One of the things I liked about my home I ended up buying in 2008 was the fact both the kitchen and bathroom had much of the original look from when the house was built in 1954.
That meant it had the nice 50s era tile work around the tub that was the old-fashion heavy duty design as well as the vanity and kitchen counters. I also loved the original hardwood floor.
I wanted the house. But there was one problem. I was told by the selling agent than unless I had cash and closed within 24 hours the bathroom and kitchen were going to be modernized and the floors carpeted. It was sheer madness.
The home had been repossessed by Wells Fargo Bank and someone 2,000 miles away decided the only way a two bedroom, one bathroom home would sell is if the kitchen and bathroom were updated and floors covered.
To make a long story short, I was in contract a week later and the bank said I could close escrow in five days if I wanted. I ended up opting for a 30-day escrow as I wasn’t ready to move in that quick. Meanwhile, the agent hired handymen — apparently unlicensed judging from the butcher job — to modernize part of the bathroom — the tub/shower and toilet — and the kitchen counter and sink. To say it was a half-of-a-mule job is a severe understatement. They ripped out the kitchen tile and backsplash and put in the cheapest and most non-descript Formica-style counter they could find. The new sink that I later saw at Home Depot cost them $99 and looked like it.
They messed up the bathroom so bad that my agent — Carol Bragan — was merciless with them and it was warranted. She had them not once but three times put the tub and shower wrap in place until it drained properly and looked semi-right instead of having the look of being installed by a pair of winos on a three day drunk. Not only did they not tighten down the toilet, but they used the wrong seal and too long of bolts that they didn’t cut back and cap. After Carol got the agent to get the two-man wrecking crew back for the third time something prompted her to go through the bathroom and press down on the cheap vinyl flooring they glued to the stylish 50s floor tile. She said she had never done that before but figured she better. Lo and behold she started bouncing. They had failed to replace part of the subfloor.
Carol also bird-dogged the selling agent about the crappy paint job. The handymen came back three times after the original paint job to repaint the house.
Then after they put down the carpets, Carol gave them a look with a fine tooth comb and said they wouldn’t do as they were remnant sections pieced together. She said that wasn’t what the agent promised would be put in. I told her it didn’t matter because I was going to eventually take the carpet out anyway. Imagine my surprise — as if I should have been —seven months later when I lifted up the carpet in the secondary bedroom and discovered the handymen got even by dumping at least a gallon of paint on the floor.
It may sound like I bought the house from hell especially after the first month of moving in I spent $14,000 on a new roof and fencing. Despite of what the butchers the real estate agent representing Wells Fargo hired did the house was solid, I was in a good neighborhood in a great location, I loved the open beam ceiling with updated windows including an expansive picture window in the front room, and the fact I had a rare California flat top that actually had crawl space.
Two years later I was in the position to spend a bit more on remodeling. I had let go of my 50s look wish especially after I was told the paint damage was going to cost two arms and a leg to address if I had the hardwood floors restored. I put laminate wood in and took the doors off my closets and two bedrooms to create more of an open look. It was then that I decided a more modern look would work for my 960-square-foot home.
The kitchen was fairly straightforward. I had the cabinet doors removed and the shelves and cabinets painted black. I had a black double sink installed as well as a dark granite counter top along with a complementing backsplash.
Between the kitchen, three exterior glass doors, a redo of the laundry room, a new electrical service panel, two window replacements, and $2,500 worth of sharp looking and highly effective celling fans from Manteca Lighting I had spent two thirds of my $30,000 budget.
The bathroom would take the rest.
My one and only bathroom is 9 feet by 5 feet. There are McMansions with half bathrooms bigger than that.
It was a challenge. I knew, though, what I wanted. A larger shower space. A look that was cozy but also was expansive given the small space. And I wanted something that worked specifically for me.
The last point is important to note as more than one person who asked what I was planning to do to the bathroom after I told them they’d tell me two things: That could make it hard to sell the house and it wouldn’t work for them.
First I planned to live in a house and not an investment. And I was living in the house and not them.
That said I came up with expensive ideas which include the vanity. I could have what I wanted — similar to what I had seen in Suzanne Candini’s home that was used exclusively by her husband — if I paid $2,000 plus. I solved that problem by sketching out what I wanted and having John Perez & Sons Cabinets create a much better custom version and do so for $500.
So what’s so unusual about my bathroom? That vanity — stained black, of course — has a black glass vessel sink shaped like a bowl. The entire thing is designed so I can stand to shave and brush my teeth without bending down. Few if any home bathrooms have vanities designed for men to use comfortably.
The toilet is black. That may not have been a wise choice because of the hard water in Powers Tract plus dust but I’d do it again.
The shower/tub was ripped out and I had a pony wall installed with built in shelves for shower items on one side and toilet paper on the other put in place with glass going halfway up to the open beam ceiling. I had the shower walls up to 7-foot and well as part of the rest of the bathroom walls plus the pony wall and shower floor covered with a pattern of small deep multiple grey tiles featuring a blended design. I splurged on the floor and went with stone. There wasn’t much floor left to cover after the shower but still the cost was an eye popper.
I then got a frosted glass door. The bathroom door is the only interior door in my home.
I also added small touches that reflect my lifestyle including three “towel hooks” placed at shoulder level so I can let my daily exercise clothes dry that will sometimes include rain jackets
Then I capped it off by having the rest of the walls and ceiling painted a dark grey.
More often than not I have people who see it — including some of the original doubters — tell me they like the look and will then asked who came up with the idea and final design.
Which brings me to the point I want to make. I spent six to eight months debating what I wanted to do and the colors I wanted to employ. It drove a few of the people around me nuts.
A bathroom remodel isn’t cheap. I had no desire to do it again. And since I bought the house to live in and not so I could maximize the easy of selling when that day comes I made the bathroom design work for me and not for some cookie-cutter future buyer.
Besides, if I was driven by resale potential I wouldn’t have bought a two bedroom, one bathroom, 980-square-foot home in the first place.