Thursday, May 12, 2016

Bathroom Design Deadlock

In less than twelve hours, my friend Beth is coming over to help me design my new shower stall. And as much as I have poured over photos of bathrooms for months and considered an endless parade of options, I simply cannot make up mind.

Postscript | After meeting with Beth and my contractor, Derek, I learned that quite a few of my assumptions about tile and grout were wrong, wrong, wrong. Corrections and mea culpas are interwoven with my previous comments below.

Post Postscript |Wanna see how my shower stall turned out? Read about it here

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If I had all the money in the world, I would go with huge, floor-to-ceiling slabs of marble:


Yum. The handsome veining and seamless construction not only sweep me off my feet, but make me swoon with delight over how easy this surface would be to maintain. I. Am. In. Love.

Postscript | Derek reminded me that water can penetrate even marble slabs and a continuous surface like this one is not necessarily more waterproof than smaller tiles. The real waterproofing work happens in the underlying construction, and the shower finishes are simply an art project. Good to know.

But let's be honest. I don't have all the money in the world. 

So in a more budget-conscious universe, I can happily fall in like with the boy next door, subway tile:



I love the sweet scale of a classic size subway, which I find particularly darling with a moderate shade of grout.

But here's the thing. I lived through the eighties, sister, and when it comes to keeping grout clean, I've been round the block a few times. All the toothbrushes and baking soda in the world are not enough to scrub out the inevitable discoloration, and I have served penance to such drudgery long enough in my life. Pale grout is out.

Postscript | A lot of things have changed in the past thirty years, and it seems that grout is near the top of the list. Derek explained that today's grout is a completely different ball game: whereas the old grout was porous, the new grout is an epoxy and almost impenetrable; the old grout stained easily but the new grout will unerringly maintain its original color; and clean-up, as they say, is a breeze. I stand majorly corrected.

So how about some dark grey grout? 

Super on-trend, the simple combo of basic subway tile outlined in almost-black can go in quite a few different directions. My favorites are the simple running bond:


And the herringbone. I drool over herringbone:


But wait. I have to admit that my first association of subway tile goes to the down-and-dirty walls of the actual subways of Chicago and New York, in all their urine-scented and urban-gritty reality. I do not know if I want to invite those recollections into my personal sanctuary and daily hygiene routines. 

So. What if we switch out the negative associations of rectangular subway tile for some basic old-school square tiles? These 6x6 classics were all the rage during my formative years, and when I think "bathroom tile," they are always the first thing to hop into my head:



And while I'm not first and foremost a trend surfer, I do love the fact that these old timers are making a comeback. Yep, it's once again hip to be square and I wouldn't mind hopping on that train.

But I still get leery of all that grout. The giant uncut slabs of marble of my fantasies may be out of my checkbook's reach, but what about oversize tiles? These are also surging in popularity, albeit often with a strong modern sensibility, which is not my jam. But, you know, anything to cut down on the percentage of grout in my life:

Postscript | Let me say it again. Grout is no longer the enemy. I was wrong. 


This oversize subway style is a fun mash-up of the classic shape, and does not conjure up quite as many memories of sweat running down my back or subway screeches crashing through my head when I look at it. Which is a plus.

Or how about 12x12 marble tiles? 


Here's an option that represents a fine compromise between my original love for solid slabs and my grout-despising sensibilities. My checkbook approves, and I can get excited about this look too.

* * * * *

While my mind spins round and round on basic tile options, other features of my new shower pop crisply into place.

There's going to be a basic rain shower. 

And built-in shower shelf is a must


I'm a fan of the little blast of hex tiles backing the shelf. 

And I like the long and lean look, with plenty of room for product. For me, that pretty much boils down to shampoo, conditioner, razor and a bar of soap. But it would be nice to know I have the real estate to expand. 


The vertical arrangement is nice as well. But the skinny glass decorative tiles are so not my jam. Tarek and Christina have done them to death, and I say rest in peace.

* * * * *

Fixtures? More options plunge me deeper into a torrent of indecision.

Brushed nickel is boringly basic.

Chrome is definitely more fun.

But black fixtures are crazy on trend and they do make me swoon. 



Still, I think this brass is more my style. 



Realistically, I think my budget will have the last word on this decision. So yes, I will find a way to be happy with chrome.

* * * * *

Hmm. Eleven hours till Beth shows up on my doorstep, and I'm no closer to making up my mind. Let's hope she can work some magic with my indecisive brain, or I may be living with the studs and holes look for a while longer. 

* * * * *

I've looked at a ridiculous number of posts featuring bathrooms, from the decadent to the basic DIY, and these are my most favorite ones:

11 New Trends for the Bathroom by Apartment Therapy
On Choosing Bathroom Tile by Little Green Notebook

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