Sutton Renovation Close-up: Bathroom

The first version of this post was originally posted in August 2011 on the giftable designs blog.

Because it isn’t just as easy as picking out a color and waiting for the “after” photos, I’m going to start outlining each room, the process of design and renovation, and finally what I would change (or wouldn’t) if given the chance. I’m going to upload a ton of pictures with little descriptions, but if you just want the final run-down (or the finished pictures!), scroll to the bottom.

Second finished room! Yay! Here’s how it happened:

The bathroom started off as the worst room in the apartment. Yes, the kitchen was small and gross, but you can always order in, right? The first time we entered the bathroom, there were roaches in the tub and a ton of water damage on the ceiling and walls (it was old and dry, thankfully).

Everything had to be replaced, down to the pipes. So say goodbye to walls, and hello using a bucket as a sink.

We decided to gut the bathtub as well. I’m sure some people would throw rocks at me for demolishing an original 1950s tub, but it was worn down and stained, meaning we would have to have it refinished otherwise. And it wasn’t nice looking anyway. After much back-and-forth, we decided to replace the tub area with a stand-up spa shower. Being the only bathroom, it was a bit of a gamble, but we were pretty sure it would look good enough to make up for the faux-pas.

The room sat like this for a long time. There was a miscommunication about the type of piping required by the building, so we ended up being delayed about two weeks from the very start. After that, the walls and tile went up very quickly.

Unfortunately, it went up a bit too quickly. The beautiful white carrara marble was installed unevenly and extremely uncarefully. Every time I went in, I pointed out bits that had to be changed. It was clear the subcontractor was in way over his head. Yes, the photo below shows dark blue paint from the living room staining our brand new (and unevenly cut) white marble. There was screaming.

It took months until our head contractor finally fired the guy who was doing it. It’s still not perfect, but we decided to cut our losses. It looks OK, until you really look at the details. Nothing is properly centered or totally even, but there wasn’t much we could have done about it at that point.

The next step was having the shower doors installed. These were a bit of a splurge, but since we didn’t have to pay for a new tub we decided to go for it. They’re not only a focal point of the room, but also something we’re going to have to use every day– so they had to be pretty and functional. The ones we picked are a tad industrial compared to the rest of the room, but it’s a nice contrast to the vanity.

Oh, I haven’t even mentioned the vanity yet, have I? Well. I ordered it during the Restoration Hardware bath sale in January. It was showing up as *in stock* at the time. They called to schedule a delivery mid-February, and the day before they were supposed to come, I got an automated call that the delivery was cancelled. I called back and (after an hour on hold) was told it was delayed until April. Since I didn’t think the renovation would be done, I said it was fine (but of course got a hefty gift card in exchange). In early May, they moved it to mid-May (and I got the value of the card increased). Meanwhile, they weren’t issuing the gift card until the sink was delivered– and the gift card was going to pay for our medicine cabinet, so the bathroom reno came to a screeching halt.

The vanity was delivered a few days before we were set to leave for our wedding. This gave us a minimal but working bathroom, so we decided to move in. You can also see in the photo below that we opted for a triple glass shelf instead of doing a cut-out detail to store toiletries. I thought this would pick up the straight lines of the shower door and handle while integrating the detail from the shower body and faucet. I also didn’t think the tile guys could have handled a nice looking cutout and didn’t want it looking shoddy.

The medicine cabinet arrived while we were out of town, and it was installed a few days after we got back. At this point, they could also wallpaper (!!) and install the glass shelves, towel ring, and light fixture.

And so here you have it, our finished bathroom! The only thing missing is a second glass shelf above the toilet which will go up as soon as Pottery Barn mails me the correct hardware :-/

Room Details:

• Tile – White Carrara Marble (12×12″, 1×1″, pencil, and bullnose) from Quality Tile in the Bronx, total for all this plus the kitchen floor tile and grout was $2700

• Shower Door – by Vigo from Mirage Glass and Mirrors in Brooklyn, $1800

• Vanity and Light FixtureShutter Powder Room Vanity and Sutton Grand Sconce from Restoration Hardware, $1600

• Medicine CabinetWhitby Inset Medicine Cabinet from Restoration Hardware, free!

• Glass ShelvesMercer Glass Shelf and Mercer Triple Glass Shelf in Satin Nickel from Pottery Barn, $230

• Hardware – Faucet, Shower Hardware, Towel Ring, Towel Hook, and Toilet from Home Depot, $600

• WallpaperWoods by Cole & Son in Taupe/White from Lee Jofa, $220

Things I’d Do Differently (or Keep the Same):

Hmm, where to start? This room was pretty much a disaster from start to finish.

I would have:

Made sure the tile guy was qualified before I left him alone with $2k in marble.

Figured out what kind of piping the building wanted before the guys had to re-do it THREE times.

Not ordered from Restoration Hardware. Seriously. The stuff looks great but the quality is disappointing and it wasn’t worth the job being held up for months. I purposefully didn’t buy cabinet pulls from them because of the terrible customer service and delays I faced.

Found a narrower vanity. As you can see in some of the photos, the toilet sits oddly close to the sink. This is because it’s really difficult/expensive to move around the hole in the floor that the toilet connects to in a high-rise. In all my calculations, I’d have plenty of room, but I never thought to check about the immovable fixture. There’s plenty of room on the other side of the toilet for a trash can, but it looks kind of lopsided. The drain in the shower is also off center for the same reason, but isn’t as obvious. Oh, and the reason the stove sticks out from the back wall of the kitchen is because of a building pipe right there. So basically if you’re doing a reno in a high-rise, make sure your plans will work with what you can’t change. (I know this sounds like a given, but it’s easy to forget).

Honestly I probably wouldn’t do carrara marble again. It’s really pricey and stains easily, but it will work really well for resale in this particular area. In our next reno (NEXT? WHAT?) we’ll probably go back to ceramic.

And I never in a million years would have changed:

The wallpaper. I love it. It was such a pain to find it (I had to order through a designer friend, and it took weeks to arrive from the UK), but it’s by far my favorite part of the whole room. And yes, I’m aware you can buy it in other colors from Anthro… but I wanted the taupe. So there. It was also cheaper to buy direct.

The spa shower. This was a huge risk, I think, but it’s so goshdarn peaceful in there! Showering in a tub always feels kind of cramped, and we’re not bath people so we won’t miss soaking. It’s still to be seen whether it effects resale, though.

Yay, room #2! Hope you like the transformation as much as I do! Cheers!



  1. I feel for you. I don’t want to pile on because you are already disappointed by the remodel, but to me everything looks mismatched. And the toilet looks incredibly shallow; that could just be the angle but it looks like you have to sit perched very close to the back. Are there gaps between the shower doors and the tile wall in places? Still, it is a major improvement and altho a little awkward it is a pleasant room and far from horrible. And the bathtub critters moved out!

    1. The toilet is actually an extra long version so it’s far from shallow. It’s a small room so it’s tough to get it to photograph like your eye would see it. The gaps are intentionally cut out so that the glass of the shower door can close without water leaking out into the bathroom– there is a rubber stopper piece as well.

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