We kept busy over the warm months this year, primarily focusing on the garage…which still has a way to go…maybe next year! One not so busy weekend, Kit suggested that we tackle finishing the bathroom as it was literally in pieces. We had rebuilt the shower valves, re-grouted the tile, and added a bathroom fan last year, but the wall fabric that had originally been installed in 1928 to prevent moisture seeping into the walls was literally peeling off the walls. The original pedestal sink had a odd 1980s Delta mixer faucet and hand sprayer. The medicine cabinet had relieved itself of the mirror shattering pieces all over the floor as mentioned in the last post and the original bare-bulb light fixture had shorted out and could not be disassembled to allow replacement of its internal socket.
We started with scraping and sanding the medicine cabinet down to bare metal, priming it with two coats of rust inhibitive primer and then finishing with three coats of automotive black gloss enamel paint. After calling every glass fabricator in town I was only able to find two who could provide was we wanted…a custom arched top beveled glass mirror. The original mirror visible in the newspaper photographs was beveled and had an etched decorative along the arch, but the arch and bevel cost enough, so we opted not to have it etched. Since our medicine cabinet was an early “venetian” design the mirror is attached to the medicine cabinet with screws, instead of edge clips. This necessitates using vinyl sleeves and mirror rosettes to protect the mirror from stress fracturing. We signed and dated the back of the cabinet before putting it back into the wall. Maybe 80 years from now, someone will find it when they repair or remodel the bathroom!
Next at bat were the walls and ceiling. We got lucky and the wall fabric (Sanitas…”Its Beauty Lasts”) peeled off like one giant nasty paint laden candy wrapper with a vinyl rubber backing. Our luck was furthered (this never happens) when we found the plaster beneath to be nearly perfect with little to no moisture damage and a very limited area of mold. We put in some temporary ventilation and suited up with masks to begin the process of sanding the plaster and residual glue to prep the surface for a stain blocking primer and then two coats of vapor barrier paint (it exists and you should use it if you have plaster walls in your bathroom). For the finish paint we went with a light grey on the walls and ceiling to compliment the black tile trim. To amp up the contrast we got some high-gloss black enamel paint and painted the door and window surrounds with it. (I had initially wanted to go a step further by employing some trompe l’oeil by painting in grout lines, but time got the best of us)
Next on the list was to finally get rid of the awful faucet set-up and install the beautiful reproduction faucet from Strom Plumbing that we had purchased over a year ago. After some back a forth and obtaining a few hard to find traditional plumbing connections from our fantastic local hardware store, we now have a beautiful and functional faucet that does the original pedestal sink justice.
The final improvement was a harder one to come to terms with…at least for me. The original bare-bulb ceiling light had shorted about a year ago. In its place was a $10 Home Depot special serving as a temporary hold over. We carefully stripped the paint off the original one to find that it had originally been a pull-chain fixture that had been modified. Furthermore, we were unable to extract the broken socket from the fixture without mutilating it. After hunting eBay for months unsuccessfully we settled on upgrading to a more appropriate (for a bathroom at least) reproduction black porcelain and opal-glass ceiling light from Rejuvenation. It was a big pain in the butt to install, but has great presence and looks fantastic.
We have a few minor finishing touches that remain like curtains, installing the black porcelain switch-plates I bought last year, cleaning and sealing the tile floor, and installing a period toilet, but to most people’s eyes our sweet little bathroom is done! Did I mention I found a set of 1920s nickel plated shower curtain hooks? (Kit, rightly so, thought I got wayyy too excited about that…they are really nice though.)