Better Homes & Gardens Interview

Posted by Ben Thompson on 11.17.10

Here is the transcript of an interview Kristin did with Better Homes & Gardens in November 2010 regarding our two bathrooms in our home.  Publish date scheduled early 2011.

Q1. What was the bath like when you started?
The bathroom was horrible when we bought the house! In fact, since we were newlyweds and didn’t need the extra space, we ignored the whole upstairs for almost a year, leaving it in all of its avocado green glory. There was a very distinct theme….avocado green fixtures, peach wallpaper and accessories everywhere else, and a good dose of swirled gold thrown in there. And old “grandma lace” curtains, I threw those away right away. That was the only work we did in there for a year. The good news was the layout was pretty decent, it was a nice size, and it had two windows in it, which was a great plus.
The only thing I need to say about the original bath is “carpet!” It literally was one of the first things we threw out in the house. We had a giant “demolition and pizza party” and invited friends over to tear out most of the finishes in the house. We used bright orange spray paint to show people what to throw into the dumpster. I wish we could have remodeled it right away, but we had to stop somewhere. So we actually kept most of the original bath for almost five years. We replaced the floor, painted the cabinets, and removed the wallpaper and toilet. We were stuck with the old white and blue swirled cultured marble shower and leaky fixtures that rotted out part of the cabinets! There were also lovely fluorescent light fixtures, like you would see in an elementary school. However, I think one of my least favorite features was the tiny linen closet. It also held open ductwork, so the old owners had patched in loose plywood shelves around the duct,. There was hardly any useable space, but it was just so ugly. I find it hard to be organized in an ugly place.

Q2. What was the biggest problem with the space pre reno?
This bath, like most of our house, had a pretty good layout with good bones, it was just plain ugly. It was the kind of space that most people literally would have run from (and a lot of our friends thought we were crazy when we bought the place), but it just needed a good dose of love. So, our biggest problem with the space was just the plain ugliness factory. The green and peach fixtures made it unsalvageable the way it was.
The biggest problem in this room was the layout. It is a good sized bathroom but had a poor use of that space. The vanity with double sinks stretched the length of the bathroom, which sounds nice but it really wasn’t. It was very unattractive: the sinks weren’t properly centered in the space, and every cabinet was a different size, making it look very strange! There was a minuscule closet, an odd space for the toilet, and really bad lighting-which is not a great way to start the morning!

Q3. What were your priorities for remodeling?
In this bath, our biggest priority for remodeling happened to be “time”! We were hosting my family’s annual family reunion and had just a few weeks to completely gut and finish the entire upstairs to allow for our extra houseguests. So we had to stick with items that were in stock, easy to access, and quick to install. Ben and I had a huge disagreement about the flooring-I wanted tile, but we simply didn’t have time to tile the floor. So he wisely talked me into doing a beautiful vinyl with the tile-look. It ended up being a great decision-so much easier to clean! This bath is chiefly used for guests and our kids bath time, so it is really nice to have such a low maintenance floor. We were so rushed that we had to pick most of our fixtures without even seeing them. I remember being in the car with my father-in-law and he was on the phone with the plumber. We were about ready to go into a carwash and he turned to me and said “I need you to tell the plumber the fixtures you want before I lose reception in there!” Luckily, since I do this for a living, I knew what fixtures would be a good fit. The Kohler Fairfaix fixtures lend a cottage theme that I wanted, and are at a great price. That was pretty much the pace of how the bathroom remodel went!
In this bath, our biggest priority for remodeling was the budget. Being a young couple with two small kids, we simply didn’t have a large budget for the bath remodel. This is the bathroom we use 99% of the time as a family. So it was really important for me to give it an elegant, polished look but nothing too fussy that wouldn’t hold up to two toddlers. For that reason, we chose to keep all of the fixtures (shower, toilet, and sinks) in roughly the same locations. We debated moving the wall and shower, but for the cost it wasn’t worth the small payoff to us. Because we shrunk up the vanity space, we were able to add a huge linen closet (which I am in love with! I have room to be perfectly organized now!). And because we didn’t move the shower, we added a small bench in that corner, which I now really love. We plop the kids up there to dry them off after a shower.
And because the rest of our home remodel was so quick and on-the-fly I probably agonized way too much over this bath! I can’t begin to count how many times I dragged my kids into Home Depot to buy/return tile for the backsplash. We hit up the big box stores for the cabinets, top, and tiles. But we chose to buy all of our plumbing fixtures from our dealer, because it was really important to have good quality items we knew we could trust.
Having two vanities was a big priority to me (although our daughter has taken over one of them!), and having a very relaxing shower was Ben’s biggest priority. That was his baby-he insisted on having three shower heads, plus the body sprays. It is a great way to unwind at the end of the day.

Q4. What was the style you wanted?
I grew up in landlocked Indiana, so when I moved to Michigan, I became obsessed with the water and the beaches, which spawned into a love for the cottage look. We call it “beach-mod” around our house. Beach-mod is casual, playful, and bright with a clean, simple look to it. So I wanted to continue that look upstairs. I chose to do a white beadboard in the room for that cottage look, and I love the look of a taller beadboard-it makes the room look bigger and feels more substantial. My biggest trick for a fun look without spending a lot of money is in paint. I picked bright colors and created stripes-since most of the wall is white beadboard, the stripes aren’t so overwhelming. I also painted the “washroom” sign to add some personality. Another trick I used a lot to save money was to buy exterior lights for sconces. These sconces had a great cottage look to them, and were half the price of any other fixture I liked. We made an oversized custom mirror to make the space look bigger and it gave the vanity more of a built-in look.
Most of our house has the bright colored cottage look, so I wanted this room to blend with those colors and style, but wanted this room to look a bit different. I went for a look that was little more polished and elegant. I purposefully went very neutral on every finish. I think if you do it correctly, doing a completely neutral colored space can have just as dynamic an effect as a brightly colored space. I chose a lot of “natural” finishes…marble countertops, travertine tile with onyx tile accents. I think they add a lot of warmth and dimension to the space. To me, I always try to do one element that “pops” in the space. For this space, I think it is the chocolate brown and silver wallpaper. It is the first thing I see when I walk in, and usually makes me smile.

Q5. Where did you save/splurge?
We needed to find ways to save money while making the room look great. Ben and I own a remodeling company (Ben is a certified builder and I’m a designer), so we had a set of cabinets that we had salvaged from a client’s house. They were a nice, neutral maple…and they were free! So we used those cabinets for no charge. I really wanted a vessel bowl sink in the bathroom originally, but it was going to cost much more due to the extra plumbing that needed to be done. So I picked a much less expensive sink that is gave a bit of a look of a vessel sink. We also saved by doing a laminate top, and a less expensive, but very durable vinyl floor. I don’t know if I would call it a splurge, but I think doing the wainscotting on the walls gave it something a little more special, and gives it a bit of a custom look.
We saved in this room in a lot of ways! We went to the “big box” stores for the vanites, backsplash tile, and bath accessories. I found some great deals online for my light fixtures. We went back and forth if we should do a tile shower or acrylic unit. It would have cost about five times more for a tile shower, and honestly I didn’t think I would want the maintenance on it at this point in my life with little kids. However, we splurged with the shower fixtures. We hardly ever use a bathtub and use a shower multiple times a day, so we went all out with the showerheads. We put three showerheads in the space, and my husband is in love with our rainhead shower head, that we had to specially plumb into the ceiling. We love the body sprays, and our kids think they are a blast to play in! On good lesson I learned from this project, is that I will always do a shower head on a hose. It is used on a weekly basis to clean the shower, the dog, and the kiddos!

Q6. Any challenges? Surprises?
No, for once I can say it went very smoothly, no unpleasant surprises!
The floor was pretty unlevel in the space, so our poor carpenter had quite the time evening everything out, and making it look good (he did a great job!).

Q7. Anything you would do differently?
I think the only thing I would change would be the laminate top. I had to quickly choose a color, I ran over to our office to flip through samples and my first choice wasn’t available. So I had to make an even quicker second choice…it turned out okay, but I think I would have chosen a different color.
Yes! We had actually planned to do a really cool barn door that would slide over the toilet room for extra privacy. But here is a good reason why you should have everything chosen before construction starts! I hadn’t picked out my mirrors yet, and so we had to guess on how to space the light fixtures. But what I didn’t realize at the time was the light fixture location didn’t allow for the thickness of the barn door! We were so bummed! And…we still have the extra door sitting down in our basement…I’m sure we will eventually find a use for it!

Q8. Tips for other remodelers?
When you don’t have a big budget, you have to be creative! We didn’t have a lot of money to spend in this space, so we had to think of ways to 1. Use what we already had to re-incorporate it into the space  and 2. I always try to do something unique in each space, even if it doesn’t cost a lot of money. In this case it was the brightly colored stripes-it is something that is just a little bit different and reflects who we are as a family
I think sometimes remodelers and designers can get carried away trying to make everything the perfect way we would do it in our minds. However, some things just aren’t worth changing in terms of cost. Be creative and work with what you already have! Also, beauty is important, but we must always match finishes with the specific homeowner. In our case, we have two little kids so cleanability and durability was more important in my house than maybe some of my other clients.

Q9. How much of the work did you do yourselves?
We did a lot of the work ourselves…we did sub out the main things like plumbing and electrical. And we had one of our carpenters at our company help us with the finish details such as the beadboard. I designed and chose all of the finishes/fixtures.
We did our master bath after we had kids, so my husband refused to do any of the work this time! I designed everything and chose all of the fixtures, but we had our carpenters do all of the hard work this time! And my husband says it was worth every dollar!

Q10. Did you change the layout in any way?
Nope, we replaced all of the fixtures, but kept them in the exact same locations. We did that on purpose to maximize our budget and to save time.
We did change the layout a bit. We kept the shower and toilet in the same locations to save money. We took out the old vanity that spanned the room and made two smaller, more functional vanities. That left extra space to put in a very large linen closet. And that left an empty spot where the old linen closet was. We decided to add a small bench and do a onyx tile mosaic all the way to the ceiling. Its not a large spot, but very useful! And the light always makes those mosaic tiles sparkle in the morning, its so pretty!

Q11. If you had to describe your bath in a few words…
“Beach Mod” , Bright, fun, and perfect for the kiddos
Calming, elegant, and polished with a very functional backbone to it
Vanity: free cabinets from a client’s job, a clear maple
Countertops> Wilsonart laminate
Sink: Kohler Serif
Faucets: Kohler Fairfax in polished chrome (same in the shower)
Floor: vinyl (no clue on brand or color, sorry!)
Beadboard: ¼” MDF beadedboard
Walltreatment: Valspart paint “lily creek” on walls, “palm tree” is the stripes
Sconces: Lowes “Portfolio” in nickel
Window shades: Kmart (yes, I know!)
Mirror: custom, MDF frame
Hooks: Martha Stewart
Vanities: Lowes
Sinks: Lowes (sink and marble top came with the vanity)
Faucet : Delta
Mirrors: Lowes
Tile: backsplash: travertine and onyx tile from Home Depot, and ceramic tile on floor from Virginia Tile
Paint/wall color : Valspar “homestead resort sun wash”
Sconces: Lamps Plus
Shower enclosure: Sterling
Shower fixtures: Kohler
Baskets: Lowes
Wallpaper: Graham and Brown
fixture in toilet enclosure: Lamps Plus
Hooks: Lowes

Topics: Love Where You Live, "Beach Mod", Delta, Graham and Brown, Home Depot, Kim Master, Valspar, Virginia Tile, bathroom, Kohler, Kohler Fairfax, Lamps Plus, lowes, Martha Steward