First up in the painfully slow parade of final house projects: my one and only bathroom.
This is not a Tiny House, but it is pretty darn small. The overall square footage is about 960 square feet on the main floor with another 400+ unfinished space downstairs. While the other rooms are relatively spacious, the bathroom was a mere 20 square feet (4′ x 5′) and contained a porcelain sink, 4′ clawfoot tub, and non-functioning toilet.
For scale, here’s my 5’8″ friend Jennifer demonstrating the diminutive size of the room. The sink overlapped the tub and butted up to the toilet seat. I’m pretty sure she could have brushed her teeth and cleaned the toilet without so much as a stretch.
When I moved into the house in early May 2002, there was no kitchen and the only source of water was from the tub. I basically set up a campsite in my house complete with a kerosene heater, sterno stove, sleeping bag and an itty-bitty camp toilet. You’d think I’d look back now in horror, but I have to say that I was truly happy in those early days. It really was a great adventure.
First on the project list was a functioning bathroom. My neighbor recommended a plumber who was willing to tackle my job for a song. She failed to disclose at the time that he was an uninsured alcoholic who’d just had his 7th heart attack, but he survived so it’s all good. Somehow this scrawny, bourbon-sodden 60+ year old man was able to remove the cast iron tub by himself, revealing a sizable patch of rotted plaster along the back wall and layer upon layer of petrified indoor/outdoor carpeting. Most of the wood had rotted under the tub which was somehow being suspended by the carpet. How it did not fall through to the crawlspace below defies physics.
I have to back up her and clarify that while I had no actual kitchen, I did have a non-functioning sink and cabinet on the opposite side of the left-hand wall. It was useless and completely inappropriate for the house, so I tore it out. I don’t know how I came upon this little nugget of genius, but I noticed that the void left behind was the exact – and I do mean EXACT – length of the tub. I enlisted my stepfather to knock down a couple of old studs with a sledgehammer, open the wall between the two rooms, and had the plumber relocate the bathtub into the new alcove. That is by far the most valuable 8 square feet of real estate in the house.
Renovation Stage 1
Once the room was gutted, and the new plywood flooring was in, I was able to start my very first renovation project. I had some experience finishing drywall, but that was it. My father bought me a compound miter saw, drill and circular saw and told me just to go for it. So I did. New drywall, trim work, crown molding, tiling – the whole shebang. I can’t remember how long it took to me figure everything out, but I do remember it took me and entire weekend just to figure out the crown molding around the top of the shower. There were also a lot of tears and expletives that my mother would not approve of. But somehow it all worked out.
At this stage, I just wanted a bathroom that functioned and appeared clean. I hadn’t planned to include any cabinetry, but I had some left over wood and thought it would be a nice convenience to have a small vanity and medicine cabinet. And it was enough for many years.
Renovation Stage 2
About four years ago I committed to finishing this house properly. The adventure of 2002 had grown into an albatross, and I was Done. My house will never be fancy – nor should it be. But I need every room to function the best it can, which means maximizing every square inch of floor space and finishing all small projects I’d taken on over the years. For the bathroom this meant replacing the scrap-wood medicine cabinet and sink base, and adding some counter space. My plan was to re-do the existing base cabinet and add a narrow (12″) cabinet under the window. I had to work around the heating duct ( which makes the cabinet look like it has a crooked smile – which makes me smile) and make it easy to remove in case the tub needs to be removed at some point.
It ended up being a pretty simple project. The base is made out of leftover wood, re-purposed cabinet doors from the kitchen, and a stained length of glued pine board from Lowes. I wrapped the wood top and sink base with 1″x 2″ trim so it appears the old sink was sitting on top when it’s really just screwed to the wall – just for a little something extra. Paint, caulk and a few pieces of hardware and she’s pretty much good to go.
And a shout out to Mom for sewing my lovely new shower curtain!