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.

Doors Decisions or How to Choose Interior Doors

In the construction bid our architect specified our interior doors as standard flat panel.  This was something we overlooked when going over all of the many many details of the plans before they went out to bid.  Of course now we want doors with panels, which will mean extra costs.

I can’t say this too often:  Before sending your plans out to bid make sure you go over every detail and if possible have everything you want picked out or at least researched beforehand, at least preliminarily. 

On the parlor floor we planned to use pre-existing doors and only one door had to be be newly hung.

Pre-existing powder room door installed.

Pre-existing powder room door installed.

For the newly constructed rooms on the garden floor we had to make some decisions. Researching online wasn’t much help because it is hard to find a source that breaks them all down and shows illustrations.  Most informational sites are companies trying to sell their own products so we went to Dykes and had the guy there explain door construction to us.  As with all construction decisions, there is an overwhelming amount of information for doors and the different companies that make them, which in turn makes it hard to compare the prices for different companies.

Anatomy of a Door

Most doors are made of stiles, rails and panels.  Before you decide what kind of door you want it is best to decide how you want it to look.  We wanted four panel doors to match the pre-existing doors to our junior bedroom.

door anatomy

Panel doors contain patterns of square or oblong panels and are a classic choice. A door may contain two large panels, six small ones (above left) or some other configuration. Flush or flat panel doors are smooth on both sides and offer contemporary style i.e. boring.

Core Construction

Basically, we were looking at four types of doors that are broken down into categories based on their interior substance.

Hollow doors:  these have a hollow center that usually consists of a lattice, honeycomb made out of corrugated cardboard or something similar.  These are the interior doors you find in a lot of rental apartments.  They are the cheapest and in our opinion best used for closets where you don’t need sound dampening properties.

Solid core:  these consist of low-density particle board or foam that is used to completely fill the space within the door. These are the next step up in price and provide a lot more sound insulation than hollow doors.

Solid wood:  as their name suggests, these doors are made from solid wood.  The panels are thinner and are often made from wood veneers.  Some companies provide an engineered wood core in certain parts of the door to prevent the expanding of the wood as temperatures vary.

Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF):  these doors have a solid MDF core.  They are a little more expensive, which is surprising as I would have thought wood would be the most expensive.  This is because they are not susceptible to warping due to temperature changes so you won’t get doors that stick in the summer because they have expanded in the humidity.

We eliminated hollow core doors first because we’ve both had them in crappy apartments and hated their cheap look and feel (but we have one for the bathroom in the rental unit! We are shameless landlords already).

We chose doors from Lemieux Doors, a Montreal based company.  In the end we chose wood doors because a) they could get them in less than two weeks, and b) because we like the look and feel of wood.  They are made with engineered stiles so they are guaranteed not to split crack swell or shrink, according to the website.

They arrived last week and some of them were installed today.  For the bedroom closets we chose single panel doors.


For the interior room doors we chose four panel to match the original pre-existing doors in the junior bedroom.

20130612-222656.jpgNow we just need to pick out our door knobs and its on to picking out molding for the new door frames.