I’ve gotten a couple of questions about the bathroom project – in specific, what we’re aiming for. While we’re not doing a historical restoration type true-to-period room, we are taking inspiration from the downstairs bathroom. It’s been less meddled with than the upstairs horror:
The downstairs bath has one-inch white hex tile on the floor, white railroad tile (with high rail detail) on the walls, a very similar stained glass window to the one upstairs, and pedestal fixtures. I especially like the little sitzbath – it’s great for kids’ bird baths or foot washing when you don’t want to fill a bigger tub. Along the way this bathroom has lost its original sink faucets and high tank toilet, but in addition to the mini-tub it still has an extra long full size tub (not in the photo); and a simple built-in wooden storage cabinet. We’ll be replacing the toilet again as part of the current work due to some unfixable slow leaks on the one that’s there. Someday we’ll also do the sink hardware, but that’s small peanuts compared to the awful upstairs. The rest of the downstairs bath works well enough, and is perfect for the house.
The upstairs bath will pick up the white hex floor and railroad tile with high rail look, with the addition of a green pencil line tile just under the rail. That should accent the green in the window. The upper walls will be painted white. We didn’t want to go the restored tub route (weight, mostly plus some cautionary experiences from my earlier days working for an architectural antiquarian), and couldn’t find a new pedestal tub in our price range, so we opted for the plainest white with-feet new tub we could find.
The other big departure from historical accuracy is a vanity stand that’s natural oak color rather than one that’s painted white. It’s a free-standing furniture type piece rather than cabinetry, and will be topped with green stone and an underset white porcelain sink. Since the storage cabinet downstairs is original to the house and has never been painted, maybe the “only white painted woodwork in a bathroom restoration” rule isn’t hard and fast.. Plain brushed nickel finish fixtures with white porcelain butterfly handles round it all out. And we’ve opted to keep the separate shower stall rather than combining the shower with the tub. The new shower will be the same depth but a bit wider than the old one (taking up some of the room previously wasted on the double sink vanity), with a very plain frosted glass door instead of a billowy curtain. We’ll also keep the mini-radiator, but clean it and paint it white.
That’s it. No over the top fancy fixtures, no bowl-mount waterfall sinks or spring rain experiences, no criminally expensive imported tile or lighting, no sybaritic soaking tubs or sauna showers. Just classic stuff, relatively unfussy and congruent with the style of the (mostly) untouched 1912 house. And with luck it will all work well together nicely, be easy to keep clean, and enjoyable to live with.
Lots of tile should be pretty manageable. That seems to be why our great-grandmothers and great-great grandmothers wanted tile. The separate shower stall is a good thing to keep and is a pretty standard way to upgrade the largest bathroom in a house of around that vintage. I’ve seen older bathrooms with wood in all manner of colors as original (aqua and avocado green spring to mind). I can’t see why a great-great grandmother with the money for pretty natural wood wouldn’t want to leave it natural.
I can’t quite figure out why one would want all the odd fixtures they sell. A big enough tub and all the usual fixtures laid out so you don’t bang yourself on them are quite enough to satisfy me.