May 2, 2013

Planning the Master Bath ~ Lessons Learned

I began planning our master bathroom in my head when we first walked through our house with a realtor 6 years ago.  The master bedroom/bathroom area was the first place in the house she took us to.  It was dated (like every square foot of the rest of the house) but it had space.  Our realtor knew we had 3 boys who were rapidly outgrowing our last home, so she was smart to bring us upstairs first.  I saw room to grow and potential in a fabulous neighborhood.  We were sold...

Fast forward to this year when we finally got upstairs to begin work on our part of the house.  I had been pinning bathroom pictures since I first became addicted to a fan of Pinterest.  I LOVE Pinterest!  So I had a pretty clear picture of what I wanted when we decided to take this project on.  We created this mood board and it really helped to give us a clear picture of what we could do considering our budget.  Oh yeah...budget.  We originally planned to spend $5K, but ended up adding more funds (isn't that always the way?).  We ended up spending $7K but we are comfortable with that because of the added value to our house.  As for the planning, Gardenweb's Bathroom forum was such a valuable source of information.  If you are planning a bathroom, head there first and often.  Here is a link to the discussion about our bathroom there.

Here's the mood board we came up with:

Many of the main elements that we chose we bought online.  Although we were a bit whole lot nervous about purchasing big ticket items sight unseen, it was the only way we could source stuff to fit in our budget.  

Tub-I have been stalking that tub at Vintage Bath for years.  I was so excited on the day it came.  And we carried it up all the way upstairs ever so carefully.  I was crestfallen when we noticed a big scratch right on the front as we unpacked it.  And the pedestal base was completely missing from the wooden crate it was delivered in.  Strike one for online shopping.  However, Vintage Tub was great to deal with and they sent us a brand new tub after we e-mailed them pics of the damage.  New tub arrived about 2 weeks later.  Here is the lesson we learned from the tub:

1.  Order early.  Have everything on sight before you think you will need it to allow time for returning items if it becomes necessary.  Also, my husband, who played the role of plumber, needed the tub to position the rough in properly.  

Vanity- The vanity came packaged incredibly well.  It included the carrera top and backsplash.  We read in reviews that the backsplash usually came broken, but ours was wrapped up and in one piece.  We were thrilled with the vanity.  There was one small area of chipped paint, but one call to the company and they sent out touch up paint that arrived in 2 days.  The quality of the vanity is not top notch.  The wood is thinner and the drawers are not dovetailed.  However, for the price and the look it gave us, I would not hesitate to use this vanity again.

Shower- I love the look of frameless shower doors.  As I mentioned earlier, I spend lots of time on Pinterest, and every bathroom I loved had shower glass.  Custom shower glass would have eaten up half our budget alone, so we decided to settle for a shower curtain, as seen on our mood board.  Until I came across this shower unit on  It was within budget.  check.  Open frameless "look" for lots less.  check check.  Not being available to see in any store and no reviews were the big minuses.  We took a chance ordering it. I worried we made the wrong decision every day in the 2 weeks it took to arrive.  We were happy with what we could see in the box and even happier when we installed it.  Here is what we learned from the vanity and shower:

2. When you order these large items online, the price often includes shipping with lift gate service.  That means they will leave you with the item at your curb (or in your driveway).  It is stressful to have to carefully open boxes to look for damage with the driver trying to get away as quickly as they can.  I made sure my husband was home for each delivery.  The vanity and shower were HEAVY.  I was very happy to have a teenage son and husband to do the heavy lifting.  You need to take into account how these heavy items will get into your house (and upstairs in our case).  We chose not to order a cast iron tub (even though that would have been my first choice) because acrylic was much easier to get into the room.

Sconces-I found these sconces at Home Depot when I was first sourcing lighting.  Again, I loved Restoration Hardware sconces, but not their prices.  I found these, they were the look I wanted at the perfect price point.  Bam, on the mood board.  Two months later when my husband was roughing the electrical, he told me he needed the sconces to measure everything.  No problem, I hadn't ordered them yet but I would that day.  Out of Stock.  After checking ebay and everywhere else I could think of, I e-mailed Home Depot and they let me know they should be back in stock in a few weeks.  I got the specs online so hubby could proceed with electrical and ordered as soon as they came back in stock.  Lesson learned:

3.  If you find an item you love, buy it!  Don't wait and assume it will be sitting in stock waiting for you to purchase it.

Flooring-We ended up ditching the original plan of tile that looked like hardwood.  We love the clean look of the white octagonal floor from Lowes.  We also purchased the mirrors at Lowes and those are two of my very favorite elements in the bathroom.

4.  Don't be afraid to change plans up as you go.  That is a benefit of DIY.  You can change things up  as you see things come together and work in your own timeline.   

5. Keep receipts and records.  We had a binder dedicated to everything bathroom related.  When we changed our minds about the plain oval vanity mirrors we had purchased weeks earlier, we were able to return those to purchase the 2 arched frameless mirrors we bought.

6.  The details matter...a lot.  The built ins add so much character to the bathroom but also much needed storage.  All of our towels and many of our necessities like q-tips, cotton balls, soap and bath salts are stored there in decorative containers.  I also have a file for my home magazines that I now read while soaking in the tub (scheming up a master bedroom plan).

7.  Try to enjoy the process.  There were many days that I thought this would never be done.  We had a vanity, tub, and toilet in our bedroom taking up valuable space for weeks.  It got discouraging especially during the rough in stages when the excitement of planning was over and completion feels unreachable.  Hang in there during those days because it is all worth it!  DIY is like riding a roller coaster.  Some days, it is thrilling and others are devastating.  As for us, we are always planning on our next project.  Stay tuned!

This is by far my longest post ever, but we could never have completed a bathroom like this without all the inspiration and information we found on the web.  I hope we can help others.  If you got this far, THANK YOU and please don't hesitate to ask any questions.

There is more info about the master bath in our FAQs page.

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  1. What are the dimensions of your bathroom?

  2. We are going thro a reno too. It is our kitchen which we gutted. We removed 4 walls to make it open plan and moved a staircase. I have been living this way since the 3rd week of Jan. Particle board floors, cupboards half in, working with the old counter top (that doesn't fit) and a few pieces of drywall to fill in, LOL. We have been planking the ceiling in the living room, kitchen and hallway. We are finally at the stage, where we can paint it, and the hardwood will come in two weeks. I feel your pain, renos are tough, but I think we just have to remember how it was and what it will be like.
    I love your bathroom, it is so calming, and classic. I hope next year to do something the same in mine. Your pics have been a great inspiration for me. Unfortunately mine isn't as big as yours, only 8 x 7 so I can't have thAT LOVELY tub. Thanks also for all the sources.

  3. Hello! Can you give me the link to the chandelier you purchased from Overstock? I love your bathroom!

  4. Hi, your bathroom reno turned out beautifully. You must be so proud! I know your wall paint color is sea salt, but what is the white trim color on everything else?


  5. Saw this on House of Turquoise.

    A beautiful job.

    Thanks for sharing.

  6. Your bathroom is beautiful. I'm in love with the niche you created in your shower wall. What material did you use for the shelves themselves in the niche? Thanks !

    1. Thanks so much for you kind words about our bathroom, Kay! We used marble door thresholds, purchased at Home Depot, to make the shelves. We just cut them to the size we needed. Hope that helps.

    2. Oh my, your bathroom is gorgeous! I am building a new house and was googling for ideas to save money and came across your blog. What a rare find and with soooooo much helpful information! I am so appreciative that you took the time to post all of this! I have a question about the shower. Did the glass doors come with a base and fiberglass panels and if so, did you use the base? Did you discard the panels and base if you didn't use those materials? thanks soooo much!

  7. Hello! Love your bathroom! Do you have any idea about how much it cost to put the subway tile in your shower?? I would love to do this :)

  8. Hi! LOVE your bathroom! We are using the same floor and shower tile in our reno, and I was wondering what color/brand grout you used for both the floor and shower? Is it the same? I love that shade of gray! Thanks! :)

    1. Thanks so much! We purchased the grout at Lowes. The brand is Tec Skilset. The color of the wall grout is Silverado and the floor grout is Delorean Gray. Hope that helps!

    2. Thank you so much, Courtney! :) That helps so much! One last thing: is the silvery grout hard to keep mildew-free in the shower? I've been wondering if I need to go with a darker shade (like delorean gray) for that reason. I love the silver though with the white and glass tiles.

  9. Thank you for adding this post to compliment your original. You have designed a wonderful bathroom with everything I would like (and some I already have). I have the exact tub! We are about to embark on a master bath redo and I am having some trouble with some of the design elements. Ours has an angle wall in the room and I have 3 things on my wish list that I'd like to get but my hubs is not on board with. One is more natural light. Right now the only window is 2x3 and it isn't bright enough for me. Anyway, I really needed help with how to get shower glass in an affordable way and you may have helped me majorly. I'm going to check into Costco!

  10. Your bathroom is just lovely! How do you like the chrome fixtures? We are doing a master bath very similar in style to yours and I love the look of the chrome, but I've been told they show every water spot and fingerprint.