The Secret Project…

I have been skulking around here for a day or three – working on a secret project.

Dr. Suess...

It all started when a neighbor brought a cat named Mo over for a visit. I was sitting on the floor of our entryway trying to get Mo to come over to me. He refused to come anywhere near me.

It was then that I noticed underneath the vanity.


Sorry about the blurry view, but you obviously get the picture – ugly and unfinished.

Generally, nobody is going to be sitting on the floor of our entryway – and likely wouldn’t care about the view anyway. However, the problem was that I was sitting on the floor in the entryway – and I saw it – and I care! I tried to unsee it. It lurked in my brain. I knew it was ugly under there. I couldn’t just unsee it.

I decided it needed to be finished – so I could sleep at night. I opted to not tell anyone I was doing this project because it did seem a bit crazy – even still now, in retrospect. Tad was also (and still has been) left in the dark about this project. Last night, he arrived home from work and asked what I did during the day. I quickly rattled off the list – dropped off the security door screens for repair, stopped at Ace Hardware for secret project materials, off to the kitchen store for a made in the USA cakelet beehive pan (more on that later), over to Olive and Finch for some lunch, and back home to finish up the secret project. Tad looked around for a few minutes to see if he could find the secret project. He could not.


Anyway, back to the project itself.

I figured a few hours, some left over materials, and it would be good to go. I was wrong. This covert operation turned into a mission.

I had some extra tile so I thought I would just slap some of that up on the back wall and call it done. Nope. It didn’t seem quite finished enough.

I decided it needed some Schluter trim along the bottom to match the rest of the room. Ok. It matched the rest of the room. It looked good, but then the top of the tile looked messy.

I looked around the materials scrap pile and found a small piece of wood trim for the top edge of the tile – even though I am, literally, the only person on the planet that knew about this project and the messy top edge of the tile.


It looked okay, but still not complete. I installed some cherry wood base along both sides.

By this time, I am all in.  So, a small cherry wood block detail was added to each corner.

Then, I decided the block needed a little hardware detail – in the form of some fancy finish screws. This is how I ended up at Ace Hardware for secret project materials yesterday.

As I explained my project to the Ace Hardware guy, I wondered if I may have gone one detail too far. He tried to steer me to the cheap (aka ugly) screws – because it was an under the vanity project – and I think he thought I was having a break with reality. I was like “Dude. I know I sound like I have lost my mind, but details matter to me. Please show me your best finish screws.” He shrugged his shoulders, directed me to the fancy finish screws, and said “I would use the chrome ones if I were you.”

Thanks Ace Dude. Chrome was definitely the way to go.



So, to wrap up The Secret Project…

The blurry before view from the entryway.


Now, the after view from the entryway. Subtle, secret, but definitely worth it.


And – just to followup on Mo, the cat, from across the street. We checked in on him while his family was out of town. This is what was going on at his house…


That is a turkey.


Maybe, even weirder than a stealth project under a vanity?

The Devil is Definitely in the Details – The Bathroom…

I will start off this update by saying that I can’t believe the last update was over 2 months ago, and I thought we were nearing the end of our project at that time. Well… Good news! We did complete the big stuff within the month. We passed our final inspection. We were able to move our furniture in 2-3 weeks ago. However, we are still working on a few details – like the bathroom mirror and some cabinet hardware. Then, there is the decorating to be done. Will it ever end?… :)

In the meantime, while we all wait for the mirror and cabinet hardware, I would like to point out that I am a complete freak. During the last update I ranted about the tub – and how it wasn’t framed correctly – and how it was going to be messed up – and how it was not fixable – and how the world was coming to an end because my tub was not going to be perfect…


Well, the world is mostly just as it was. Life as we know it didn’t end. The finished tub worked out just fine.

The mosaic tile is a beautiful transition between the grey, concrete aggregate looking floor and the large white subway type tile on the walls.

Mercury Mosaic tile tub transition...

The tile guy was excellent. He was able to install the tile as if the concrete board on the front of the tub was flat and even to start with.


I, then, added some caulking for a finished look.


I, also, mixed up some grey grout to fill in a few missed areas – because I am a freak. On a side note, I specifically requested the same grout that was used on the floor for the mosaic tile on the tub front and on the vanity wall. I felt like the grey would hide some of the imperfections of an uneven floor and uneven tub front.


I, also, mixed up some white grout to fill in a few uneven/missed areas on the wall – again, because I am a freak.

Funny thing about our shower/wall tile. I think we got the wrong tile. We were expecting a smooth, flat finish. We got a wavy finish.


The wavy finish seems more handmade and works perfectly with our actual handmade mosaic tile. When I first saw the shower/wall tile being installed, my initial reaction was “That tile is totally cool! I wonder who ended up with our tile because this tile is way better than what we picked out.” I didn’t actually say this out loud. I kept it to myself because I liked it. It was a good mistake. After installation, Tad mentioned that he didn’t remember our choice being wavy. Yep. I quietly nodded. I didn’t want to confess. Tad agreed that it looked pretty good. I eventually confessed that the tile was a mistake. We kept it. We like it. It worked out. I still kind of wonder about the people that got our tile. I hope they like our tile as much as we like theirs.

I caulked the tub to wall tile transition.


I caulked the floor to Schluter trim transition.

fullsizeoutput_1094On yet another side note, I asked for the Schluter trim transition between the wall tile and the floor tile for a cleaner look. It also helps disguise the aforementioned uneven floor. The tile guys thought I was crazy. I will admit that I was probably a bit crazy at the time, but I think it worked…


The toilet was installed. It helps to block the view of the crooked corner where the front of the tub meets the wall.


About the short toilet decision…  It works, both, visually and functionally. Tad was concerned about the view of the toilet from the guest room bed. That was one reason we went with white tile and a white toilet – so the toilet blends in with the wall – making it less obvious. We hadn’t really thought about getting a short tank toilet until we looked around the plumbing showroom. The seat itself is normal sized. The flushing power is comparable to other normal sized toilets. It just looks smaller. The scale is perfect for our tiny bathroom. We think it looks less obvious and less obtrusive from the guest room view. I like it. I might even like it better than a regular tank toilet.


Shower fixtures and the vanity faucet were installed without too much hoopla except, the vanity faucet isn’t straight. The plumber says it is because of the design of the faucet – there is just one screw, rather than two, on the bottom where it tightens down to the sink. Tad says it is because the top of the sink deck isn’t flat. Either way, it bugs me a little. Plus, I don’t love the design of the faucet. It seems kind of squatty. I think something a bit more streamlined would look better. I am waiting to see if it grows on me before replacing it.


The vanity sconces were installed without incident.


I caulked the sink to countertop transition. It was kind of messy.


I am not sure if it was because the stone was kind of fragile and difficult to cut onsite, or if they just didn’t do a good job, but it didn’t look great. Post caulk effort, it looks pretty decent – if I do say so myself.


I mentioned a little snafu with the vanity in the last update. There was an obvious miscommunication during the design phase. I remember showing the woodworker our other bathroom vanity and saying “This is what we want in the new bathroom – except, drawers under the sink rather than just open shelving.”


Anyway, we were expecting the legs to be flush with the side walls. What we got were legs that were set in a few inches from the side walls.


We stood around for a few minutes trying to problem solve. Our options were to live with it, to rebuild the whole thing, or to put in a filler piece. Neither of us wanted to live with it. Tad wanted the whole thing rebuilt. I was ok with a filler piece. We all agreed the filler piece was the most reasonable solution. Tad wanted a maple filler piece. I thought we were getting a cherry filler piece. We ended up with the maple filler piece.


I still think a cherry filler would have been better, but I am ok with the maple filler piece. The maple kind of lightens up the darker set back area.


The drawers for the vanity were adjusted to fit around the sink plumbing.


I caulked the transition between the vanity and filler pieces – and between the filler pieces and the walls. It all looks like it was designed that way…


The walls were repaired. Paint touch up was completed. The nail holes in the wood trim were all filled.


The shower rod and curtain were hung.


The towel hooks and hand towel bar were installed.





We decided we needed another hook closer to the shower. The final hook was installed a week later.


The toilet paper holder was source of concern for some of us (our neighbor and myself specifically.) We had many a discussion about the location of the toilet paper.


We had a few options, none of which were optimal in my mind. Tad suggested one of those stand alone things that you set on the floor in the corner. I vetoed that idea even though he mentioned it multiple times. The second option was to locate the holder on the back wall. We had that in our last bathroom. It was difficult to reach. You had to twist around almost completely while still sitting or attempt to reach underhanded and back as if you were receiving a baton in a relay race. It didn’t work well. We went with the third option which was to install the holder on the side wall. This seems obvious. However, in our case, it isn’t as straight forward as it sounds. Our only available side wall has a pocket door tucked into it, thus, rendering it unavailable for things that need anchors. Plus, Tad is a nervous Nelly about drilling into tile. We finally decided to install this thing on the wood trim around the door. No anchors needed, on a side wall, a comfortable reach, no need to drill tile, and no need worry about the interior pocket door since our wood trim adds about ¾” to the drywall thickness. Great, the location was decided. Though, we quickly discovered that the paper holder we had in hand wouldn’t work for the decided location. The design didn’t allow for both left and/or right handed post placement. Of course, our scenario was the wrong scenario. Alternate toilet paper holders were researched. A different paper holder was ordered and delivered. A trip to the hardware store was made to obtain the proper sized screws. The paper holder was installed. It looks great. It works great.


For now, we opted against a shower shelf. I think mostly because Tad is nervous about drilling into the tile – as mentioned above. As you may recall, we have been planning for shower shelves since the shower niche thing didn’t work out. We even put some blocking in the wall in anticipation of future shower shelves. I will probably continue to look for some possible shower shelves while Tad comes to terms with his fear of drilling into the tile wall. In the meantime, we have gone with a tub caddy that spans the width of the tub.


I like it because it isn’t visible from the entryway, as a shower caddy hanging from the shower head would be.


You would think that with this list, we would be finished with the room by now. After all, I have cleaned it at least 4-5 times since the plumbing fixtures have gone in.
We still need to install the mirror, install the vanity hardware, get some towels that aren’t ratty, and put up a piece of artwork or two.

Why are these things not done you might ask? Well, I completely agree. It seems pretty easy to get done.

I am feeling the need to explain. I don’t know why. You probably don’t care, but here are my excuses…

Tad and I are discussing the installation of the mirror. It is big (and heavy) at 4 feet by 19 inches. So, you can’t just stick it up with double sided mirror tape and call it good. The mirror company provided some J-clips for installation, which seemed pretty straightforward initially. However, upon actual implementation it doesn’t quite work in the tight space we have. It seems that you install the clips, then slide the mirror into the clips from the side. We don’t have room enough to do that. Now, we are talking about building a small frame around the mirror. The benefits are that the frame will provide the needed support for the mirror, and it will add a decorative detail that I was looking for anyway.


When they came to install the vanity drawers, I was ready with hardware in hand. The screws that came with the drawer pulls were wrong – too short. I have since made a trip to the hardware store and obtained the correct screws – I think. Now, I am waiting for the bedroom built in hardware to arrive. It has been ordered. Just waiting, waiting, waiting. Once that arrives, I can get the vanity and built in hardware installed at the same time.


The only excuse for the ratty towels and lack of artwork is that this all dragged on until Christmas time. Yep. I am blaming the lack of pretty in the bathroom on Christmas…


The Big Renovation – bathroom needs some trim, tile, and a toilet…

According to Tad’s schedule, this project should be wrapped up today, 9/26/16. As you can see, the wall tile should have been installed back on 9/7, the vanity set on 9/19, and the plumbing trimmed 9/26 (which is today) at the latest.


Spoiler alert! Our project is not complete. I suspect this is not a surprise to anyone.  We have never had a project wrap up on time. It seems to be our thing.

Anyway, this is where we are today. We still need wall tile and a toilet,


and a vanity,


and a sink and sconces.


Though before the sconces and after the sink, we need a countertop and vanity tile…


Then, there is wood trim…


As you can see, on Tad’s schedule, doors and trim should have gone in the week of 9/12 – the week after the wall tile was to be installed. There was a flaw in this schedule, we eventually realized. The window and door trim needs to go in before the wall tile – because – the wall tile will need to be carefully cut and installed around the window and door trim.


Sorry, tile guy – you are going to seriously hate this project. Though, it got a little easier when we changed our field tile choice. So, there is that.

We initially designed everything around this really cool field tile. We loved it.


The problem was that it had a 12 week (or longer) lead time.  That seemed like a really long lead time for white ceramic tile – back when we were actually on schedule. In reality, we could have ordered this and it would have already arrived and been sitting here waiting to be installed.  It is funny how things work out. Oh well. Because it was such a long lead time, I started thinking about other stuff. I was nervous about how the cuts in the corners and on the edges would be made if it happened to fall on the high points of the decorative pieces. Then, I wondered how it would work around the window. I concluded it would work only as an “accent” on the shower wall. I would, then, use the flat tiles everywhere else.  I was still good with that plan because I liked that there were 2 different sizes that could be installed in some sort of interesting pattern. Though, it felt like it needed a contrasting pattern or color on the floor or in the vanity area, and/or on the front of the tub. I started the search for some sort of interesting floor tile. I offered up several suggestions – mosaics, concrete patterned, decorative strip down the middle, a faux rug look.  Tad made a face at all those suggestions. He suggested alternate (non tile) options – some sort of synthetic woven covering they have at work, vinyl, epoxy, etc. I did not make a face at his suggestions, but I did turn them all down. Tad wanted something totally different than we had in other tiled areas of our house. I wanted something that was consistent with the other tiled areas. We were at an impasse.

I switched course. I started searching for accent tile. I couldn’t find anyone locally who makes tile. I was bummed. More on that later – because I also searched for other locally manufactured items without luck – how can we change that?

I found Mercury Mosaics in Minneapolis, Minnesota as you might recall from a previous post.


I was smitten. Tad was on board.  He liked that it was “Arts & Craftsy”. It was definitely our style. I decided it would go on the vanity wall and the front of the tub. The lead time was just a few weeks!!! What?!!! For beautifully crafted handmade tile in the United States?!!! I measured what I needed, opted for less blue/more green, chose four textures to incorporate, and ordered it up.

It has arrived. Oh my gosh!  It is amazing!


It is as amazing as described on their website…

Celadon (glossy, crackle) – Like a rare stone, each Celadon tile is different. Ranges are from light blue green to medium olive green with brown undertones.


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Old Copper (matte) – Just how old pieces of copper vary from piece to piece, this Old Copper glaze has a very high range of variation. So many beautiful hues in just one glaze.

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Light Blue (glossy) – A light blue closely related to periwinkle.


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Baby Blue (glossy, crackle) – Baby blue but definitely no limited to babies.


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Grey Spice (glossy, crackle) – A muted tan with speckles of spice.

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Fuji Brown (glossy) – Creamy color with great variation.

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Olive (matte) – Olive, brown to green, and every shade in between.

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Sun Yellow (glossy, crackle) – Yellow glaze on red clay body, creating a warm, dark yellow.

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The textures I chose..


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Once we decided on the handmade mosaic accent tile, I realized that the white field tile we had initially chosen was going to be too “Art Deco” in style. Also, the floor tile search was ongoing.  Sometime between deciding on the mosaic accent tile and realizing that the initial white tile wasn’t going to work, we discovered that the wood flooring company we hired also did tile.  We made an appointment with one of their designers to look at floor tile.  The designer suggested a few options. I liked one of the options. Tad didn’t like any of the options. He was still stuck on the “alternate” flooring option thing. No decisions were made. Though, we did find out that they also sell and install wall tile. A few days later, the mosaic tile samples arrived. In the meantime, Tad mentioned that he did like one of the wall tiles that he saw installed on the showroom wall.  I made a second appointment with the designer (by myself this time).  A quick decision was made. We scraped the initial white deco field tile. We decided on a larger format flat white field tile that is stock (and Tad likes). Tad deferred to my floor tile choice despite it being his least favorite choice.


The floor tile went in the day after the wood floor was finished.


I like it. It looks a bit like exposed aggregate concrete. I think it was the right choice. Tad seems ok with it. Though, he does keep mentioning vinyl flooring as if I am going to change my mind?  I am not going to change my mind. In case you were wondering.

Bathroom floor tile..

The switch plate covers came in. I did install one just to see how it looks.  It is texturey. It is antiqued/oil rubbed bronzey. It is good.


You may have noticed that the bathroom has also been painted.  It is a weird color depending on the time of day, which wall you are looking at, and from which room you are looking in from.  It was supposed to be a really light, neutral, almost white, but not too white. I didn’t want it to clash (or match) with the above mention white field tile.  I was going for a color that was complementary to the white field tile. I chose Benjamin Moore, HC-174 Lancaster Whitewash.  The paint sample was kind of boring, but that was what I was going for. Immediately, I knew that I got it wrong.

From the gray green guest room, it looks yellow.


From the yellow entryway, it looks green.


From inside the tiny room it is kind of beige grey.


What the heck?  Do any of the above pictures look like the paint sample?  I say “No”.


Tad convinced me to just leave it for now and see how it looks after everything goes in.  I was easily convinced. I was sick of painting and was not interested in one more day of painting at that point. Lancaster Whitewash it is for now.

Ok. Back to wood trim. Tad talked to a number of trim guys.  Some were really general contractors that would do trim as a side thing. They didn’t seem all that interested in just trim, especially since our trim is a more involved than the production stuff they are used to. A number of other guys – that do just trim – seemed interested but had a full schedule. One was booked out into 2017. Our contractor didn’t have any resources. Finally, the cabinet guys who are making the vanity gave us a reference. We got lucky. One of their jobs got delayed so they will be able to fit us in. They are scheduled to start this week! And, they seem to like our kind of trim – natural/non painted custom designed. Yay!


Oh so close, yet so far.

All dependent on trim…