We had lots of plans for the house, and materials on hand, but I didn’t get around to them until mid-2017, starting with the primary bath remodel. After I had torn out the original fixtures, walls, glass block, and vinyl flooring, but had only begun leveling the ceiling and floor, Jeff moved to Albuquerque for his new job, so it was time for me to focus. Jeff came up to help about one weekend a month for the 7 months I remained in Portland to get the house and yard ready for sale.
This first photo is NOT our bathroom; it’s the tile advertisement that had inspired me. (Not the lights! All that direct down lighting is terrible for a bathroom.)
The floor and the walls in the corner alcove show the tile we used for our primary bath remodel, despite how coldly gray they look in some of the daylight photos below. Looking in from the closet after Jeff and I pulled a frantic all-nighter and minutes before driving away for the last time. Prior to any tile work, we had to tear out much of the ceiling and level it. The 3/4″ waves would have been very visible with tile right up against the ceiling. The floor also had a 3/4″ bend that had to be remedied through drastic means before installing electric heating cable and tile. (note how the mix of direct light from ceiling and eye-level fixtures, indirect light bouncing off the ceiling from LED strips behind the tops of the large mirrors, and natural light from the skylight nearly eliminates shadows) Seeing this brings back memories of never-ending prep, measuring, cutting, laying, cleaning, … Working by myself I could lay about 6 tiles in a session. I couldn’t carry a full bucket of freshly mixed thinset up the outdoor flight of stairs from the driveway, so I mixed half a batch at a time and still sometimes ran up against its spreadable time. The floor drain is under the narrow tiles. They are attached to a metal cover than lifts out to access the hair filter and drain. My son Mike came to help for over a week. We did the cutting downstairs on the driveway and laid the tiles out on the newly-coated garage floor. This is part of the wall in the next photo. With him there to help, we could mix full batches of thinset and install a dozen tiles per session. We were both a mess from working all hours. At least the rest of the house, including the other bathrooms, was usable, other than not having any furniture, so we could cook, shower, and sleep in relative comfort. With Mike there to carry the bucket of thinset up the stairs and help install the tiles, we were able to lay over a dozen tiles at a time. The horizontal lines of the tile had to line up all the way around the main and shower spaces, without leaving narrow tile pieces at either top or bottom. Also had to make sure not to end up with narrow vertical tile pieces at the doors and corners. Similar concerns for the floor tile, and making the floor tiles line up with the wall tiles, so all the tile placement had to be planned in advance. LED strip lighting behind top of mirrors done (photo taken at night makes it look terrible); LED sconces not up yet. Invisibly mounting heavy mirrors 1″ off the wall was a project in itself, requiring help from Jeff and my brother and nephew. Custom wall sconces assembled, four total. The birch branches and leaves that I photographed in the neighborhood were screen-printed with powdered glass onto translucent white sheet glass then lightly fused in the kiln so they are part of the glass but retain some texture. A second, cooler firing, was used to form the glass over stainless steel molds. Jeff made and assembled the metal parts that are concealed by the shades. I was obsessed with having a glass wall with no visible hardware and finally found a place near the Willamette that does them regularly. You have to get the top, side, and bottom surfaces very flat and level, and build in a metal channel all around. They send a crew to take careful measurements of the actual size and any irregularities and cut the glass accordingly. Two technicians bring the glass and install it by sliding it up into the top slot (which has to have some extra height to allow this move), lowering it into the shallower bottom slot, and nudging it sideways into the wall slot. They add little transparent pieces as needed to make final adjustments to level and placement (see how the right edge of the glass and the tiles behind it line up?), squeeze a lot of transparent silicone sealant into all the cracks, and make it very smooth and watertight. I opted for them to apply an invisible coating of magic water-repelling liquid to the shower side of the glass to minimize spotting from soap and water. Does that coating really work? I don’t know because we were very careful not to splash on the glass when we were installing and testing the shower valves and spray heads. We installed the plumbing fixtures the last night we were there, but never got to shower in it. Note the marble shelves: I used Bob Heath’s glass lathe and Ann Cavanaugh’s wheel to grind slanted drainage grooves. This project was designed, materials purchased, and started before we found out we were moving away. We even built a powerful, adjustable, extra-quiet shower exhaust system in the attic. (hand-made plastic intake grill at upper left) The soaking tub is within the drainage plain of the shower, so no concerns about dripping on the floor! The bath in the new “second primary” that replaced my shop did NOT get custom treatment. I ordered all these pieces on sale from homedepot.com. …ok, the stone backsplash is custom. I had a few tiles left over from the fireplace and my saw was already set up. It goes really well with the vinyl plank flooring. My brother and nephew came over to install the curved glass shower doors. This was a wonderful shop for woodworking and glass art when it didn’t have carpet or a closet and bathroom carved out of it. The French doors open to the veranda, which is under the main-floor deck and runs all across the back of the house and looks into a wooded environmental zone. We always knew the house wouldn’t be sellable with two bedrooms and two shops so we had the plans drawn up with a suite of two normal-sized bedrooms and a shared bath overlaid on my shop. But when I went to do the conversion, I realized that instead of seeing the exterior doors and windows when you looked into the room, the “view” would have been a dark hallway with doors to the bedrooms and bath. Such a waste, so I decided on one big room, which could be a bedroom, pair of bedrooms, media room, or even a mother-in-law suite if the adjoining mudroom was converted to a galley kitchen. Another of the many projects to finish was glass backsplashes in the kitchen and dining area. The upper part is sheets of textured Tekta clear, back-painted with tinted primer. The lower part is tack-fused mosaics that match the stained glass panels, inspired by FL Wright “Wheat” light screens, that Jeff had made for the pantry and office doors (one door is in the reflection above the cooktop). The backsplash behind the cooktop is basic window glass with black spray primer on the back. The hardest part of this project was cutting rectangular holes in the sheet glass for power outlets. (email me if you want to know how to do that) To get the look and feel of tile with grout lines, I used clear glass with a gold iridized coating for the bottom layer and placed the mosaic pieces on top, with 1/8″ gaps between each piece. The backing for the mosaics had to be reflective or the glass looked dead, so I used clear silicone to attach the glass panels to a thin sheet of a specific type of aluminum, brushed grain oriented vertically, but only putting the adhesive at the very edges so the adhesive isn’t visible. If the grain of the brushed aluminum ran horizontal, there were disturbingly bright reflections. Who knew there would be so many picky details? But this was probably the most enjoyable project in the remodel because it wasn’t overwhelming, just repetitive.