Thursday, July 27, 2017

Master Bathroom Remodel Part III - Recovery Mode!

Hello there... How are you?
If you read my last post here then you know I have really been through
the wringer on this bathroom remodel. And, unfortunately, it had to get
worse before it could get any better. The good news is, we are now better!
After reaching closure on contractor #1 and hiring contractor #2, I was
sincerely ready for contractor #2 to make good on his initial promise
to begin work last Thursday and have my bathroom finished this week!
Sadly, everything I was told about the quality of his
work and attention to detail didn't hold water...
You see, while I am far from being an expert at laying tile or marble... I am
an expert on Carrara marble; therefore, I know that when working with any
kind of natural stone in mosaic mesh sheets, you must dry-fit the area to be
tiled and take the time to arrange your sheets to ensure an even mix of color.
Which is exactly what I explained to my new contractor. As soon as he walked
into the bathroom, I showed him the subway tile for the walls and the carrara
mosaic for the floors. After talking about the design for a while, my contractor
asked if there was anything else, so I showed him the monogram I created. We
agreed where he'd set it into the floor and talked again about the importance of
mixing up the mesh sheets of marble for even color distribution... Like this!
Never being one to ask anyone to do anything I'm not willing to do myself, I
took him over to the shower to show him where I dry-fit tiles as an example!
Now, I admit this took some time. I measured my shower floor (6 feet wide by
4 feet deep) to get the total number of square feet (24) I needed to dry-fit the
area. Then, I opened roughly 20 boxes (each box holds 5 sheets) and laid out
sheets from all the boxes until I got what looked like an even mix of color. I
then returned the 24 sheets back to the boxes and wrote shower floor on each
box. I did the same for the areas of the floor I knew would be covered by my
vanity and storage cabinet. For those areas, I still made sure I had even
color but I wasn't as concerned about whether the sheets were perfect
And, yet... Despite all my effort to explain this to my contractor and
despite my even going so far as to do it for him in the shower... What
does he do? That nincompoop laid the small amount of floor that I
didn't hand-picked for him, the floor he said he could handle, just
however the sheets popped out of whatever box he grabbed first!
Of course, I noticed it immediately! But when I pointed it out to him,
as he was putting down the last few sheets across the doorway, my
contractor said, "No, it's just a shadow from the light in the window"...
Really? Because to me, it looks like five sheets per box were set into
the floor just as they were pulled from the box... Without any concern
at all for achieving that blend of color I said was necessary to avoid
my beautiful carrara marble floor looking like a patch-work quilt!
And, as if that wasn't enough... Look at the way he cut the sheets
to fit around the shower drain... Hello?! It's a freaking square!
All he had to do was lay the squares straight onto the rectangular
shower floor and make straight cuts around the square drain!
Fortunately, popping out the crappy tiles around my drain and
replacing them with ones he cut more precisely was easy. However,
fixing his lack of attention to color on the bathroom floor is not. When
Alfredo came back the next day to grout, he admitted the line created
by his failure to mix the sheets wasn't a shadow. Then, he admitted
he has no experience working with this type of marble flooring. The
fact that I could do it and showed him how to do it to avoid this was
a point I didn't feel had to be made again. But I did ask him what he
planned to do to fix it. And, that's when he said the only way to fix it
is to rip the whole thing out and start over, which he said is something
he won't do, "no matter what." So, as the customer, what does one say?
Believe me, I was prepared to ask him to tear out the floor and
start over. However, I wasn't prepared to fight with him about
which one of us was going to pay for the replacement of the tile
board I just bought for him to lay the day before or the $1,300 in
carrara marble mosaic sheets he'd just wasted. Not to mention the
hours I had invested in creating the monogram for the floor. As I
thought about it, (all weekend) I also wondered if upsetting him by
asking him to redo the floor, even if I offered to pay for it, would
help me get any better result. What if he ripped it out and did worse?
And, that's when that perspective I talked about in my last post
kicked in... After all, I knew that once the new vanity and storage
cabinet were installed and when the walls are tiled and the light
fixtures go in, the floor will fade into the background and become
less noticeable. So I focused on what I could change and went to
work perfecting my monogram after it was grouted. You see, even
polished carrara is porous; therefore, after coming into contact with
the thinset on the bottom and grout on the top, some of the lighter
pieces turned a little darker than I wanted them to be. My "C" kinda
looked like a long number 6 and the "A" looked like it had a double
line across the center. So, I grabbed a razor blade to separate the
offending tiles from the grout and some of my old dental tools from
my dental assistant days to gently pop them out. Then, I selected
super white tiles from sheets that had been cut and were headed to
the dump and, using my old cookie icing spatula, I set them back in!
And, the result is sheer perfection!
Speaking of perfection...
Unlike contractor #1, Alfredo said he wanted the vanity and storage
cabinet set before he tiled the walls. So I called my carpenter, Chris, to
ask if he could come super-early on Monday morning to install so that
Alfredo and his guy Jose could get started tiling the walls. And, do let
me tell you... Chris Johnson is one spectacular carpenter/craftsman!
I swear I heard angels sing when he slid this storage cabinet into the
wall; it fit that perfectly. And, just look at it! It's exactly what I wanted!
Both the vanity and this storage cabinet are built from solid maple. And,
the finish on them is high-end quality furniture finish. I chose the paint
color - Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace - because it is a lot whiter and
brighter than Dove White, which is the color normally used to paint
bathroom and kitchen cabinetry. However, you must be careful with
white around carrara marble, because anything too creamy or too
yellow will make carrara look dingy and dirty. Chantilly Lace does a
perfect job of pulling out the gray without competing with the white!
Now, Alfredo and Jose were scheduled to arrive at 8:30AM, because Chris
arrived at 7:15 and said he needed an hour... So when Alfredo and Jose
pulled into the driveway at 8AM, I was surprised. When I let Alfredo know
that Chris was still working, Alfredo told me it was okay, because he came
early so that we could talk about how I wanted the tile to be on the walls...
So we went upstairs to the bedroom to talk about shower wall tile. But as
soon as Alfredo and Jose saw Chris and the furniture he was installing, the
chatter in Spanish started and I could tell from their tone and the few words
I could make out that this was not going to be a good day. You see, while Chris
worked, Alfredo chatted him up about how these cabinets were built and finished.
As Chris explained that they were solid maple and hand crafted in his own shop
and that I paid almost $1,000 just to have them painted and finished, Alfredo's
eyes grew wide and his helper, Jose began collecting his tools from around the
bedroom. As Chris pulled his level out of a suitcase that looked kinda like a
spaceship and set it onto the vanity, Alfredo watched him like a starving man
eyeing a T-bone. As soon as Chris pressed the button on his level and all the
bubbles lit up, Alfredo jumped out from where he was standing in the shower
and asked me if he could see the shower valve one more time. When I handed
him the trim rings that would go against the tile, he said that he'd have to buy
a certain kind of drill bit to cut the tile properly so that it would fit around the
plumbing. Then, Alfredo excused himself, saying he had another place to go...
It was the oddest thing I've ever seen; but when I told Chris and my husband
that I didn't think Alfredo was coming back, they said I was nuts. But... That
is exactly what happened! After Chris finished, I called Alfredo to let him
know the bathroom was all his but since I was going to work, he'd have to
let himself in. There was a long pause and then he said, "Oh, Miss. Janet, I
need to talk to you about this job..." I said, "Sure, what's up?", "Oh, Miss
Janet, I see your guy this morning and the way he work and I tell my guy,
this is a very expensive bathroom, we already mess up the floor and we
cannot make any more mistakes; now, he no want to come back to work in
you house." Seriously? I was stunned! So I told him, "If you're quitting
because you know your crew and you're worried they might damage the
new furniture or you don't believe you possess the skills necessary to
complete the job as we have discussed, then I respect and thank you for
letting me know now." "However, if you're quitting because you think I'm
too picky or haven't treated you well, then you're wrong because I have
already said the mistake on the floor is something I can learn to live with."
That's when Alfredo told me that no one they have ever worked for made
sure they had a fresh cooler full of drinks and snacks every day and no
one had ever ordered them pizza for lunch; therefore, he said it's not that
I am not, "a good lady" to work for, it's just that he's afraid of making
more mistakes and he's especially afraid to work around the new vanity
and storage cabinet. Which is crazy because contractor #1 said he didn't
want the furniture in until the walls were tiled and my husband said the
same thing! So... They're here now but Alfredo is gone! So what's a girl
to do when two different contractors bail on her in the middle of her
master bathroom remodel? Well, she does the only thing she can do...
She asks her husband if he will do it for her. Then, she dances around
in a pool of happiness when he tells her that he will. Honestly, I'm a lot
happier now. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders!
No more fretting about having strangers in my bedroom... No
more hiding everything someone might be tempted to carry
away with them... No more depending on people that cannot
be depended on. Besides, I much prefer being able to lie in bed
watching Chip and Joanna remodel houses in Waco on Sunday
morning while my contractor works for me shirtless. And,
that's only going to happen when my husband is doing the work!
In true motivated to get-me-out-of-his-bathroom style, my husband
hit the ground running Tuesday morning. By the time I got home from
work, he had more than half the back wall tiled. I was so excited, I began
dreaming up ways to use the $3,000 I am saving by not having to pay a
contractor to do this for me... And then, it hit me! We've always wanted
to go back to New York. I've always wanted to see Wicked on Broadway
and he's always wanted to see a Yankees game in the Bronx. So... We will!
I planned to keep the trip a secret... But then I noticed that the first row
of his tile was a bit off. If you remember this remodel then you know
how close I came to being divorced after I mentioned the crooked tile
on the side wall of his shower... This wall that he ended up ripping out!
So when you're faced with the same dilemma and you've already lost
two contractors, you mention the trip and all the fun things you have
planned before you mention the first row of tile needs to come down!
In all fairness... All the stuff you read and see on-line about tiling with
subway tile suggests you start in the middle of the wall and work your
way out. That's what he did. But for some reason, this method created
more than half a tile on either end, which caused the rest of the rows
not to line up with the first. It's weird, but it happened. The best way
to tile is to begin with a half tile or a full tile and work across. This way,
you end up with consistent grout lines and perfectly alternating rows!
When he picked me up from work yesterday, this was
waiting for me in the truck... I can't lie, I was scared!
But much to my relief, all he did was hand me the tile, say the wall
was fixed and then told me that while we're in New York this time,
he wants to go back to Trinity Church and take the time to find
Alexander Hamilton's grave. Then, he turned up Wham! on the
radio and took me home. Where I found this perfectly tiled wall!
By the end of this week, I'll have a light fixture in the shower!
I am honestly so happy!
To reward all his effort, I rushed out to stock the freezer! Bribe?... Or
just doing my part to keep the only contractor that can't quit me happy?
This morning we took the faucet over to my amazing marble
fabricator who was as excited to see me as I was to see him!
Because yesterday, the round sink he ordered for my vanity arrived!
I think I was seven or eight years old the first time my mom and dad
took us to Schloss Linderhof in Munich. And, somewhere along the
tour, my Oma took me into a bathroom covered in carrara marble. The
vanity top was marble and there was even standing side splashes that
stood tall around the shiny, little white, round sink. Almost like two
castle guards sent to make it more cozy and to protect the faucet. As
long as I live I will never forget that vanity and how it felt to be in that
bathroom with my Oma. It was so cold and we could smell snow in the
air. The marble around the sink and on the floors was freezing, the white
tile on the walls looked like stacked square ice cubes. Forget the castle, I
thought to myself... I just want to live in this bathroom forever! I have
always wanted a round sink set into chunky carrara. And now, I've got one!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Master Bathroom Small Bathroom Remodel Part Deux and It is a Deuxsie!

Before I launch my next post to update you on our master bathroom remodel, I want to share this open letter to everyone that has asked about this project, (thank you) and those that haven't but might be curious as to why the remodeling updates stopped since my last post. So let's call this a public service announcement or better yet, what not to do when hiring a contractor to remodel your bathroom.

For those of you that know me, you know I generally keep my social media presence pretty positive - Aside from the occasional snark and sarcasm delivered with love and respect, of course. I believe that whining on-line makes one common; something people lacking common sense and/or the ability to problem-solve engage in for sympathy, validation or as a rallying cry. Fact is, complaining publicly about brands, retailers and contractors (even spouses) is too easy; especially today, when so few people take pride in their work and so many others just don’t care about the way they treat you. I know negativity does nothing to move us forward so I go out of my way to avoid it.

Fact is, I have always had a keen sense of perspective. After all, I watched Ranger go off to war in Afghanistan five times and before that, I can remember being only four years old when the Captain marched off to a war in Vietnam and seeing my mom cry every day until he came home. So, while I can get keyed up with the best of them and never quit until I get my way; I also know what’s truly important, what’s worth knocking off a few blood pressure points for and what’s not.

All that being said, I don't mind telling you, especially now that these guys have been problem-solved out of my life... This whole experience of hiring and working with two contractors hired to remodel my master bathroom has SUCKED!

Honestly, I’m still processing whether I’m more upset with him or myself for hiring guy #1. From calling an hour after he was to come to give me an estimate to say he had been down all weekend with a stomach bug (cost me two weeks) to calling an hour before he was scheduled to start to say he "forgot" that his mother-in-law died and he was in West Virginia so he wouldn't make it back in time, (delayed another week) to his wife calling to say he had a kidney stone, (another 12 days) to his wife calling again last Saturday to say he's still sick and may need surgery (I finally hired contractor #2 that afternoon but he didn't start until last Thursday).

And then, we had the whole "I'm still too sick to work" at 6:15AM last Monday before he butt-dialed me three times at 11:35AM so I could hear him laughing, joking and working away at some construction site…

Which brings me to the first important point I want to make to anyone considering hiring a contractor to remodel a bathroom or to do anything else in their home: Get it in writing.

Not just the cost and who is responsible for providing which materials, but get the timeline in writing. That way, you will know exactly how long your job will take and when your contractor will show up. Doing so will give you grounds to fire him when he fails to show up.

Through hiring this guy, I learned many valuable lessons... The biggest lesson I learned is to skip hiring a contractor altogether if the work is something you can either do or learn to do yourself! Especially for small jobs like this one. Even if you don't believe you have the time, make the time. Because the frustration you save will be worth the time you make to see your project through on your own.

Contractor contacted June 8th. Began work
on July 6th. Left at a standstill since July 10th...

Bottom line, if you believe that paying someone guarantees that they will do better work than you or your husband/relative/friend will do, you may find yourself as disappointed as I am. 

That said, you should certainly hire a professional to do any/all structural work and any electrical and/or plumbing work you yourself are not licensed to perform; but I am telling you, none of the four contractors I interviewed offered any different advice or plan than we'd already figured out on our own and, neither of the two contractors I hired to tile this bathroom demonstrated and better level of skill than my sweet husband. On top of that, I found our that it is a whole lot easier to ask my husband to rip out something he's done when a mistake gets noticed than it is to ask a paid contractor... Because what I just heard from two highly paid contractors was that their mistakes were either, "not that bad" or that they wouldn't fix them, "no matter what." But more about that in my next post...

Back to the lessons I learned from hiring contractor #1. I learned that his installation of the vinyl pan liner and the shower floor required a permit, which he did not pull for my job. And, I learned that it is my responsibility as the homeowner to know these things. 

Now, I went into this already knowing from a painter situation gone wrong the first week after we moved here, that in North Carolina, all licensed and unlicensed contractors are required to have a signed contract for any work they do that requires payment.

If a contractor does work in your home without a signed contract, you are not obligated to pay them, even if they threaten to sue you. Because the first thing the judge or magistrate will ask the contractor is to produce their signed contract. No contract, no agreement, no agreement, no case, no case, no recourse. Which is exactly what the magistrate hearing the painter's case against us told him after he quit and then sued us for the other half of the $3,000 he bid to remove the wallpaper in this house. He quit after the person he hired to repair all the drywall he damaged removing the wallpaper incorrectly blew drywall dust all throughout the house when he sanded the walls down while the air conditioner ran all day. It literally looked like it was snowing in our home for days! When we got home from work and found the disaster, we called him. The painter told us he quit and since he felt he had actually done $3,000 worth of work because he underestimated the job, he demanded we pay him the balance of $1,500. When we refused, he said he would see us in court. And, he did. In the end, it cost us every bit of what we paid him upfront ($1,500) and more to replace the new carpeting just installed in our den and to have our ductwork cleaned to remove all the drywall dust that was sucked into it. But even after the magistrate let us know that we could turn around and sue him for our damages, we didn't... It was September 13th, two days after the attacks in New York, DC and Pennsylvania so we just rolled on.

You should also know that unless you get proof that your contractor is properly insured, any damage he does to your home and refuses to fix or pay for, you pay for! Worse, if he gets injured or dies as a result of the job or his equipment/tools are stolen from your front porch, where he left them, you and/or your homeowner's insurance could be responsible.

Oh! And, before I forget, paying anyone in advance of work being done is a no-no. If a contractor asks you to pay them for labor in advance, slam the door on their face. If a contractor asks for money to buy materials, have the agreement to pay for materials be part of your signed contract, ask for receipts and take inventory of everything delivered for the job to ensure every nickel is accounted for.

In terms of what constitutes as a contract... First, an estimate is not a contract to do work. An estimate is a proposal for work that can and should be negotiated. A signed contract to do work comes after estimates is agreed upon. A performance contract is a legally binding document that spells out specifics of the project, meaning, what you will receive upon completion and the monetary terms agreed upon for labor and materials and who is responsible for providing materials. All that being said, I strongly recommend you go a step further to outline the timeline for the project to prevent what happened to me from happening to you. Because in the end, I found out this guy was squeezing my smaller and therefore less lucrative project, into free time he anticipated having between his other jobs. When that free time was munched up by illness, a death in the family or other things he wanted to do more, my job kept getting pushed off. Finally, after being confronted about it, this contractor admitted, by screaming at me, that he had another job that not only paid more, it also required him, by contract, to show up!

Looking back, I'm astonished and embarrassed that I put up with ANY of this. Especially since I have plenty of experience working with contracts and people that have tried to break them. I am waaaaaay smarter than this. However, in my defense, I wouldn't want to be the kind of person that doesn't first feel compassion when someone calls to say they've suffered a death in the family or don't feel well. 

Also, around the time this contractor told us that his mother-in-law died, I was in the process of placing the order for my tile and marble at Floor and Decor.  And, after the woman I was working with failed to call me back for three days to finalize the order, I happened to mention it to her manager when I called to follow-up myself. Well, upon letting him know that I had been waiting for a call, this manager got all puffed up and said, "The reason Traycee didn't follow up with you is because thirty minutes after she promised to check our stock and call you back for payment, is when she received the call letting her know that her 15-year old son had just drown in their neighborhood pool."

Frankly, despite expressing my deepest sympathies for this poor woman (I still feel sick thinking about it) this manager made me feel like shit. In fact, after I was told my order was ready for pick-up, I actually waited almost a week to settle my nerves and get past what I was told. After all, something so tragically sad isn't what any customer wants to associate with their project. 

Anyway... Also around this time, my brother had heart surgery, (he's great) a friend's cancer came back, (he's fighting like hell) and another friend lost her father. So, more compassionate Janet came out to play. The Janet grateful for every good thing in her life and the Janet that knows there are more important things in life than her silly bathroom model took over... That Janet rolled with her contractor's delays and lies. She expressed heartfelt concern for his pain, offered to deliver meals to him and his wife and ignored her instincts all the way around. And, for her efforts, that Janet got walked on and her bathroom remodel has been delayed for nearly two months by a contractor that promised to have it finished in a week with a crew of four other men she never saw!

Whatever you do, do not assume that just because your project is small you can or should relax the requirement for a contract and that you're not entitled to a clear understanding of what to expect from your contractor.

Now, I initially hired a contractor because my husband said someone paid to do it would be a better job. I also wanted to spare him the aggravation of doing it himself. Why? Well, he's already remodeled this whole house once... The kitchen has been refreshed with new counter tops three times, new appliances twice and new flooring twice. The kitchen was also painted five times, until I achieved the perfect shade of white. The powder room and hall bathroom have been gutted and remodeled twice and we are on the second round of hardwood flooring downstairs too. So asking him to remodel the master bathroom a second time, just because I wanted to add back a vanity and storage cabinet like the ones I asked him to rip out the first time seemed a bit excessive... Even to me. But honestly, having gone through this BS over the past seven weeks with this guy that has turned out to be a total weasel... I can't even imagine anything my husband would say or do that could be any worse!

Oh! Before you assume this was some Facebook lead or Craigslist dude I called to ask to work for peanuts... No. This guy works as a sub-contractor for one of the top custom home builders in the Triad and his estimate for labor only was $5,000, a full $2k over his closest competitor. And yet, he wouldn't show up or didn't realize or want to admit that my job couldn't be squeezed in between his other jobs. Finally, to add insult to injury, the work he did (5 hours over two and a half days) was subpar. By his own admission, the shower wall is slightly crooked. My marble guy says the wall niches the contractor built are not 90 degrees (straight) at the corners so the marble shelves won't lay flat until they are fixed. And, there is concrete he allowed to get into the shower drain because he couldn't be bothered to take five seconds to stuff a rag into it before he laid the shower floor.

The good news is that I told him last Monday, after hearing him at work elsewhere via his butt-dials, is that we are done. So it's over with contractor #1. I also encouraged him, after letting him know I knew he failed to pull a permit, to come up with a number out of the $1,100 he was paid upfront, to compensate us for the mistakes in his work that now must be corrected. So, because he's still sick, (meaning he's working elsewhere) he agreed to send a guy over the next day with $500 to refund and pick up all the tools he left in our bedroom.

In the end, the second contractor asked for $600 more than the first guy. However, he said his work would be far superior and that he could start on Thursday and have my bathroom completed in a week. Therefore, if he actually does cross the finish line, all of this might have been worth it. 

It's a good thing this is the last major remodeling project on my list for this house; because unless my husband volunteers his services again, I may have to learn to love what I have. Which might just be the lesson in this exercise anyway.

It's not all bad news though... Remember that vanity I loved on
this website and the custom cabinet builder it belongs to? The
one that bid $5,000 just to build it and wanted even more to
paint it, add hardware, a sink, counter top and to deliver it?
Well, the craftsman I hired to replace those people stopped by this Monday
to install the vanity and storage cabinet he built for me using those photos. He
only charged me $1,700.00 and both pieces fit my space like a glove! Everything
is solid maple and Chris even offered to deliver both pieces to a local finisher
he works with who painted them in a color I picked out! The cost for this
high-end finish... Just $800 for both pieces and worth every penny!
Before he started, Chris presented a contact for me to sign that
outlined every detail, including price and timeline. In the end, he
even provided a copy of the bill he paid on my behalf to the finisher...
Thereby restoring my faith in all contractors and,
proving once and for all that perfection does exist...
And, that it's okay to insist you get exactly what you ask and pay for!
If you live in the Winston-Salem/Greensboro North Carolina area and
need a whole house full of cabinetry or just one vanity custom built to
fit your spot, let me know because I am happy to recommend him to you!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Master Bathroom Remodel... Small Bathroom Re-Remodel and Marbel Mosaic Monograms

Hello there... So glad you popped in today because I finally have an
update to share with you about our master bathroom re-remodel!
You may remember what our master bathroom looked like before
our first remodel from these photos and this post I wrote several
years ago after the shower floor was replaced to address
a minor drainage issue I could no longer live with...
When we bought the house and I first laid eyes this custom-built
but dated and useless vanity and storage unit, I nearly lost my mind.
Storage good... Clunky bookcase and low, low vanity, bad... And, do
not even get me started on the wallpaper or size of this bathroom!
Because, for all the outdoor space we lacked at our house in California,
it featured one very sweet master bedroom en suite; complete with a huge
walk-in closet, double sink vanity and separate tub/shower and toilet room!
Therefore, to walk into this... A master bath smaller than my
former closet and nowhere to expand was devastating!
So before he tackled the rest of the house, my husband ripped
my bathroom down to the studs and we started over!
And, for a while it was fine. Especially since taking out the bookcase
meant he could move the toilet closer to the door and expand the
shower. Also, when the floor was replaced to correct that drainage issue,
our contractor capped the step with the carrara marble I love so much!
Replacing the low vanity, (which had no drawers) with a half-pedestal sink
meant my sink could be as high on the wall as I wanted. Tearing out that
clunky orange bookcase gave me more room to move around too. Given
what I originally walked into, I was pretty content with this arrangement...
Until I realized that there was nowhere to put anything! Now, I'm
the first to admit I have a lot of stuff; however, in my defense, there
is a lot a girl needs in the bathroom. Especially when her best friend
works for Aveda and spoils her as much as spa-Boy likes to spoil me!
But after buying my sixth storage cabinet and finding there was no more
floor space on which for it to stand, I realized it was time to stop the insanity!
It was time to admit that the very short people who built this house and that
low vanity and clunky storage bookcase knew exactly what they were doing!
So I needed a new vanity and a new storage cabinet in a big way. But like with
the new flooring and powder room we just finished downstairs, I wanted to take
my time and make sure that I get everything I want this time around. Being born
and raised in Germany, where my father always made sure to keep us out of
military housing, I grew up in some very charming homes with charming old-world
european bathrooms. In fact, in my Oma's bathroom, the toilet tank was mounted
near the ceiling, so to flush it, we had to pull a little wooden handle on a chain! I
have always been drawn to classic bathroom cabinetry and fixtures. Like this!
So I did my research and finally decided on a vanity with clean lines; not fussy or
too busy and reminded me of that old-world, European style I love so much. The
fact that these photos of the vanity I chose also feature a hexagon carrara mosaic
marble floor and carrara marble top didn't hurt either! However, because of the
unique (small) dimensions of my bathroom, I couldn't find a stock vanity that
was both shallow enough as not to encroach on the doorway and long enough
to provide the counter/storage space I need. So, I decided to contact the local
custom-cabinet business to whom these pics belong and ask for an estimate...
Which turned out to be a monumental waste of time and a huge
disappointment. First, the woman that came out to meet me talked
about nothing for over an hour. All attempts to steer her back to the
topic of the vanity and storage cabinet I wanted failed. After she said
she "had what she needed", which I seriously doubted, she promised to
be back in touch with an estimate within a week. After ten days passed,
I called to follow-up and received the above e-mail letting me know that
my vanity and storage cabinet would cost over six thousand dollars! Now,
I understand custom cabinetry comes at a price; but reading her e-mail,
it was all about price. There was nothing to describe what I was buying
at all. There was no attachment with dimensions or a rendering for what
my new cabinetry would look like or what it would be made of. I also did
not know whether her price included the marble top, hardware, nothing...
And, as it turns out, it included nothing. No top, no sink, no hardware and
no paint! Even worse, I learned (after pulling it out of her) that I was also
responsible for paying hundreds of dollars (no specifics given) for delivery
from Pennsylvania back to North Carolina. Wait! What? Why did I go to
all the effort to seek out and support a local business when my project
was going to be farmed out to someone out of state? The final straw came
when she sent renderings that looked absolutely nothing like the photos I
gave her from her own website! I actually asked her, "are you sure your
quote and these drawings are for my project, because this looks nothing
like what we discussed." After, sending  my own sketch and the link to
the vanity on her website, I received a sketch via e-mail that was simply
a copy of what I sent her, with dimensions added. Then, it hit me...
Why not call the amazing carpenter that built the bookcase for our library
and build the cornice box for my Germany map in the living room? I mean, all
I had to do was show him a picture and it was as if he just lifted it up and set it
down in our room! So I called him... But unfortunately, his wife told me that he
was unavailable for a few weeks because he was recovering from knee surgery.
Sadly, a few weeks turned into almost two months after an infection ended up
taking his leg. Still, not wanting to let me down, this wonderfully kind and
wildly talented carpenter came to see me and he brought a friend he said was
just as good at building cabinetry as he was. See my photos on his clipboard?
True to his word, this super-nice man took exactly what he saw in those
photos and sketched out my vanity right there in my bathroom. Then,
he took measurements and provided recommendations to ensure both
pieces do not take over the room and function the way I need and
want them to. Note to Ms. Chatterbox... This is how it is done!
Guess what else he did? He called me back and made an appointment
to present his estimate without my having to follow up with him! An
estimate that spelled out every little detail of my project. Including
the materials he planned to use, measurements and configurations!
Why, yes... My socks were blown off! In fact, when he called to ask if he could
bring over the contract and told me his price was $1,700.00, my response
was, "Great, Chris! How much for the storage cabinet behind the door?" To
which he replied, "No, Janet, that is my price for both pieces you wanted."
So with my vanity and storage cabinet decided, it was time for what Chip
Gaines refers to as his favorite day... DEMO DAY! Now, my husband is not
as happy about this bathroom re-remodel as I am because he has already
remodeled it once! So I have pretty much been in the dog house since this
project launched. There was one moment of levity during the process of
destroying all his hard work though, after he opened up the front of the
knee wall for the shower and found what you see in the photo above!
Why? Because what you see in that wall... All the plumbing supplies
and the tools are all things he spent hours looking for and accused
me of moving during the first remodel. Yes! He closed all that stuff
up inside the wall. To be totally honest, we are still laughing about it!
Remember in my last post when I told you we went to Texas to see Ranger
graduate from the police academy and we ended up going to Waco three times
to visit Magnolia Market? Well, someone got all excited when he thought I was
finally going to use one of the three dozen carpenter's pencils I insisted I needed
from the gift shop. He set two of them on the wall and asked me to mark where I
wanted my new wall to end so he could measure for the new lumber to frame it up...
So I did. I took one of my Magnolia Market carpenter's pencils and laid it on the
spot where I want my new wall to end. When I was asked if I marked the spot, I
said I had; it was where the white pencil was. To which he replied, "Most people
sharpen a pencil to mark a spot, Janet." But these are special pencils... And, no. I
have no plans to ever sharpen any of these sweet pencils; so do not even ask!
The only thing I wanted to save in this bathroom was the piece of
marble that contractor put over the step. Everything else could go!
And, while I was told to prepare for it not to survive being removed,
this gorgeous chunk of carrara marble popped right out in one piece!
Although it has not yet been confirmed, I am hoping a little bit of it can
be repurposed for use as the bottom of the foot niche inside my shower!
Despite not being happy about having to tear out and rebuild this bathroom,
my husband made quick work of the demo. He carried hundreds and hundreds
of pounds of broken tile, tile board, dry wall and concrete down the steps!
He said he never expected to see the back of the tub he installed when he
remodeled the hallway bathroom exactly four years ago... But, there it is!
Along with my written declaration that our new bathtub would
never leak! Seeing RLTW reminded me that Ranger was deployed
(for what would thankfully be the last time) during that project!
By the way... We are firm believers that the longevity of our now 32-year
marriage relates to the fact that we have never shared a bathroom. So,
needless to say, it is taking a lot of this shower get to get me through!
Leo is about as happy about this arrangement as I am!
Co-mingling our towels is not something we are used to either. And,
yes... That is a lot of towels for only two people. But that is because
neither of us has or ever will use a towel more than once before it gets
washed. Oh, and my dad has always said brown towels are for lazy people
that do not know how to do laundry properly - So there has never been
anything but white towels in our house. That also applies to sheets!
The prince I married thought this was funny...
As for the materials for my new bathroom... Like I said before in my post about
the downstairs powder room we recently remodeled, I have reached the point
in my life where I no longer have to settle. It is probably because I have reached
that point in life where it is more than half over as well... So, for these reasons
and because I have been forced to promise that I will never ask my husband to
remodel my kitchen or any of the bathrooms ever again, I decided to use only
the fixtures, finishes and hardware I have always wanted but was either too
afraid to ask for or could not afford. That does not mean I went wild though...
But I did go visit everything on my wish-list for inspiration! You see, this
is the shower valve of my dreams... It is made in Great Britain and only
costs $7,300.00 at my local Ferguson Plumbing and Lighting Showroom!
It reminds me of the classic, traditional bathrooms of Europe... But
even if our home warranted such a fixture and I had an extra $8k
to blow, I probably would not buy it. Not when I know there
are less expensive options available that are just as pretty
and just as well made! So I did more research and I found...
This one is by Hudson Reedmakers of luxury bathroom fixtures
at prices nearly everyone can afford. They are also in Great Britain and
this model I purchased is sold through for less than $600
Spending ten times less on my shower valve means I can spend
more on other things I need to complete my dream en suite...
The word dream, being relative to the size of my bathroom course!
The same cost-saving method applied to my hardware choices too;
because after shopping the looks at Restorations Hardware, I was able
to find similar ones for less at Pottery Barn. And, you know how much I
love Pottery Barn! In fact, we made a run to the Outlet for things as well!
It was as if they knew I was coming, because this Mercer Train Rack
towel holder I want installed inside my shower was laying on a table right
by the entrance! In their catalog, the Mercer Train Rack retails for $199;
however, at the Pottery Barn Outlet in Gaffney,  I paid just $54.00!
On the way home from Gaffney we stopped by Frugal MacDoogal, the
Carolina's largest wine and beverage warehouse so I could reward my
handyman for all his efforts to demo my master bedroom bathroom!
I chose this Victorian-style faucet to compliment the classic look of
the amazing carrara vanity top I see in my dreams about my new bathroom!
Last week I bumped into these British made apothecary-style jars for just
$5.00 each at my favorite consignment shop. I cannot wait to fill them with
cotton balls, Q-tips or soap and display them on my new storage cabinet!
Speaking of my new vanity and storage cabinet...
They are exactly like the pictures and hand-crafted of solid maple!
Originally, I planned to ask my sweetie to just slap a coat of white
paint on them for me. However, after I saw these beauties and ran my
fingers all over this strong, smooth maple, I knew it deserved better!
So did my carpenter, because he had a sample door front ready to show
me. He said he has a guy that does all the cabinetry he builds for a custom
homebuilder. He said that for $800, he would have my vanity and storage
cabinet painted and finished to look like the high-end furniture they are!
Sold! The only disagreement we had was the color. You see, there is no
negotiating when it comes to the material for my vanity top. Unlike the
compromise I made with the Corian Raincloud we had installed in
the kitchen, my custom vanity top will be white carrara marble. So while
Dove White by Benjamin Moore may very well be the most common paint
color used to finish kitchen/bathroom cabinets, I know the subtle off-white
and cream tones in Dove White make carrara marble look more gray and
dingy than it really is. Therefore, in order to make the white in carrara pop
and to pull the blue tones out of the veining in this kind of marble, people
that really love it like I do know that only a crisp, clean white paint on the
new vanity will do. A white paint like Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace!
See what I mean? It is the perfect white for my vanity. Even Chris agrees
I made the better choice. And, I agreed that the finish is just as Chris said
it would be... Beautiful! When he opened the shop door and I saw my new
vanity, I almost cried. It is just as I imagined and just as I showed him
in those photographs I provided the day he came out to measure my
bathroom. The modifications I requested include an extra-deep bottom
drawer so cans of hairspray and large bottles of shampoo can be stored
standing up. I also added a shallow fourth drawer to the top of the stack
for my cosmetics tray and I placed the sink off-center, on the right. It is
also a tall vanity that will stand nearly 40" after the top is installed. The fun
part of this visit with my vanity was finding out that my first choice, out of
the eight different styles of hardware I brought with me, was the best one!
We didn't even unwrapped any of the other hardware!
The custom storage cabinet I designed was inspired by the one
original to the house that we ripped out. The only adjustments I
made was to make it less wide so I can keep the roomier shower
and I asked for an added detail on the front of the shelves, to help
it look less like a bookcase. I love it and cannot wait to fill it up!
While my husband installed a new exhaust fan and finished up
some drywall repairs, I went to Floor and Décor to pick out tile!
This may not have been such a difficult choice, had we not used that
black and white porcelain hex tile for the powder room! You see, that
tile is so much more comfortable to walk on than the carrara mosaic
we used in the hall bathroom, that I sometimes I remove my socks
just to feel it under my toes! So, that is exactly what I did before I
made my final decision at Floor and Décor. I walked on the 2" hex
carrara mosaic and the 1" hex carrara mosaic to compare them to the
feel of the porcelain hex I love. However, while there is no denying
that the porcelain hex, with its gently rounded pillow edges is much
more comfortable, my heart is set on the Carrara; specifically the 1"
hexagon mosaic shown in the photograph of the vanity I selected!
Yes, it is true, sweet Leo... Mom chose style over comfort. Again!
After placing the order for my marble and the subway tile for the shower and
bathroom walls, I had an appointment with a marble wholesaler that was
set up by the fabricator for my vanity top. But just like the first custom
cabinetry person I called, this lady wasted my time too. When I first called,
she assured me she had a remnant that would be perfect for my vanity. She
said they work with white carrara all the time and knew she had something I
would love. However, when I showed up, she went into a long explanation
about how "no one" is using carrara any more and that white quartz is now
all the rage. "Because it doesn't stain, etch and blah, blah, blah, like carrara
tends to do." Okay... I have been down this road so many damn times. I
do not care if carrara is fussy and difficult to live with. Hello? So am I!
As I said in this post after my carrara marble island top was delivered...
I have always wanted carrara marble like my Oma had... Her

kitchen was always the warmest room in the house, with its coal

stove and carrara marble counter tops; pitted, stained and worn

smooth from decades of working day and night to feed her six,

fatherless children at a time when she literally had to make a lot
out of a whole lot of the nothing she had as a war widow. I may or
may not be careful with my new marble vanity top; however, if it
does end up pitted, etched and worn like my Oma's, it will mean I
had the privilege of living with something that is truly beautiful,
timeless and alive. So on we go in search of the carrara meant for me!

And, not another peep about Quartz from anyone! Off I went... However,
no matter how far up the price ladder we climbed or how many slabs they
pulled for me, none of this marble was good enough for my new vanity...
Frankly, on a quote of $1,100 for a 46" X 22" vanity top, I was expecting
more. I was pretty shocked by how low-quality their carrara was...
As you can see above, most of the slabs I was shown were either
cracked, had putty filler in them to mask damage or both!
I really gave this the old college try; but again, I am not willing
to compromise or settle. And, the more slabs they moved the less
generous I was feeling towards the woman at Amanzi Marble and
Granite, (which according to her, should be renamed, Amanzi Quartz
and more Quartz because "no one uses carrara anymore") especially
since for as concerned as she was about how "fussy" cararra can be,
she was not nearly fussy enough about what she sends her clients to see!
Below is the slab I was told she selected especially for me. Clearly, it is not a
whole slab. It is also terribly gray and with that horizontal vein running almost
across the whole piece, even these guys said it would be impossible for my
vanity not to look like it was about to break in half. No... Check this off this list!
Then it hit me! Why not go to Emerald Pearl where the contractor that
fixed the shower floor got that chunk of Carrara to cap the step? So I did,
and I am so very happy I did! The owner of Emerald Pearl, Helio took me
straight to the back and introduced me to the most beautiful slab of white
carrara marble I have ever seen. My new vanity deserves this marble!
After he took my bathroom back down to the studs, my husband
announced that he would rather not tile or lay the marble floor...
He said that since I am on a mission to build my dream bathroom and
have spent so much money to get exactly what I want (which, by the way,
is not as much as thinks, since Floor and Décor agreed to price-match
the marble) that he wants a professional to do a professional job for me!
So I did! Unfortunately, this guy didn't work out
but we will talk more about that when this is over!
While sub-standard work was going on, I was busy unpacking a few
more of the goodies I ordered... Like this rotating soap from France!
It is made of donkey milk and smells amazing. The holder mounts to
the wall so the soap never has to sit in a wet soap dish. I use shower
gel but always finish by washing my hands and face with a mild soap
to give them that squeaky-clean feeling after I condition my hair!
Being able to wash my hands quickly without leaving soap standing
in a soap dish and having it air dry makes this the perfect solution! The
other goodie that came is this beautiful Kensington Mirror from Pottery
Barn. It's beveled and it mounts on side brackets that allow it to be tilted
I have to confess that as much as I love Pottery Barn, this mirror was not
my first choice. I originally picked out a backlit mirror I ordered from a
third party via Amazon. Huge mistake! Although the mirror arrived with a
clear defect in that it was missing a full line of etching around the on/off
button on the front and, it was not at all described since it was not able to
be hard-wired and came with a huge plug on the back so it could not be
mounted flush against the wall... The seller refused to offer a pre-paid
return. Even after I put in a claim with Amazon and appealed their
decision to take the side of their vendor and two of their phone reps
agreed the mirror was defective and not as described after reviewing
the photos I sent them. Fortunately, the seller agreed to take the mirror
back and refund the purchase - But I had pay and take time off to ship it!
But everything happens for a a good reason and the good reason that
crappy backlit mirror did not work is because it was too modern for
the traditional, european bathroom I want and it did not match the
style of the faucet and hardware I picked out. Finally, it did not have
a beveled edge, which I love because of the way it catches the light!
This was our progress last week... This guy finished the pre-slope
on the shower floor, installed the liner and tested it for leaks...
It did not leak! But he also didn't install the drain at the correct height
(despite going over the requirement at length) and, he allowed concrete to get
into the rain and left it there... So now we have another issue to address!
Nevertheless, we are moving forward without him...
By the way, I thought it would be tough to find a shower grab bar
to match the exposed shower valve I picked out and one that does
not throw off that assisted living vibe but I was wrong! This one I
found at Signature Hardware knocked it out of the park!
If you didn't know any better, you'd think they were made to go together!
When I got home Friday afternoon I found that the walls were up
up and was told we were ready for tile. Had I checked the drain, I
may not have paid the guy. But I did. In the end, he came down
with a kidney stone and hasn't been able to work since. Karma?
Fortunately, there is an amazing craftsman recommended by my
marble guy who is taking over this week so things are back on track! 
I am so excited to see the tile go up on these walls!
And the carrara marble mosaic go down on the floor!
Speaking of which...
I picked up all the tile and marble at Floor and Décor the other day...
So over the weekend, I got busy on
a little project I have in mind for the floor!
My monogram!
I created the template by blocking out the tiles I need to remove on
a wrapped piece of marble with a marker. Then, I cut the plastic
away from the square and flipped it over, pressing it onto the
back mesh side of the square that would be monogrammed...
Like this...
After the ink transferred onto the mesh backing, I knew
exactly which pieces of marble to remove. Like this...
Sadly, no matter how much I played with it, the B
still looked too much like the number eight...
Since my monogram does not include the number eight and I know
that after it gets cemented to the floor would be the wrong time
to admit that I hate it, I decided to experiment with a plan B...
To create a heart! But while a heart would solve my B-8 (Bingo!)
problem, it feels too juvenile for the traditional bathroom I want.
So I moved on to my Plan C... As in my maiden name. As in
the monogram I was born with. The monogram my parents put
on the first Terry wrap-around they gave me for Christmas in 1978...
It's perfect!
And, as long as I include my married name in all my other
monogrammed stuff, my husband says he doesn't mind at all!
After showing my mom the new monogrammed tissue box cover
and hearing how much she loved it, I had to order one for her too!
Tiling should be complete by the end of next week...
So stay tuned!