A blog about the restoration, remodel and renovation of a 1929 Chicago-style brick bungalow

Bath Time

Continuing with our “clean theme” for the new year, we were able to start using the master bathroom back in mid-October even though it wasn’t quite finished.

As you can see here: no fixtures for hanging towels, toilet paper; no mirror or light above the sink; sink temporarily installed on a plywood countertop; no shower door; caulking in progress…

I wanted to try and save money by tiling a countertop ourselves using travertine tile similar to the floor but with less variation. The drop-in sink that I bought at a discount would help with the savings. But once we put the sink in place on the plywood base, I absolutely hated it — it took up way too much space and the little bit of counter surface surrounding the sink was too small, making it totally unusable. And after figuring out the details on all the costs involved in tiling the counter (not to mention the amount of time we’d have to put in), the “savings” dwindled away. So much for trying to saving a buck.

Not wanting to hate the bathroom every time I used it (I already have one of those), we did what we should have done in the first place and ordered a solid surface countertop with integrated sink bowl. A painful lesson, but worth every additional penny.

That was installed in early November and we slowly kept chipping away at it, mounting a towel ring, towel bar, toilet paper holder, clothes hook, and the lighted mirror, all of which we bought on sale at Restoration Hardware.

The lighted mirror wasn’t initially in the plan. I never liked the light bars that are mounted over a mirror and wanted to install the more flattering light source from sconces on either side of a mirror. Because we also installed a countertop cabinet, it didn’t leave much room for sconces, so I was happy to find an all-in-one solution: a mirror that provided soft, flattering light (and cost about the same as a mirror and sconces would have). If you need a strong bathroom light, however, don’t buy this. With an overhead light/fan combo, a light in the shower, and a huge skylight in this room, we have plenty of additional light sources.

For the counter cabinet, instead of installing a spacer to the right of it, which was a necessity so that the drawers would clear the light switches, receptacle and thermostat and the door wouldn’t bang into the wall, I found acrylic shelves at The Container Store. At 6 inches deep and 12 inches wide, by mounting them parallel to the side of the cabinet it created little cubbyholes to tuck away unsightly things like Pete’s shaver and display shelves for lotions and other girly things. Clean towels can also be rolled up and stored here.

I’m pretty pleased with my little spark of genius there.

Between the shelves, the counter cabinet, the under-sink cabinet and lower drawers, we have tons of storage here.

Now for the pièce de resistance.

Shortly before Christmas we finally arranged to have our shower door installed. Because it’s a custom fit, I was holding off as long as possible to save up for it (especially after the sink debacle; I didn’t want to cut corners here). It’s a large enough shower to contain most of the water, so it wasn’t much of a problem to shower without a door. We just had to point the shower head toward the wall and watch out for a stream of water running down our elbows and out onto the bath mat.

I really, really wanted a frameless shower door and I love this thing. It has a nice, clean, streamlined look, and it shows off all our hard tiling work! So far, upkeep is a breeze and we haven’t had any problems with streaking. The shower guy suggested using a squeegee if needed, but we really haven’t needed it yet.

The final “fixture” you’ll see here: Günter. With the radiant heat flooring, he literally spends almost 24/7 here. I can’t say I blame him.


  1. Robin on January 8, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    Wow, I love how your bathroom has progressed! The combination of tiles in the shower and on the bathroom floor are great. I even like the modern shaped toilet (which I never thought I’d like). Good job!

  2. denise on January 16, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    Thanks Robin! I know, I was a little worried about the modern-ness of the toilet, but it’s very understated and a dual-flush toilet was more important to me than the style (there aren’t many style variations in the dual-flush toilets).

  3. Diane on September 14, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    My daughter would like to do something like this in her Chicago style bungalow. How did you get started? Are there people in Chicago area that specialize in this, architects, contractors, etc? We wouldn’t know where to begin. Any referrals, tips would be greatly appreciated.



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