Big splash, low budget
Some say that if you wait long enough,
Everything—including 1950s bathrooms—
comes back in style. But “in style” doesn't necessarily
mean “in perfect shape” or “in sync with today's
lifestyle.” Such was the case with the bathroom shown
here. Moisture problems had caused peeling paint and
sticking vanity drawers, while 50 years of wear and tear
had taken a toll on the grout, fixtures and hardware.
However, the owners, Mary Jane and Bruce Pappas, saw
too many things going for the space to completely gut it,
such as unique tile work that was still in excellent shape.
“The whole point of buying this fifties house was to
create our 21st century life here while honoring the original
architecture and detail,” says Mary Jane, who is a
professional interior designer. “Bruce and I wanted to
complement and elevate what was already here and reuse
as many materials as we could.” And by doing so, they
were able to reach their goal of updated function on a
modest budget. The couple were able to avoid expensive
demolition work and get the bathroom they wanted for
just under $5,000. “The results for the investment are
extraordinary,” says Mary Jane Pappas.
Updated, But Still Original
This bathroom now has greater utility and a clean, contemporary look—
without breaking the bank.
ReDO, reuse, recycle
After adding an exhaust fan to handle the
moisture problem, they began dealing with the
cosmetics, as explained by Mary Jane Pappas.
Freshening tiled surfaces
A professional tiler
was brought in to repair the period tiles that had
seen 53 years of bathroom life. By tuckpointing
broken edges and freshening the grout, the tiler
brought the surfaces up to standard.
“The tile is unique to the era; we embraced the
retro feel of it. It was in great
shape and worth saving.”
Vanity drawers and doors
Another great example of the
couple's “reuse it” philosophy
lies in their treatment of the
vanity. Years of water damage
had made the drawers difficult
to open, but instead of
scrapping the entire piece,
the Pappases hired Thomas J.
Ross of Ross Custom
Cabinetry Inc. to build new
rollout drawers and cabinet
doors for it and adjustable
shelving for the attached
linen closet. “Before, the cabinet
drawers were only simple wooden boxes
resting in a wooden cabinet. It was a struggle to
pull 'wood-on-wood' drawers, especially when
they were damp. Now that they're equipped to
glide on rollers, it's like having a new piece of
furniture. And when you think of the floor, tile
and drywall work that we would have incurred
had we demolished and installed all new cabinetry,
that decision saved thousands.”
Paint, pulls and hinges
The vanity face-lift
continued with several coats of an enamel paint
and re-chromed hinges and the addition of contemporary
drawer pulls. “We re-chromed the
hinges because the plates had a unique screw
pattern and I didn't want to add any additional
screw holes to the vanity and risk the old holes
showing.” The original mirror was saved by
painting its trim the same color as the vanity.
The Pappases wanted to add a
soap pump and a water filter to their bath sink.
By changing the old, widespread faucet for a
single-lever faucet, they were able to avoid the
expense of either buying a new sink or drilling
new holes. The change in style left two unused
holes for the new accessories.
The old sconces were replaced with
lights that better match the new drawer pulls
and add a contemporary flair to the room.
Keepers! The '50s heat fan and tissue
The couple wanted to
maintain the items that, like the heat
fan, were still stylishly serving a useful
function in the bathroom. “It's a nice
amenity and it still worked, so why get
rid of that?” They were even able to
save the original metal tissue dispenser
housed in the linen cabinet. It could no longer hold
tissue boxes because the dispenser slot
was vertical instead of the modern
horizontal style. “But the same company,
Brobick, now offers a replacement
dispenser that fits tissue boxes perfectly.”
Replacing a bathtub affects
the tile surrounding it, the walls above
it and the plumbing below it. Keeping
the existing tub saves tremendous time
and money. So the tub stayed put,
while some of the more easily changed
elements around it were replaced.
One of the first changes was to oust
the shower door. “In a small bathroom,
a flexible shower curtain creates a
sense of spaciousness. And I use my
bathtub every day, so a shower door is
just not practical,” Pappas says.
The original tub had a single showerhead
with a bathtub faucet.
Now a low-cradled hand shower,
perfect for tub bathers, easily
sets into an adjustable height
showerhead fixture, adding
to the usefulness and elegance
of the bathroom.
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Simple details make the difference
Having saved a bundle by retrofitting
many existing systems in the
bathroom, the Pappases had some
budget left to indulge in a few