Wanna Meet My 1929 Bathroom?

On the original drawings for the Cross House, the Round Bedroom had a dressing room (lower right) and adjacent closet. The closet, upper right, was for the Octagon Bedroom, and it had a second door (not shown on the drawing) opening into the Round Bedroom (removed in 1929).

 

The plan shows a door between the Round Bedroom dressing room and bedroom. This was not installed; rather, a portière was. However, there WAS a door installed between the dressing room and closet.

In 1929, the second floor of the house was converted into five studio apartments by Scott Mouse, Sr. The dressing room and closet of the Round Room were combined into a bathroom. And the door which separated them?

 

It replaced the portière.

 

But the door was too narrow for the entry so it was awkwardly made wider.

 

The bath is small. Everything you see, save the flooring and toilet, are from the 1929 conversion.

 

The small room though is graced with a lovely stained-glass window. Now restored.

 

The tub is the smallest such tub I have ever seen. It is like 4-1/2-feet long.

 

Above the tub a window was installed to light the adjacent bath conversion to the Octagon Room. The glass, now lost, would have been textured for privacy. Note the crappy trim.

 

I had thought the wall linoleum was circa-1950s and was surprised that it dates from the 1929 conversion. In a magazine I purchased, dated 1927, there was an ad introducing the new material. I plan to retain this one wall because it is in good condition. I will frame the ad and screw it to the wall, with an explanatory text, so people in the future will understand what they are looking at. The toilet paper holder may be original to 1929. I plan to retain it.

 

A vent stack was stuck in the SW corner. As has been typical throughout the history of the house original trim was simply covered over rather than removed. I plan to relocate the vent stack.

 

The bottom of the vent stack. Oh dear, this cannot remain.

 

The flooring appears to date from the 1950 motel conversion. It covers…

 

…this. There are three layers. On the bottom is something like tar paper. In the middle appears to be an underlayment. Then on top is a VERY thin kinda sorta linoleum. The top layer does not appear to have had any pattern. It appears to have been very plain. It clearly did not wear well.

 

All the 1929 bathrooms and later 1950s bathrooms were like this: incredibly cheaply done. The 1950s bathrooms, rather than ceramic tile on the walls, had plastic tiles. Obviously, longevity was not a concern.

There are three 1929 bathrooms remaining in the house: this one, the one in the Octagon Bedroom, and one in the Long Bedroom. The latter I plan to use as a closet but the room will be plumbed so it can easily converted back to a bathroom. The bathroom in the Octagon Bedroom already has new plumbing under the floor but I will be using the small room as a work space with a sink for washing my old lights. Later, it could easily be converted back into a full back.

Which leaves the Round Bedroom bath.

The bath cannot be restored to its 1929 appearance as the flooring is shot and much of the wall covering, and I am not likely to find replacement material. Plus, I dislike the, ah, cheapness of it all. This is soooooooooo not in keeping with the house.

I could create a high-quality 1894-style bathroom but this would confuse the historical narrative of the house as people will assume it was original. I could create a high-quality 1929 bathroom but this will also confuse the historical narrative as people will assume it is part of the 1929 conversion. Ditto for the 1950 motel conversion.

So, the plan is to:

  • Install high-quality flooring distinctly contemporary in nature.
  • Install high-quality wall tile distinctly contemporary in nature.
  • Retain 1929 tub but with a shower ring installed.
  • Retain 1929 sink but reglazed.
  • Install 1929 toilet (I have several in storage).
  • Install contemporary lighting.
  • Install privacy glass between the two adjacent bathrooms.

Thus, the Round Bath will be a mix of 1929 historic elements and obviously contemporary. The all important historical narrative will, as such, be safe. Whew!

I wrote this post because a reader recently asked about the bathrooms (but I cannot find their question and name!). UPDATE: Linda asked about the bathrooms!

 

 

22 Comments

  1. Jonus on February 2, 2020 at 9:24 pm

    Ross, I assume the tub will need to be moved for the renovation of the room. From the angles provided that looks to be a tight space. Any idea how you will tackle that when the time comes?

    • Ross on February 2, 2020 at 9:39 pm

      Jonus, the bathroom will be taken apart mostly. It needs a whole new floor. The new plumbing is already under the floor. I can retain the plaster walls and ceiling.

      However, redoing the bathroom is not a priority. The Round Room will be my office, and I don’t need an en-suite bathroom for my office! But I do need storage so the bathroom will be mothballed As Is and filled with temporary shelving for my lighting business.

  2. Linda A. on February 2, 2020 at 9:30 pm

    Thank you, thank you, Ross, for posting the bathroom! It was me who was being nosey about those bathrooms. Wow. Worth waiting for and so interesting. I love those little tubs. Great idea of adding a shower ring so it can still be useful. Kind of amazing that any bathrooms could be squeezed in that small of a space!

    • Ross on February 2, 2020 at 9:39 pm

      Thank YOU, Linda!

  3. Kit on February 2, 2020 at 9:31 pm

    1950s plastic tiles are awful. My father’s house was purchased in 2002 from the original owner who bought it new in 1945. It was like a time capsule of home improvement trends from 1945 to 1995. The bathroom had been updated with plastic tiles in the late 50s, but I’ll never understand why they chose yellow and black to go with the turquoise porcelain fixtures. I remember a few showers wherein a plastic tile would just spontaneously pop! off the tub surround.

  4. Linda A. on February 2, 2020 at 9:56 pm

    Oh, Kit those crazy color combos are so typical in mid century modern homes. Growing up in a 1957 ranch, I think we had pink plastic tiles in our bathroom, with black plastic trim tile and avocado green walls…and yes, those tiles could just pop off the wall…sometimes with a little help from a fingernail!

  5. Pat on February 2, 2020 at 10:58 pm

    Pretty cool! I had that exact same wall treatment on the pantry walls of my 1924 bungalow. And the sink appears to be very similar to what was in the sole bathroom. What sort of ninja moves do you have to do to get into that tub? That is why my bathroom no longer has the clawfoot tub. I tried to climb into it thinking I could add a shower ring, but I banged my knee on the sink and then discovered the tub bottom was sloped to the center and was really uncomfortable to stand in. Now I only have a big, luxurious shower and I love it! I love that tub though, it is amazing!

  6. Jarrett L. on February 2, 2020 at 11:16 pm

    I would never criticize a Ross plan, but I feel like retaining the simple (cheaper even) 1929 elements would be a cool display in the house, creating a visual timeline with bathrooms (Like one when built, 1929 conversation, hotel era) would be cool! Either way it’s always fun to see the smaller less “significant” rooms!

    • Ross on February 2, 2020 at 11:23 pm

      Jarrett, as I mentioned, if I could salvage/restore all the 1929 components of the bathroom, I would.

      And, as mentioned, I will retain the one wall of “linoleum” in good condition, as well as the 1920s tub and sink.

      Otherwise, there is no there there.

  7. Jenine on February 2, 2020 at 11:55 pm

    Be careful of the flooring, it might have asbestos in it.

  8. Mike on February 3, 2020 at 9:00 am

    That really IS a short tub, but makes the most of the limited space. It makes me appreciate my 6′ tub even more! I think your plan makes a lot of sense; my house originally had no indoor plumbing, other than a hand pump in the pantry that brought water from a cistern. No pictures or descriptions survive of the original “bathroom”, but given the prominence of the family who built the house, I would bet they had a deluxe two-holer! 😉 Sometimes the good old days were not really that good, LOL

  9. Eric K Perreault on February 3, 2020 at 10:00 pm

    I think I found my favorite stained glass window in the house, there! Something about the simplicity is truly beautiful. I love the small asymmetrical branch and flower, and the half round shape.

    The tub is great. I’ve seen one even smaller if you can believe it…3’6″.

  10. ArtistSusan on February 4, 2020 at 12:29 pm

    Cool! I’m glad to see that bathrooms exist there about where I was suggesting adding one. The unique fixtures look very salvageable. I like your shower plan! I disagree with the idea of keeping the linoleum wall though. I’m willing to bet money that that wall is hiding water damage. You would be wise to repair water damage then install a modern water barrier throughout the bathroom, and then your planned tile.

    • Ross on February 4, 2020 at 10:48 pm

      Hi, Susan!

      There’s no indication of any water damage behind the 1920s wall linoleum.

      • ArtistSusan on February 5, 2020 at 10:23 am

        Oh my! You replied to ME! I’m a flutter! I’m glad to hear that there’s no water damage. I still hope in the future you might change your mind and remove the linoleum. I totally support your plan to install contemporary tile with re-glazed fixtures. I stayed at a B&B that took that approach and it was so amazing that we did a photo shoot in the bathroom! As others have noted, beware of asbestos in old tile and linoleum. This was a real thing, and probably the actual reason why I desperately want you to get the old materials out of your beautiful home. It’s a personal fear and maybe not totally rational. My grandmother died from mesothelioma caused by asbestos just by being a school teacher in an old schoolhouse. Stay safe, Ross. I really like you!

  11. Tom on February 4, 2020 at 5:10 pm

    The good parts of your blog are when you follow clues from the past.

    The most annoying part is when you use that “not confuse the historical narrative” line.

    HUGE amounts of what you have done and others have done, WILL be confused as possibly being original….assuming those mythical future people every materialize. Your restored parts look original.

    The “historical narrative” line comes out over and over, BUT only when you are wanting an excuse to NOT follow 1894.

    You seem perfectly capable of deciding what has been changed over the years in your house so why on earth will future people not be equally bright?

    On the off chance that anyone in the future will truly care exactly who has done what to the house, leave a written record!

    • Ross on February 4, 2020 at 6:22 pm

      Tom, you and I have differing views on what the phrase “historical narrative” means!

  12. Jakob on February 4, 2020 at 6:03 pm

    I have a 54″ clawfoot tub in my 430 square foot, 1900 rental cottage, From the WWI-era bathroom addition. They’re uncommon, but fetch a pretty penny over standard-sized tubs as they can easily be retrofitted into a standard bath alcove in remodels. Mine never had a shower ring, and given the sloped ceiling of the shed roof addition I had to rotate it 180 degrees to have the ceiling height just to put in a shower!

  13. Cody H on February 4, 2020 at 7:56 pm

    I’m normally one to keep my opinions to myself when I disagree with your design decisions, but I really feel that you’re missing a huge opportunity here by not committing to the look of either of the eras of renovation. Installing modern materials in the bathrooms is definitely a bigger crime than perhaps confusing someone on whether a period-facsimile bath is original. Who cares if they were done cheaply back in the day? If that is what is stopping you, then do a NICE rendition of 1929. I wholly disagree with the approach you’re taking, especially when it would require relatively little effort to create something in (especially a 1920’s) style.

    That being said, I understand your reservations around not wanting to install, say, an 1894 bath – yes. Even though that is what I would do, I somewhat understand the idea of not wanting to try and emulate something that never existed in 1894 just for the sake of being “period correct” throughout the whole house. A 1920’s bathroom DID exist in the space, though. Why not celebrate that, rather than fight it? At the end of the day, the modern look you’re planning will always *look* distinctive to THIS time period, and will always be at odds with the fixtures that you retained from the 20’s.

    Not to mention that a 1920’s aesthetic would almost undoubtedly mesh better with what remains of the 1894 elements in the space better than something from the 2020’s.

    • Ross on February 4, 2020 at 8:12 pm

      Cody, in the finished parlor I deliberately did not do a period-correct decor. I have zero desire to freeze-frame the house to 1894. Because 126-years of history have elapsed since the house was built.

      Rather, I worked to be respectful of Victorian-era decorating while still assuring that the room would read as a time-laspse.

      Also, I do not subscribe to any idea that a modern aesthetic is not comparable to, say, a 1920s aesthetic. All eras offer beauty.

      I also do not subscribe to any idea that differing eras cannot commingle. I am highly confident that my plans for the bathroom will be beautiful in the end. The window and its trim will read as 1894. The tub, sink, and remaining portion of the wall linoleum will read as 1920s. Then what I insert will read as of this era. In short, the history of the room will be obvious; the historical narrative will be obvious.

  14. Jenine on February 5, 2020 at 11:16 am

    Does the tub separate from the lower pedestal? Might not be historically correct, but that tub would look fantastic with claw feet! Too cute!

  15. Joshua Crow on February 5, 2020 at 3:15 pm

    Ross, I fully believe you are doing the right thing of preserving the history of the house and making it modern for the things that you are adding. I think what many people are have issues with is the use of the word ‘contemporary’. It may just be me but when contemporary design comes to mind I have flashbacks to 90s and early 2000s version of contemporary with way to much beige, slate tile, blond wood and blueish frosted glass, (though this maybe different for others who may think of ultra modern). However maybe the way people should look at it is transitional. What you are doing respects the history of what is there from 1894 and 1929 but works with them not as a juxtaposition to them. It honesty comes down to is the form, size, color and material palette.

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