Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Now You See It ... Now It's a Bathroom ?

Being socially upwardly mobile and influential was pretty darned important to some Victorian era folks. Anyone with any level of aspiration to success needed to have a full tool belt for those sticky society events and stuffy silver-drenched dinners. The family who built my home must have been "those kind of people." Off the kitchen was a fairly large butlers pantry - about 12 x 5 - with shelves that stretched floor to ceiling across at least 2 walls. The broad boards of those shelves must have groaned under the weight of stacks of dinner plates, luncheon plates, salad plates, soup plates, tea cups, coffee cups, after-dinner cups, saucers of various sizes, sherbets, crystal in 25 different shapes for at least 24 people, and silver. Silver dinner forks, place spoons, salad forks, oyster forks, after-dinner spoons, fruit knives and matching tiny fruit forks, grapefruit spoons, ice cream spoons (with tiny teeth to stab those cold-frozen chunks), seafood forks, soup and bullion spoons, tea spoons, soup ladles, meat forks, asparagus servers, pancake servers ... you get the picture.

And the dining room, where the art of the dinner took place, was, and still is, substantial without being cavernous: The perfect canvas to lay out this implements and soar skyward into high-society.

In about 1947, though, while the prosperous Hack family lived in the house, the earnest butlers pantry was demolished and a full bathroom was installed into the space. Plastic tile was chosen to grace the walls and a cinderella tub was dropped into a space that was made smaller with the addition of a wall, which also hid the vent stack for the plumbing (and preserved some superb evidence of the room's original purpose.)

This Autumn we decided to undo the band-aid fixes that this bathroom had seen over the past 60 years and install something more period appropriate to the house, albeit, still not a butlers pantry.

What follows is a pictorial story about making the bathroom once again sound and safe, as well as pleasing and more period correct. Sure, we could have gone with the 40's style, since that is correct for when the room became a bath, but we did that in the second floor and we really wanted something that looked and felt older, more in keeping with the formal rooms where guests will gather for some new century social ladder climbing.

(notes: thanks to Repko Renovations for the excellent tub surround build. This is part 1 of a few - You'll know when it ends, ha ha)

Here's the best before photo. Notice that the tile surround above the tub is white ceramic. Not sure when this was changed from the plastic or if it always was ceramic. It's a mess, though, with cracks, missing grout, and a strange indent that surrounds the faucet. The burgundy wallpaper ends where a drop ceiling hung. We gained a foot and a half of height by taking that thing out and repairing the ceiling.

With the old plaster removed you can see the structure of the house's exterior walls. The house is built of solid brick with stone veneer. In some places on exterior walls there is lath and plaster, while in others the plaster is placed directly onto the brick, as you can see here. The tan colored square pattern is adhesive residue from the plastic tiles. You'll see it more thought these photos.

Behind the "new wall" which extends into the room a foot, you can see untouched yellow oil paint from the original pantry. If you look carefully, the dark outlines of the lower cabinets, still with the wall paper that lined the interiors (the grid like pattern is a cream and light blue wallpaper). You can even see on the edge of the lower cabinet the ogee moldings that were placed under the counter lip. Above are plain areas where the pantry shelves were hung.

This is the edge of the shelving unit that sat on the cabinet, shown above. The fancy molding under the top of the shelves (look for my purple outline to help you see the shape better) is visible. There were 4 shelves from counter to ceiling that could be seen (but didn't make it into this photo).

New cement board in place over the bricks and lath.  It was about this time when I really really really thought hard about making this room, once again, a pantry ... really hard ...

Red Guard was added to prevent water egress from the tub area. Red Guard is a liquid vinyl that can be painted onto a surface and dries to create a waterproof membrane. It also consolidates minor cracks in old plaster. The back wall of classic subway tiles from tub to ceiling went up really fast. 

On the right side there are 3 horizontal, radiating dark lines - those are shadows of the original shelves. they stretched about 12 feet along that wall, and about 5 feet across the back wall - tons of shelves.

Ahh h h h ....  Tub surround in place and grouted. New shower faucet hung and water tight (thanks John). New ceiling visible near the top.

Close up - the whole thing cleaned up pretty well.

Requisite fancy artsy-shmartsy blog photo

We opted to use an exposed shower pipe, not just because it looks very cool and period, but because I wanted as few potential plumbing problems hidden behind the wall as possible. While looking for new plumbing fixtures, I accidentally became obsessed with Signature Hardware, located in Cincinnati, where I bought all of the new plumbing fixtures for this bath.

I oil-primed the old plaster so that the Anaglypta wall covering were using will adhere better, and give a little extra protection to the walls. primed the ceiling twice, sanded between and one final sanding. this is the first coat of high-gloss paint. The color is Farrow & Ball Setting Plaster. It is, by far, the most perfect ceiling color ever: a dusky, fleshy, dull pink that makes everything look better. On a ceiling it dissolves away and makes the ceiling feel taller, vaporous, infinite. I can't recommend it enough. There will be beaded board on the lower part of the walls. All will be painted old white and a gentle warm nickel color.