Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Tick Up the Bathroom Count to... 1.5!

This blog is about the design and finishes of our new ½ bath. Later Dean will regale you with construction stories.

Our new half bath! (Thanks to my sister Val for these towels--a gift!)
The big news: we are done with the inside of the bathroom! It took a long time to turn a closet into a ½ bath and was not heaps of fun at different points in the project. We worked on it for 8 weekends in January, February and March, and on every one of those Saturdays I would wake up and think, “I wish I could go on a hike/to brunch/to yoga today.” But it is finished and we think it is the most beautiful ½ bath on the planet. Sometimes I open the bathroom door and just stand there and admire it, like a prize pony or precious gem.  This is definitely a result of building the bathroom with our own four hands. Very satisfying.

The closet before we turned it into a
bathroom. Yes, this is the same space!
The Villeroy & Boch sink.
The ½ bath is a mix of high and low. We were on a budget and so we had to pick our splurges judiciously.

The “Highs”:

The Sink: We found this white porcelain Villeroy & Boch sink online for $510.30 (on sale, regularly it is around $760). In case you ever want a similar sink, I think our Google search term was “very small sink.” It had to be no more than 15 inches deep to preserve the 24 inches of clearance to the toilet that San Francisco building code requires.

It was a leap of faith to order the most expensive bathroom element sight-unseen (at $510.30, the sink was over 30% of our budget for fixtures and finishes). But honestly there were not many choices on the teeny-tiny sink market and this one is unusual, well-proportioned and modern all at the same time. It reminds me of a bubble, a lily pad or Camilla Parker’s hat at the Royal Wedding. We get lots of compliments on it. We added a contemporary exposed plumbing below the sink for $75 in parts.

Shopping Tip: I always did Google Image searches when shopping for bathroom finishes. It is much easier to scan pages of images rather than click through hundreds of links to see the actual sink, faucet, tile etc. I imagine this technique would be good for shopping for many different items.

Farrow & Ball colors: Borrowed Light and Oval
Room Blue for the ceiling.
The paint: We splurged on Farrow & Ball’s Borrowed Light for the walls and Oval Room Blue for the ceiling. They are absolutely beautiful. In House Beautiful one designer said, “Borrowed Light feels as if you've taken the roof off the room and the sky and the clouds have mixed together.” After my fiasco in the hallway trying to match Farrow & Ball paint, I went straight for the brand name in the bathroom. We are super happy with the result. Cost: $100 for a small room.

The “Middles”:

The "Santa Rosa"

The faucet:  We bought this Danze faucet for $159. We needed a single handle faucet and liked the lines on this one. It is a good compliment to the circular sink and floor tiles, and provides good contrast with the boxy mirror and light fixture. Faucets can be really expensive ($500+ at Waterworks) and really cheap ($30 at Home Depot). We thought this was a good compromise.

Ann Sacks Savoy Cottonwood penny tile.

The toilet:  We picked the Kohler “Santa Rosa” and paid $293 at Home Depot. I don’t think too much about toilet design. I didn’t even know toilets had names like the Santa Rosa. To me, it is utilitarian. We choose Kohler’s Santa Rosa because it is on the modern side of things and it meets San Francisco’s strict environmental requirements for low water flow.  It also accommodated the clearance space we needed between the toilet and sink.

The tile: For the floor we picked a penny tile from Ann Sacks at $10.98 a square foot. It is called the Savoy Cottonwood penny tile. You can certainly get cheaper penny tile, but this tile has a ring of faded blue and brown on the outer edges, which is an important design element in the room. Total tile price was $179.48.

We love that the tile is a traditional shape for an old Victorian home but the faded border brings a pop of modernity. Also, we decided not to tile the walls—a cost-savings measure and it seemed unnecessary in such a small room with no possibility of steam. Dean laid the tile himself and he will tell you more about that adventure. His takeaway was that anyone can lay tile and achieve a B+ product! Good enough for us.

The “Lows”:

The mirror: It is from Ikea and was hanging in the bedroom in our old apartment. The wood frame brings nature into the room, which is important. Without the touch of natural wood the room could feel more like a pharmacy and less like a spa. Cost: Nothing because we already owned it.

The mirror and Dean's work of nature art.

The vintage door, salvaged from another
The door: This is a long story, but the Victorian four-panel door that was originally on the closet could not be reused when we moved the door to the adjacent wall. It had to do with the stud spacing and the giganticness of that door. So we took that door to the architectural salvage yard (Building Resources) and picked a smaller used door, also Victorian and four-paneled. Total cost: $75.

The light fixture: It is from Lamps Plus and cost $92.44. Nobody is going to write home about this light. I had a hard time picking a light fixture and decided that I would buy this as a placeholder. I might upgrade the light in the future if I decide this one is too boring. Switching a light fixture is simple, unlike ripping out tile, a sink, or a toilet.  For now I think it is fine—not the highlight of the room, but it also does not compete with the design elements that are more important to me.

The light fixture and ceiling design.
The hardware: I love the towel bar, toilet paper holder, and little glass shelf we bought at Home Depot. They are from the Innova Jameson line, and seriously look as nice as products from Restoration Hardware that cost 3X as much. Total Cost: $80.00.
The ceiling fan: I qualify this as more of a mechanical element than a décor feature. There is a plastic cover on the ceiling that hides the fan, so it is visual in some way. A fan is required for every bathroom per building code. We chose this charcoal ductless fan—the used-Hyundai of fans (Nutone 682NT).  It is fine, necessary, whatever. Dean bought it on Amazon.com for $32.57 because I am not that interested in it.

The Trim: Dean bought the trim and crown molding at Home Depot. It is a good size for the room and covers the craggy corners. Cost: $60.

The staging: I put a candle in a cool saucer that was my Grandmother’s. Cost: Free.
Dean picked up some rocks on Baker Beach and stacked them himself to create a rock sculpture. Again, bringing nature into the bath is soothing and exudes a spa feeling. Cost: Free.

I stacked some toilet paper on the shelf. Cost: Not pertinent because it is functional.

I hung a watercolor that I painted of Dean on a hiking trip to Tamarac Lake in the Desolation Wilderness. Cost: Free because I already had the frame.

And there you have it! All of our bathroom fixtures and finishes. Total cost: $1,656.89. It is astonishing how many design choices you have to make for a room that is 15 square feet.  

Architectural detail in the spot where the former
door was placed.

The 1/2 bath!


We love our new bathroom and it has already brought more harmony to our home. Dean and I no longer get in arguments when one person spends way too much time in the bathroom. And now we can renovate our main bathroom in August without running to Popeye’s every time we need the loo!  

Staging and our cute new shelf ($39.99).

Clearance between sink and toilet: very important to San
Francisco building department.


  1. wesome! It's amazing how big that tiny room looks....and love the color choices!

  2. It looks like you did a masterful job! And it adds so much to making your apartment comfortable. The unique sink makes the room.

  3. Guys this looks fantastic! You definitely get the spa feel from the decor and color choices. Can't wait to use it!

  4. Lovely, indeed. And so gratifying to have created it yourself! You make a great design and construction team.

  5. Nice work. Looks amazing! I need to come see it in person soon!

  6. Hi,
    This looks amazing. I was wondering what grout color you guys went with for the penny tile and if you like the result and would recommend? Thanks.

  7. Hi,
    I actually found that Ann Sachs a few weeks ago and loved it! I am wondering about the cleaning part of it? How does the grout do? I will eventually redo bathrooms too and would love to use it.

  8. Looks great! What grout did you use with the floor tile? It looks amazing.