5 Steps to Install a Medicine Cabinet

When we first worked with our architect we never thought to explicitly request medicine cabinets in our bathrooms.  All of our small NYC apartments have had them as a means of maximizing space.  We’ve learned the hard way that when you don’t ask you don’t receive.  Because they were not in the plans, the contractor put a plumbing vent straight down the middle of where you would install one i.e. the middle of where the vanity was going.  We had to pay extra for them to change it in one bathroom and decided to leave it in the other.

Before the drywall went up we got a quote from our contractor of a few hundred dollars to install the cabinets. Since we hadn’t purchased it yet, we let them close up the walls figuring I could come back and install the cabinets later. Which is exactly what I did this past Saturday in my daughter’s bathroom. Here’s how.

Tools you’ll need:

  • 3 Foot Level
  • Pencil
  • Utility Knife
  • Drywall Saw
  • Scrap 2x4s
  • Hacksaw, snips or grinder if you have metal studs
  • Sawzall or handsaw if you have wood studs

Step 1: Mark the wall opening with the level and pencil. The cabinet’s instructions should indicate how large of an opening you will need. Be sure to carefully make all the lines perfectly level or the cabinet will be crooked.


Step 3: Remove any wall studs in the way. We have metal studs and sure enough one was in the way so I went to work with my grinder and cut it out carefully. For wood studs you’ll need to do the same with whatever tools you have on hand.


Step 4: Add in some additional blocking for support. I cut three 2x4s down and mounted one on each side and one to the bottom. Most cabinets will have screws which mount into the blocking on the side from inside the cabinet, at least the three I’ve installed worked this way. The stud that was cut out in step 3 will support the bottom of the cabinet but I mounted some more against the drywall for good measure. 


Step 5: Slide the cabinet in and put in the final mounting screws and you are all done.


As projects in my house go this was by far one of the easiest.



Old-Timey Bathroom AKA Powder Room

Pursuit of the High Tank Toilet

My husband was insistent on a high tank toilet in the powder room.  He first showed me an inspiration photo, (see below) which if you look closely is really dollhouse furniture.

tiny bathroom

We had recently been to a friend’s 1850’s Victorian home who had their original high-tank toilet and that sealed the deal or should I say our fate.  These toilets are not easy to find.  We tried to find one at architectural salvage places but in the end we bought a new one from The Renovators Supply.

Eventually the day came to install it.

Impediment #1:  According to the website this the toilet can be installed with a standard 12″ rough-in (distance from wall to center of drain pipe). Of course once the floor and drywall was installed and we attempted to install the toilet we discovered this was incorrect. The toilet we had was a rear feed toilet and there was not enough room for the pipe. It probably should have been a 15″ rough-in. Once again it’s best to have all your fixtures in the house before you start construction and double check everything. We contacted the seller who was very helpful and exchanged the bowl for a top feeding version which did fit.

Impediment #2:  Once the bowl was in the plumber (or rather the B team he sent) had never installed one of these wall mounted tanks and had no idea how to do it. With a smirk my husband says, “I’ll do it this weekend.”  I think he likes showing up the “professionals.”

Impediment #3:  After starting the installation it turned out that the chrome pipes that were provided were somewhat shorter than expected. Instead of the tank sitting above your head it would have sat at eye level. That did not have the period effect that we were looking for.  No problem, we bought some extra chrome pipe and extend it. It turns out chrome pipes longer than 1 foot are impossible to find. The good news was that along with the new top feed bowl we got a new chrome feed pipe. My husband got creative and jointed the two pipes together to a long 6 foot chrome flush pipe. Unfortunately, he didn’t have extra chrome pipe for the supply line and had to use copper. It is not perfect and I am sure some Victorian spirit in our house is saying, “why would you expose the plumbing like in our day when you can hide it, you morons.”

HTC 2235 a

Once the old-timey toilet was in we set out to get the sink and lighting hardware.  Again, we tried to find something old but could not find anything that was the correct size so we went with a 24″ Kasey pedestal sink that ended up matching the toilet bowl perfectly.

HTC 2230The lighting we picked out from Restoration Hardware.  They have great lighting as well as furniture and accessories that mimic the styles from the 30’s and 40’s that we like.  We also had a 20% off coupon, which helped with our choices.  These two lights are both in gun metal grey.  The light over the mirror is a vintage English oval double sconce and the ceiling light is a glass barn filament pendant.

We hope to get an antique oval mirror but for now bought this plain inexpensive round one from Ikea as a placeholder.  The walls are painted Benjamin Moore Oatmeal.

The door and its hardware were original to the house.  The etched glass has the New York State seal on it so someone must have worked for the city and somehow “acquired” this door.  We loved it and were excited to re-use but discovered once the glass was cleaned that parts of it are clear, which is not so desirable in a powder room.  Our solution was to put a rolling shade over it so when it is in use there is privacy but otherwise you can see the glass’s design.


If anyone knows how to clean antique etched glass please let us know.  As you can see it is still brown in some areas that won’t come clean.  Or maybe that is part of its charm.