I haven’t really been posting here. I think I mentioned some time ago that we bought a house in need of full renovation. So that’s been keeping us busy (that and… our full time jobs, too). We’re nowhere near finished, and another reason I am not posting much here anymore is that I don’t have a workshop yet, so nothing new to show, since other things were or are priorities: getting a functioning bathroom, heating and lightning the house (we do everything ourselves), our next big project: a real kitchen, etc. And we do everything right and the way we want it from the beginning, which is a great investment of time, and also money. This is the biggest project of our lives!
For the last few months I have not been participating as fully into the work as I used to be, because I am pregnant and that does affect your physical performance ;) and it doesn’t look like I am gonna have a lot of free time anytime soon either ;)
I am not going to start posting about the renovation here, I document that in a blogger blog: 1935 renovation notes. But… don’t you want to see something now and then? I do try to put some of my “artistic sense”, whatever that may be, into the house. Pim certainly puts lots of his engineering background into the bones of it.
So I’ll be showing a room now and then as they are finished, which will not be often. We’ll all wait for the workshop and a return to more creative pursuits ;) Right now, only the bathroom is, for the time being, finished. There’s always something, right? There’s the door to fix up a bit, and a curtain to knit (I know), and perhaps a few other little things. Oh and I am looking for some seating, I am stubbornly determined to find something like what you see on the left.
But it is practically finished, so I present to you:
We do always get nice comments when people see it for the first time:
In the broadest terms, the construction of the bathroom entailed: removing a brick and marble mantlepiece, partially re-plastering the walls which were damaged, insulating walls, bringing water and drainage to the first floor (there wasn’t any), reinforcing of the floor supporting beams, tiling, which was more complex than might seem since our tiles were of two different thicknesses (see left), waterproofing the shower area, more tiling, installing heating and antique furniture, installing a toilet (very daunting!), a bathtub and a shower, plumbing onto antique furniture, and all the little detailing! If you want to see all bathroom related entries, there’s like three pages of them here. A couple of fun before and afters are here.
We sourced materials for the bathroom from all over Europe :) The floor tiles are from France (the recycled vintage tiles, the mistletoe ones, from the turn of the 20th century, we believe are also French, and were sourced in Belgium). The enamelled shower plate and the wall lamps are German. The composite material bathtub, the toilet and the radiator are British. The radiator taps are Czech. The antique art deco oak furniture was made in Jodoigne (Belgium), not too far from where we live, in the interbellum period. The brass taps and towel rails and the sink are Italian, and so is the windowsill and shower niche marble, which is Carrara, as is the original washstand counter. The switches and outlets (for the entire house) are Spanish.
We did a lot of research to find the right stuff!
Use and comfort
All in all, we really enjoyed planning and researching every little detail so that the bathroom would be well made, long-lasting and comfortable while still looking the way we wanted. We enjoyed working on it, too. I discovered I love tiling! well… the hexagons are a bit frustrating at times ;) but as such things are, also rewarding. We saved a lot of money doing everything ourselves, and, funnily enough, using antique furniture instead of new. We could then spend some of the money we saved on awesome bits like the radiator and the bathtub.
Most importantly, in the last two years, since the bathroom became functional, we found that it is super comfortable to use. I had a concern that such a large bathroom (it is 12 m2) would feel cold and inhospitable. It is not so, the wooden furniture warms up the room, and there is only a slight amount of echo remaining now, which I intend to get rid of by hanging a lace curtain sometime in the future. The insulation and heating help make it a comfortably warm room in winter (the shower curtain, which was a later addition, also helps a lot when you’re wet). We do not like a very warm house, however… just comfortable. In winter, we keep the first floor (bathroom and bedroom) between 17 and 19 °C. Downstairs we aim for 20 °C when we are home, we set the thermostat to 17 °C when we are not and during the night – due to the insulation, it cools down very slowly, so it rarely reaches 17 °C. We air daily.
We haven’t had a single indication of mould or movement on the solid oak furniture due to humidity (and we still hang our clothes to dry in there!). We are not door closing type of people, the door only gets closed when someone wants privacy. In winter, we always crack the window open while we take a shower: with the insulation, the room remains surprisingly comfortable, some warm air escapes, but the walls and floor have no time at all to cool down in 15 minutes. If I notice an extraordinary amount of vapour, I open the window completely for a couple of minutes and it is gone.
In summer, the window remains cracked open nearly always, we have mosquito nets and the windows have a system to secure them in the open position you see in the photos. Having a window in the bathroom really is a life-changer in such a rainy country as Belgium.
We also keep a squeegee in the shower and use it on glass and tiles after every shower, which reduces the amount of cleaning enormously! Granted, the water softener system also helps in this area of extremely hard water.
Some people might wonder what’s up with the taps. I suppose due to my training as enameller with some metalworking thrown in, I just like brass. You’d think copper would be best, and perhaps it would – although I like brass with white and green -, but copper cannot be (or is not) used to make taps out of, and I did not want a coating.
Knowing there is beautiful solid brass under all that chrome saddens me, I have to say (and do not think that the chrome layer lasts forever, either). I know brass turns dark and green and messy, but I like the patina. I am glad the Italians agree and have these available! Sometimes I scrub the washbasin tap to make it shinier in the high spots, because I also like that. And I like when it weathers again and becomes spotty and, a bit green! I like a changeable material that ages like we do. I sooo love them and do not regret it at all!
It took some convincing Pim to get untreated brass taps (and a brass radiator), but I think he’s growing to like them too. The steampunk touch helps ;) I am content with these, so we’ll get another type for the kitchen.