before/after: ewash bath

I think my sister and I developed a taste for cool, toned down colors in reaction to Mom’s tastes (although my tastes are a lot more eclectic than my sister). Our mom loved bold, warm colors like red and brown and purple. My sister likes everything in neutral/soft palettes. Houzz calls it Transitional. It’s not quite contemporary and definitely not modern – which sort of evolved into a modern farmhouse vibe (thank you Joanna Gaines). I think the house she owns lends itself to that style. E.Wash is what I call my sister’s house. Like me, my sister owns a home that had never truly been updated. For most of the homes in my area, an update means you paint the wood paneling. In 2017, when I was living with my sister, she decided to rip out the bathroom and refinish it. I forgot to take photos before we started demolition. I apologize, but as you can gather even from the demo photos, this bathroom was very hopeless. The tiles were plastic and glued on. The tub was super small and shallow. The walls were a combination of paneling and wallpaper. It’s a good-sized bathroom, but it was not a welcoming place.

We assume that people in these small houses (over the course of a hundred years), rather than investing in quality products, did what they could with the money they had. A lot of the time this meant doing things yourself and doing what was cost efficient, ie. drop ceilings, wood paneling, roll out linoleum, etc. Instead of taking things out and replacing them, a lot of the time everything is layered on top of each other. In this case, there were three layers of linoleum floor that we had to peel away.

There are always layers upon layers.

I was in the tile industry for almost three and a half years. In that time, I learned so much about tile standards and ceramics in general. Glazed tile and brick are truly pieces of art. From mixing the materials to laying the tile, a lot of care and attention goes into making the tile and making it work. I’ve seen badly made tile and photographic evidence of under-qualified tile setters, and neither are very pretty.

A big part of my job was making sample boards for showroom displays. I built hundreds of mini-installs. I played with color combinations, sizes, and patterns to give dealers something with which to sell our tile. Tile is amazing. If you’ve ever done a tile project, you know the satisfaction of wiping away that last bit of grout haze.

After making hundreds of tile boards, I was eager to install tiles in a home. My Dad found ceramic floor planks with the wood grain finish at auction which we installed in the kitchen and bathroom. The subway tile was rejected development tile that was cut improperly and glazed at different weights. You can see the variation in color that turned out so beautifully when blended together.

I cannot wait to redo my kitchen and bathroom – if I get the chance. Not to toot my own horn, but the tile work in E.wash is fantastic.

I sometimes joke that I wish I was there the first time someone grouted their tiles and realized what they had just done. Could they perceive the endless capabilities and scope of what they just created? It was an ancient civilization, so some ruler probably said, “Hey this is beautiful. Now cover the entire building in it.”

Tiling is back-breaking work and really an art. Measurements seem to be constantly changing as you go and keeping lines straight is so important to the overall finished quality. I learned that tiling vertically is entirely different from tiling on a flat surface. Also, a tile cracker is an excellent investment if you are cutting subway tiles. The cracker made it so easy to salvage cut pieces and use them elsewhere. Not running outside to the wet saw was nice too.

I think we did a good job. What do you think?

Bonus: Niece in the tub.