I have a feeling I’m not the only one out here completely mesmerized by HGTV and all the home improvement shows. There’s just nothing quite like watching someone take a sledge hammer to a corroded bathroom wall and within minutes transform a nightmare into a dream space. Like everyone else watching, I have a few rooms of my own that could definitely use the treatment. But also, like most people watching, I have neither the funds nor where-with-all to do anything about it. Well, not yet, anyway.
When my parents came to visit for the holidays and my mom asked me what I really wanted, my answer of a new bathroom didn’t exactly fit what she had in mind. But she gave me a couple days of hers and my dad’s time and some very clever solutions. It inspired me to remind us all something that former generations knew by necessity. That you don’t always have to tear things down and start fresh, sometimes some good old fashioned elbow grease is just the ticket.
So here’s how it went down:
Our upstairs bathroom is shared by four members of the family. It is a 1950s dream, complete with all kinds of tiles, including a little border of gray and burgundy “wave” tiles. When we moved into this 1912 house eighteen years ago, I painted the walls above the tile a deep cabbage red. Over the years the deep red paint seemed to sweat, causing the walls to develop an odd sort of drip texture which went ignored, along with the cracked sink and a tub that was so old, it refused to come clean.
Add to this the fact that there was no counter space or drawers so my teenage daughter and I became experts at balancing small items all around the edges of the sink. You’d be amazed how many make-up and hair products will fit, as long as no one knocks into them. My husband complained, but it had pretty much become just one of those idiosyncrasies of living in an old house. Oh, and since there was only one towel bar we alternated between periods of all of us using the same towel and then discovering it, and over-compensating by throwing every towel in the wash after only one use.
Last year the faucet in the cracked sink went kaput, so we were forced to replace it, and rather than diving in to do the whole project, we found a dandy specimen from the original era of the house at a salvage yard and installed it. The bathroom got de-cluttered for about a week, but it wasn’t long before the miscellaneous items returned to the edges of the new sink.
So, my mom and I gave ourselves two days, one to plan and shop and one to work. We bought mostly cleaning supplies, and found two perfect-size matching small shelf units. We got four beautiful “robe hooks” so each person has their own dedicated towel hook.
I think the real ah-ha came when my mom donned gloves and washed the red walls from top to bottom. I had planned on a coat of stain blocker paint to try to cover the red, and a new paint job, but simply washing the walls made them look brand new. The shower/tub got the cleaning of it’s life while my dad assembled the shelves.
With some very basic lightweight basket inserts from the home improvement store, the two little units are incredibly efficient. There are surfaces to work on, and they actually stay clear because it’s so easy to drop everything back into the basket when you’re done.
We all know that eventually the bathroom will get the big remodel. But in truth, it will probably be years before that happens. And I can’t think of a better gift than working side by side with my parents AND getting a groovy bathroom out of the deal. I say, we should still watch home improvement shows and continue to collect ideas for our future rooms. But in the meantime, try applying just a tad of elbow grease to the problem. For the results, you can’t beat the cost!