My Bathroom Rocks! #3: HH's Lofty, Light-filled, Low-Budget Lavatory

My Bathroom Rocks! #3: HH's Lofty, Light-filled, Low-Budget Lavatory

Maxwell Ryan
Jun 17, 2005

Name: Happy Homemaker ("HH")
Location: Park Slope, Brooklyn.
Amount Spent: $250

No Interview. HH has a cough.


The Pitch:
Slam dunk. The rental agent knew he had us at "stained glass window."

As you enter the bathroom, the gently mottled green leaves command attention, leading your gaze toward the central flower motif and the simple geometry of the striated grey-lavender-green border.

The pebbly glass barely moderates the strong northern light (so bright it was hard to take accurate pictures) -- not that we're complaining! A wide grey marble windowsill offers a perfect spot for Vogue / The New Yorker / Real Simple magazines and fragrant candles -- for early summer, there are some vases, a piece of white coral, and an Alvar Aalto vase ($4 yard sale find) heaped with seashells.

This second-floor room overlooks a row of gardens, and the window is often cracked open for ventilation and calling down to neighbors.

As with our kitchen in the Kitchen Contest, the bathroom was one of the deciding factors to rent this brownstone apartment, with its generous proportions (6' x 10'), sensible layout, soaring 11-foot ceiling, a shabby-chic round pedestal sink (thankfully paired with new toilet and shower tub), exquisite window and tile work -- an incredible combination of late Victorian charm and modern utility.

Glossy white paint highlights the wide baseboards, beadboard paneling (along the shorter wall), and elaborate moldings around the window, door and ceiling. Along the length of the room, creamy subway tiles (with lightly crazed finish) are topped with sublime seashell-and-ribbon tile (our super-nice landlord painted the walls and ceiling in our choice of pale robin's egg blue, to pick up the color in this tile).

The floor is composed of large white octagonal tiles accented with small white squares.

Since we are renting (and we appreciate the room's inherent character), the most major change was installing a handheld shower fixture (Target, $12 on clearance). It's only two of us -- we don't use very many personal products, and our daily items are mostly stashed in the medicine cabinet.

A milk-glass ice cream dish holds soap, and hefty Ralph Lauren-ish etched crystal tumblers corral toothpaste and brushes ($3-5 each at Williams-Sonoma winter sale). A few built-in shelves hold excess stuff and Costco-size items like mouthwash, which gets decanted into a smaller bottle for the medicine cabinet. A Starck Ghost chair ($180 eBay grab) is handy for holding clothes, doing pedicures, etc.; the clear polycarbonate does not contribute visual "weight" to the airy room or obscure the sink's elegant lines.

Otherwise, there is definitely room to put a shelf / cabinet / bench for people with greater storage needs.

I definitely advocate the shower / tub combination -- great for romantic soaks, washing dusty feet and pets, cleaning oversize pots and platters, filling and emptying mop buckets. Love lathering up with long-lasting, mammoth green bars of soap from Bliss ($5 at occasional sales) -- cut them in half first, or they really will break your foot if you drop them in the shower.

Obligatory 30-something Asian female paean to Hello Kitty (bubble bath) -- Kitty-chan and I are the same age. Other knick-knacks include rococo white-and-gold plaster mirror ($18 flea market pick) and silicone animal toothbrush holders on the toilet tank.

Having viewed many places during our apartment search and visited a disheartening number of open houses since then, we feel extremely fortunate to have landed such a pleasant, sunny and voluminous-feeling bathroom that evokes the genteel, dignified spirit of the house, yet does not compromise on function.

For instance, although a claw-foot tub would be de rigueur here, I am actually very glad to have a contemporary enclosed shower tub, since we manage to spray water everywhere. My big wish would be to have more interesting lighting (either an elaborate chandelier or something fairly modern) rather than the Home Depot "boob" light there now.

Also, I'd love to hear suggestions for wall art that can stand up to moisture and dust -- considering something like aquatic-theme plates or enamelled tin trays.


eBay, second-hand finds, Target, HomeGoods / TJ Maxx / Marshalls trifecta (which carry Pottery Barn / Restoration Hardware-type items), Bed Bath & Beyond (fun Jonathan Adler wares and surprisingly good customer service).


1. Simplicity and hygiene go hand in hand. I really dislike bath mats and window curtains (but prefer a shower curtain to glass shower door due to issues with residue build-up and grungy stuff growing in the door tracks). Everything (including decorations) must be hand- or (better yet) machine-washable.

2. Yes, it's toxic, but Tilex Soap Scum Remover deals a TKO to the nasty grittiness around the tub. Just spray -- no need to scrub! On a weekly basis, I spritz a bleach solution around the sink, shower tiles, grout and curtain liner to treat/prevent mold (plastic liner is still going strong after six years). Also, after you get out of the shower, be sure to stretch out the curtain along the rod to dry properly.

3. No better decoration than a fluffy furball who insists on his very own photo shoot!


"Happy Homemaker"

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