When we first found out that my brother was going to be moving out of his longtime rental apartment, I scanned through my mental pictures of the place and quickly came to the conclusion that we should take it. I remembered four things about the bathroom: That it had a sliding glass shower door, a framed picture of Moomintrolls, a very nice cactus garden…and pink tiles. I was right in my memory of the first three things (though obviously the Moomins and the cacti moved out along with my brother), but pink tiles? No. That was wishful thinking.
I love a good pink bathroom. This is not one of them. This is something very different — a tan bathroom. The tiles, tub and toilet are all roughly the color of a Band-Aid. The sink and vanity are off-white, and the laminate on the latter is peeling. The floor is…the floor is WAVY, leading me to wonder what exactly is happening under those tiles, but I’m not intrepid enough to find out anytime soon.
It is what it is, and I’m totally OK with it! Much like the kitchen cabinets, none of this is what I would choose, but it’s functional and not the worst thing in the world, and who knows — maybe someday we’ll retile the entire bathroom and put in a new sink and toilet and get the tub sprayed white and angels will sing. That’s way off in the future, though, if it’s ever going to happen. This is a rental, and there are limitations (especially when you also own a house and that house has carpenter ants in the kitchen and needs a new boiler — but I digress).
Alright, now I’m just avoiding posting photos. Please be gentle! It actually looks better in person, I’m just not good at taking photos in small spaces.
Yeah, this is as good as it gets. I decided to continue the dark gray color we’ve used on the walls in the rest of the apartment into the bathroom through furnishings (the hand towel, the shower curtain, the print, etc.) rather than painting the whole room. The ceiling in this part of the apartment is pretty low, and I don’t think dark paint would do the bathroom any favors. Dark gray and black have an interesting effect on tan, by the way — they manage to make it look more pink! My goal is to get this bathroom looking more ’50s than ’80s, but without getting too literal or kitschy about it. I just want it to feel vintage-y and not sad. I painted the walls Benjamin Moore Moonlight White (matte finish), which is the same white I used throughout my house. It’s very soft and warm, perfect for imperfect spaces.
Here’s what the bathroom looked like before we did anything at all to it…
Two things are happening here that I absolutely cannot live with: A wood toilet seat and a sliding glass shower door. I really, really don’t understand why this type of shower door was so prevalent in American bathrooms for so long. What is the advantage over a shower curtain? The glass is a pain to keep clean, the tracks are traps for all kinds of nastiness and that bottom edge is just waiting to take a chunk out of your shin. Fortunately, they’re pretty easy to remove — take out a few screws, use a razor blade to slice through the caulk, pry off whatever needs prying, and you’re done. This was the very first thing we did on the first day in the apartment! Something tells me the landlord isn’t going to want us to put it back when we leave, but just in case, we have the entire door assembly stored in a closet.
This apartment had the entire array of builder-grade light fixtures in effect, including this marbled number in the bathroom. We replaced it with the ALÄNG from IKEA (scroll up to the first photo to see it!). It’s fine. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money and head clearance is at a minimum, so it gets the job done. I’m keeping an eye out for an inexpensive vintage fixture to replace it with, but I’m not obsessing.
So here’s where we are now…
1. The hardest-working $29 scavenged Componibili around continues to be super-useful. I keep my hair dryer, straightening iron and other unwieldy implement in there. The raindrop hand towel was made by Satsuki Shibuya (sadly no longer available).
You can’t really tell from the pictures, but we replaced the mirrored medicine cabinet. The old one was pretty janky, and it was the kind that’s supposed to be recessed into the wall — except it was just floating on the surface with mirrors glued to the sides (?!). We put the LILLÅNGEN from IKEA in its place, and it’s GREAT. So much more storage! $70 well spent.
2. Does anyone use those tiled-in toothbrush holders for actual toothbrushes? Mine is holding the most amazing incense from Reliquary in San Francisco (thank you, Victoria!). The soap dish is from Izola (thank you, Ilenia!).
3. I picked up the shower curtain from West Elm a couple of years ago for our old apartment, and it’s finally growing on me now. I’m still kind of thinking about replacing it with this one from Ferm, but we’ll see. It is a MASSIVE improvement over the sliding glass doors, that’s for sure.
4. Why is the toilet positioned so weirdly? Dunno, but it looks better with a black toilet seat! I work in a 1930s-era Rockefeller Center building, and the white toilets (many of which appear to be original, incredibly) have these amazing black seats that I’ve always admired (hello to any coworkers reading this who are now giving me the side-eye). Just a little vintage flavor, if you will, but you probably won’t because who wants to use the word “flavor” in reference to a bathroom? Anyway, black toilet seat! I like it.
Oh, and the very cool No Sleep Til Breuckelen print is from Pop Chart Lab.
5. Here’s the plastic bag I taped to the wall to make the bathroom look even more authentically vintage! No. It’s there because some the tiles inside the shower are coming loose and need to be removed, cleaned and replaced, and I have to do it in stages. The entire tub needs to be re-caulked, too. It’s got that perma-mildew thing going on, which I won’t show you because I’m nice.
6. Those cheap little RAST dressers sure do come in handy when you don’t have a lot of space! We used to have this one inside of a closet in our last apartment. I painted it with Benjamin Moore Deep Space (the same color I’ve been using throughout the apartment). It fits so perfectly here, and it holds a TON of stuff.
My mother gave me that sweet Plint box from Ferm for Christmas, and I must say that thing is PERFECT in this bathroom. It ties together the wall tile color and the dark grays so well that it almost looks like it was painted to match the space. Doesn’t it make the tiles look pinker?
I just want to dwell on this clock for a minute, because I love it so much. I bought it for $1 at a stoop sale in Brooklyn about 15 years ago. It keeps perfect time, and it even has a 60-second timer built in. It was made for a kitchen, but I’ve always used it in bathrooms. It’s been in retirement/storage for a few years now, and it makes me really happy to have a place for it again.
And finally, my favorite part of the bathroom! The vintage black tray was a gift from my mother years ago. My smelling-good things are Dark Wave from OLO Fragrance and Rocky Glen from Cold Spring Apothecary, which appears to be discontinued. The Tarot Deck candle is from Catbird, and it smells like “incense, Turkish rose and pencil shavings.” Yup. I like anything that smells like witches and/or my high school bedroom. The rocks — those beautiful rocks! — are our place cards (place rocks?) from Lisa and Clay’s wedding. Diana Fayt hand-painted 103 of them — you can read more about that on Lisa’s blog. (Diana has a shop for her painted rocks if you want one, too.)
What’s next in here? I’m not sure. A rug, maybe, but it would have to be just the right one. I’ve thought about adding a row of black pencil tiles to top off the tan, or maybe putting up some cool wallpaper — I think the gold Wilderness pattern from Ferm would look pretty amazing! Re-tiling the floor in a dark slate or black would go a long, long way, as would a new sink. I’ll see! It definitely needs some Moomintrolls, too…and more cacti.