Decorating the Bathrooms

We don't get to do a lot of decorating around la casa, on account of being kind of in perpetual construction mode and all. But now that we're about ready to get started on the big bathroom project, we've started choosing fixtures and finishes.

For the half bath under the stairs, we've chosen a wall-hung toilet. That's not easy to install in your average bathroom remodel, because it requires ripping stuff out of the wall and possibly some re-framing, but just about all the framing down there needed reworking, anyway, so it works well for us. Less stuff touching the floor means fewer crannies for fur to lodge in (six indoor animals means a near-obsession with fur drifts).

Toto Aquia wall-hung toilet

This is our toilet. It's a Toto Aquia, dual flush. Reviews are good, with many people saying they never use the #2 flush at all. The wall tank takes for-ever to arrive so I ordered it a few weeks ago and it should arrive... someday.

Toto actuator plate

We ordered an actuator plate for the flusher -- a pair of buttons that install in the wall above the toilet, required by this kind of wall-mounted toilet because there's no exposed tank with flusher. I'd really love to do something funny with that: put four buttons up there labeled from 0 to 3, and if you press the wrong button something funny happens like music playing or a stream of water sprays you in the face.

Our friends would never visit us again!

My only real gripe with the Aquia is my gripe with the direction of American toilets in general: I really hate big toilets. Elongated seats are now the norm, and Toto doesn't make any dual-flush toilets in a normal, round-front shape. Not only does this make new toilets hard to fit into older homes where even a round-front toilet might barely squeak into the space with code-required clearances, but I find elongated toilets very uncomfortable (because I am a short person and do not care to snuggle into the toilet bowl), so if I want a good flusher I am doomed to tragic discomfort.

As a compensation, we are getting two Toto Washlet seats for the two bathrooms. The one for downstairs is here already; the Aquia only comes in elongated seat and I really wanted a wall-mount for downstairs. I am undecided on the upstairs toilet (can't do wall-hung there because of the framing issue) and might opt for a single-flush Toto with a round front for comfort's sake, so I haven't ordered the Washlet yet.

(I mentioned the price of the Washlet to a friend and he said for that amount of money he would expect it to wipe his butt. In fact, the one we are getting will not only wash your butt but blow it dry with nice warm air while playing music to you. So it will surely earn its keep.)

IKEA Ann sink

In both bathrooms we'll be putting these Ann sinks from IKEA. They're kind of a compromise because we can't afford the sinks I'd love (a custom-built marble and cherry vanity downstairs, and a soapstone and painted wood vanity upstairs). They do have wall-hung faucets, which are so far superior to deck-mounted faucets that you wonder why anybody does it any other way (they don't get that nasty gunk around them because water cannot pool in the connection between faucet and sink).

Some of what we're doing in these bathrooms is 5-8-year compromises. These sinks are one of them.

IKEA Fullen cabinet

Installed under the sinks (which are wall-hung so they don't technically need anything underneath) we're going to put some small storage cabinets. I'm undecided on which. Either this one, which is IKEA Fullen, or this:

IKEA Lillangen cabinet

Which is IKEA Lillangen (only with more interesting characters, but I will spare you). Lillangen has its own line of sink tops, but they're all pre-drilled for deck-mounted faucets, and have places where it looks like a vigourous washer would be splashing water into the crack between the cabinet and wall all the time, so we are giving that a pass. Either cabinet will be modified to accept the plumbing from the sink. I just like having storage close at hand for certain necessities, especially in the guest bathroom.

Swanstone shower panels

On the theme of compromises, I'd love a nice tiled shower surround, but I'm already spending a lot of time studying plumbing for this project, and I just don't feel like learning to be a master tiler. So we're going to get some Swanstone solid surface panels for the shower (plain white, since I hate materials that lie about what they are). Swanstone is one of the few products that can accommodate our kind of funky-sized shower area. I can choose where to install that utterly hideous shampoo shelf, so it will go on the short end opposite the shower head.

The shower controls themselves are one of the few areas where we are not making compromises. No, we're not going all water bandit on you, splurging on a ridiculous shower with a hundred body sprays and an enormous "rain" head; we're just getting something beautiful. We both love thermostatic shower controls (one control for volume, one for temperature: set the temperature once and you only need to adjust a little for a perfect shower every time), and I wanted a Steampunk-ish Edwardian look. We wanted a hand-held option for washing dogs, even though we'll be converting the downstairs tub into a dog wash. I guess this way we can each wash a dog, and get them both clean in half the time.

Shower controls

Yes, that's a horrible picture, scaled up from a fuzzy, too-small photo. How about this:

Steampunk shower controls

Now that, my friends, is all about crazy early 20thc. plumbing. Sure, it blows the budget out of the water, but I always say to spend your money on the things you touch the most often.

For flooring, we're thinking of just painting the wooden floors with high-gloss floor paint. They'll need some cleaning up, and the wide cracks will need filling, but that's the cheapest and most effective way I can think of to make a decent floor. I'm open to other options, of course.

One of the other good ideas we had for the downstairs bathroom, given that that will be used by guests, is an indicator lock. (Currently none of our bathrooms have any kind of lock at all, and the one functioning bathroom doesn't even have a latch on the door. It'll be nice to not have that edge of anxiety about being walked in on when there are visitors in the house.)

Schlage indicator bolt

So you don't have to try the door or knock to see if the room is occupied, of course. The only one I can find mass-produced in the US is this one, made by Schlage; I've found several in the UK, but nothing really has the somewhat classier look I'd like, since this will be in our main downstairs hallway. I'm still looking for a fancier version that isn't done as a custom run; I will go that route if I need to, but I'd rather not.

As for room colours, upstairs will remain shiny white, while downstairs, which is currently Barbie pink and fake wood panels, will go dark and mysterious. I'm thinking maybe burgundy, or a warm charcoal gray. I want something dark and sophisticated, because it's a small room that is never going to feel expansive, and it has no windows. Thoughts?

posted by ayse on 02/16/11

10 Comments

Have you decided what color the hallway is going to be yet? (I can't remember where you are in the overall plan). You might want to pick your under the stairs color to coordinate somewhat with the hallway. Probably any of the deep jewel tones would be lovely - maybe keep a bit of brightness to the color rather than go totally dark.

What sort of lighting will be in there - a tiny chandelier? Something sparkly I hope! Something else that would help break up a deep color would be gold or silver leaf designs stamped onto the wall in an overall pattern - stars or fleur-de-lis or whatever. It could be quite regular like a wallpaper repeat or quite random - but the metallic would catch the light.

The white porcelain & the storage unit will keep it from being too dark down low - you just want to balance it a bit up higher - use shiney silver or gold frame for any art, with a medium to dark mat. And maybe paint the ceiling the same color so that the higher up you go the darker & more mysterious it feels.

Not sure what I would do for the floor. Probably would want to keep it medium rather than dark or light colored. Can you lay vinyl without adhesive? Maybe use the shoe molding at the baseboards & a threshhold to hold all the edges down? Some of the new vinyls look really nice and you'll only need a tiny piece so shouldn't cost too much.

Wow - this really got long - thanks for letting us watch & comment on the transformation - hope you find some of this rambling helpful.

The hall is going to be medium gray -- a background for art.

I need to find a good light for the small bathroom, but yes, something sparkly could really work in there. It occurs to me that somewhere in my art supplies I have a rocket ship foam stamp that might make an interesting pattern while also a little playful.

I think the combination of the modern toilet and sink with the antique faucet is a very interest choice. I think it will look really great.

That's my toilet!! Ok, not "my" toilet, but the toilet I dream of. I love the wallmounted (and space saving) design. It will make keeping the floor clean so much easier!

The cabinets are lovely, looks like I have to consider additions in my toilet.

I do like that new commode style and shower as well as the sink cleancut and very minimal just the ticket for fast living styles of today. Someday maybe I can incorporate this into my little bathroom sigh!

Ayse, this is all very exciting! You're absolutely right about the choice to spend money on the things you touch most; I'm filing that one away for our own future purchase decisions. My husband is going to dig your fixture choices too when I get around to showing him this post. Warm, dark, mysterious bathrooms are great--small spaces don't overwhelm in a strong color. I like the idea of a warm charcoal which will elegantly showcase the fixtures and the rest of the decor (towels, etc.). Cheryl's suggestions about metallics and the ceiling and floor balance with the walls make a lot of sense to me. Your rocket ship could be perfect--silver or bronze on charcoal, maybe? Can't wait to see the finished product. It's going to be something.

One convincing argument I've heard for elongated toilets is that it helps keep men of a certain age from sitting on bits they would rather not sit on when sitting down. I don't have to experience it myself to take their word that the elongated toilet seat helps prevent such incidents. (Ouch!)

Lillangen is what we used for a simple storage unit in Abigail's room. I don't see how it and water could mix.

The hand-held is a great idea. We remodeled before Abigail came along; it has turned out to be incredibly convenient for her bath time. Great for spraying bits that are normally hard to reach. I wasn't a fan before of hand-helds, but now I'm convinced every shower should have one. (Same goes for the thermostatic control, too.)

We have a (floor mounted) Toto which is one of the best things we have ever bought. It's dual flush, and I tell you, even the lowest flow flush makes things go away. It's amazing.

I'd love to hear more about the Swanstone solid surface shower surround. I recently discovered that there are Not Such Good Things Happening Behind Our Shower Enclosure where some caulk was leaking. A bathroom remodel is in our future (sigh). We're not at all local - is the Swanstone something that you're getting at a big box store? Thanks!

Susan, we will probably order the Swanstone from a local Ace hardware, but Lowe's also carries it. It's apparently not much fun to cut to size, but I'm still waiting to hear back to find out if they can do a custom shower pan (hmm, should re-ping on that one), rather than have to rely on their stock sizes.

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