I'm always amazed at the level of determination that home ownership can produce.
Recently I decided to make a few soft upgrades to my home’s only bathroom. This conjured up memories of what this room looked like before my husband and I mercilessly took sledgehammers to it not too long ago.
Our home measures a little over 900 square feet. It was constructed in the late 1940’s as part of a planned community (affectionately known as "GI Town") for soldiers returning from World War II, and their families. Homes here were constructed in “assembly-line’ fashion, into duplex homes and apartments ranging from 750-1100 square feet. Although I have yet to figure out the name of the style of our home, it most closely resembles a small Georgian - only it's a townhome.
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Unfortunately, not all homes were upgraded as times progressed. Hence, a unique challenge we current homeowners face is that, with the exception of the outer structure walls, NO STUDS were used in the interior walls. In fact, in my unit, all of the heat exchanges, and electrical outlets are free floating and sandwiched between a combination of lathe, plaster and chicken wire. It’s a remodeler’s nightmare.
After many hours of sifting through photos, I was able to find a few to share. Keep in mind these photos were taken many years ago before cell phone cameras became so enhanced. But I did my best to "bring back the photo" to give you an idea of what it was like before. Below this is what we started with.
WARNING! BAD PHOTOS COMING YOUR WAY!
I was so embarrassed by these photos that I almost didn't include them in this post. Not only because of the poor quality, but you can see just how awful this room was. Yet, I thought about someone who might need that extra push to start — or complete an eye-sore project in their home. If we can do it, surely anyone else can.
This bathroom was previously covered from floor to ceiling in a combination of 1960’s brown and yellow tile. Yikes! My husband and I were in our early 20's when we purchased the home. Although this room is tiny, we could not fathom the idea of overhauling it ourselves. And like most 20-somethings, we didn't have the cash to pay someone else to do it either. So we ignored it—for more than 10 years— until it drove us insane.
Finally, with some years of homeowners' prowess under our belts, we decided to tackle it ourselves. Scary? Yes. But our hatred for this room was greater than our fear. So with a modest budget of $2000, we picked up the nearest sledgehammers and swung them with reckless abandonment. It was exhilarating!
Down went this wall and that one! Yet I swear they must have adhered this hideous tile with cement, because it took days to get it down. We were even forced completely destroy the back wall of my closet, since it shared a wall with the tub/shower area. (see photo below). To see my closet makeover click here.
Then reality started to set in...
How in the WORLD are we going to put this room back together??? I panicked while my husband remained cool, calm and collected as usual. I often jokingly tell him that he's the closest thing to Jesus Christ that I'll ever see on this side of Armageddon. Ha! -- I laugh, but I'm dead serious. This guy has patience unlike anyone I've ever met before. Lucky me!
Anyhoo... back to my story. Notice in the photos above that the only walls that weren’t completely destroyed, were the ones constructed with the lathe-plaster-chicken-wire combination. These stud-less walls weigh a ton when disassembled and I am convinced they could survive a nuclear bomb. So as much as we would have loved to have installed new walls with the proper posts, we just decided to leave them in place. Why open a can of worms when you're already on a strict budget?
To get them completely smooth again, we simply covered them with ⅛ inch drywall (adhered with construction adhesive), popped in a few nails, then taped and mudded the seams as normal.
Next we had to rebuild the room. This included re-constructing the floor since its stability had been severely compromised after removing layers (notice the plural) of tile. My body starts to ache all over again when I think of the work involved. Whenever we came across something we didn’t know how to handle, we asked “expert” friends for advice, attended local construction classes or consulted YouTube. Time-consuming yes. But totally necessary when you’re working with a strict budget.
Bit by bit, it all started coming together.
Finally we outfitted the room with fixtures that we had purchased over time in preparation of the grand overhaul. And here she is in all of her glory.
It even looks larger to me! I was so geeked about my new bathroom that this is basically how it has remained since its makeover more than 5 years ago. Stark, and a bit cold, but I love all the clean lines. I also like how we were able to fuse the ebony vanity and dark "wood" porcelain tiles for the hubby, with the blingy chandelier and glass tiles for me. In future posts, I’ll show you how we added a few simple touches to make the space functional without adding tons of clutter.
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Welcome to "my place". I'm Ola, a self-confessed décor addict and DIY think-tank. I love working with small spaces. Make yourself comfortable, and feel free to "shop" my ideas.
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