The Tub Lady

The other day I got a text from my brother which contained a screenshot of a text he had recently received from a friend of his, asking him to ask me to write a Fawn Log post. Never before has a text screenshot so delighted me!


This post is for Charlie’s friend Anna. (Sorry it’s about our bathroom, Anna).

Back in the heady months after we bought the house but had still not moved in, I wrote several posts about our bathroom progress. You can refresh your memory here, here, and here.

To recap, this room was a disaster. The wallpaper was water damaged and falling off the walls, the wood floor was rotting through in several places, and the entire room just felt super dirty and disgusting. Oh, and also the entire plumbing system for the house was in terrible shape and turning on the water main caused the bathroom sink to leak copious amounts of water into a handy bucket that the former owner had left behind.

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note red bucket in lower right

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Our first step was getting all the plumbing for the entire house replaced. This seems like a really big deal, doesn’t it? Fortunately this is one of those home renovation things that sounds scarier than it was. If I’m remembering right, it took the plumber just a day, maybe two. I don’t remember the exact cost but I know it was less than $1,000. (Tony wants me to say that he thinks it was closer to $1,500.) Now our plumbing works great! And if we ever sell this place, we’ll put on the listing, “ALL NEW PLUMBING” and buyers will be lining up around the block, right?

While he was here, we also had the plumber run a line for the shower up the wall of the bathroom, so that we wouldn’t need to use a rickety free-standing shower attachment with our clawfoot tub. I talked about how we repaired the wall after that plumbing job here.

Because the wood floor was in such crummy shape here in the bathroom, we decided to tile over it. We chose hexagonal tile because it could have been used at the time period when this house was built. Also we love how it looks.  We priced a bunch of hex tile and found American Olean at Lowe’s to be the cheapest. It was still a splurge at roughly $300 for the room, but as a permanent fixture in the bathroom, it seemed like a worthwhile expense. (One note: we had to special order this tile, and Lowe’s didn’t have any samples for us to look at. The tile color is called “Ice White” which scared us. Ice White sounds like it would be a very cool blue-ish white, right? When I think of hex tile at old drugstores, I don’t think of blue-ish white at all. We eventually ended up ordering it anyway despite our misgivings about the name. It was totally perfect when it arrived, exactly how I picture old hex tile: true white with just a hint of warmth. If you’re reading this, American Olean, I would highly recommend changing your tile name to Drugstore White or Classic White or any name that does not evoke the icy tundra.)

The wall mount sink was pretty amazing, and there’s a part of me that still regrets not trying to save it. The porcelain had chipped in many areas and it leaked profusely. Also, it was an old style sink with hot and cold handles, which seemed like something that would be fun and whimsical in a bathroom we didn’t plan to use every day, but a real pain in the ass otherwise. Furthermore, since it was a wall-mount, there was no storage underneath. For a small bathroom, in a small house, this seemed almost criminal. We decided to donate it to Home Restore, and I sincerely hope that someone with a little-used but impeccably decorated half bathroom is now its proud owner

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To replace it, we got this sink and cabinet from Ikea:

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I liked the bead board look on the cabinet door a lot, because I think it has a slight vintage feel. We enhanced that by replacing the original cabinet knob with a bigger wooden knob that we took off an old dresser. I really like this cabinet.

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I’m also super proud of the fact that I assembled it and mounted it to the wall by myself. That was actually the first time I ever found a wall stud. What business did I have buying an inhabitable house, having never once found a wall stud on my own? None at all, I tell you!

We didn’t use the feet because they’re not necessary and we didn’t like how they looked. Also, there’s something about a floating cabinet with vintage elements that seems especially cool to me.

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The tub is Tony’s masterpiece. It was his idea to paint the outside black, which I thought was crazy at first. But he was so right. Look at it! Look at it! It is probably my favorite part of the whole house, and maybe also my life. I love baths and fancy bath salts now!

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The bathtub was in great shape for being over 100 years old. It’s made of cast iron and is incredibly heavy (Tony and I moved it into the bathroom together after we tiled and I have no idea how we both avoided hernias). It did have a chip in the porcelain that was probably 2.5″ in diameter. We could have used it with the chip, but it wouldn’t have been good for the cast iron over the long term. We found a guy here in town who makes tub repairs and he patched the spot for us for around $100. It’s not a permanent fix– it will likely need to be repaired again in 5-10 years– but we’re happy to have extended the life of this amazing tub.

The strangest part of the whole deal was that the name of the repair guy’s business is Tub Lady. After booking an appointment with Tub Lady, we were surprised when a middle-aged man dressed according to expected gender norms arrived at our door. I guess he started the business with his wife and she answers the phones, but he does all of the repair work and is the public face of the business. If Tony and I ever start a home renovation business, I will make sure that we name it Home Renovation Lady. I never would have realized that was an option until our encounter with Tub Lady!

We got our shower head and arm off Amazon. Again, I like that they have a more modern feel that I hope mixes in an interesting way with the historical elements of the bathroom.

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When we take a shower, we pull the curtain all the way around so that our tub looks like this:

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Moving on to the shelves above the toilet.

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Kate gave us one of those cute bathroom baskets for our wedding (thanks Kate!) and we ended up liking it so much we bought a second one. They’re from Target, but I don’t see them on the website anymore, bummer. They’ve been a super useful way to add a bit more storage to the bathroom.

I’ll admit that we went a little crazy on the towel rack and toilet paper holder. We used these curtain rods from Ikea throughout the house, and we thought they would be cool to tweak for towel and toilet paper use:

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The crazy part came when someone (Tony) got a little obsessive (Tony) and decided that the little strip of white plastic that holds the short part of the rod to the wall was unsightly (Tony). We fixed this by actually removing part of the plaster wall, affixing the plastic piece to the lath behind the plaster, and then repairing the wall around it. This makes it look like the towel rack and toilet paper holder are just coming straight out of the wall. I can admit now that this is cool and looks great (it may or may not have have taken me several months of patient reflection to reach this level of maturity about this issue).

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Grace and Phil gave us that photograph of the now-demolished Cat & Fiddle a long time ago. Thanks Grace and Phil!

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Look ma, no plastic!

For the window, Tony got this pebbled glass cut to the right size and then we installed it. We don’t need curtains for the top of the window (it’s too tall for anyone outside to see anything exciting through there) but sometimes I think we should install some. What do you think?

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As I’ve bragged about on this blog before, this amazing ceiling light fixture came with the house.



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I don’t think it’s original to the house, but it is very old. Based on my google image searching of other light fixture with crystal like that, I would guess that it’s from the 1920’s.

We got this cool light fixture above the mirror at a creepy junk shop in town. I think it matches really well with the other fixture.

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It was $5! It’s from the 1930’s. We want to get Edison bulbs for it someday, but we haven’t yet.

In other things still left to do: the mirror is just a cheap generic one from Ikea. We want to find a cool vintage one, but vintage mirrors are expensive and hard to come by. We’re keeping our eye out.

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We also need to install the last bit of trim around the perimeter of the room. Here’s what our trim looks like in other finished rooms:

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Note that teeny piece around the bottom.

Adding this in the bathroom will hide some of our sloppy tile work around the edges of the room.

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We also need to finish stripping our bathroom door.

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In the middle

This door is so cool and old, and we’d love to be able to strip it down to the original wood and then stain and polyurethane it. You can see how amazing the original wood looks on the bottom half. Can you imagine how cool that would look if stained a medium dark tone? The problem is twofold: one, stripping paint is incredibly tedious and two, guests expect a bathroom door when they come over to our house (so high maintenance!). We’ve taken this door off and put it back on so many times. We’re either going to finish stripping it soon or we’re going to give up and repaint the whole thing.

I’m impressed that I’ve kept this post to just over 1,800 words, because I really could talk about our bathroom forever. I never thought I’d get to live in a house with a bathroom this cool, and it’s still amazing to me that we basically made it into what it is by ourselves.

I’ll leave you with one last before and after. Love you, bathroom! Love you, Anna!

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About Emma

It sure is hard to type with these hooves!
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5 Responses to The Tub Lady

  1. Mark says:

    The bathroom is wonderful, as a recent patron, I give it a big relaxing thumbs up. I did notice the upper window, I like it as is but get the reason for thinking it might need to be translucent. My suggestion: give the patron the choice by adding some sort of curtain? Also, the curtain may be there and I just didn’t notice it…

    I love the door as is. You guys did such a good job on the bathroom, making it simple, clean, and comfortable–the clean-but-chaotic door is framed well in contrast. I love it because it is a visual manifestation of your hard work, plus it looks like a painting, which it kind-of is.

    • Emma Emma says:

      I will take your curtain vote into consideration. I agree that we probably should add one.

      The door is totally like a reverse painting! I suspect that we will leave it as is for at least a while, since we’ve got a bunch more pressing stuff on our to do list. So don’t worry, you will be able to see it again the next time you visit (and maybe the time after that, and the time after that, etc).

  2. Phil says:

    The after pics look like they are straight out of a bombass European design magazine. A+++ Also, we took turns watching Davey so we could read a new FawnLog post, so we agree with Anna.

  3. Anna says:

    This post has taught me three major lessons: 1) Nagging works! That is the most important — pester Charlie until you get what you want. 2) You are extremely impressive! If I ever buy I house, I will hire Home Renovation Lady in a heartbeat. That tile (and whole bathroom) looks really awesome. And 3) always type correctly when texting CB, because you never know when it is going to get published on the interwebs.

    • Emma Emma says:

      Thank Phil!

      Sorry about the typo, Anna! If I was good at photoshop I would have stuck a little “e” in there. I just assumed you were so desperate to get a new fawnlog that you disregarded it in favor of quickly getting your point across, which I appreciated very much. Thank you for your interest in Home Renovation Lady!

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