Wednesday, 9 April 2014


It was such as improvement once all that green was gone that we almost relished the brown of the studs! Almost... but no, time to rebuild!

What you're looking at here is a newly built stud wall to allow for our niche to be built in, and the plumbing to be installed around it. Dan knocked this up using structural pine from Bunnings. He made it 200mm deep and just over 900mm wide to occupy the entire space between wall and window. It is just over 2100mm high to allow for the tiles to that point and a timber trim above.

It was fantastic that the plumber was able to work with us on the weekend we did this. We wouldn't have gotten half as far if he hadn't. It meant we could explain to him exactly where the plumbing had to go whilst we demolished and reconstructed walls etc. 

With the floor sheeting down, you can see the waste for the shower and the toilet are in. It's important to check with professionals if doing a bathroom yourself as to what products to use for what. Ceramic tile underlay is for your floors, and villaboard is for you walls. Both of these products are 6mm thick and available at hardware stores. We found BMS Mitre 10 the cheapest. We used plywood as a board to which to screw all of the plumbing to in the niche wall too. Dan had this laying around in the shed.

As well as the plumbing, the electricity was organised prior to sheeting the walls. Wires were run up through the floor and left unattached to anything so we could safely work around them until the electrician could come back after the tiling. We just had to work out where we wanted the switch. Being an old house there were no power points at all in the bathroom until now.

Our toilet actually has an interesting story. Thankfully I was at work during the process of discovering the one hitch that could have been our downfall. Hate to think how much swearing happened! Not until everything was ripped out and the hole for the toilet waste was about to be drilled, did Dan find out that it was going to sit smack bang in the middle of a joist! There was no moving it an inch left or right because our design was so dependent on all the available space allotted to each item. He ended up cutting the timber joist and installing a big steel beam across to the next joist. Thankfully due to other structural work we have done on the house, we actually had the required steel.

Sheeting a bathroom is something neither Dan or I have ever done, but thankfully we got the hang of very quickly. Each sheet we measured and cut to size with this fibro cutter. We started at the bottom, doing the largest walls first and planning where we could use our offcuts. We placed each sheet and used the level to draw a line for each stud. Each sheet was pulled away then and liquid nails globbed on to tack it to the wall whilst we screwed them up. Screw holes were predrilled and a countersink used prior to driving in the screw. This job was definitely a team effort.

Villaboard has chamfers on the edges which you want to meet in the middle. This is so you can plaster the join nice and neat later. 

Our offcuts were used around our niche wall. It was a bit fiddly but it was great to see such a large change happening around us.

Cutting the sheets makes an almighty mess! Our undercover area was preparation ground zero for everything happening in the bathroom. Thank goodness we had that space actually, because we got 6-7 inches of rain in the following week.

The holes for power points and plumbing were made with the drill and the hammer. First you perforate the perimeter of the to-be hole with drill holes, then you bash it out with a hammer. Easy! Just make sure you measure correctly!

At last the niche wall was sheeted and we could plaster up the join in the villaboard, ready for the waterproofer the next day!

This is a bit of messy fun. They call the product wet are joint compound. We used a paint scraper to put on the first coat, filling as much of the gap as possible. See that roll of paper/tape looking stuff in the bottom right of the picture? That goes on next. 

This is plasterboard perforated paper jointing tape. It's the meat in between your join compound sandwich. This was a two person job to hold the tape nice and straight and smoothing it on with the paint scraper. 

With another coat of joint compound, all smoothed off with a larger scraper, we were looking pretty good for waterproofing the next morning. 

We had been told not to worry about the joins that didn't have a chamfer (ie. around the niche wall) as the water proofer was going to look after them. So after a very full on weekend, we call it a night. Gutted, plumbed, sheeted and plastered. Up early in the morning for the waterproofing man!

Sunday, 6 April 2014


Because the original bathroom was so cluttered, coloured and claustrophobic, the design for the new bathroom had to be the opposite. I wanted fresh, clean, natural, practical and an impression of more space. This is what we had to work with:

This layout is getting changed dramatically. Thankfully having a timber floor, we can do that. We're removing the bath completely, which was a pretty big decision. Neither of us are bath people, but we weren't sure how it would affect us for resale. Any configuration with a bath in it would mean we couldn't have a shower, and if there is one thing we don't like it's showers over baths. It also severely limited the space for the loo and vanity to pretty much what we already had. The existing arrangement of the bathroom was nothing short of ridiculous, with that tiny vanity providing no storage or bench space, only room for a rather small mirror, and having to walk in looking at the toilet. Not nice. So the bath has been sacrificed for the good of a large vanity with lots of storage and bench space, a nice sized shower with new plumbing, and a loo that is out of site.

In the new layout, we'll be building out the wall of the shower to allow for a niche to be built in. Following the lines of simple and practical, I didn't want any tiled in soap dishes or hanging shower caddies. Ideally, like in new houses, niches are actually recessed into wall cavities. We don't have the luxury of having a cavity large enough, so we are knocking out the old cupboard that hid the plumbing and building the niche wall in its place. This niche itself will be approximately 600x600mm to allow for my very large shampoo bottles. It will sit in between the shower head and the flick mixer. Nice and neat! Here's some of my inspiration:

Colour-wise I'm sticking to the same pallet I have employed throughout our little house. Being so little, I want to create as much continuity and sense of space as possible by using a natural colour pallet and textures. Essentially we're going for white, grey and timber. Here is where my brain is at:

The floor tiles and the tiles on our niche wall will be done in the same 300x600mm light grey stone-look porcelain tiles. We've used these tiles in the house already (on the pantry floor and the fireplace wall) and really love them. They're predominantly a light concrete grey, but the pattern has charcoals, taupes, white and even a darker roan brown through it on occasion. This makes it a great tile for our house, what with our love for greys, whites and timbers! It has a nice industrial quality to it too, so it's not too faux stone. 

The remaining three walls will be a simple gloss white 300x600mm ceramic tile. All of the walls will be tiled to shower height, 2.10 metres high. We'll paint the remaining 600mm in our Dulux Pearl Grey wall colour, and refresh the white ceiling. Here is a little colour swatch:

So that's where we're headed. Exciting! Is anyone else doing a bathroom renovation at the moment? Any tips to share? This will be our first full bathroom renovation, so we're equal parts nervous and enthusiastic. Dan keeps having nightmares that something may go wrong, but for now, full steam ahead!

Monday, 31 March 2014


So we're going to have to work backwards here on Retrosmith for a while as our bathroom has decided to self combust! We were desperately hoping it would hold it together until the Easter break, but no such luck. We had leaks springing from every join in the shower plumbing. The entire guts of the toilet cistern fell apart. The toilet cistern would keep filling if the water was not turned off. In the end the shower plumbing was held together by silicone, duct tape and a garden hose. 

The leaks were at least giving us time to do temporary fixes whilst we sorted out the big renovation. Getting supplies and trades on board was luckily (touch wood) not has hard as I expected. Come this last Saturday morning, all systems were go. Unfortunately I had to head to work, but Dan had fun with the first stage of the reno - stripping out the bathroom! Here are some pics.

Our miniature vanity (I'm 5'3" and this thing was at my knee height) was the first to go. The faux marbled plastic benchtop never looked clean. In fact the entire bathroom looked hideous whether it was clean or not! 

The bath was so stained from over half a century of use that no matter how harsh I got with my cleaning, the discolouration would not budge.

The fan in this picture is helping to dry out the area behind the shower where everything was leaking. Over a few days this actually worked really well!

That ridiculous vanity was the first to go. This signalled the beginning of our renovation journey and the end of us having running water for a while. Bring out the buckets!

Dan had to bash the toilet apart as it had been fitted before the tiles, so wasn't moving anywhere without some persuasion. 

We have pulled out an old bathroom of a similar vintage once before. The floors are bedded in sanded cement, and on our previous experience, breaks up easily into manageable pieces. Dan did not have this luck. The whole floor powdered as soon as he broke into it. To make matters worse, it was laced with chicken wire.

Sorry about the very blurry photo but Dan says he was too busy working to focus the camera for me. I have to forgive him as I came home from work to this...

Thankfully the plumber was able to work over the weekend whilst Dan was pulling everything apart, so all of the plumbing was also pulled apart and slowly rebuilt. We are having to invest a bit of money into the plumbing as most of it was cracked or rusted.

Here's how the floor looked when I came home...

So a blank slate we have. That, and a very full trailer of rubbish. For now though, until the muscles of those who helped dismantle this once revolting bathroom have recovered, we will have a new ornament in the front garden.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014


Has anyone not heard of or checked out Ela Hawke Vintage online? I'm fast becoming a website stalker. So much vintage yumminess, so little time! I cannot help but share my one, but very exciting purchase from the wonderful Jessica Piercy. Without further ado, I am thrilled to introduce, my new baby - the vintage aztec rug!


Currently the rug is keeping our tiny hallway warm. Being that our house has limited available floor space to lay rugs on, the size was perfect for this previously blank area under our family gallery wall.

Have you made any recent Ela Hawke purchases? Care to share? I'm eyeing off a few of her clothing pieces at the moment, but with big renovations around the corner I might need to start watching my pennies.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014


Remember these inspiration pictures from this long ago post?

Well, eat your heart out Elizabeth Arden! After a number of months (ok, maybe a year) with a splodge of red paint on our hideously yellow back door, we have gone the whole hog.

First we had to change over the handles and locks. They were in really strange places and weren't working all that well. The big black thing on the side is actually a really cool old doorbell! There was no way we were going to get rid of it, but it did need to be moved so it wasn't hanging over the edge of the door frame like it was.

The handles and lock we both got from Bunnings Warehouse. Though the old handle was cool, and we did think about having it repainted black, unfortunately it was falling to bits. We didn't quite have the energy to try to make it work, and decided a whole new system was probably safer anyway.

You know the best thing about working Saturday mornings? Coming home and having the back door all sanded up ready for a painting. (Note: disgusting pile of old carpet we ripped out of the bedrooms! Stay tuned.)

So after three coats of this fantastic paint in Taubmans' Renegade:

We came up with this!

Love how saturated a colour it is! The perfect red with a hint of blue. Now here's the door from three angles, just so you don't miss it!

As with all things in our little house, there are still bits to finish. In this instance, we need to sand and repaint the architrave where Dan had to patch the old bolt hole. We desperately need to sort the outside of the house, but no photos of that until we've got something planned! Plus we need to put some quad along the base of the pantry door to hide the edge of the tiles. Ah well, all in good time!

What do you think of brightly coloured doors? I've decided every house we have from now on will have a different coloured door. What colour is yours?