the beige blues

The Lion, the Witch and the Washroom - Part 1

It’s been almost two years since my last post and frankly it’s a miracle I remembered how to log in to my blog.


The point is, I’m back WITH VENGEANCE because I decided to anoint myself Guest Designer for the One Room Challenge.

For those not in the know, Linda Weinstein of Calling It Home started ORC in 2011 to motivate herself and small group of online friends to work in tandem and finish just "one room" in their own home whilst sharing trials, tribulations and creative inspiration along the way.

Nine years later, ORC is a biannual event in its 17th season and its media partner is the powerhouse publication, Better Homes and Gardens. The current format offers 20 Featured Designers who, along with many Guest Designers, link their blogs or Instagram accounts and share with the world progress of their madcap reno adventures. Usually the ORC is a six-week event, although this spring it’s eight weeks due to the ongoing public health emergency.

As for the contenders in this house, as most of you know, my hubs Mike and I are fearless DIY-ers and proud owners of a dirt-cheap crumbling 1902 Queen Anne in Cadillac, Michigan. I HAVE NO QUALIFICATIONS as a designer but none are required to join the ORC as a guest beyond having a blog or an Instagram account. Of which I have both.

Mike and I have gussied up the house in many respects and the next project on the list and our ORC gig is the upstairs bathroom which I’ve DESPERADO wanted to reno since May ‘16 when we moved into our Victorian monstrosity. I say DESPERADO because the first time I turned the diverter valve in the tub, the shower head blasted off the wall like an unmanned fire hose and took out everything in its path as it sprayed water in all directions.

AND the toilet wobbled. Like a Weeble.

Plus UGLY.


(This is how the upstairs bathroom looked when we moved in.)

I won’t belabor the details, but the short story is Mike said this bathroom would be the LAST room we’d address.


Therefore, I engaged in many tactics designed to move el baño higher up the list of housie projects including but not limited to graffitiing the walls using a Q-tip and liquid leaf.

I also wrote messages to Mike on the back of the door lest he forgot my terminal unhappiness.

It didn’t work, and for three years the bathroom remained in a pitiful state of MEH.

And I was left dejected. But not defeated.


To this end, even more resolute in my PURSUIT OF PRETTY, I devised a strategy by which I stopped cleaning the bathroom until spider webs began to accumulate overhead and provide home to a complex sub-ecosystem of many bitey things.

PLUS floating dust bunnies.

It worked. After six months of ruthless strike and protest, Mike surrendered.

Shortly thereafter, in December-ish, we started sketching out the loo in accordance with a traditional Victorian design which, as you can imagine, morphed many times over until it had nothing to do with the Victorians other than being tacky and excessive.

And it went something like this.

The primary design challenge for the space is it’s long and narrow (14’ x 8’) with a large window, two brick walls and a freestanding radiator. So, as much as we wanted a separate tub and shower, we also didn’t want the room to look like a 4-piece bath got stuffed inside the back end of a Winnebago.

The layout of the space simply would require a shower/tub combo and pedestal sink.

Thus, in keeping with the traditional Victorian look, we initially liked this shower/tub design.

(Image credit: somewhere from The Land of Pinterest)

And this sink design …

(Image credit: Paul Rogers on Pinterest)

… with a toilet along these lines...

(Image credit: Overstock, but this looks like a Renovator’s Supply toilet)

The problem with our first design is it left very little room for storage. We thought we’d use an antique armoire for this purpose, but I couldn’t find one I loved that had BOTH the right dimensions and aesthetics.

So the wheels began to turn.

Clinkity clinkity clink.

And then … ooh la la! What do we have here?

I found this somewhere on line.

A Victorian bathtub inside a cabinet!

(Image credit: Ian Roddam Photography)

Of course, this particular design still would leave me searching for the Goldilocks Bullseye Armoire I knew I'd never find.

But what if we put the shower/tub inside a storage armoire instead of a cabinet? We could have drawers and shelves on the outside and a shower/tub on the inside!


I asked Mike if this could work. He looked at me like I had bats flying out of my eyeballs.

But the challenge was too much to resist.

THUS he drew THIS up on AutoCAD.

It’s essentially a hand-built “wardrobe” or armoire with a shower/tub inside that will be tucked against the back wall thus opening up the space whilst providing maximum functionality.

Woo hoo!

Armed with more of a concept than a plan, in February, we finally demolished our crappy crapper and in 12 hours it went from this …

... to this ...

Three months have gone by and I shall cover them in the next installment or two (we’re still a long way from done because we’re slow due to many factors), but in the meantime, to tip my hand, the current design is based on these feels …

But with this zebra sink ...

The sink was his idea, btw.

To be continued.

(Mood board images from left to right: The ladies' loo at Annabel's London (image from Livingetc); hand painted gold toilet (image from Houzz); artisan tin ceiling tiles from American Tin Ceilings; Wendy Morrison Shanghai rug; mermaid stenciled wall (image from Royal Stencils); and an art nouveau doorway in Paris (image from Robert Stephen Parry).

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