Bathroom sink in a row house.

Adventures in Bathroom Remodeling

The bathroom before the remodel.It is very hard to find the perfect mate but when John and Doris Sommo met they had no doubts that they were meant for each other. However, when Doris met John’s bathroom she felt anything but true love. It was the “ugliest bathroom ever,” says John. Then, in unison and with great laughter, the couple proceeds to list the multitude of problems starting with the peeling, circa 1980s wallpaper, and faux-marbled vanity. Someone had applied a gray glaze over the original brown tiles which perhaps had been nice at one point, or maybe not, but in any case was past its prime and peeling profusely. The problems weren’t merely cosmetic either. There was an utilitarian, tank-less toilet with a lid that wouldn’t stay up and suspect temperature control in the shower which offered the user the added excitement of never knowing how long the water would stay warm.

At the time, it was also the only bathroom in the house, a circa 1938, true row house in Middle Village, Queens, New York. John says it was part of the marriage agreement that the bathroom be remodeled as soon as possible.

Planning the New Bathroom

The happy couple started to plan their new bathroom by choosing a style that Doris says reminds her of the classic New York City, black and white, bathroom of the 1940s. Both John and Doris wanted something that would be true to the original period of the home but fresh and yet classic enough to be aesthetically pleasing for many years. Originally she wanted to use cobalt blue instead of the more traditional black accents, but when she saw the marbled subway tiles in the tile showroom, she decided to go with an all marble pattern.

The majority of the tiles in the finished bathroom, from Tiles Unlimited in Glendale, New York, are white, marbled, ceramic subway tiles with a black marble accent rail. The pattern on the floor is a classic and very stylish square and rectangular configuration of black and white marble. Although it’s stone, the floor feels like silk against bare feet and has a beautiful soft luster.

sommoBathroom3After they chose the elements, the adventure began. Although they had picked out everything they would need for the job, their first challenge was when to order the bathtub, a cast iron tub chosen for its durability. They waited until they were ready to start the project to order the tub since they didn’t want it hanging around in their living room for weeks. Unfortunately a white, cast-iron bathtub proved to be elusive and they had to search the entire New York metropolitan area finally finding it at Jamaica Plumbing in Queens, New York. Once the tub was installed, they discovered the original pedestal sink they picked out wouldn’t fit. They had to return the sink and run around Queens frantically looking for a solution. Fortunately, they found both a new sink and an elegant mahogany vanity at Davis and Warshow in Maspeth, Queens.

Aside from a few more minor issues, the bathroom was completed. They chose chrome fixtures in a classic retro style complimenting the sink and vanity. Because they mixed manufacturers, they found chrome to be the most consistent finish, ensuring everything matched no matter who the source. The medicine cabinet is simple but has an elegant beveled edge, complimenting both the toilet tank lid and sink. For color, they choose “Soft Heather” by Benjamin Moore which Doris says really warms up the cool grays in the tiles.

Enjoying the New Bathroom

Doris says her favorite part of the new bathroom is the Hansgrohe shower fixtures and the thermostatic mixer, which was a splurge. Gone are the mornings of random shower temperatures. Now they both can set the dial to whatever temperature they like and always have a consistent experience. She adds that when your space is small, you find you can stretch your budget for luxuries that you might not be able to afford if you have to compensate for a larger space.

sommoBathroom2John likes the entire look which he says reminds him of his dad’s old apartment in Brooklyn, New York. Everyone who uses the bathroom appreciates the new commode which is not only a stylish improvement but also has a slow closing lid.

Although the process was a challenge for the homeowners who decided to forgo a separate designer, they are very pleased with the end result. The best part is that “you feel happy when you go in the bathroom in the morning,” Doris says.

More information:

The Marble Institute of America

TOTO Residential Plumbing

Kohler Bath and Kitchen Plumbing

Hansgrohe Bath and Kitchen Plumbing

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