I went away to Massachusetts for an extended weekend over the 4th of July, and figured that Bari could complete the demo, plumbing rough-in, and even some of the tile work in our absence. We assumed it would take a few hours to remove the existing fixtures (toilet, sink, lights), chip off the tile, and take down the sheetrock walls and ceiling. After all, it is only a 39 SF room. How long could it possibly take?!?

 Late June

A little backstory... (disclaimer- this is our version)
Our apartment is on the fourth floor of a five story walkup brownstone. Apparently a few decades ago when our upstairs neighbor's apartment was renovated, the contractors decided that it was easier to just throw all their excess construction debris (plaster, old tiles, pipes, wood, etc.) into the plumbing chase and into the space between our ceiling joists rather than dragging it down five flights and then having to pay for hauling it away! After stuffing everything into our ceiling, they just installed their floor finish on their side, and everyone must have forgotten about it as people moved away....

Jump back to 2010... Bari cuts a hole in the ceiling to start removing the sheetrock, and it practically collapses on him! Shockingly, he was not hurt, albeit covered in dust. Horrified, he had to work at cutting the ceiling away in small sections, with a giant garbage bag below him to capture the debris that rained down on him each time. When the medicine cabinet was removed, we found hundreds of rusty used razor blades from (a) previous tenant(s) who had discarded them through the little openings in the back of the cabinet!

All the debris in the ceiling is gone in this photo, but much of it is still behind the plumbing chase wall. Some of the studs are not even sitting on top of anything!

Then we found out the tile delivery was going to be delayed by a whole week due to the 4th of July holiday. Needless to say, we got back from MA with a lot less done than we expected. Bari was great though- without his patience and resourcefulness, we wouldn't be where we are now! We ended up subletting a nearby apartment through Craigslist for a few days, then extending our stay to a week. But, we were forced to move back in prematurely when the sublet ran out. For a good laugh, reread the NY Times article Two Weeks Without A Toilet.

Bari was kind enough to accommodate us and move the toilet into the bathroom and hook it up every night when we got home and moved it out again each morning after we left for work. Paul was showering at his gym and I was taking cold showers at my work during off hours. At least most of July was in the 90s, so the cold showers were actually pretty refreshing! We brushed our teeth at the kitchen sink and sponged off in the middle of the kitchen on the muggiest nights. It was too hot and dirty to cook in our apartment, so we ate almost every single meal out as well. I had daily morning meetings with Bari, and sometimes had to leave work to meet him two or three times during the day to make quick decisions. His keen eye, honesty, and reliability really kept me in check. Since I do this for a living, I had planned and drawn everything out down to the last inch, but as construction goes, there were unforeseen circumstances and I had to be flexible. My moods yo-yo'ed from extreme frustration to exhilaration as we exchanged countless texts, emails, photos, and updates.

All of our furniture in the living room was either moved to the bedroom or pushed to the perimeter of the room and completely covered in plastic for a month while the center of the room became Bari's staging/ storage/ work area. There were tools, table saws, tile saws, doors, sheetrock, stacks of lumber, plumbing fixtures, and boxes of tiles everywhere! All of our plants were crowded into the kitchen nook and we had to crawl through a plastic sheet every night to get into the bedroom, where we were tripping over boxes of bathroom supplies and furniture. Not to mention that it was hot (it hit or surpassed 90 degrees almost every day of July!)...

Anway, back to the construction...

Setting the border tile on top of our new level floor

The new copper plumbing piping

Bari had to reframe the back wall since it was in such bad condition. In our previous bathroom, some of the newer pipes actually ran across the front of the wall, and were just "plastered" over, so that back wall was completely wavy and uneven! This wall isn't going anywhere.

The sheetrock is up, and the walls and ceiling are completely level. 
Look, an electrical outlet!

Bari's favorite part- putting up the wall tiles

Bari's gorgeous tilework... We loved all the clean white marble and diagonal floor tile pattern from the SLO bathroom, so we decided to mix it up by doing a herringbone pattern with a simple border.

The plumbers installing the fixtures!

 The newly reglazed tub

The tub and built-in cabinet/hamper were really about the only things that we kept. Bari took the doors off the cabinet and is going to redo them so they don't look like cheap Formica cabinets.

The new but vintage-looking Schoolhouse ceiling light and sconce, and the quietest, most powerful wall fan ever

 The beautiful Rohl faucet and Vitra sink. The town where the faucet is made was once famous for making church bells, so the base of the faucet handle pays homage to its history.

The shiny new doorknob

The shiny new towel bar

The shiny new robe hook beyond 
The view from the orange foyer/hallway

As most construction goes- it took about double the time and double the budget... Despite the frustrating moments, it was well worth it. We now have a luxurious bathroom that we love spending time in! With a few recommendations from friends and helpful industry contacts, Bari's blood and sweat, and (some of our) tears...  

Voila! Our new bathroom!

August 2010

Contractor: Bari DeJaynes 
Plumbers: Martin Plumbing
Electrician: Romanello Electric
Plumbing fixtures: Toto EcoPromenade, Kohler Bancroft, Rohl Cisal faucet (Simon's Hardware, NYC)
Plumbing fixtures: Vitra Epoca sink (Signature Hardware)
Wall tiles: American Olean, biscuit (Bella Tile, NYC)
Floor tiles: Calacatta Gold marble (Swan Tile and Cabinets, NYC)
Ceiling light: Otis (Schoolhouse Electric)
Towel bar, shelf, sconce: Restoration Hardware
Toilet paper holder: Home Depot 
Medicine cabinet: Nutone
Fan: Panasonic
Hook: Anthropologie
Doorknob: Baldwin
Paint: Benjamin Moore


elvis presley said...

oh yeah- this looks awesome... hope to see it in Oct.!

Emily said...

Classy-town!!!! Love it all! Well done, Alvord-Cheungs! Dealing with old spaces can be crazy, but you guys did great. Congratulations and enjoy that fancy tub and toilet, and sink too!!!

Darryl Iorio said...

Hmm, I think the problem started with the inability to have everything checked before buying your home. Nevertheless, it's a blessing that everything is alright after the plumbing work. Seeing the work that they did (especially the tub and the lights,) I can say that the saying "past is past" is indeed true! Great stuff, indeed! :)


Staci said...

Great find on the wall fan. Every bathroom needs a quiet fan unless you want to feel like your flying on an airplane or your on a ship while taking a bath. Also it's small enough not to outshine the highlights of your bathroom. Make sure to clean it every once in a while to get the maximum effect of this ventilation.

Staci Severns @ Brooklyn Fan