I had a reason. It has to do with my other "life's work" project, which is my 1930s bungalow. I bought the house in 1997 as a fixer upper, and I have been working on it ever since. I have tried to make one nice upgrade per year, but only when I have available cash.
I am an avowed frugalist. I live a very lean lifestyle. This is part of being self-employed. Our next paychecks are never guaranteed, therefore money management is a high priority. But I have never had a problem opening my checkbook for home improvement projects. To me, this is not spending. This is putting money into a giant piggy bank that I get to crack open later. Whenever I have accumulated some extra cash, I think "what's next for the house?"
The next project was to tackle one of the worst rooms in the house: the master bathroom. I don't know the full history of the house, but I believe the second floor, which is now the master bedroom/bathroom, was originally an unfinished attic. It was finished into a living space by someone who didn't know what they were doing. Crappy workmanship everywhere. I hadn't done any substantial projects since 2015, because I was saving up for this. When I started talking to contractors last year, I realized I had underestimated the cost. Or to be more accurate I should say, in order to hire a contractor that I trusted to do the job, I would need more money.
This is when I decided to apply for some extra shows, and basically lock myself in the basement to produce enough pots for them. Those who follow my Instagram (@goodelephantpottery) saw that the weeks leading up to the holidays were particularly hairy. My goal was to initiate this project by the end of 2017.
Here are some "before" photos. That's a $99 vanity from a big box store. All of the other fixtures are of the same grade. I had to buy these things right after I moved in, because the existing ones were not even in livable condition. Notice the closet on the right side of the photo. It was way too big for a small bathroom, and made the space feel very cramped.
The shower/tub combo. All I could afford when I moved in was to have the tub re-enamaled, and the cheapest possible tiles for the tub surround. Again, note the too-big closet, which was mostly empty on the inside.
If you looked closely at any surface in the old bathroom, you would see this kind of crap. Like someone applied drywall compound with their fingers, and called it done. The walls in my master bedroom look just as bad.
And now for the fun pictures. The "after" pictures. Let's start with the floor. Whenever I saw real estate listings of houses on my street, with bathrooms that have never been updated, they all have these floors. Black and white ceramic mosaic tiles, in what's called a "spiral" or "pinwheel" pattern. This is the bathroom floor my house was supposed to have.
The new vanity, toilet, mirror, and lights. No more big-box-store specials. The clock was made by me in the early 2000s. You can tell by the style that this was before I launched a serious pottery studio. I can't believe I still have it, but hey I like it.
And now for the driving force behind this entire project. I have named it the World's Greatest Shower. The past few years, my work has required me to travel a lot and stay in hotels. Hotels can range from gross to amazing. The amazing hotels all have one thing in common, a killer shower. Try to imagine how much this means when doing a multi-day, outdoor, summer festival, where you spend long days in the heat developing a salt crust. I have long dreamed of having such a shower in my own house. From now on, even when I have a great shower in a hotel, I know I'm going home to something better. For those who are concerned about me eliminating the bathtub, I still have a bathtub in my first floor bathroom. Does a small bungalow need more than one?
The World's Greatest Shower comes with the World's Largest Niche. Never again must I buy another ugly shower caddy!
The too-big closet was replaced by a sensibly-sized nook. Now this is the right amount of space to store some extra towels and supplies. And even though the World's Greatest Shower is quite a bit larger than the old bathtub, the removal of the too-big closet makes the whole bathroom a lot more spacious and comfortable.
Everything else that used to be stored in the too-big closet fits in the new vanity. I picked this vanity because it is loaded with drawers. Drawers are by far the best way to store and organize small things. Ok, I also picked the vanity because it's gray and white, and anyone who knows me knows those are my favorite colors.
I don't recommend mindless workaholism. But when you have a concrete goal in mind, sacrificing your life for a period of time can be worth it. This is not the first time I've done something like this. I went through similar periods when I transitioned from being a full-time employed designer to a self-employed designer. Then again when I transitioned from designer to potter. All worth it. And those previous sacrificial stages were much larger in scope. By comparison, this one was not so bad. Now this is what I get to wake up to every morning. Worth it!
All of the credit for this belongs to Modern Style Construction LLC. The process of working with them was outstanding from beginning to end, and the final results blow my mind. I got to observe everything being built from the studs up, and the amount of work and expertise involved was very humbling. They showed great respect for my house, and for my space and time. I did not miss a day of work during the construction, because the project was managed so well. So I send my endless gratitude to Sergei Tsoy (owner), Michelle Lee (designer), Abel Pineda (project manager), Nelson Pineda (lead carpenter), José Benitez (tile expert), and Naun Guerrero (painter).