For the last two years, we’ve focused almost every bit of our attention on the first floor. It’s where we spend most of our time, and with the kitchen finally checked off, we’re calling the main level done-for-now! That said, the second floor – with the exception of studio updates and the smaller work room – has taken a big time back seat.
At the same time, I don’t think it’s fair to downplay how much energy we’ve put into laying the groundwork upstairs! During round one of our home’s renovation, we did shuffle quite a few things around on the second level – taking down a (crooked) wall, eliminating an unnecessary closet and opening the second floor landing, and while we were at it, we nixed the second kitchen in favor of a master suite. I told you that we were feeling refreshed and invigorated after our cross-country journey, and I wasn’t kidding. Next on the agenda? The whole bedroom-slash-bathroom-slash-laundry-room chunk of our house, tucked away in the back half of the second floor, here:
We have been looking forward to this day so hard. Not to take any joy away from the work we’ve put into the downstairs (so far), but the most personal part of our home has been sorely neglected, and we are really, really excited to get going on these rooms that should be considered more of a retreat. I took photos of the bed, bath and laundry rooms over the weekend, and I’ll share each one in their own post. These three rooms could easily be classified as our home’s ’embarrassment’ in their own right, and so I’ll say this: Can we still be friends after we give you the tour?
I mean, let me explain.
Before the first phase of demolition (two years ago!), these three rooms were okay, I guess. To be honest, I feel like we both sort of blocked out how bad things really were, as we had a lot of issues to address – damaged carpet and an insect issue (I cringe!) among other things – but we definitely made things even worse by ripping out problem areas and not always following up with temporary solutions that could hold us over. We knew these three rooms would need a complete overhaul eventually, so it felt silly to throw money, no matter how small, at the problem if we couldn’t just do it right the first time. We liken these rooms to the broken window theory – once the neglect started, it quickly escalated, and so we have missing floorboards, cracked tile and molded caulk and, well, it’s like all hell has broken loose!
You poor rooms, you. Needless to say, we’ve been planning for this day for a long, long time, and now, we’re really doing it!
Today, let’s narrow down our focus and talk about the bathroom. No matter how hard we scour those walls, tiles and sink, they never (ever!) look clean. Like, ever. This entire room received a fresh scrub down before I snapped a single photo, but it’s the most unsatisfying cleaning routine you can imagine. I actually get angry cleaning this room; it makes me mean. What a waste of time!, I say. We should have just torn down this whole house!, I’ll shout. (At this point, Scott, ever helpful, will swoop in with a glass of wine.)
To this point, the bathroom received a new solid wood door, and we took out the old medicine cabinet and sliding glass shower door. After adopting our Chocolate-y Chunk, we picked up a handheld shower head for the doggie bath time routine, but that’s where the improvements stopped!
The tiles have been missing their grout since move-in day, and the only thing holding them down is a sad strip of duct tape. Baseboards were caulked but never smoothed, and we can’t even talk about the shower without me getting anxious; it’s just a big, hot mess, and again, I’m happy to say that we’re finally doing something about it!
Feeling overwhelmed by the renovation possibilities, we put a call out for help on our Instagram a few months ago. To choose finishes would have been one thing, but we were also looking to push back a wall and rearrange the layout, and we wanted to make sure we were doing things properly and to code. As a result, we found Jen*, a designer by trade who has been our saving grace on every level. We’ve been working with her for the last couple of months on these key items:
• Space planning
• What’s possible versus what isn’t
• Contractor wrangling and negotiating
Jen came over for a full tour, and we gave her our whole rundown of wishes, needs and would-like-to haves. We told her what was important to us (double sinks!) and what wasn’t (a separate tub and shower). Because Scott and I have been tossing around ideas for almost two years now, we gave her an earful, and she was kind, patient and incredibly informative. In the end, she presented us with four different plans, and together, we frankenstein-ed all the essential elements and layouts into one just-right space plan. Below is our starting point, with notes on demolition:
By the end, our hope is to have three rooms that look more like this:
For the bathroom, this will mean pushing back the shared laundry wall several feet, making way for a double sink and allowing more room around the toilet; as it stands right now, the toilet is practically hugging the wall, which is awkward at best.
We’ll also be swapping the placement of the toilet and sink, and the plumbing in the shower will move to the inside wall. Below is a mock up of what could be nice – a trough style sink with wall mounted faucets, double mirrors and a pair of sconces, although a lot of these decisions are still being pinned down and nothing is set in stone – yet. There are many other factors in play, too, such as a ceiling vent (for the first time if you can believe it!), central overhead light, shower lighting, proper outlets at the proper heights, and we’re currently wading through piles of tile and wallpaper samples. It’s all so, so exciting!
Jen helped us meet with three contractors and presented us with quotes, a service that felt invaluable and worth the entire cost of her fee, in our opinion! For the bathroom, the contractor will run all the plumbing roughs, handle all electrical and prep the bathroom for tile and paint. We’ve since hired the team that fit us best and signed a contract. As we’ve been doing and to save some money, Scott and I will be tackling most of the demolition ourselves in the coming weeks.
Next up, the bedroom!
*If anyone in the Chicagoland area needs a Jen in their life, let us know (or comment below), and we’ll get you connected! It’s surprisingly affordable, and a time (and headache!) saver.
PS! To see the bed + bath + laundry renovation party unfold, make sure to check out part II (the bedroom) and part III (the laundry room)!
When you bought your home how did you decide what needed work immediately and what could wait?
We just purchased a 1920s colonial and almost everything inside the home is original to 1920 (yikes). I too sometimes feel like we should just gut the whole home top to bottom and install everything fresh and new. Then I remember that I am not independently wealthy and need to be selective given we need to do important things like insulate and rewire the entire home. But that’s so hard when there are things that need to be changed/updated in every.single.room.
That’s a good question, and it will definitely be different for everybody, but for us, we had a couple MAJOR issues to address first (a sagging ceiling), and we wanted to get the layout of the home mostly in order. The last thing on our mind was any design decisions – we just wanted a starting point. I actually dive into it in this post: https://yellowbrickhome.com/2013/07/10/things-one-two-and-three/
As you can see, this bathroom has been put on the back burner the entire two years we’ve lived in this house, and a few posts back, you can even see how long it took us to polish the living room! Eventually, you’ll turn a blind eye to those really ugly things, and it will be SO exciting once you’re able to finally dive in – even if it takes longer to get there than you might think. It’ll be worth it!
Thank you, Kim! And good luck with your project. I am very excited to watch it evolve as we begin our master bath and laundry space reno in the next few weeks.
omg i love how you have all these blue prints and room diagrams. So awesome!
XO Ellen from Ask Away
That’s Jen’s handiwork! :)
I’m so excited to follow along and see how this one turns out! The plans sound great. We did the same thing with our reno – started with the kitchen and living areas – so we have two not-so-nice bathrooms on the waiting list. We did a mini-refresh in one to hold us over, but still… I totally get your level of frustration and now excitement to finally address the issues!
Hi Kim and Scott,
I really love your blog and I’m excited for this new set of projects! I was wondering if you could speak to your decision not to create a master bathroom out of the existing laundry room, by moving the laundry somewhere else? It seems like a big selling point to have a master bath these days. I’m wondering if maybe the space was too small, or you didn’t have anywhere else to put the laundry? It would be really interesting to hear about the thought process if you have a moment down the track. Thanks!
Yup, happy to answer – we actually considered having the bathroom door open into the bedroom, but in the end, we had to nix it completely. There’s one other bedroom on the second floor, and if we ever have a kid, that’s where his/her room will be (friends and family – don’t get any ideas!). We wanted the bathroom to be open to whoever needs to use it, rather than have children or guests have to go through our room.
As for the laundry room, Scott wasn’t totally on board with that right off of the bedroom (we initially considered it off of the kitchen where the workshop is now), but I wouldn’t give in on that one! We’ve had the machines off the bedroom since plumbing was installed – more on that when we get to the laundry room post – and it has been a game changer! Having it off of the master makes so much sense, since it’s all our clothes anyway!
I never thought of having a laundry off the main but I can definitely imagine how convenient that would be! Game changer for sure :)
A follow-up if you’ll indulge me! What about turning the laundry into a (second and master) bathroom? Did you discuss that? I’m guessing since there are two bedrooms upstairs, it seemed a bit indulgent/OTT to have one bathroom per bedroom, so maybe that’s the answer, and then added to that, the fact that you’d have to find somewhere else to put the laundry (and it would inevitably be somewhere less convenient).
I’m looking forward to the laundry room plans too. I’m not very creative, but imagine those of you who are might have some interesting ideas for how to up the convenience factor even more with an off-bedroom laundry room. Happy planning!
We didn’t discuss a second bathroom off of the master (or turning the laundry into one), only because we love the laundry room being there SO much.
Also, our house is currently a 3 bedroom, 2 bath. There is another bedroom and bathroom on the first floor, so a 3 bedroom with 3 bath felt like too much for us – not to mention, a lot more expensive to create and more time consuming to clean! ;)
Yet another follow-on question!! Did you consider flip-flopping the laundry and bathroom but then making the laundry a pass through to the bathroom for the second bedroom while still making a master bathroom?
That’s a great idea! I could definitely see that being a great solution – but it’s definitely out of the budget for us. :)
Everything looks amazing (as always)! I love your taste! Okay – here’s my crazy question that once I know the answer to I’ll be, “OF COURSE, how could I not see it immediately!” but what’s at the foot of the king size bed in the finished layout? A chicken with a hand? A normal hand and a small hand joined together with wings? One of the dogs? One of the cats? I give up!
I thought the same thing at first! It’s a person walking, as seen from overhead.
Thanks, Michelle! Susan, what she said. :)
Haha! NOW I see it! Man-oh-man I had no idea at first though!
Excited to see how this turns out! Need to update two more of our bathrooms still…
Hi Kim and Scott. I love your home so much. I love to seeing your progress, and your process, and your hard work coming to such beautiful finished states.So, keep up the great work!
I’m especially excited about this new project because my husband and I are looking to gut/remodel our master bathroom. We’ve had about 5 different contractors come in to give us quotes and we were absolutely FLOORED by how expensive labor is. Most of the demo we can do ourselves, but that literally only saves us about $1K off a minimum $22K job! Can you believe we got a quote for $45K on an 8’x8′ bathroom?? I don’t understand what we’re doing wrong! Could it just be where we live that labor costs are so high (we live in the Twin Cities)? I’m not sure if this is normally what you do, but it would be great to hear you talk a little bit about contractor/construction costs and how you save money on big ticket remodels like a bathroom and kitchen. I feel just terribly defeated by all of this :(
Thanks for the kind words, Sarah!
That is a serious bummer to hear about your costs! Does that $45K number include all new everything, in addition to labor and materials? Even still, that number seems insanely high. Are you comfortable with tackling your own tiling work?
I honestly can’t speak highly enough about how much Jen helped us. She works with contractors day in and out, and she sent us her top two guys to bid on the job, and she also walked through with the contractor who installed our kitchen door (who we loved). Our contractor ended up pulling out, only because he wasn’t comfortable with us wanting to do all the finish work (which is totally fair). The remaining two quotes came back with a $5K difference between them, but luckily, the guy we had a better gut feeling about came in lower. We decided to go with him, and he’s not charging a premium for material costs. In fact, he charges us exactly what he pays.
It may be worth looking into hiring a designer just for the initial space planning and contractor walk throughs, as they may be able to provide a little more insight and find you the perfect fit – rather than you guys meeting with GC after GC and not feeling satisfied. I get it. We’ve been there before, and we’ve had some pretty bad experiences ourselves.
Chin up! We know this can be so, so frustrating, but I encourage you to consider outside help even if it’s just someone who can wrangle the contractors that work best for you.
Yeah, regarding the contractors and quotes: so much of it is figuring out how to talk about what we want. I can see what I want in my head, but I’m not sure how to get there. I need someone to say, “actually, your old cast iron tub is totally fine, and you can save $400 by refinishing it instead of buying new” but it seems like most contractors don’t want to go through that extra step and it’d be easier for them to just replace it. Having Jen or someone who understands what we want and can translate that into “Contractor Talk” would be so helpful.
Does Jen know anyone who does similar work in the Twin Cities? ;)
Oh, you could not be more right. A contractor isn’t going to tell you what you can DIY or get refinished, because it’ll take money away from him! Definitely search Yelp and make a few calls. Before we found Jen, that’s what we did.
I love your blog, but first time commenting! I just wanted to say I noticed that you’ll have a bit of dead space at the foot of your tub, due to what looks to be a column? When we remodeled our bathroom, we had a small dead space as well at the foot of the tub. We used this space to build in shelves, which now hold shampoo, etc.
They are almost a foot deep, so I’ve rolled up towels on the higher ones for guests (but they get dusty up there, so mostly that’s just putting on a good show). Our shower walls are marble subway tile, so the shelves were cut from 18×18″ marble floor tiles. I’m happy to send a picture if that helps, but we love the extra bit of storage!
Good catch! Yup, we’re planning on putting a pull out storage unit there. We’re not exactly sure how yet (it’s small, like 9″ wide), so we were thinking of DIY-ing it. We would LOVE to see a photo of yours though! Do you have a pic hosted online? Otherwise, please email us: firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is great to see someone else with similar caulk/grout/everything-falling-apart issues! I love it when people share real-life looks at what they’re working with, and not just the after photos. We are about to work on our full bath, and have everything from old screws in the trim in weird places, to grey vinyl stick on tiles to deal with. I can’t wait to follow along as you transfer the space!
I love looking at other people’s floor plans they give you so many ideas, but they are also so personal. As an engineer I don’t like how there isn’t a correct answer.
I know it wasn’t really your point, but your layout made me imagine a walk in closet with washer and dryer inside, and in my head it is kind of amazing. Then I thought about how weird it would have been to do laundry in my parents bedroom closet when I was in high school… very weird
Haha, you’re right! I guess it might be weird to do laundry in your parents’ bedroom. I guess we’ll cross that bridge if we ever get to it?!
It is so hard to live in a space that you just hate! I can’t wait to see this all come to life for you.
This looks awesome and I can’t wait to see it unfold! But, I have to tell you that, at first (and second, and third . . .) glance the little walking man outlined in your overheard floorplan looked like nothing so much as a seal rolling around on the floor. I was about to comment asking if you had a pet sealion (or planned to adopt one to keep in this room maybe?) when I finally realized it was a man. In case you can’t see it–its head was to the lower right, tail upper left, man’s head and protruding knee would have been flippers. Maybe I’m overdue for a nap, lol.
Holy smokes! Your description is dead on!! Hilarious.
I’m sure you’ve deliberated this a lot on your own already, but can you speak to the decision to do 2 sinks (or, 2 faucets/mirrors/etc) instead of one? I feel like with a 48″ vanity, the extra counter space would be way more valuable than having the ability to separately control water at the same time? Then you can put one oversized mirror up that’s as wide as the 2 individual ones, so you could both be standing there getting ready at the same time. Granted, you guys seem to have mastered the art of de-cluttering surfaces (wish I could say the same!), so the counter space may not be as critical for you personally. Totally just curious.
BTW, I was so pumped to see plans for a new big project when I checked in. Love following along as you guys do your thing. And, I love reading about Chicago. I lived for many years at Wabansia & Wood. Such a great neighborhood! You could say that I’m living vicariously through you :)
Hi Brynn! The double sinks are a must-have for us. Scott and I crowding over our tiny sink has been a pain point in the evenings, and it felt like something that would be a luxurious upgrade – since we’re going through the whole renovation and all!
The double mirrors and double sconces aren’t set in stone just yet though. I’ve been eyeing a few wide mirrors, and we’ve been checking out some shelving or wall mounted soap dishes/etc that will all free up counter space (that you’re right – we’ll be losing with double sinks). A roomy vanity is also a must.
And thank you for the kind words about Chicago! Best. City. Ever. Wabansia & Wood is an awesome area!
Longtime lurker, first-time commenter here. First, I’m so excited to watch this unfold. We have a bathroom remodel on the horizon (our current one is SO yucky — I know what you mean about losing motivation to clean it!) and I’m looking forward to seeing what you do.
A comment on the mirror: we have an extra-wide mirror in our small bathroom and I love it. It makes the small space seem much bigger, and you don’t have to stand in just the right place to see your hair, makeup, etc. Daniel Kanter over at Manhattan Nest did a celebrity bathroom remodel last year or so, including a wide mirror, and that gave me some good ideas for making it look good. Might be worth checking out!
I love Daniel, and I remember that bathroom very well! (Hi, Daniel!)
You’re right, we’re sort of leaning towards a larger wide mirror, and we have a few in mind. Thank you so much for the input. We need to hear these things to keep us on track! Second opinions are always very much appreciated.
In lighting design class, I learned that the most flattering and useful vanity light placement is on both sides of the vanity mirror, at head height. It’s best for applying makeup, and general grooming, and does not accentuate things like under eye puffiness. I unfortunately have lighting above our vanity mirrors, and it is not something I will ever select when designing a bathroom! I would consider lighting on a very large mirror, although drilling through mirror is costly. Then again, because I am so near-sighted, I will always want to have a surface-mounted medicine cabinet so the mirror will be closer to my face – I am even considering a shallower bathroom counter so I don’t have to lean towards the mirror, although I should just get an articulated makeup mirror.
Having a wall-mounted soap dish and other accessories will help with your limited counter space, but I would opt for small basins since I never need a large basin, but I do need counter space!
Hi Caroline – interesting, and I can definitely see that being true! It’s funny because as I was reading your comment, I was thinking back to every apartment or place I’ve lived in, and due to small spaces, lighting was always above the vanity. The mirror and sconce placement isn’t set in stone, so thank you for the input! I think once we nail down the vanity and sink configuration (and soon!), we’ll have a better idea of what will make the most sense given our smaller bathroom.
I’m obsessed with storage, so this might sound insane, but since you are already moving/replacing windows, have you considered moving the window in the laundry room to create more storage on the wall opposite the washer and dryer? I know that the window is centered with the door and it might not be worth the hassle or cost, but I truly wish I had more storage room in my laundry room which only has a washer dryer and sink(with storage underneath)
It was something we considered, but nixed due to a high cost for little return. We have almost 10′ ceilings, so our goal is to have the cabinets in the laundry go all the way to the ceiling!
Love your blog…been following for a while!
Seems like a good place to throw in my two cents. It appears you have already signed with a contractor, etc. BUT, ( and I say this with a smile on my face), have you considered an alternative plan?
I think you are dead on with the laundry room access/bathroom access configuration as you have planned. However, have you considered keeping the majority of your water lines all on the same wall? It would appear it could save you considerable cash to have it in one place so to speak. I have no idea if this is possible, but here goes.
First of all, you may have to take a bit of space from the laundry area…like maybe 6-9 inches, and move the pocket door closer to the outside wall. Similar to your downstairs configuration. This would allow more wall space on the other side of the closed in wall for furniture in your bedroom/more space between short closet wall and doorway to laundry. Next, I would flip the laundry sink and appliances to the opposite wall (180°). Window would be near sink in laundry. Appliances would go next to sink, waterline shares with that of bathroom.
On to the bathroom. Since you are moving plumbing anyway, have you considered rotating your bathtub around the corner? The plumbing would share the same wall as the laundry sink on the opposite wall. The toilet could be in the corner with the tank sharing the same wall as the washer/dryer on the opposite wall. Since you require waster water drain pipe for tub/toilet/washer it might save you some $$ for plumbing to have them near each other. And lastly give yourself a longer run for your sink area. You could have two freestanding sinks/pedestals with a high tower of cabinets in between to store items, plus a make-up mirror with a plug inside the cabinet for down the road when your eyesight isn’t as great. :)
I had to get this off my chest since I’m always one to save $$ as much as possible, but still have a comfortable/classic/modern layout. Take it or leave it, your plan will work no matter what you do! You both have incredible vision for youngsters. (Yes, I’m in the older set, say above 50). ;) Good luck, and can’t wait to see the progress!
Pamela, thank you so, so much! I’m trying to imagine everything you’re saying – the good news is that the plumbing swapping isn’t terribly costly, and we did go over several options to make the most sense of where things are now vs. where they’ll end up. I sincerely appreciate your feedback, and I’ll noodle on it a bit more.
I love how you include every detail in your guy’s blog, especially on this bathroom renovation. Because it’s what my husband and i are trying to look forward to this summer, you guys are my inspiration. Does your Jen have a contact in the Seattle area maybe?
Thank you, Kali! I think every state should have their own Jen. Have you started with Yelp at least?!
Ok, this post has inspired me in the fact that there is actually a human who can come to my home and help me arrange/design rooms, walls, appliances, where to put closets, doors, windows, etc.!! Who knew? I sure didn’t. I see the advice several times to check Yelp! to find a Jen of my own. But how do I search? What is her title/job/profession? Space designer? GC? I have such a tiny home that every square centimeter matters. Please let me know how you searched for her (and what search parameters to use) and found her. Thank you.
Hi Karen! Jen actually reached out to me after seeing our struggles on Instagram (we lucked out!), but there are several interior design firms that will likely offer smaller packages for your needs. I would search ‘interior design’ and give them a call and let them know the extent of the work you’re looking for.
Connected with Jen— Is Jen still designing bathrooms for homeowners in Chicago? If so, I would love to be connected.