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Grout Cottage: Apt. A Bath

Grout AptA Day 5 HeadWe started with a shell of a bathroom. When I say shell I mean just framed walls with plywood because the previous owner had at some point demolished the entire bathroom and was in the beginning stages of putting it back in. The shell of a bathroom that we had to work with was not quite big enough so we widened it and gained a few more feet. I also added a window in the bathroom because I just don’t like bathrooms without windows–that really goes for any room, natural light is always a good thing.

Grout AptA Bath Before After

I had a little fun and tried out a vanity in a color other than white in this bath. I waffled for a while about doing a gray vanity or a camo green vanity but finally settled on blue. The vanity is Benjamin Moore’s Stratton Blue mixed in Pittsburgh Paint’s Breakthrough paint line.

stratton blue



Apt A bath vanity after


Grout AptA Bath Vanity detail

I also had been itching to try a patterned tile and a Victorian age home like this was the perfect opportunity. I loved the black and white floral patterns but didn’t want to make it too feminine so I used this starburst SomerTile from Overstock. Along with the blue vanity, the tile gives this small bathroom a little interest and character.

Apt A bath tile closeupAnd to finish it off, we used a standard fiberglass shower/tub surround because its a rental property but if this was a private residence we would certainly go with tiled shower surround.



Grout Cottage: Meet & Greet

I’d like to introduce you to my newest project—the Grout Cottage.

She’s hurtin’ and the people in the neighborhood are delighted that we plan to rescue the house and so am I.

For a proper introduction– here are some basic stats,

  • Built in 1895 (the oldest property we’ve renovated to date)
  • Two story, Queen Anne
  • Duplex; two apartments both two bedroom, one bath
  • Has some original stained glass windows
  • German wood lap siding
  • metal roof
  • has small dilapidated carriage house in rear w/ dirt floor

Queen Anne architecture will incorporate bay windows to avoid smooth surfaces, one of the unique features in this house is the single cutaway bay window on the right corner with bracket detailing.

Moving around to the rear, this is lovely isn’t it. I’m looking forward to improving that upstairs porch. If you’re thinking it looks structurally unsound…you’d be correct.

the old carriage house,

up close,

We’ll begin in the first floor apartment because the upstairs is currently occupied,

Current living room,



Kitchen– the previous owner started some renovation when the apartment was vacant,

they terminated the chimney in the kitchen and framed in what looks to be a pantry,


Hall, nice little stained glass window to let some light in


The bathroom had already been gutted and re-framed. There’s no window in here and they actually left a cavity on the right side which creates an opportunity to expand and widen the room.

Bedroom 1,


Bedroom 2,


Are you excited for demolition to begin on Monday?


Sarah’s House: Mystery Leak

Ever wonder why I don’t get anything accomplished on my punch list, well that’s because when you live in an old house and don’t have the dough to rip the place apart before move in day– you have to take it one repair at a time.

The master bathroom was not really at the top of my list for improvement but a month or so ago we discovered that there was a steady drip down in the basement after morning showers.

Our plumber Doug came over to assist me in determining what exactly was leaking.

First, we ran all of the fixtures and none of them were causing the drip. So Doug had to open up the partition wall that houses the shower/tub plumbing, he didn’t see a leak there but he saw a lot of wet stuff and what he thought was a crappy tile job.

There was a size-able caulk line around the perimeter of the tub where the surround meets the tub and it didn’t appear to Doug that the tile had been carried all the way to the tub deck.

So he sprayed water all over the perimeter of the tub and then it started to drip. Time to call the tile installer. Our tile guy Chris agreed with Doug and we had two choices, we could re-caulk and hope that it held until we were ready to renovate the bathroom or we could re-tile the surround. After some discussion we decided to go ahead and re-tile.

I of course wanted to rip out the tub and have a big shower with frameless glass doors but that’s not in the budget right now.

At this point you might be asking yourself, how is it that Sarah has been blogging for like 4 years and she didn’t have the presence of mind to take before pictures? I don’t really have an excuse answer. But the tile before was 6×6 squares that was totally early 90’s tan. I found this image and this looks almost exactly like what the before looked like.

Our original fixture configuration included a shower head, diverter, hand shower and shower valve. The plumber advised me that we would save $200 but eliminating the diverter and shower head from the equation. Since this isn’t the dream bath remodel we need to fix this with some level of style and move on. The fixture set up we would have to save that $200 was a hand shower on a vertical slide bar that would function as the shower head and we would still have the function of the hand shower for cleaning.The set up would look like this,


So I set out to try and find a hand shower with a bell shape that mimicked a shower head for a little pizazz for an affordable price like this,


This Rohl kit above was at my local plumbing showroom for about $600. Pretty, well made but too expensive. Goodbye Rohl display.

OK back to the Delta section. The Delta kit I purchased was $400 with a shower head that I could eventually install upstairs. So just to keep this in perspective, that is $400 for just the fixtures. We’re not even talking about any plumbing, tile material or tile labor.

So we  go to Lowe’s to get my trusty American Olean white subway tile and ring up a tab of $500 in tile materials combined with the $150 water proofing material at the tile showroom. I show Chris (tile guy) a picture of the shampoo niches I like,

Chris gets to work and we make progress,


we have a snafu with the niches, they need some adjustment but then Chris finally grouts and then the plumber comes and we are in business,



Project Expenses

Plumbing demo & valve rough in – $349

Tile labor – $900

Tile material – $500

Fixtures – $322.76

Plumbing finish – $95


$2,166.76   (what!)


and the leak stopped in the basement, boy I feel much better now.


Guest Cottage Kitchen Remodel Part I

Late last year I began remodeling a little kitchen in a guest cottage on our property. This project had a significantly lower budget than the Indiana project or the Midland duplex remodel so this kitchen won’t be gracing the pages of…anything. But I think it’s a great improvement!

The footprint of the kitchen is pretty small, its only about 8′ x14′ and as you can tell from the dimensions–narrow. Fortunately, the kitchen has a pantry which offers the opportunity for additional storage.

Here is the before,

yellow cottage kitchen before

corridor to cottage kitchen before

Hallway with ugly sink, scary fluorescent light and open shelving, looking in to kitchen

cottage kitchen

I think the thought behind the sunshine yellow wall color was–trying to brighten the space and detract from its decaying fixtures. It wasn’t working for me.

Inspiration and points of reference for the remodel,

ikea brackets open shelves kitchen

Focusing on the open shelving which is an IKEA shelf & bracket.

wood countertop Laura Moss photography

Seriously considered butcher block/wood countertops, talked with a number of trades people and did internet research

Galley kitchen AT

small white galley kitchen

Apartment Therapy

Southern Living shelf over sink

Southern Living

white pantry Boston Bash

considering bronze hardware

Marinate on that for a bit, Part II will be demolition.


Kristine’s House: Kitchen Demo

You might remember my post about my friend Kristine’s house.  She and her husband Fred are remodeling their kitchen and redecorating their living room.

I’ve been helping Kristine a bit in both of these pursuits.  Kristine has chosen IKEA cabinets in the new Ramsjo door style, which is a shaker/traditional fusion. By electing to install IKEA cabinets she and Fred will save some money without having to sacrifice quality.

Here is the space after drywall repair and floor installation,

Ziems kitchen before cabinets2

Kristine completed the demolition herself to save money and when I say “herself”…I mean just her. She rented a dumpster and went at it! She hired a plumber and an electrician to come and terminate the connections and to relocate some of the plumbing and install recessed lighting. For the new floors, Kristine chose 4” wide white oak which was continued from the kitchen in to the living area, down the hall and in to the master bedroom.

Ziems kitchen before cabinets

After Kristine and I talked through the layout using a measuring tape, a pencil, a calculator and a little painter’s tape, Kristine got to work and downloaded IKEA’s kitchen design software and begin putting the layout on paper. She and Fred travelled to IKEA and loaded it all up themselves.The couple is lucky enough to have a contractor friend who is experienced in installing IKEA cabinets.

I have been encouraging Kristine along the way to wrap the island with wood. The reason why–because we (I’m) are shooting for a modern rustic, Southern California aesthetic. Kristine really had her heart set on white cabinets and so in order to warm things and play up the rustic vibe, I have suggested wrapping the living room side of the island in teak or maple or another warm modern wood material with less grain. It also acts as a compromise between the natural finished wood cabinets I wanted her to get and the white kitchen she wanted.

Some images to illustrate,

customized ikea kitchen Living Etc

Living Etc

Modern kitchen-Real Living Au

Real Living Australia

Jeffrey Alan Marks kitchen Elle DecorJeffrey Alan Marks, Elle Decor