I am often told how much fun it must be to be able to do so much shopping for a new house.
“Well … have you ever redone a bathroom, gutted to the studs? Take that, and multiply it by six. And then add all the other rooms, halls, closets and surfaces that make up a house. ”
Owl Manor can be a little overwhelming if I let it. I’m really fortunate though: I am decisive. Give me the information I need to make a decision and I’ll make it and move on. I won’t drive the crew crazy hemming and hawing over whether it was the right thing. I will ask their input often, make a choice and then it is done. If I second-guessed half of my choices, I would go stark raving mad based on the sheer volume of decisions I have to make any given day, much less on the project as a whole.
Which is precisely why I started working on the bathrooms months ahead of when tile would actually need to be purchased and installed.
Master bath tile samples
You go to the tile store and see all these itty bitty samples, or these heavy and unwieldy boards with samples and try to figure out what will go together in the look you’re trying to achieve. But wait, there’s more than what they look like! There are issues of the thicknesses of the tile, matte finishes versus glossy. And more than anything, there is the matter of lighting: if you hear nothing else I’m saying ~ you must see everything in real daylight.
To start somewhere, let’s talk about the master bath. In each bath, I had some inspiration to begin with. For the master, it was a basketweave marble mosaic floor. I’ve always loved this floor ~ it’s appropriate to the period, and when it’s done in marble, it doesn’t have that total vertigo-inspiring Escher effect found in a flat black and white. I also wanted it in a honed (matte) finish, and I was really pleased to find the sample on the right. The dark gray striations you see are called fluid Carrara, and I knew it would add depth and richness.
Long view of master bath during rough-in, taken from corner of shower
The master is long and somewhat narrow, at roughly 8 x 18 1/2, and it has three enormous windows providing east and south light. For the walls, plain classic white subway tile would be just fine.
But with a modern rectangular tub with clean lines at one end, and a glass shower box at the other, how to choose a tub surround and then top the subway with something to pull the whole space together?
Such pretty trims!
That’s where the whole process gets dicey, as far as I’m concerned. The possibilities become somewhat endless ~ and they are so very pretty. There are listellos (or is it listelli?) and chair rails, mosaics and pencil lines. They are thick and thin, some will match your subway and some won’t. (Bearing in mind that there
Caps and ledges and more
are roughly 247 versions of subway tile sold in the US today, each of varying thickness, tolerance, shade and so forth, not to mention finish, texture and more …) How plain? How fancy? How fussy? How pricey?
It is enough to make my hair hurt. And that is why I don’t do this entirely alone. I am fortunate to have C., a friend who is a professional designer, who agreed to come on board and help me not mess this up.
First things first, here is the honed fluid Carrara floor ~ ungrouted ~ as seen from the tub looking toward the pony wall at the shower enclosure. I had, for a brief moment, worried that it might be too dark in the space. But as C. wisely pointed out, there is so very much light bouncing around the room, the floor never gets a chance to darken anything. And if anything, the striations sort of go “dappled” on the larger floor field. The basketweave is much lighter than I thought it would be in situ, which is a good thing as far as I am concerned.
In fact, the next important decision is the grout color. Which, as it turns it, is one of the easier choices. to make. I have seen this pattern with a light grout many times.
I loathe light grout. I understand that the new Mapei Power Grout contains wonderful new properties that keep it from turning dark and mildewy and outright icky. Having spent enough of my life with a toothbrush and various chemicals cleaning grout, I’d rather go dark and skip the whole thing. Good thing to know, though: grout comes out darker than it looks in samples, and it will darken some over time. Given that knowledge, and not wanting the dark marble squares to disappear entirely, I chose the lighter sample on the left.
When applied to the large field of the floor, it made the whole thing POP like nobody’s business. This is exactly what was in my head. No small feat to achieve it. But there it is, in all its basketweave glory.
But wait, you say, what about the tub surround? And the rest of the walls?
Oh, those. I failed to mention that during this process, you’re going to make more than two trips to the tile store. You might make five or more for ONE bathroom. (Then do the “Owl Manor multiplier” …) I did pick out a tub surround, a rather streamlined solid gray I really liked. However, it was really expen$ive, and after we had a bad experience with the same manufacturer in another room, I decided to go back to the drawing board (and tile store). New
You’ll see this chair rail again
products are coming in all the time, and our tile-setter has plenty else to work on in the meantime. But I will tell you that C., who is every bit the talented genius I knew she was, came up with a fab treatment for the walls using the Arctic white chair rail here in some unexpected ways.
I also have a few treasured
Original porcelain soap dish c. 1914
pieces of original porcelain bath fixtures that are original to the house that will be worked into the walls around the tub. The master bath is still a work in progress, but when it’s finished, it will be done right.
Three full and two half-baths to go …