...because home doesn't happen overnight.
02.06.15 / The Main Bathroom


main bathroom before 1

The main bathroom is located in a small hallway just off the open kitchen-living room. The original fixtures were outdated and in disrepair. There was no overhead lighting or ventilation fan. The one thing it had going for it was a window which let in a good amount of natural light. Before renovations started, we had planned on living with the bathroom as-is for a while. But when we demo’d the other (kitchen) side of the wall on the left, we discovered black mold. A few of the shower tiles were cracked, allowing water to seep into the wall.

We ended up gutting the entire room, updating the electrical, installing ventilation to the outside, replacing the window, adding foam insulation to the exterior wall & a can light above the shower / tub area. We lived with the unfinished, non-functional bathroom for over two years while all five of us shared the master bathroom. It was such an eyesore and we hated that we weren’t using usable space. We finished the bathroom at the end of 2014 after working on it off and on for almost a year. It mainly serves as the kid / guest bathroom.

main bathroom after 1

main bathroom after 2

To keep costs down, we worked with the original layout and brought in new materials and fixtures. We chose elongated subway tile for the walls. It reaches to the ceiling at the shower and is 36″ high around the rest of the room. It’s the same tile we used for the kitchen backsplash but here we paired it with white grout. I didn’t think the small bathroom (it’s ~5′ x 7′) could handle the busyness of contrasting grout lines. At the last minute, I added a black pencil liner to the design to tie in to the floor which is a tumbled travertine hexagon. I chose a light gray grout for the floor. The black travertine and dirt-colored grout are super kid-friendly.

main bathroom after 3

In the early stages of planning, I got stuck on the idea of a clawfoot tub resting on a wood base. We found a 4½’ vintage clawfoot tub on craigslist. The interior was in good condition but two of the feet had broken off and the exterior needed a fresh coat of paint. We DIYed two wood saddles from a reclaimed beam to support the tub and painted the exterior black. The chrome plumbing fixtures are new but have a vintage look. We went through two matching shower heads but each of them leaked so, for now, we’re living with an inexpensive one that I picked up at Lowe’s. It doesn’t pivot and we wish it did.

main bathroom after 5

main bathroom after 6

I hung a white fabric shower curtain liner on either side of the ceiling support (two liners total) to enclose the shower when necessary. The liners hang outside the tub for baths and inside the tub for showers. On the side visible from the door, I hung a single linen curtain in front of the liner. I love the natural texture it adds to the space. The curtains hang from rolling rings.

main bathroom after 7

We had planned on using the original toilet but it was accidentally broken during renovations. Oops. Steve had always wanted a sleek, modern toilet (#mandreams) and this seemed like the perfect excuse to try one. He chose a dual flush model with clean lines. The kids have a ball showing off the toilet and its buttons to guests.

The angle of the camera stretches the appearance. In real life, the toilet takes up significantly less floor space than the toilet in the master bathroom due to: 1) the small tank and 2) the ability to install it closer to the wall. The exterior is much easier to clean, too, but it takes a little elbow grease to clean the corners of the bowl (do bowls have corners?) inside. And it isn’t exactly easy to plunge. TMI? It’s worth noting that I don’t know what we’ll do if the seat or lid needs replaced. Special order from the manufacturer?

main bathroom after 8

I snuck in a seagrass trash bin between the tub and toilet. FYI – For bathrooms, I use a textured bin and place a smaller plastic trash can, lined with a plastic bag, inside. I removed the plastic can + bag for this shot because I didn’t think anyone would want to see our bathroom trash. I couldn’t find a black register cover so I bought an oil-rubbed bronze one and spray painted it matte black to blend in with the floor.

main bathroom after 9

We installed a simple metal shelf above the toilet. It’s a great spot for artwork, flowers and jewelry catchalls. (The vase is actually a bathroom tumbler.) The shelf isn’t the highest quality but I like the way the metal brackets pick up on the pencil liner. I painted the heads of the screws black so they would be less conspicuous.

main bathroom after 11

To keep things light visually, we chose an open vanity that stands up off the floor. I stash trash bags and a microfiber cloth in the bottom drawer. A woven basket holds toilet paper and a cup for rinsing the kids at bathtime. We couldn’t bear to drill into the vanity or wall tile to hang a toilet paper holder.

main bathroom after 13

The door to the bathroom opens up into the room in front of the vanity. We needed a stool for our toddler to reach the sink but I didn’t want it to impede the opening / closing of the door. I found a small folding stool at HomeGoods that fit the bill. It isn’t much to look at but, thankfully, it folds up and slides in next to the vanity so we don’t have to look at it all the time.

main bathroom after 12

My only issue with the vanity is that the solid surface top is creamier than the bright white subway tile. I think it’s probably one of those things that no one else really notices but it stands out to me. The faucet matches the tub fixture. I adore the labeled porcelain handles.

We chose a simple, recessed mirror / medicine cabinet for the sink area. It has a narrow stainless steel frame. This is where the microfiber cloth in the vanity drawer comes in handy. I use it for quick once-overs to remove the kids’ fingerprints from the mirror.

main bathroom after 14

The mirrored door opens to reveal hidden storage. The shelves are adjustable. I used several small organizers to corral the kids’ toiletries.

main bathroom after 15

On the opposite side of the room, we installed a trio of wall hooks. There’s one hook for each kid. I found peshtemal towels that mimic the linen shower curtain.

main bathroom after 16

This stool was the missing piece of the bathroom reno puzzle! It finally arrived last week. Not only is it pretty cute, it’s functional too. It saves my back when I bathe the younger kids. And, I haven’t tried it yet, but I think it will be the perfect spot for a lit candle and a glass of wine when I give the tub a spin myself.

main bathroom after 18

I bought a vintage rug to add some color and pattern to the room. The low profile allows the door to swing open without getting hung up on the rug.

And that’s it! Since the bathroom is near the main living space, I wanted it to feel like a continuation of the great room. I repeated certain elements (subway tile, black & white contrast, rich wood tones, woven textures, vintage rug, etc.) for a cohesive look. The room really feels like a part of the house – not a separate, themed kids’ bathroom. Incorporating larger pieces (tub, vanity) that stand up off the floor visually lightens the tiny room and makes cleaning a breeze.

main bathroom after 19

main bathroom after 23

main bathroom after 24

main bathroom after 22

main bathroom after 20

main bathroom after 21

main bathroom after 25

After sharing one bathroom for the last 2+ years, we feel completely spoiled now that we have TWO functioning bathrooms. No one is waiting for a turn. Everyone has their own towel hook. We’re able to give the two younger kids a bath while our oldest takes a shower in our bathroom to speed up the bathtime routine. Guests no longer have to walk through our bedroom to use the bathroom and they have their own shower, too. It’s nice having a bathroom so close to the main living space. You know, because walking down the hallway, through the master bedroom and into the master bath is just too much work. Like I said, spoiled. But our favorite thing is that we’re finally using previously wasted space. I don’t know how many times I apologized to guests about the state of the main bathroom during its gutted life.

We have two bathrooms. Life is good :)

Resources of note:

2″ x 12″ subway tile – imperial bianco gloss white from The Tile Shop*
black pencil liner – noir honed somerset from The Tile Shop*
wall grout – standard white unsanded from The Tile Shop*
floor tile – noir hex from The Tile Shop*
floor grout – whisper grey sanded from The Tile Shop*
wall paint – Ace Paints lost spur mixed in Clark + Kensington paint + primer in one
trim paint – Benjamin Moore super white
tub – vintage, craigslist
tub base – DIY
tub exterior paint – Sherwin Williams enamel latex color-matched to Benjamin Moore black jack
plumbing fixtures – Randolph Morris from Vintage Tub & Bath
fabric shower curtain liners – Wayfair
linen shower curtain – Restoration Hardware
shower curtain rings – Amazon
toilet – Fresca salerno dual flush square toilet from TradeWinds Imports
trash bin – Target
floor register cover – Lowe’s, spray painted matte black
wall shelf – Urban Outfitters
amber vase – Target (it’s actually a bathroom tumbler!)
dried craspedia – FayeMarie etsy shop
art print – Printwork etsy shop
frame – Amazon
vanity – Home Depot, discontinued
basket – HomeGoods
folding stool – HomeGoods
towel ring – Lowe’s, spray painted matte black
hand towel, washcloth – HomeGoods
recessed mirror / medicine cabinet – Wayfair*
wall sconce – Barn Light Electric Co.
rug – vintage from etsy
dip-dyed stool – Serena and Lily
wall hooks – Amazon
peshtemal towels – Amazon

*Denotes items from brands that kindly sponsored this project. We selected and installed the products on our own.

Interested in seeing how this bathroom came to be? More bathroom-related links…
























For ease, you can access this bathroom tour under the “see my house” tab in the sidebar along with a general house tour and individual room tours. Thanks for reading!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

It’s official. We have a deadline for the main bathroom. My sister is coming to stay with us in about a month and it would be really nice to have two fully functioning bathrooms by then…if not sooner. Vanity installation is in full swing and I’m already thinking about fun little things like a mirror, shower curtain, wall hooks and towels. I’ve been looking at a lot of pictures of bathrooms online lately and something struck me.

modern bathroom

Have you ever wondered where the ventilation fan is in minimal bathrooms like this one? These are the menial things I waste my time thinking about. We have a recessed light over the shower / tub area and a separate box fan in each of our bathrooms. They’re definitely an improvement compared to what was there before. (Nothing.) But when I take pictures of the bathrooms I notice the fans. Such buggy lil’ eyesores.

Our friends are remodeling their master bathroom and they mentioned a bathroom fan disguised as a recessed light. Say what?! Apparently, Steve and I have been living under a rock. Had we known about this clever fan a couple of years ago we definitely would have incorporated it in the bathroom renovations. I’m putting it on the “next house” list. Ha!

Did you know about the sneaky fan / light thing? Why didn’t you tell me?! I did some checking and it looks like there’s an LED version available now, too. Gah!

image: Marmol Radziner

tub cradle base 1

A few things before I get into the nitty gritty details of the tub cradle base: 1) Our family vacation was wonderful! I’ll share more soon. 2) No pretty pictures in this post. These images were taken on the fly with our phones. Sometimes (a lot of times) convenience wins. 3) This is not a DIY tutorial. This is just us sharing what we did. We aren’t woodworkers. Feel free to improve upon our methods or forgo them all together. Good? M’kay.

When we started this tub escapade over two years ago (!), we were inspired by a similar cradle base created by none other than Jessica Helgerson and her handy husband. At the time, I shot Jessica an email asking about their tub base. I didn’t anticipate an answer but figured it couldn’t hurt to ask. I was so surprised when she replied! Turns out, Jessica’s husband scribed two wooden cradles out of Douglas fir to fit the contour of the tub’s bottom. The weight of the tub was enough to hold the setup in place. Adhesive wasn’t necessary.

Sounds easy enough, right? Sorta.


First, we had to find some wood. But before that, we had to figure out how big of a piece of wood we needed. Using the height of the original claw feet as a guide and browsing images of other cradle bases online, we decided on two scribed bases measuring 25″L x 4¾”W x 10″H. That meant we needed a sizable chunk of wood measuring at least 10″ thick. We searched all over and even considered driving a few hours north to scope out salvaged beams. But in the end, we found an inexpensive 10″ x 10″ x 8′ beam right under our noses at Dayton Reclamation and Restoration LLC. It set us back $40. Done.


We had hoped to take the beam to a sawmill or woodworker to have it cut to size (into two smaller blocks). But after some difficulty locating a place / person to do the job (at one point, we were advised to call “a woodcutting man in the woods” – lumberjack? – but he never answered his phone) at a location and / or time that was convenient for us, Steve decided to go for it himself.

He discovered that the wood nearest the core of beam had less splits, and we wanted the sides of the bases to be finished (as opposed to rough hewn) so he focused on cutting out the innermost wood from the beam. (He didn’t cut the two blocks out side-by-side but, rather, end-to-end from the beam.) Using a circular saw set on the deepest setting, he cut a block of wood to length from the beam. He ran the circular saw around the perimeter of the beam then used a sawzall to cut it free. He repeated this for a second block.


Once the two blocks were cut, we set the tub upside down on 2×4’s in the garage. We put the original claw feet in place (but didn’t attach them…seen above in the background) then shimmed and leveled the tub so that it was as if the tub was sitting upright and level on the floor, only upside down. Have I lost you yet? Basically, we were taking into account the fact that the tub slopes toward the drain – a good thing.


With the tub still upside down and the original claw feet in position (but not affixed to the tub), Steve carefully set a level across the two front feet. The level was lined with a strip of masking tape marked at the center point between the two feet and marked at 1″ increments out from the center. Using a tape measure, he measured the distance from the level to the contoured bottom of the tub at each 1″ mark and noted the measurements on the masking tape. Then he was able to transfer the curve onto a piece of foam board. He repeated the same process for the back legs. (The contour of the tub changes from the drain end to the non-drain end so we had to make two different templates.)

cradle base template

Knowing the overall desired height (10″) and length (25″) of the cradles, Steve cut out templates from the foam board. We guesstimated a roughly 2″ depth for the highest part of the base that would hug the tub. If you haven’t noticed by now, there was a lot of guessing and eyeballing involved in this project.


Using the custom foam board templates, Steve traced the curve onto the two wood blocks. (If you look closely you can see a pencil line on the wood in the image shown above.) He traced the curve onto both sides of the respective blocks to guide him during the cutting process. He made straight cuts down to the pencil line with a reciprocating saw, leaving an inch or so between cuts and keeping an eye on both sides of the block to make sure he wasn’t cutting one side deeper than the other.


Working in sections, he tapped out the cut slivers with a hammer.


Eventually, the cradle started to take shape. With the contour roughly cut, he used a Lancelot blade on an angle grinder to further carve out the cradle. Then he went back in with a flap disc to smooth out the curve. He repeated the same process on the second block.

After that there was a lot of setting the cradles on the upside down tub in the garage and making adjustments. We used a wood bit to cut notches in the cradles for the claw foot mounts to rest in, recessed. (We decided early on to place the cradles in the same positions as the claw feet for proper support and balance.) This step of the project involved a lot of trial and error and was extremely tedious. But it was necessary for a snug fit.


The cradles were sanded with an orbital sander a total of SIX TIMES! We worked our way from 80 to 320 grit sandpaper for a smooth-as-a-baby’s-butt finish. We conditioned the cradles with Minwax pre-stain wood conditioner then applied two coats of Minwax special walnut stain and two coats of Waterlox to protect the wood from future splashes.

FYI – The state of our garage is an embarrassment so don’t look too closely! The walls are *mostly* organized but the floor is cluttered with all the components of the main bath renovation and the entire space is dirty. We’ve had an entire bathroom (tub, toilet, vanity, lighting, etc.) sitting in our garage for over two years! Maybe after the bathroom is finished, we’ll actually park a car in here. FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER.


As for the tub exterior, I used Sherwin Williams products. (I had tested the tub for lead a few months prior and the results were negative.) We had good luck with their enamel latex when we painted the builder kitchen cabinets in our previous house so I decided to use it for the tub, too. The tub’s exterior had been stripped and sanded before we bought it via craigslist. Yay for someone else doing the prep work for me! I wiped it down then applied one coat of Sherwin Williams all surface enamel oil base primer tinted to a medium gray. I had anticipated needing two coats but the coverage was superb. I finished up with two coats of Sherwin Williams all surface enamel acrylic latex in satin, color-matched to Benjamin Moore black jack. The sleek, contrasting exterior was exactly what we had envisioned!

tub cradle base

We were anxious to bring the new old tub into the house but completely forgot how long it takes for enamel paint to cure. We left the cradles and tub out in the garage for another 1-2 weeks to cure and off-gas. After a test run of placing the tub on the cradles in the garage, Steve had one of his *strong* buddies help him carry the tub in through the front door to the bathroom. The tub weighs 250-300lbs! We were leery of rolling that much weight on a furniture dolly across our wood floors. It would have been easier with a third pair of ripped arms but there wasn’t any room in the hallway / bathroom for another person.

We had built up “the moving of the tub” so much but, in reality, it was relatively anticlimactic. It fit through the bathroom doorway with the door off the hinges (whew!) and in minutes the tub was in place resting on the cradles. It was level, too! Because of the hex floor tiling fiasco, we were sure we’d need to shim or readjust things but we didn’t. Rarely are things easier than we expect so it was a nice surprise. The exterior suffered one small scratch but it only penetrated the top layers of paint – not the primer.

tub cradle base 1

It probably wasn’t necessary but we did add a bead of silicone to secure the cradles. Due to the weight of the tub and a snug fit, the tub doesn’t wobble or tip at all. We’ve jumped up and down in the tub and tried to rock it. It’s solid! We’re also really happy with the tub interior. It’s in great shape for a vintage tub. We’re guessing it was reglazed at some point.

All in all, we spent $270 on Project Declawed Tub (excluding fixtures and plumbing): $200 for the tub, $40 for the beam, $30 for the Lancelot disc. The staining and sealing materials were leftover from previous projects. For the primer and paint, I used a Sherwin Williams gift card I had won two years ago in Apartment Therapy’s Room for Color contest.

In a perfect world, the cradles would be spaced more evenly. I think the one on the left would look better if it was moved further to the left. But that’s where the drain is so it’s not an option. It’s worth noting that if you desire a completely symmetrical setup, a freestanding tub with a center drain is a must. But we weren’t willing to move plumbing lines in the bathroom. In fact, the goal was to work with the original layout. I also think the cradles would look better if they were ~2″ shorter. However, I’m not sure they would function as well. We kept the distance between the floor and the bottom of the tub the same as it was with the original claw feet. At 2″ shorter, the tub might have felt too low? Maybe not. We needed the clearance for the drain line. Not to mention, a lower tub would have put more strain on the already strained water supply lines. Ah! So many little things to think about.

Overall, we’re extremely happy with how the tub turned out. Especially since it was a unique concept. We’ve blamed this bathroom’s non-existence on time, kids, blah, blah, blah, but honestly there was some fear involved, too. How’s this all going to work?! We like straying from the norm and sometimes it’s scary but it’s always worth it. We either love what we end up with or learn something new or, if we’re lucky, both.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking