freshening up a funky bathroom: finding the right fixtures

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A bathroom renovation has been on the agenda since the day escrow closed on our house. We’ve been doing what we can to fix our eyesore of a bath without any demolition: notably converting a traditional door into a mini french door to open up the space and swapping out a rickety towel rod for rope cleats that function as towel hooks. We’re itching to rip out the too-big toilet and cultured marble vanity — and yes, that is a sheet vinyl shower surround.

Finding the right fixtures has been a big hold up on our renovation process. We want something modern, but not TOO much so, as our house is mid-century — and the footprint needs to be small, as our bathroom is a tiny closet of sadness and despair. I know that finding a combination of size, look, and god-forbid functionality is a tall order from a bath fixture, but I’ve found all of these showers by Mira Showers. I’m absolutely swooning for the clean lines of the Mira Miniluxe ER. The exposed riser is a nod to the classic exposed plumbing often found in vintage homes, but with a decidedly more modern vibe. I’m torn between the Miniluxe and the minimalist luxury of the Mira Agile which would have the added bonus of a second hand-held shower head. Not only are both these choices visually attractive, but the showers from Mira Showers have a patented Magni-flo technology which will ensure a full deluge even at low pressure. And this lazy housekeeper won’t have to worry about limescale either, since the nozzles are designed to just rub clean.

We’ve already purchased the sink — after I wrote about it here way back in 2009. We just can’t pull the trigger on the darn faucet. I want a sturdy fixture that is 100% brass — but those can cost a hefty sum. I actually found a few options I like here and here — at Overstock, of all places. As for the toilet, after hours of measuring and internet review reading, I think we’re going with the Ariel Platinum Anna toilet, which has the smallest dimensions I’ve found. And in our lil’ loo, every inch matters.

What would you do with this little bathroom? We’re thinking white walls and subway tile, dark grout, and glossy black or dark gray floors. Clean, classic with a touch of modern — our goal is to open the space up and add some luxury to our modest bath!

From our partners

steal this idea: jewelry display as decoration

I’ve recently started wearing more jewelry. Consider it a product of getting older, but I decided I need a tad more “bling” above the neck. I had my ears re-pierced and have started collecting cute studs and delicate charms on chains to match around the neck. Mind you, my idea of bling is still pretty tame, but I have fallen in love with one or two chunky necklaces recently. (Jcrew, you know me too well.)

The problem is, each night I remove my body decorations and place them in little trinket holders on my overly crowded dresser top. In the morning, I squint in low light to retrieve the matching earring I am seplaceing for, and often I fail at the task. I’m determined to create a new way to display and organize my jewelry. I want something that helps me see all my options.

This bedroom photo from Houzz totally inspires me. Though my collection is not nearly as great as the one on display here, this bungalow’s bedroom has one whole wall dedicated to its owner’s sparkles.

How do you organize your jewelry at home? I need more ideas. Help!

To see more from this house, by Bosworth Hoedemaker architects, visit this Houzz gallery.

From our partners

adventures in beekeeping 2.0: lots of work and two stings down

It’s been about six weeks since we installed our new hives at our house upstate by the Hudson and we decided it was a good time to see how they were doing. (Though we had peeked in after the first two weeks, just to make sure that the queens had safely gotten out of their little boxes and were busy laying eggs.) From the moment the two boxes of bees arrived, one of them seemed to be a bit more lively than the other, and that still holds true a month and half later. The “pink” hive has not progressed nearly as much as the “blue” hive. Rather than branching out and filling all the files, the pink hive has concentrated their efforts in the middle, between two frames that had a bit more space between then than the rest. We didn’t even pull it out to look at it because it would have broken its structure. The blue hive is totally cranking. They have nearly filled the entire base box and we gave them a second tier so they could expand. The base hive is where the queen remains, any tiers that get filled above it is where you can draw honey from.

In this photo, above, you can see how some of the cells are getting capped off. When all the frames are completely full and capped off, the bees will move to the next level. Because the queen will stay on the first level, there will be no eggs or baby bees on the second level. It’s all honey, honey, honey.

To help give our little honey bees a little boost, we filled a large dog water dispenser with sugar water (2lbs of sugar). We placed sponges in the base container so they wouldn’t drown. They really seem to be enjoying it, swarming around it all day.

We do have two stings to report: Chad got one behind his ear when he was mowing the lawn (that really makes them mad) and poor Cupcake got one on his left thigh. Maybe they thought he was a brown bear coming at them. Perhaps we should get him one of these: A dog beekeeper suit!

Want to know more? See photos and videos of the installation of the hive, here.

From our partners

we did it ourselves: subway tile backsplash in the kitchen

When we moved into our house three years ago we considered ourselves lucky to be getting a kitchen that we actually cook in, complete with nice countertops, plenty of storage and a gorgeous fridge. But like many things, once we settled in, we realized a few of its shortcomings. One of the most glaring: No backsplash. For some reason the previous owner just never finished that part of the job. Little by little we began fantasizing about what a bit a tile of could do to the space, while watching the area behind the sink slowly get more and more water damaged. Inspired by a neighbor, who was kind enough to lend us a tile cutter, we (or should I say, my husband, Chad) plotted out our next DIY adventure.

1. Measure the space. Measure square footage. When you go to the store this will help them tell you what you need. Buy a little extra.

2. Gather everything you need. We knew we wanted simple white subway tile, so that decision was an easy one. In addition to the boxes of tile, we also bought a scorer and a tile cutter, tile adhesive, grout, sealant, and caulk. We also borrowed a wet saw. The total cost of all materials was about $450.

3. Plot out where you will put the tile.
Make note of where there are curves and where you will need to cut the tiles to make them fit. Remember to use “bull nose” tiles at the ends or on the corners so they have a finished-off look.

4. Cut the tiles that need customization. Chad did this outside, because the wet saw made quite a mess. There is some trial and error, so make sure you have extra tiles on hand and take it slow.

5. Apply the tiles. Luckily our walls were already smooth and drywalled, so they didn’t need much prep work. We simply applied the adhesive on with a trowel, and pressed the tiles into place. Start from the bottom and work your way up, staggering the tiles so the seam of the top is in the middle of the one below. Move tile by tile and be sure you don’t have to much adhesive left behind. Place spacers — little tiles that you wedge between the bottom tile and counter — as it dries.

6. After drying, apply grout.
We waited two days, and applied the grout. We used white grout to keep the palette clean, but chose a dark grey or black if you want a more “vintage” looking effect. Mix the grout in big bucket — it is like flour, and you add water. Follow instructions — it should be the consistency of peanut butter. Glob on the stuff on the side of your trow, pushing into the grooves. When you’re done, take a wet sponge and wipe down. Allow to dry to 48 to 78 hours.

7. Finish with sealant and caulk.
Spray the sealant over the tiles and wipe down. If needed, add a thin line of caulk between tiles and counter.

For more information on how to install your own backsplash, check out this Home Depot tutorial. Lots of stores offer how-to classes as well.

From our partners

fantasy backyard: imagine telling camp stories around a fire bowl!

We’re in love with the idea of having outdoor fires in our backyard, even though we don’t really have the appropriate patio-space that may be required. That doesn’t stop us from dreaming! These new MIX fire bowls from EcoSmart are sure lovely. Highly functional and elegant, MIX Fire Bowls can be easily switched on or off and relocated wherever ambiance, heat and the light of a fire is needed. Graceful bowls made from weather-resistant concrete, these freestanding fires allow you to put a flame where ever and whenever you need it. Fueled with bioethanol, an environmentally friendly, clean burning and renewable energy source fuel, they provide over 8 hours’ usage. With the clean design comes a no-mess factor — no ashes or soot to clean up. But isn’t that part of the fun? The MIX fire bowl is available via ecosmartfire.com, starting around $1000.

From our partners