Archive
Tag "tile"

doorsixteen_aptcaulk_after

Remember the pinkish-tan/Band-Aid bathroom in my apartment? I’m still doing the best I can (short of gutting the whole thing) to make it feel cleaner, fresher and generally less awful, and my latest improvement measure was taking care of the undeniably revolting perma-mildew situation inside the bathtub/shower area.

I realize the photo above might not look like much of an “after,” but let’s consider where we started:

doorsixteen_aptcaulk_before

I know. It was really gross. Believe me, even after scrubbing everything with bleach and hot water, this was as clean as it got. There were loose tiles (hence the taped-up garbage bag, an attempt to keep water from getting inside of the wall) and failing grout, and nearly all of the caulk had gone permanently black. The outer layer of caulk was actually clear silicone, and I’m thinking the mildew likely came from the first layer of caulk having been applied over even older “infected” caulk without properly preparing the area first.

Want to take a closer look?

doorsixteen_aptcaulk_barf

I’m sorry. Truly. There was even some of that extra-creepy reddish mold growing on the grout, which I learned in the course of putting this post together is called Serratia marcescens, which “manifests as a pink discoloration and slimy film feeding off phosphorus-containing materials or fatty substances such as soap and shampoo residue.” I don’t want that in my bathroom, especially not anywhere near my naked body. Incidentally, it’s thought that S. marcescens is behind the appearance of “blood” on the Eucharist in the early 13th century that led to the Feast of Corpus Christi. Well, then! I don’t know about you, but I think discovering the blood of Christ on your bathroom walls is a pretty good indication that it’s time to re-grout.

And yes, we did readily step into this shower every morning for months, because what else were we going to do? You need a span of at least 2 1/2 days to address both grout and caulk, and when you don’t have a second bathroom available, it can be tricky to plan out the whole thing. I wound up with a work-free summer Friday and a weekend where I needed to be in the city, though, so I resigned myself to a few days of personal griminess and just went for it.

doorsixteen_aptcaulk_tools

Tools + Materials!
Since I know what it’s like to have lived in apartments with gross caulk and grout during a time before I learned how to remedy the problem permanently (I distinctly recall attempting to paint over discolored caulk in my first apartment’s bathroom…), I thought I’d include a list of supplies. I’m not even making any brand recommendations because I honestly just used what was available at the cruddy hardware store closest to our apartment. I didn’t want to bring materials from house because I’m in the midst of using them in the kitchen renovation, and the last thing I need is to discover I’ve left something I need at the apartment.

This is about $60 worth of supplies, give or take. Not so bad, considering things like grout saws and caulk guns are good to own for future projects.

1. Rubber gloves. Wear them.

2. Caulk tool. Forget about the rubber triangle end, the magic is in the metal part. It’s perfect for scraping out out caulk. You really need to get ALL of the old caulk out, too.

3. Grout saw. These little guys are perfect for filing out grout between tiles. I know it seems really tedious, but once you get going it’s not so bad. If the old grout is really loose, just file it all out. If it’s just stained (not moldy), you can get away with leaving some (NOT ALL!) of the old grout intact. As long as get at least 2/3 of it out, the new grout will have enough of a free edge on the tile to grab onto. If there are some areas where the grout is totally fine (as it was in most of my shower), you can leave it alone — just be aware that you can’t “skim” over it with new grout, and new/old colors may not match perfectly.

4. Razor blade. No home renovation project is possible without one. There’s always going to be some kind of residue that needs to be cleaned up or a caulk edge that needs its seal broken, and you’ll want to have a blade handy.

5. Silicone caulk remover. I wound up not having to use this, but I have in the past. If there’s caulk residue that just won’t budge, this will help loosen it up.

6. Pre-mixed thinset. If you have loose tiles, you need to remove them completely, scrape off the old mortar, and re-set them. Ordinarily I would advise against using the pre-mixed stuff, but for doing repair work or just setting a few tiles (as opposed to a whole bathroom), it’s fine. A small tub is cheap and it gets the job done.

7. Pre-mixed grout. Ditto the above when it comes to grout. For bigger jobs I always mix my own grout, but pre-mixed is fine for repairs. Make sure you check the joint size indicated on the tub to make sure it’ll work with your tiles.

8. Tiling sponge. Regular dish sponges tend to fall apart and even leave colored residue on grout. Get a nice, big tiling sponge for doing your wipe-downs. It’s worth it.

9. Rubbing alcohol. After you’ve removed all traces of old caulk, wipe everything down with alcohol. It’ll help prepare the area for good caulk adhesion.

10. Backer rod. You might not need this, but if you have any large/wide gaps to caulk, you’ll want to cram some of this stuff in the space first. Otherwise, you’ll just be unloading endless amounts of caulk into the abyss. Backer rod is a wonderful thing.

11. Painter’s tape. Silicone caulk is much messier than latex/acrylic caulk, and it’s tough to get a nice edge, especially if you’re filling in an irregular space between tiles that appear to have been cut with soccer cleats. Taping off the edges (like I did here) helps a lot. Just make sure you pull off the tape slowwwwwly and carefully right after you smooth out the bead — don’t wait for the caulk to dry.

12. Good-quality silicone caulk. Make sure you buy caulk that’s meant to be used in showers/wet areas. I usually buy whatever makes the most amazing claims on the packing, like 30 minute drying time or 10 year mildew-resistance. In my experience, caulk that comes in a cartridge-style tube is much easier to work with than the stuff in a squeezy-tube. Which brings me to the final item…

13. Caulk gun. You don’t need to get anything fancy. A cheapo, no-frills, $7 caulk gun is just fine.

doorsixteen_aptcaulk_grouting

I wish I had more process photos, but it was 90°F in the bathroom and I was just trying to get through the whole thing as fast as possible. Stopping to take off my gloves and take pictures just wasn’t working out.

The first thing I did was give the whole shower area a good scrubbing with bleach. Ordinarily bleach should be avoided on grout because it will cause the bonding agents to fail over time, but when you’re dealing with mildew and mold and stuff like that, bleach is sort of the only answer.

Then I started stripping out the caulk, which was the most time-consuming and gross part of the whole project. I did it in stages — the easy stuff before the grout, the tough stuff while the grout was drying. Ideally you’d just do it all at once, but I was fed up.

Next, I sawed out the bad grout and removed the loose tiles (most of which just sort of fell off the wall while I was sawing the grout). I scraped and sanded the old mortar off the tiles, washed them with bleach and water for good measure, and re-set them. I didn’t bother using a notched trowel because mine was at the house and I didn’t want to buy a new one, so I just used a screwdriver to “draw” some ridges in the new thinset before pressing them into place.

And then, grout! Again, I’m doing it “wrong” here, but it’s not a big deal when you’re only doing a small area. When you’re grouting a whole wall you should use a tile float to really get the grout into the gaps, but you know what else works really well for a repair job? An old credit card and a finger. Yep.

Then I wiped everything down and let the grout dry overnight while I resumed stripped caulk…

doorsixteen_aptcaulk_BA

The next day, NEW CAULK! I love caulking. It’s so satisfying. I wiped everything down with alcohol, stuffed backer rod into the big gaps, taped off the edges and did my thing. I know it looks kind of janky, but that’s really because the tiles were so unevenly cut and there were some gaps that were super wide. It’s not like this bathroom is going to win any beauty contests, so my goal was really just to get everything clean, fresh and watertight.

It really does look SO much better now. Yeah, I still hate the color and it’s still an ugly bathroom, but it’s clean. Getting into the shower doesn’t feel like a potential health threat anymore. I’m also not worried about water getting into the wall now, which in turn eases my concerns about the entire bathtub eventually crashing through rotted joists and falling into the apartment below us. I think about these things.

doorsixteen_aptcaulk_knobsbefore

The other things I took care of while I was dealing with the grout were the knobs. The handles were all wiggly and loose, and there was nasty black gunk setting up shop behind the little plastic “buttons” on the fronts. Those buttons pop out really easily with the edge of a knife or screwdriver, and, assuming you have standard-style fixtures in a common brand, you can replace them very cheaply. They’re called index buttons — just search for the brand of your faucet. You’ll be amazed what’s still readily available even for very old fixtures. We found exactly what we needed on the rack at the cruddy local hardware store, no special order required.

Anyway, once you pop off the buttons, you can easily unscrew the whole handle — just stick a screwdriver inside. There was all kind of ick inside of the backs of the handles, so I gave them a good scrubbing (yes, again with bleach — sometimes you gotta). I pulled the escutcheons forward (there’s a tiny screw underneath), re-caulked the edge where the tile meets the stop tube (again to prevent water from getting into the wall), cleaned everything really well, and tightened it all back up again.

doorsixteen_aptcaulk_knobsafter

Ahhhhh, so much better! The faucet handles are now not only clean and shiny, they’re also non-wiggly and easy to shut off. I’m so glad I took the time to take care of the handles. It really wasn’t a big deal, and it makes such a huge difference in our daily existence. Nobody needs to live with black grime under their index buttons.

You can totally do this — the caulking and grouting and the faucet tune-up. It’s not hard AT ALL. If you’re at all unsure about how to disassemble the trim on your faucet, you have the entire internet at your disposal. I know I’ve said this a million times, but the only reason I know how to do any of this is because someone else did it before me and took the time to write about it — or, even better, make a YouTube video — and put it online. Also, the Reader’s Digest Complete Do-It-Yourself Manual. It’s literally the only book I own about home repair, and I refer to it constantly.

doorsixteen_aptcaulk_showerhead

Oh! One last thing — a new shower head! This was Evan’s project, as it has been in the other apartments we’ve lived in together. Unless you’re renting a newly-renovated apartment, chances are the shower head could use replacing. It’s such an easy fix, and it makes an enormous difference. I personally really like having a hose attachment because it makes cleaning the tub soooooo much easier (not to mention how nice it is for giving plants showers and rinsing out hair dye). The one we bought isn’t anything special, but it was less than 25 bucks and it gets the job done. All you need to install it is a wrench and plumber’s tape (don’t believe the line on the package about not needing tape — that’s a lie), and the whole thing takes 15 minutes, tops.

If you want to see more of the apartment bathroom, I wrote about the other improvements I’ve been making a couple of months ago. What’s left? Three things, none of which are a rush: Find the perfect rug to disguise the ugly floor tiles, replace the toilet flush valve assembly (it’s got a leaky flapper) and fix up the peeling laminate on the sink cabinet.

p.s. I’m having some issues with my spam-blocking plugin. If you try to leave a comment and run into any problems, would you mind dropping me an email or tweeting to me? Thank you!

doorsixteen_kitchentile_sinkwall

Nine long months after I started tiling the kitchen, I’m am extremely happy to say that I am DONE! Well, I still have to caulk around the window casings and along the tops of the baseboard moldings, but other than that? COMPLETE! FINITO!

(Done with the tile, that is. Not the rest of the kitchen.)

Man, what a relief. I think I’ve gone through 11 boxes of tile, and who knows how many batches of thinset and grout. So much black grout. Black grout is the messiest thing on the planet. My arms are tired and I’ve got a pinched nerve in my neck and I am over all of it. I love tiling, I really do, but there are limits. My limit seems to be about 10 hours at a stretch, and then I need to take a break for a day or two. Or six months.

doorsixteen_kitchentile_backcorner

This is what I worked on for that last couple of weekends — the entire back wall and rear half of the right wall. It feels really good to see tile here instead of half-painted bare walls. I’m so glad I didn’t just do a tiled backsplash or anything. This is the kind of kitchen that needs tile everywhere.

doorsixteen_kitchentile_favoritecorner

Oh, and a beauty shot of my favorite corner, of course, all angles and lines…I love it.

doorsixteen_kitchentile_full

This is now my favorite spot to sit in the house. Evan and I have stopped using the dining room for meals unless we have friends over for dinner, and I camp out there for hours in the morning on the weekends. I don’t know why we never put an island or table in the kitchen until now, but it makes a huge difference.

doorsixteen_kitchentile_radiator

Here’s the newly-refinished radiator in place! It’s not actually connected to the pipe yet since we still have to rip up the floor, but it’s very exciting to see it looking so fresh and non-rusty. I still don’t understand why it was originally installed all the way over in the corner? It’s literally exactly the same width as the windowsill, so centering it underneath looks a million times better. Moving that pipe was worth every penny.

As good as it feels to have the tiling finished, there’s still so much left to get done before the cold weather comes…

Kitchen renovation to-do list:
✚ Disconnect sink, remove all cabinetry and refrigerator
✚ Spray paint island legs
✚ Build shelf for bottom of island
✚ Floor demolition (remove VCT flooring and plywood subfloor)
✚ Assess condition of original pine subfloor; repair if possible
✚ Paint existing pine subfloor OR install new pine flooring and paint
✚ Paint ceiling
✚ Run conduit for surface-wiring new lighting, which means…
✚ I had better figure out what light fixtures I want
✚ Gaze sadly at giant refrigerator and wish it would magically turn into a cute little SMEG
✚ Eventually: Replace exterior door

I’ll be getting back to work on this list TOMORROW! I plan to use every available minute of this Labor Day weekend to get that floor demo work done. If the existing pine can’t be salvaged, we’re going to need to put in an order for replacement tongue and groove. Fingers are tightly crossed that it doesn’t come to that, though!

doorsixteen_housekitchen_tileprogress3

doorsixteen_housekitchen_tileprogress1

It’s been nearly nine months since my last kitchen tiling madness binge at the house, and it feels so, SO good to be back in the swing of things. Aside from not having bronchitis and a 102° fever this time around, it’s very encouraging to at least have a finish line in sight. Having the radiators disconnected means I can make lots of progress with the tiling and the flooring, but it also means I’m now racing to get everything finished before heating season starts.

doorsixteen_housekitchen_tile_satsun2

When I got to the house on Saturday, I was finally able to see this corner of the kitchen (next to the sink) radiator-free. The valve and supply pipe were positioned so closely to the pipe chase that the radiator actually had to be cut out by the plumbers — you can see the scorch marks on the painted wood from being in contact with a hot valve. We will not be having this radiator reconnected, since the one on the other side of the room provides sufficient heat on its own.

See how crazily sloped the wall and baseboard molding are under the window? When we bought the house, this wall was in a serious state of disrepair. Years of water seepage and ice buildup on the outside of the building had caused the mortar between the bricks to fail — you could literally push on the outside of the house and see the bricks move. There was so much water damage on the wall behind the radiator that you could see light from outdoors coming through the radiator. (I don’t think I have photos of all of this, unfortunately, but I’ll check on an old hard drive this weekend to see if I can find anything.) It was alarming, to say the least! We hired a wonderful contractor to repair the exterior of the house and stabilize the bricks and lintels — as well as dig out the foundation and waterproof the outside about 6′ below ground level — and all has been well since then, but all of the interior settling that occurred as a result remains. It is stable, though, and rather than open a can of worms trying to straighten the wall and re-set the baseboard molding, I just went with it as-is. It was kind of like tiling a ski slope, but it’s honestly not all that noticeable now that the tile is uniform and the molding has been primed. It’ll be even less apparent once I get everything grouted and caulked and make the moldings a little nicer.

doorsixteen_housekitchen_tile_satsun

Not bad for a solid 12 hours of tiling! I feel like I should be going faster, but the unevenness of the wall means I have to do a lot of building up/tapering of thinset along the way, and it’s tedious. I really do love tiling, though — always alone, never with an assistant (though I won’t object to having my thinset mixed for me!). It’s somewhat meditative, and I’ve done enough of it at this point that I have a good system down. I always listen to NPR, I always use my Wood & Faulk pencil, I always use a certain orange plastic triangle, I always have coffee at the ready…as long as I know the necessities are there and I keep my workspace clean, I can keep going and going as long as I need to. On Saturday night I was up until 3:00am!

doorsixteen_housekitchen_tileprogress2

My favorite corner!! Man, I love how this is looking. I’ll be grouting this area next Saturday, and I know I’m going to take at least a dozen beauty shots when I’m done. Is it weird to be this obsessed with a corner? I just want to pet it. And maybe lick it? I love you, corner.

doorsixteen_housekitchen_tileoutlet

I keep forgetting to take pictures to show how you deal with outlets and tile. Because tile changes the distance between the surface of the wall and the electrical box, you have to move the switches and outlets forward. With single boxes you can use a box extension ring, but with double boxes like this one you can use these little plastic shims. After turning off the circuit to the box (!!!), all you need to do is loosen the screws connecting the outlet to the box and snap on as many shims as you need to move the outlet forward the same depth as your tile. Tighten the screws, and you’re all set. (These shims are great if you have a loose outlet that needs support, too.)

doorsixteen_housekitchen_tile_nextweek

THIS IS ALL I HAVE LEFT TO TILE!!! Just this little corner! I have to do some repair work to the wall first because the plaster is really lumpy where the radiator was, but I should be able to finish this in a day. Then it’s time to grout!! See that lovely new radiator valve on the bottom right? That thing is smoooooth to turn. The old one was so rusty that bits would crumble off into your hand if you tried to close the valve. We had the plumber move the valve (and the pipe in the basement that leads to it) about a foot to the right at the same time so the radiator will be centered under the window instead of being crammed into the corner. And yes, that electrical outlet will need to be moved as well.

doorsixteen_housekitchen_floorboards

The kitchen floor is still a huge unknown, but I’m holding onto hope that the original pine subfloor will be salvageable enough to paint. We know that they unfortunately have a lot of water damage, and I have to admit that the condition of the exposed planks in this corner is not encouraging. We’ll see how it goes, though. I doubt we’ll be able to start demo work on the floor next weekend (I still have to finish getting the rest of the tile up and then grout and caulk everything, plus if the weather is good I want to refinish the radiator outside), but hopefully the weekend after that. Fingers crossed that the floor will be alright with a little Bondo and a lot of paint!

A lot of teenagers go through a phase where they think skulls are really cool. This is because skulls are really cool. I never exited that phase. Skulls are possibly the most clichéd representation of badassery ever, and the fact that schmancy designers like Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood have brought skulls into the world of luxury goods — and endless knockoffs of those luxury goods — has made them pretty inescapable. They still look cool to me, though, and I keep on buying skull stuff and feeling happy that I don’t have to wait until Halloween rolls around to do it. (This is also how I feel about black nail polish.)

Here’s my skull wishlist…

doorsixteen_skullz1

1. Ceramic skull planter, Mudpuppy
2. Skull blanket, 360 Sweater
3. Cartolina skull temporary tattoo, Fiona Richards for Tattly
4. Skull pendant light, RawDezign (also in black)
5. Crocheted skull, Crochet Bloke (pattern available in his book)
6. Skull art print, Dawn Kelley
7. Black enamel skull ring, Alexander McQueen
8. Skull sweater, Zoe Karssen

doorsixteen_skullz2

1. Black metallic stoneware skull, Mudpuppy
2. Skull tiles, Josep Motas for Bussoga (see below)
3. Dia de DUMBO wallpaper, Flavor Paper
4. Twin skull ring, Alexander McQueen
5. Tiny crocheted skulls, Dewey Decimal Crafts
6. Skull scarf, Alexander McQueen

doorsixteen_bussogaskulls
Photo from Heathrow Speaking After Dark

I had to include another photos of Josep Motas’ incredible skull tiles in use. Isn’t is neat how they seem to turn into a more traditional Mediterranean tile when they’re all together like that? D16 reader Raquel emailed me about them months ago thinking I’d like them, and I haven’t been able to get them out of my head since. I’ve tried to find a US distributor of these tiles because I would love to be able to use them in a house project, but so far I’ve come up empty-handed, even after attempting to contact Bussoga. I did find an interview with Motas, the author of which noted the same thing I did about the floral appearance of the skulls when they’re on the wall. I love this part of the description from the product page: “The top goal of this design would be for someone to like the tiles when put together, who retiles their bathroom and then one day discovers that they have to rip off all the tiles while sitting on the toilet.” Hello, THAT’S ME!!

And finally, some of my Skullstagrams…

doorsixteen_skullstagrams

1. Wheatpaste on Pacific Street, Brooklyn (artist unknown)
2. My skull rings! The black & gold ones are from UO, and the plastic is from the doomed NoHo Market
3. A plaster skull at Modern Anthology
4. My office skull-buddies — matte black on the left, glitter with light-up eyes on the right
5. Mini skull candles from the Halloween clearance aisle at Target
6. My skully hand at Lisa & Clay’s wedding (the thin gold rings are from ASOS)
7. A blue jay skull I found in my garden
8. A giant skull candle from West Elm’s Halloween clearance table
9. Me feeding a delicious vegan donut from the Cinnamon Snail to one of my pet office skulls

doorsixteen_47parkave_1

Yeah, I could live there is a not-so-new, occasional D16 feature wherein I post pictures of homes I want to break into, kick out the inhabitants and move in. Today we’re traveling to 47 Park Avenue and the Edwardian-style home of Michael and Jonathan (and their dogs, Jacob Crackers, Oscar Wilde and Charlie Buckets) in Yorkshire, England.

I’ve actually been meaning to post about Michael and Jonathan’s houses (they have another one in London) for many months now, but I’ve had such a hard time narrowing down what pictures to share! Their homes are both so gorgeous and inspiring and perfectly renovated that it’s impossible to write about either without using 600 photos. Fortunately for all of us, Michael blogs about both houses himself! I discovered his blog through Jonathan’s location agency, Shoot Factory (a veritable trove of inspiration in itself — I’ve spent many hours clicking through all of those lovely London homes and fantasizing about all of my alternate lives).

So how about just one part of one house, then? The room I keep coming back to whenever I think about their Yorkshire home is the small bedroom they converted into a dressing room for Michael (Jonathan has his own dressing room, which is also lovely!). Oh, it is FABULOUS. Check out this side-by-side:

47 Park Ave, before/after

WOWZA. The room on the left looks like every sad, musty bed and breakfast, and the room on the right looks like…um, I don’t have a good comparison. It looks like a really, really nice dressing room belonging to a person with good taste and fancy clothes. (I’m such an observant and talented writer, I know.) Michael started working on his dressing room in summer 2011, and he’s still putting finishing touches on it — fortunately for those of us who like that sort of thing, he takes loads of progress shots along the way!

doorsixteen_47parkave_progress

The decision to leave the window casings and sashes bare wood while painting the baseboards, doors and floor makes me so happy. It also makes me want to strip off the 50 layers of paint on my own windows! I’m supremely envious of Michael’s ability to keep his clothes and shoes looking so nice on full display. If I put my own clothes and shoes in the exact same room, it would not look like that. Nobody wants to put old, scuffed-up Swedish clogs in a glass cabinet, you know?

doorsixteen_47parkave_2

About a year into the project, the dressing room reached its first stage of being “done.” And it looked fantastic! An antique marble-topped mahogany dental cabinet at the center of the room, scaffolding poles for hanging clothes, a vintage Scolari chandelier, a super-duper-fancy glass cabinet for shoes…how can you possibly improve on that?!

The answer to that question is one I’d never have come up with for a dressing room, but it’s exactly right: TILE. Specifically, subway tile with dark grout. Ohhhh yeah. I don’t need to tell you how I feel about that (I feel like maybe my kitchen and Michael’s dressing room could be friends, no?).

doorsixteen_47parkave_tile

SO GOOD. I want to tile everything now. And how nice is that angled wall where the entry door is? The dark grout really brings out that wall and the slanted ceiling — it just looks so much more architecturally interesting, and, contrary to what a lot of people think about subway tile, the room now feels so much warmer and cozier. I really love it.

Thank you so much for allowing me to share your home, Michael and Jonathan! I’ll keep following your renovation progress at your blog (eagerly awaiting the shop, too!) and all of the beautiful locations at Shoot Factory.

doorsixteen_47parkave_3

All photos courtesy of and © 47 Park Avenue

doorsixteen_blackpennyrounds1

I get a surprising amount of traffic here on the blog from people searching for pictures of black tiles with black grout (or black pennyrounds, or just black bathroom floors in general), and a lot of those people then email me to ask about whether I like having all of those things in my house and what the maintenance is like. It’s been about 4 years (!!!) since we put them in our downstairs bathroom, so I feel like I can speak with a bit of experience about them at this point.

We used matte black pennyrounds from Nemo tile (the style code is m890) in our bathroom with Polyblend sanded grout in Charcoal, which really does read as black to my eye. It took a bit of hunting to find it locally, but Tec makes sanded black caulk (Raven) that matched the grout pretty perfectly. (Grout is for between the tiles, and caulk is for joints — like where tiles meet at a corner or where your tile meets the tub.) Including the tile underlayment and all of the “ingredients,” the whole floor cost about $350.

doorsixteen_blackpennyrounds2

The caulk line looks a little grayish here, but that’s really just the photo. After four years, the color hasn’t faded at all — it still looks rich and black. Several people have asked me whether using products like talcum powder in the bathroom would be an issue with black grout. That’s not something I ever use, but I do wear loose face powder every day that I brush on with wild abandon…and I’ve never noticed it showing up in the grout. I have dropped bits of broken pressed powder onto the floor, though, and that does definitely require some clean-up, but nothing that a regular sponge and warm water can’t take care of. (Note: I did use a sealant after grouting. Not sure if that actually makes a difference, but it can’t hurt.)

The other thing that comes up a lot is the question of whether dust and water spots show on the tile. In short: No. Nothing shows on this tile. Even if I were a total pig and didn’t regularly clean my bathroom, I could go for a really, really long time before the floor looked dirty. Like…months. At least. I’m not going to try it to find out, but seriously, this is NOT a nightmare floor. I think that’s probably because the tiles are tiny/visually busy and because they’re matte. If I had 2×3′ polished black marble tiles, I might be singing a different tune!

doorsixteen_blackpennyrounds3

Next up, cleaning! I don’t do anything special to clean the pennyrounds. The first thing I do when I’m cleaning any bathroom is vacuum, because otherwise I’m just pushing hair around with a sponge and EW. Usually I just follow up with a wet Swiffer cloth, but every couple of months I do get down on my knees with a bucket and a sponge and go to town on all the nooks and crannies. Again, though, this is just something I’d do regardless of the type of tile, not because the floor looks grimy or anything.

doorsixteen_blackpennyrounds4

doorsixteen_blackpennyrounds5

Alright, so you can’t actually see the tiles at all in these pictures, but I’m including them anyway because I love this bathroom so, so, so much. I’m still really proud of all the work Evan and I did in there (even though it did take us the better part of a year!). It was such a sad, ugly room when we bought the house, and now it’s one of my favorite places to be. Maybe that’s a weird thing to say about a tiny little bathroom? I really do love everything about it, and we learned so much in the process. That was my first time tiling!

BONUS PICTURES!! I recently saw this black-floored Brooklyn bathroom on Remodelista and fell in looooove. It looks to me like they used polished black marble hexagons with a slightly lighter grout than I did, but the effect is very similar. For your ogling pleasure…

doorsixteen_sargisson_remodelista
Photos by Sean Flattery for Remodelista. (There are more photos on designer Elizabeth Roberts’ website — click through the slideshow for more bathroom shoots!)

Barcelona kitchen

Yeah, I could live there is a not-so-semi-new, occasional D16 feature wherein I post pictures of homes I want to break into, kick out the inhabitants and move in. Today I’m specifically planning to move into a kitchen in Barcelona designed by Daniel Perez and Felipe Araujo of Egue y Seta studio.

Yes, I could live in a kitchen—as long as it’s this kitchen. I mean…

Barcelona kitchen

Barcelona kitchen

Barcelona kitchen

HOW CAN IT BE SO PERFECT?! The floor tiles!!! I’ve seen these Q*bert-esque cement tiles in use before, but never on this kind of scale and never with results quite at this level of breathtaking. It’s not just the floor tiles, though, it’s everything. EVERY. SINGLE. THING. I’m ready to set up a little bedroll in the corner and make myself at home.

DETAILS:
✚ Interior design by Daniel Perez and Felipe Araujo of Egue y Seta studio
✚ See more photos of this amazing house at Micasa and at Egue y Seta

I got so inspired by these photos that I even put together my own little collage (please don’t make me call it a “mood board”). I’m seriously wondering if there’s some way I can find a place to use those tiles in MY kitchen! Doing the whole floor would be crazily expensive, but maybe a tiled doormat by the back door or something like that? That could happen.

Fantasy kitchen!

1. American Olean 3×6″ subway tiles
2. Francis Francis X1 espresso machine
3. HEKTAR pendant lamp, IKEA
4. Design Workshop rolling cart, West Elm Market
5. Eames DAX armchair
6. Vintage cast iron pot, Hindsvik
7. Mt Whitney table, Blake Avenue
8. Cubes geometric cement tile, Villa Lagoon

Kitchen spotted via Desire to Inspire (thanks to Tina for the tip!)

I had grand visions for my end-of-year vacation: I was going to catch up on emails, clean the house from top to bottom, watch movies, spend time with Evan and the dogs, and, of course, work on the kitchen renovation. It didn’t really work out that way, though. My flu morphed into bronchitis, and I’ve basically spent the past two weeks being a hermit and coughing. And coughing. And coughing some more. In between coughs, though, I’ve been tiling! Having something to focus on actually helped me to not cough so much (seriously!), and it also kept me from feeling like my vacation was a total waste.

tiling madness 1

Not bad, yeah? I’m in love with the tile. I know there are people out there who don’t like black grout because it “looks moldy,” but I love how utilitarian and, well, subway-like it looks. It’s also in keeping with the general spirit of a Victorian kitchen. And how about that black hearth?! I don’t know why I didn’t do that years ago. It really turns what has been a difficult architectural feature to work around into something that looks intentional and feels like an important part of the room.

Victorian kitchen
Photo via Kitchen Clarity

This is the photo I always come back to when I think about the kind of renovation work I’m doing. Obviously I’m going for something quite a bit more contemporary, but the key elements—the hearth, the open shelving, the tile work, the free-standing furniture and cabinetry, the colors—are all there. I’m very conscious of the age of my house, and of the fact that I’m not going to be its last resident. My house will outlive me, and while I am by no means a purist when it comes this stuff, I do like to think forward. That’s why I’m tiling all the way down to the baseboard moldings instead of just doing the backsplash area, for example—it’s about the past and the future as much as it is the present.

tiling madness 2

tiling madness 3

This weird corner space to the left of the stove has never felt right. I’m going to mount a length of butcherblock counter to fit perfectly there, and underneath will be a built-in dog bed! Bruno usually “sleeps” (that is, he rests with his eyes half-closed while staying just alert enough to scarf down any food items that might fall to the floor) under the counter while I cook, and I think he’ll really appreciate having a warmer, comfier spot to hang out in.

tiling madness 4

Here’s a tip if you want a nice, crisp caulk line in your corners: PAINTER’S TAPE. It works really well. Just make sure you pull it off immediately after running/smoothing your caulk bead—don’t let the caulk dry first.

tiling madness 5

I had to take a full-length beauty shot of this corner before we reconnected the sink and covered it all up. Tiling this area took two full days, nine hours of which I spent on that outside corner alone. Since we’re using cheap, off-the-shelf tiles, there aren’t a lot of options in terms of curved tiles and stuff like that, so I had to get creative with trim pieces. I’m really pleased with how it’s looking! I know the details will get lost once the shelving is up and the kitchen is fully stocked and operational, but for now, I’m obsessed with this corner.

tiling madness 6

tiling madness 7

Ugh, the refrigerator is such a behemoth. I really want to get that cute little black Smeg. A smaller fridge could be moved to the wall opposite the stove, making room for the “island” to actually become a true ISLAND. The refrigerator we have is quite nice looking, but it’s really too big for the space. It’s the kind of thing that would look much better in a row of cabinets instead of just floating in the middle of the room.

tiling madness 8

Our dishes, tools and tiling supplies are hanging out over here for now. Once we put shelving up this stuff can all be put away, and all of the food that’s currently living on the dining room floor can go in the pantry. I’m trying very hard to keep the kitchen as functional as possible while this renovation is going on. At least we were able to reconnect the sink yesterday! I’m not sure how much longer I could handle washing dishes in the bathtub. Every time I took a shower I thought about that episode of Seinfeld where Kramer installs a garbage disposal in his bathtub. Gross!

The back wall and the areas behind the radiators still need to be tiled, but that will have to wait until spring. The radiators are a mess, and we need to have them disconnected and capped before we can do anything. I’m not sure what we’re going to do heating-wise in the kitchen. The radiators are both really badly rusted, the legs are weirdly short and impossible to clean under, one of them doesn’t work at all, and they’re just not nice enough to warrant spending hundreds of dollars having them sandblasted, repaired and powder-coated. I’m guessing they’re only about 50 years old since they don’t have any of the ornamentation of the other cast iron steam radiators in our house. I was hoping we could install Runtal wall panels instead, but they only work with return-pipe systems—we have single-pipe steam heat. Sadface. I dunno. Maybe wall-mounted steam radiators? All I know is that it’s FREEZING in the kitchen, and the current heating situation isn’t working out.

Want to see some progress shots? I’m terrible about stopping to take photos while I’m wrist-deep in grout, but I did take a bunch of Tilestagrams! Here are eight days of tiling condensed into a dozen snapshots. Yay! Tile!

Tilestagrams

I feel like I’m just going to start every post about the kitchen renovation the same way: These photos are terrible. I’m sorry. The good news is that they make last week’s terrible photos look downright professional by comparison! I was so engrossed in the tile work to bother walking 15 feet to get my camera, and low-light iPhone photos…grain city. Oh well. I threw some adjustment layers, borders and type on them, which I’m pretty sure is the secret to good blog photography. (No?)

It may not look like I got that much done, but I actually tiled for more hours this week than last. There were a lot of cuts to make in the edge tiles! We did finally give in and buy a cheap-o wet tile saw, but it made us feel like we were either going to lose fingers or burn the house down, so we’re sticking with a guillotine-style manual cutter and nippers for now. That takes forever.

As you can see, I’m still avoiding that tricky area around the windowsill. I think I need to get one of those little hand-saws for tile that looks like a coping saw. That’s an actual thing, right? I haven’t seen them at Lowe’s/Home Depot, but I’ll look at a tile store next weekend. There are only a few areas in the room where the cuts are really detailed, so doing them by hand seems reasonable enough. I’d rather cut the tile than under-cut the sill.

The other thing that took F-O-R-E-V-E-R was tiling this little strip of wall between the pantry and the kitchen entryway. The logistics of laying out 6″ tile in a running bond pattern in a 7 ½″ space made my head hurt. I opted to set the whole section off-center to avoid (a) tiny strips of tile on either side, or (b) having some kind of weird centered geometric pattern effect once the dark grout goes in. I think it looks just fine. Please don’t tell me if it doesn’t.

The eagle-eyed obsessives in the audience may have noticed that this little strip is also one row lower than the height of the tile on wall to its left. That’s because of the electrical switch. Call me lazy, but I really don’t want to have to open the wall, deal with a fire stop, move the electrical box and replaster the old hole just for the sake of one row of tile. I’m surprisingly OK with this non-solution.

Aside from updating my tiling progress, I wanted to share my two big renovation rules—both of which I made sure to stick to this weekend.

1. Have a “renovation outfit” that fits you and looks OK.
After seven years of renovating the same house, I can tell you the least motivating thing I face on renovation days is the prospect of having to change into ill-fitting old jeans and a giant t-shirt with a stupid logo on it. Gross clothes make you feel, well, gross. You can roll your eyes all you want, but not feeling hideous while you’re ripping paneling off a wall in a filthy basement goes a long way. You can buy a pair of jeans (Diva skinnies are my go-to jeans for dirty work), a soft t-shirt and a lightweight hoodie from Old Navy for less than $50. You don’t have to worry about them getting dirty or stained, and they’ll last through years of renovation projects. Worth it.

2. Periodically stop and clean up your workspace.
I can’t stress this enough. A messy environment makes for messy work when you’re talking about stuff like tiling and wallpapering, because you’ll be getting thinset and grout and paste and paper scraps all over the place, and chances are good that you’ll wind up ruining something or other as a result. Working in a mess just makes everything so much harder, anyway—you can’t spread out easily when you need to measure something big, and you’re constantly stepping around (or in) debris. I force myself to stop what I’m doing every now and then and clean up. I bag up trash, I move tools I’m done with to their storage spots, I organize screws and nails, I sweep (and vacuum, if necessary) and I wash my hands. It seems like pain to stop in the middle of a project, but again…worth it.

I said I was going to tile, and by golly, I tiled! Oh, what a weekend. I wanted to get these photos up yesterday, but I’m so achy that even editing photos feels like too much. You’ve heard of “tennis elbow”? Well, I have what’s called “tiling thigh.” In both thighs. And my back, and my arms and even my fingers. The last time I tiled anything was the vestibule more than two years ago (!), and I’d forgotten how physically demanding it can be.

These photos are terrible (bad lighting, no tripod, hands covered in thinset), but I figure they’re better than nothing. I don’t understand how some people manage to take great photos of their renovation projects while they’re doing the work?

WOO-HOO, lookit all that glorious subway tile! It feels SO good to do this, pain and all. This is 7 years of procrastination paying off, folks. The cool thing about tiling is that once you do all of the prep work, it goes up reasonably fast. I actually really love tiling. It’s so satisfying, I think because it’s a finite project that usually doesn’t cover too massive an area. It’s methodical. It’s fun. (Really!)

Yeah, this technique I’m showing off here is called “denial and avoidance.” I suck at cutting tiles. Evan is the tile-cutting master in our house, so next weekend I’ll rope him in to cut all of my edge pieces. I think we’re going to have to under-cut the windowsill, though, because I’m pretty sure it’s impossible for a normal human to cut a shape like that out of a 3×6″ ceramic tile.

This is about 6 hours’ worth of tiling (excluding prep work and supply shopping, obviously). I wish I could’ve kept going into the wee hours, but the aforementioned “tiling thigh” was setting in, and I knew I had to quit. Saturday morning I’ll be back at it bright and squirrely, though. (Side note, how horrible is the current lighting in the kitchen? So sad. As is that stupid cellular shade that barely works anymore.)

Tilestagrams! Clockwise from top left: I got my level starting line up the night before I started tiling, and yes, I did use neon pink washi tape to hold my template tiles in place; my trusty Wood & Faulk pencil has seen me through a number of renovation projects; first row up, shimming courtesy of a ripped-up LL Bean catalog; mixing up the first batch of thinset.

I expect my kitchen will look like this for quite a while now. I really need to box up the non-essentials and put them in the basement. It was fun to move this counter to the middle of the kitchen! I can’t wait to have an island. This thing has been shoved up against the wall for far too long.

I took a few last-minute “after-before” photos (THESE are the real “before” photos) before I started taking down shelving. Here’s a last peek at what the kitchen has looked like for the past 7 years:

doorsixteen_kitchenbefore1

doorsixteen_kitchenbefore2

doorsixteen_kitchenbefore3

doorsixteen_kitchenbefore4

doorsixteen_kitchenbefore5

Some answers to questions I got on Twitter + Instagram:

✚ No, I didn’t ruin my manicure. I wore gloves, silly!

✚ We’re using the same tile we used in the downstairs bathroom. It’s just the basic 3×6″ subway tile from American Olean that you can buy off the shelf at Lowe’s. It costs 22¢ per tile, which is crazy cheap. What you see on the wall so far is about $30 worth of tile.

✚ Most modern subway tiles (including these) don’t require spacers—they’re self-spacing thanks to little ridges on the sides. If you try to use spacers your grout lines will be huge and you will be sad.

✚ We’ll be using black grout.

✚ Yes, I’m tiling directly onto the wall. It’s a plaster wall with flat paint that’s in good shape, and it’s a non-wet area. I patched any dings and sanded it lightly beforehand.

✚ I’m using a non-modified thinset.

✚ I learned to tile by Googling “how to tile” and also by reading posts on the forums at John Bridge.