Bathroom Ch..ch..changes!

Until things are attractive and settled enough for a full-house walk through and Before/After – I’m going to take you through a few key rooms/sections that went through some major work. While the whole house has a new face lift there were some areas that got much more attention and work than others, with walls coming down, going up, windows moving, etc… The downstairs bathroom is one of those rooms.

Our house is long and narrow, a real rectangle, with the plumbing in the center. We knew right off that we wanted changes to the heart, the plumbing center – encompassing bathroom, laundry and kitchen. The kitchen will get it’s own blog, for today I want to look at the bathroom. There were originally two small bathrooms downstairs and one half bath upstairs. We enlarged the upstairs to a full bath, and so debated in that design stage, if we really still needed two bathrooms downstairs too. The smallest almost kept it’s footprint but would have been a laundry room/ half bath. But I was having a really hard time with a square bathroom layout with a door needing to be in one corner. We were already in the demolition stage when inspiration finally hit and our dream bathroom was born, in all it’s odd- shaped glory. Here are the floor-plans from before, plan A and two showing the final version we went with:

Along with the existing kitchen and the two small bathrooms, the center of the house also originally held an old boiler room. It only had access from outside and was on a lower ground level than the rest of the house. Besides housing the scary-as-all-get-out ancient wood burning boiler it was also used as a sort of tool shed and reminded me forcibly of Anna’s old horse riding days as it smelled of wood, outside and… horse manure? That boiler was a back up, there was a newer, gas boiler, inside the house. Many families like that emergency option of a wood-burning heat source in case of power outages, or… lean times when you start cutting up old furniture? I don’t know, we had no intention of ever using it, despite the previous owner spending half an hour explaining how to work it. Or maybe because of that. Either way, we knew we wanted to make much better use of that big chunk of prime real estate in the very center of our home. And yeah, I could NOT stand the old red/maroon tiles! Our future bathroom space Before:

I was relieved to discover the red tiles more of a wine/burgundy color than the bright red in the listing picture, but not much else was relieving upon seeing any of this space up close and personal. Some quirks can add fun and character, such as the slanted old walls dating from the original house. But some, such as the exhaust pipe for the furnace running through the room with insulation goop all over for good measure, add nothing pleasant. The old bathroom had been serviceable, it had all one would need in a bathroom. Well, there were actually no plugs, for like a hair dryer or something, so maybe it didn’t even have all one would need… We were not sad to see it go. And that creepy old boiler room? Goodbye and good riddance!

Ready for some demolition pictures?! Walls came down. The second small bathroom with blue & grey tiles was behind the old boiler room, their shared wall came down and was moved a bit closer to the outer wall. Letting us share some of the boiler room space with the new kitchen too, and the rest for half of our bathroom. Plus they had to open up a doorway width of the thick old wall to connect the two ‘parts’ of our bathroom. In the boiler room space would be our shower and bathtub, in the old bathroom space would be the toilet and two sinks (plus a water filter system and the water ‘hub’ of the house that would both get put inside a nifty cabinet).

Basically all of the first floor except our bedroom in the front and the living room and kitchen in the back newer addition would have the floors taken out to dirt, going down a good foot or more below ‘floor’ level. Old houses in Hungary were built per room, with each room having it’s own foundation. And then this being a bathroom, and underneath the upstairs bathroom, there were many pipes to replace and position before building the floor back up. You can also see the pretty new brick wall between the old boiler room and our coming kitchen. And do you spy yours truly? πŸ™‚ It was pretty fascinating to witness all the ‘underneath’ bits:

It was so exciting, and a relief honestly, to see real floors begin to finally take shape instead of just dirt. We had floor heating installed under the tiles in this room and that was fascinating to see the coiled tubes for the hot water getting buried under cement. I was especially excited to see the old boiler room door finally blocked up and the new, larger window happening. The bigger window in the old bathroom was one of those hilarious examples of the corners cut previously we ran across over and over in this house. Traditional old windows in Hungary have three sections, two that open and create a sort of square at the bottom, with a third that runs along the top – some can crack open, many do not. Most of our windows in the older part of our house have this size and shape. That was what we wanted returned to the bathroom, as it would match the rest of the house, and we could see an outline of what we assumed was a bricked-in old window location directly in the center of the room. They had a small and high window instead, so they could have the sink there, with a mirror over it, the window high above it all. We planned to have two sinks, one on each side of the bigger window. So as our construction crew went to work to take out what they thought was a bricked up space where a window HAD been, instead they found the actual window frame still there, some bricks inside it and lots of plaster filling it in! And then they just used the upper third part of that old window as their window (scroll back up to see a better ‘before’ pic of that window from outside in the first group of pics above). Really rather creative if not exactly the ‘proper’ way to do things. It worked, and gave us all a great laugh to discover years later!

Floors, the last of the plumbing put in place, walls – it was actually looking more and more like a real room again. I would remain annoyed and impatient to see it with the real windows in place – a delay in the delivery of our new windows was one of the few Covid-19 issues we’d run into – but they were creative in installing barriers of sorts to at least keep critters out. And then our man Szabolcs began doing his tile magic, oh it was thrilling to see the subway tiles going up on the walls!

Windows finally arrived! More tiles, including my beloved mosaics in ‘ocean’ colors, the room’s theme. And yes, that’s a huge two-person jacuzzi bathtub, it’s Norbi’s. I get a house in Szeged with a garden, he gets a hot tub. It’s a fair deal. Someday soon we’ll even be able to tell you how nice it is. That’s one of those ‘hiccups’ I mentioned previously – our new hot water tank does not currently hold enough water to fill that monster. A second tank is arriving soon, the crisis will be averted. Norbi’s turn for patience. πŸ™‚

From the demolition in January, to the underneath rebuilding mostly in February to April, to the final tiles, paint, (windows!) and fixtures finally going in by late April and early May. It was really no wonder they weren’t quite ready for us on May 9th, when the first pic below was taken. But my favorite pair of carpenters worked their magic and got all our sinks built and in place, plus made us a custom cabinet to cover the filter system and plumbing hub, with storage space above, a lovely bonus. I’m sharing this room’s transformation first, as it was the first room I called ‘finished’ and the first empty of boxes – a lovely escape during the initial unpacking craziness. I also didn’t change my bathroom ‘theme’, so could just unpack from Budapest and find their new homes. Other spaces in our home are going through some evolutions and that’s taking me a bit more time to get them all ready to share with you. πŸ™‚ I’ve always loved bringing a bit of my Maine and California childhoods into a special space in our home, so my nautical collection goes back many years. There are a few more pictures and artwork that need frames, and a hanging plant in a seashell hanger yet to go up. I did initially want white wood beadboard on the walls, for that classic New England look, but it’s just not really a thing in Hungary, we were prepared to make it happen – but then I settled on the subway tiles instead and am so happy I did, especially after I found the mosaics for the accent stripe and in the cubbies. I’d wanted the blue paint to be a tad lighter in shade – but Norbi loves the brighter blue and I’ve come to enjoy it too. The bulk of the rest of the house is painted a light yellow-y cream called Almond Cream, so having one room pop is fun!

If you read along this far, I hope you enjoyed the story and pictures of just one sliver of our house renovation in Szeged – more to come! πŸ™‚