The Golly Ranch bathroom remodel: before & during renovation

It’s time to talk about a major project that sucked up a lot of our time and energy this spring and early summer! As in, even this post and the upcoming reveal post sucked up a lot of time! Needless to say, I am excited to finally be sharing this all with you. This and the reveal post are “sit down with a drink” posts, so I hope you’re in a comfy seat.

As you may recall, my dad came to stay with us in May while he renovated our bathroom. I had about two weeks to plan out pretty much every detail. Mel more-or-less gave me carte blanche to plan whatever I wanted (while still retaining veto power of course). My dad is an expert, so it involved bouncing my ideas off him, drawing on his experience, having him help me figure out what would and wouldn’t work, and designing it from scratch—top to bottom. Lots of phone calls and emails, research, hair pulling and fretting later, the plan was afoot.

We have a 1955 ranch house. And while we would have loved a 50s bathroom in great condition, ours had been remodeled by the previous owners sometime in the 1990s (best guess). The only original items left were the built-in vanity (in pretty poor condition), the white Kohler sink with hudee ring, the glass block window and the bathroom and linen closet doors. Anything good that we didn’t keep went to the ReStore.

The “before” bathroom was a pale pinky beige wonderland, from the paint to the shower tile. (Seriously… so much pinky beige in this house. Ugh!) The floor tile (tiled over the original 50s tile) was the same tile that continued into the hallway, kitchen and den. The countertop was a marbled-effect laminate (I don’t dig marble and I certainly don’t dig faux marble laminate). All-in-all, the bathroom colors were awful. Old lady, and not cool old lady at all.

Below was the view from our hall into the old bathroom. If you notice our blue and cream towels, that was from when we were going to paint the bathroom blue, but we hadn’t gotten around to it yet. (You’ll see them later on in the new bathroom, too.)

Can you see the soffit all around? That’s the lowered part of the ceiling, that went throughout the bathroom except the very center. It was 15″ deep and make the bathroom feel a bit cave-like, even though it’s a perfectly acceptable-sized room.

You can see the glass block window below. The grout between the blocks needed some serious help, and they used the same shower tile in the window sill (although you can’t see it in this pic). We liked the window, so we knew from the start it would just need sprucing up.

Here was the shower. A nice size, don’t get me wrong, but… ugly.

Here’s a close-up of the tile. Even the grout was pinky beige!

Here’s the old vanity (original sink, not original faucet or countertop). Note that it’s full of crap! There was no medicine cabinet, and while the vanity was large, it was pretty bad inside (and on the outside too, though it doesn’t show in photos). So I didn’t keep much of my makeup in it. It’s too bad because I can really see how this would have been super cool back in the day, except for the big fact that it was imposingly large for the size of the bathroom.

The hardware was updated by the previous owner at some point to satin nickel (along with the towel ring and bar). I know some people love it but I’m not one of them. Give me chrome or even polished brass any day. We were going to swap them out but again, we hadn’t gotten around to it yet.

The vanity light was broadway-style and could have baked a chicken when all lit up. I’m all for lots of light in a bathroom but it was bordering on the ridiculous. “Would you like to apply makeup and get a suntan?” That should have been the advertisement for our vanity light. It was above a gigantic mirror (not original) that was apparently just barely being held on, my dad discovered. The mirror is now serving as the most awesome full-length mirror ever in my basement sewing area!

It must be noted that when you sat on the toilet you had to look at yourself in that mirror. Enough said.

The door hardware was updated at some point to brass. I’m pretty certain it wasn’t original. That’s my guess because the few original door knobs in the house are also tulip-shaped, but just plain, and a slightly different shape. Plus it’s not chrome, which I would have expected to see in a bathroom. Somehow the door knobs seemed like 60s or 70s to me. It was probably from the era that brought you the wallpaper under the mirror, which you’ll see during the renovation photos below!

There was a linen closet, which was the only thing that wasn’t re-framed during the demolition, but the plan included replacing the few fixed shelves with adjustable ones.

You can see the location of the linen closet below. Also, note the hilariously high towel ring. (This was on our list to fix when we painted, of course.)

And here are the only two empty shots I took, just before demolition.

All-in-all, not downright dreadful, and certainly functional. The blah pinky beige wonderland could have been kicked up a notch or two with new hardware, paint and lighting, but my dad had plans for much bigger and better things. And so demo began!

He gutted the entire room except for the frame of the linen closet. Fortunately we didn’t discover any hidden water damage or structural issues. This room was pretty sound!

One of the first things my dad broke into was the soffits. He really wanted to know what was in them. He suspected nothing as we don’t have overhead ducts and the bathroom is between the kitchen and our bedroom, so no pipes would need to run across. And he was right! They were entirely decorative. For 58 years, the owners of this home enjoyed the cavern-like feeling this caused in such a small room, but no more. A full 8′ ceiling was in our future!

The only sad thing for me during demo was watching the original 1950s pink mosaic tile floor get ripped up. I was prepared, since I’d spied a little of it when we replaced our toilet last summer, but still. The way the previous owners laid the new tile on top meant there was absolutely no saving it, so it came up in little bits and pieces. I admit, this was kind of heart-breaking to me, knowing that at some point, our house really did have a pink bathroom, but we never got to see it. I did at least salvage the largest chunk of tile and a smaller one for posterity.

But on the funny side, we discovered some crazy late 60s or early 70s wallpaper underneath the mirror! Shades of an earlier remodel! It also gave us a clue that there must have been a smaller mirror or medicine cabinet in the original bathroom.

Due to a comment by Maranda of Persnickety Vintage on Instagram, who said she saved swatches of the various wallpaper she’s uncovered in her house, we saved a big piece of that gold, silver and brown floral wallpaper and now have it hanging in our basement!

Demo went right down to the sub-floor, as you can see.

Watching my dad transform the space was kind of amazing. Soon there were spots for our recessed medicine cabinets. I was thrilled when he busted through the wall and discovered we could recess them, because you never know what you may find inside the wall. We just had to raise them a little higher than normal because of the location of our original Blo-Fan switch in the kitchen (which couldn’t easily be moved due to the location of plumbing).

Here’s the radiant electric heating under the tile floor going in. This wasn’t a request per se, but something my dad basically said he was installing whether we liked it or not, because we would thank him in winter. And I know we will! It extends across the floor and up over the shower threshold into the shower floor, too.

Lots of tile went in. My poor dad… so much tile! He can totally blame me for that one! You can see our main floor tile choice was kind of an homage to the original pink tile, a nice black and white pinwheel mosaic with a classic retro feel. I’ll talk more about all the supplies in the reveal post.

And there was laser leveling of tile. You can see how the level was setup on the closet door for my dad working in the shower. You can also see what the closet looked like once the shelves were pulled out. The walls were patched and my dad added in adjustable shelving and a fresh coat of paint.

And here’s yet more tile. We chose the pinwheel tile for the floor, subway tile for the lower half of the walls and outside of the shower walls (not up yet in the below photo), and blue mosaic for the entire shower.You’ll hear more about my tile selection process in the reveal post.

The short wall you see to the right of the below photo is half of the corner wall for the shower. In the old bathroom, you may have noticed there was a wall to the ceiling between the shower and toilet, which both divided the room up and made it feel smaller. In the new design, we went for two short walls (for a little privacy) with glass above. The gap where you see the threshold into the shower is where a pivot-hinged shower door later went.

In case you’re wondering about the jog in the wall by the shower below (to the left of my dad), it’s because of the soil stack, which causes the wall behind the toilet to be a few inches further out than the rest of the wall. Since it’s a small room, that extra space in the shower is welcome!

The one row of vertical subway tile at the edge of that jog is where the u-channel for the frameless shower glass went. Even though I designed it and opted to have the subway tile follow up the wall instead of it being a continuation of the shower tile, I was worried this might look funky. But once the glass was installed, I loved it! I was trying to keep the blue mosaic inside the shower, with subway tile on the outside and horizontal surfaces of the shower. You’ll see how nice this worked out in the reveal post.

There’s also a few WTF pictures. Surely there was a reason I took this photo, but I have no idea why! It must have meant something at the time.

Take a look at what our backyard looked like all of May during the remodel. It kind of sums up how living with a renovation project goes!

It was a little odd experiencing my first demolition and renovation, but really special that it was my dad. As a kid I visited many of his job sites, and I’ve seen lots of his exceptional work in my time, but never had the opportunity to experience such a big chunk of it in my own home! It was pretty great. Okay… crazy messy, stressful, and lots of other things, but getting to see my dad work in our own house? Really great.

He actually stayed and finished up the bathroom while we were off on vacation at the end of May and early June, so we didn’t even get to see the bathroom completed until we got home. (And then we had to wait awhile to use the shower until our shower glass was finished and installed by a local company.) So it was a long project, but so, so worth it in the end.

You’ll get to see the completed project on Friday, so check back tomorrow for the final bathroom reveal! I’ll be sharing lots of finished photos, along with talking more about the design and some of the items that went into the finished room.

I can’t wait to show you!!

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Golly, 24 Comments!

  • Oh man, that foil flower wallpaper is KILLER. What I would do to have some of that in a room in my house…

    I’m so excited to see your big reveal! All the little teasy pictures you have been posting are just making me want to see more!


  • You tease!!!!!! I can’t believe you didn’t show the finished bathroom pics in this post!!!!!! 😛


  • I cannot WAIT to see what the finished product looks like! I love the tile!


  • Argh, you’re such a tease!!! I’m itching to see how this turned out…beautifully I suspect ;o)


  • I can’t wait to see the after photos!!! It is slightly heartbreaking that you couldn’t save the original pink tile, but look what you have to show for it now!


  • I hate so much doing that kind of works at home… we worked a lot 7 years ago when we bought our house… but now evething takes much more time, it’s hard to find motivation…


  • That looks like a ton of work! But we’ll worth it I’m sure. Can’t wait to see the finished product!


  • Wow. what a gigantic remodel. Can’t wait to see the final result!
    And how I love to see different layers of time in old houses, that wallpaper is so great. My father bought a 1930ies house a few months back and he has some psychodelic 70ies walls in it as well (though I am more interested in the 30ies and 40ies patterned linoleum, lying on top of each other).
    But so sad that the vanity table was in so poor condition, it looks so lovely in the photos, I would give so much to have something like this in my bathroom!


    • Yes, it was definitely one of those things that when we looked at it in the photos, we thought, “Wow, that looks a lot better than it did in person!” Ha ha.

      I love seeing the different layers in a house too! You never know what you may find. Under a kitchen light switch we found a little remnant of neon 60s wallpaper!


  • I love the tiling on the floor! <3


  • Ugh what a job! I wish my dad can help more. He started helping us with the house and now the paint job is half finished. I am the “very frustrated” mode when it comes to the house. I didn’t expect it to be all done right away but at least the painting esp bc of the heat and the kids. Oh well….I cannot wait to see your completed bathroom-so excited!! xox


  • From the subway tiles, to the blue tiles to the tiles on the floor – this is exactly what I had in mind when i wanted to redo my bathroom!! I LOVE it!


  • Love your floor tile – so true to the period…. I just bought a 1960’s ranch house in the shenandoah valley are of VA and I have those same cabinets in one of my bathrooms and in the kitchen… I am fortunate, the guys that owned the house before me kept all of the original cabinets, windows, moldings and did a fabulous remodeling job…plus the most killer landscaping I’ve ever seen…..


  • wow, beautiful tile. I especially love the blue in the shower. Can’t wait to see the rest. Thanks for sharing.


  • It’s now Friday and I need to see the big reveal!!! 😀

    I love the demo and before shots.

    And your dad! Wow! My step dad is super handy and knows plumbing, electrical, hvac, etc. But he doesn’t know how to do tile. Your dad can do tile, too?! He must be a magical superman of a dad. How wonderful he was able to do this for you two. Dads are the best.


    • He is totally a magical superman of a dad. And the poor guy– he didn’t tell me until AFTER I had selected all this tile and made all the plans that he hates doing tile. Now that’s dad love for you! 🙂


  • It’s so awesome that you have such a wonderfully skilled father – getting tiling right, so that it looks really pro, isn’t the easiest of jobs by any means, nor is a bathroom revamping like this. I’m just playing catch up on the past three days of blog feeds and can’t wait to see the reveal in Friday’s post.

    ♥ Jessica


  • Holy crap, this is SO MUCH WORK! Your dad is a saint! Gonna skip ahead in my blogroll now to get to the reveal!


  • I too have a Chicago house (built 1952) and my bathroom is pink tile! I think it is the original because my neighbor has a similar house and said his bathroom has pink tile too. I guess that was just the style of the 1950’s bathrooms but I hope to remodel it and replace it. I don’t like pink. Your post is helpful though – it shows me what I’d be getting into if I do remodel it.

    I also like your new look for your bathroom, especially the shower.


  • Really love that blue tile in the shower. I’m currently doing some construction on a house with my dad that he built in the late 70’s and am trying to find tile that looks true to the period. Any suggestions on where to find? Having trouble.


    • Hi Levi, if you haven’t already, check out the Retro Renovation blog. Pam and Kate have oodles of resources for mid-century homes, including 70s! 🙂


  • Hi there, I’ve been lurking on your blog today, for so long that I can’t remember what brought me here in the first place. Anyway, I know this is an old post, but I’m just as interested to see your reveal as if it were brand new. I get to click on that next, no waiting for me! You probably don’t care any more, but I just HAVE to tell you that the brass doorknob that you figured was an update, must be. My house, built, 1975, has the exact same one on the door from the garage. Your bathroom was quite the hodgepodge. I’m especially interested to see if you retained the centered cabinet pulls. I hate mine – so inconvenient. I have tried and tried to train myself to use them, but they just don’t work for me. Okay, on to the big reveal!


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