Installing a Vintage Medicine Cabinet

I grew up in the same house almost my entire life. It’s the only house I ever remember living in. My parents bought it when I was one and a half and they still live in that house today. I had a bedroom in the center of the house with no outside windows except for a skylight, which sounds a lot drearier than it was in reality. My room was always light and bright and I never had to close the curtains to change. My room was right next to the bathroom which had been redone in the 1950s. It was all green and black tile with floral wallpaper and an old sink. There was even some neon orange accent tile that some previous owner then painted black, but by the time I was in middle school the black paint was chipping in a few places exposing the orange. There was this great vintage mirrored medicine cabinet in that bathroom. It may have been original to the house. It had a lovely arched top and two hinged, adjustable wings which was just perfect for checking out your hair before the middle school dance. I loved that medicine cabinet! It was so great for looking at your hair from all the angles, because it had two hinged, mirrored sides.

When I went away to college, my parents decided to renovate that bathroom in the middle of my junior year. It was going to be a gut renovation and they were transforming the space to look far more aligned with their Spanish Mission style home. They removed the mirror and all the old tile and the old sink and gutted the entire space. The bathroom is a lot different now. There’s a skylight that lets in tons of natural light and it’s got lovely new Mexican accent tiles that work really well with the house. There’s also a giant tub which is awesome for those of us who enjoy laying in scalding hot water for long periods of time.

After they renovated, I didn’t really think about the old bathroom again. Well as I headed home after Christmas 2017, my dad ran out to the garage to get something I “might want” and came back with the medicine cabinet from the old bathroom! He’d saved it in his garage for several years since the renovation and wondered if I wanted it for my new bathroom. Yes! Yes, I did! The medicine cabinet was made of wood and while it was in good shape, all the paint was flaking horrendously. I was able to peel it off in big sections, easier than you would an orange.

Anything that could fill that gaping hole above my sink was going to be a vast improvement and this was just icing on the cake. I just couldn’t wait to have a place to store my toothbrush and see my face when I washed it! Plus I really needed a good excuse to finally put away that hammer.

When I got back to Portland, I took the mirror and gave it a good long sanding to get off all the old flakey paint. I wore a mask and sanded outside just in case there was lead paint, even though the first couple of layers did not test positive for level. I wiped everything down before bringing it back inside… and then I left it on the floor of the kitchen for a few weeks.

It became Malary’s pearching place for a little while during the finishing touches of the rest of the renovation actually!

But eventually I taped off the mirrored bits one night and set about priming it with some of the dark tinted water lock paint I had left over from priming the bathroom. There wasn’t much of the wood you’d see from the front of the cabinet, just the pair of strips between the main panel and each side panel. But the backs of each side panel and the whole inside of the cabinet definitely needed a couple of thick coats of paint to refresh everything and provide a nice clean surface for all my toiletries.

A coat of the primer went on quickly and I followed it with two coats of the black paint I’d bought to use on my kitchen cabinets. Painting went quickly, since there wasn’t much surface to cover, but it was a bit difficult to get in all the areas rotating the sides back and forth as I went. I followed the paint with a layer of Safecoat Aqualac to make it a bit more durable and to provide a more wipeable surface. on the interior.

It only took an hour here and there across a couple of days before the whole thing was done and it just needed a couple of screws to hold it on to the studs in the wall cavity to secure it properly. I used my impact driver which I am obsessed with. I then caulked around it and touched that up with wall paint to blend things together. Now that bathroom was really looking like a legit space. Nothing like filling in a giant hole in your wall to make something feel more complete!

And I really do love having this piece of my childhood in my new bathroom. I had wanted to use a vintage mirrored medicine cabinet in the space from the start and this one was just perfect! Possibly more perfect than anything else I could have ever found, honestly. I really did luck out with this piece! I love the rounded detailing of the top of the cabinet and the little etched flowers. Plus the tilting sides are perfect for getting ALL THE ANGLES of your face.

I think the cabinet adds just another little layer of history to this bathroom, making it feel more like an authentic space in the house. And that’s the whole goal right? Return the original character to my house. My parent’s place was built in the 1930s, which is probably when my house was renovated to include an indoor bathroom (it’s highly unlikely that it was built with indoor plumbing when construction was completed in 1909), so the era of the mirror feels spot on!

I’ve begun to play around with the bathroom art and I found this storage shelf on Wayfair that squeezes perfectly into the corner of the bathroom and provides some desperately needed storage in this small space. Of course, I’d ideally fill it with ALL THE PLANTS. I’ll show you a styled out version of the space when I’m close to the reveal!

The bathroom has come a loooong way from the disasterland that was here before and for that I am so grateful. It had taken 3 months to get to this point and I could almost taste the finish line, but there was still more to go! I hunted far and long for the perfect shower curtain before I finally found this one which is actually a tapestry I am planning to convert to a shower curtain that extends to the ceiling. It just means a battle with my sewing machine so I’m procrastinating that… still. In the meantime, my old shower curtain does the job just fine.

The medicine cabinet is a little change in terms of the overall vibe of this room coming together, but I am just so dang excited to check it off the list. It’s so much more functional, it’s a piece of my childhood and it’s got the perfect vintage flair that makes this bathroom look old.

Do you ever incorporate old pieces into new renovations to stick with the character of the home? Do you like that bit of history it adds to the space or what would you do? Let me know in the comments below!

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Installing My New Toilet and Changing the Toilet Lever

There’s a new throne to bend the knee to in the Land of Laurel and it ain’t made of iron. That’s right! I’ve got a gorgeous porcelain throne for ya’ll to fawn over today. It’s downright spectacular. And oh so necessary. You see, back in early January 2018 I was just over 2 months in to my bathroom renovation and it was time to kick it into high gear. I had a deadline, one not set by me, one I couldn’t just ignore as it passed by, a big, important deadline. My little sister was moving into Berrybrier to live with me! Hi, Bronwyn! And well… she needed a place to relieve herself that wasn’t the tiny hell bathroom off my own bedroom. As much as that delightful little space worked for me, she was going to need a space a bit more… accommodating and far less… disgusting.

Luckily, I had a space that was pretty darn close! See the capped toilet flange below? That was my first step for getting the bathroom into more of a… useful… space. The plumber had installed it when he was doing rough in and after I’d tiled around it, and drywalled, and painted, the flange was finally ready for a toilet. The center part was just a cap that prevented the sewer gases and smells from coming into the bathroom. For which I was grateful. I popped it off with a screw driver and exposed the hole beneath.

Then I grabbed a reinforced wax ring toilet install kit from Home Depot and stuck it in the hole. The reinforced plastic part keeps it pretty centered.

Then I took the bolts that came with the kit and stuck them into the toilet flange. They slide nicely into place upside down, which is better than ones that screw into the flange from above since it’s easier to aim your toilet. I had bought the Kohler Memoirs Two Piece Toilet which is easier to install since it literally comes in two pieces. I lifted up the bottom part with the help of my friend Nikki and aimed it at my bolts and wax ring while her dog chased Malary around my house. With a little finagling we landed it just so for a perfect fit! Then I slipped the plastic covers that came with the toilet over the bolts to protect the porcelain and screwed on a nut to hold the toilet in place. I tightened the nut enough to keep everything snug and then simply sawed off the excess bolt with my hacksaw. Easy, peasy.

I snapped the bolt cap covers on and then it was time for the tank. This guy I was able to place on myself after Nikki left. It came with bolts already placed in the bottom of the tank and again I just aimed those bolts at the holes in the bottom part of the toilet. Then they got nuts which I tightened with a wrench being careful not to tighten too tightly which could break the porcelain. As I did that I stuck my level on top to make sure I was keeping things plumb.

One more check that it was level and I was ready for the fun stuff! The toilet lever that came with my toilet was already installed when I unboxed it. That’s convenient right? Wrong.

Lovely polished chrome in finish, there was nothing wrong with it, except I was using Delta’s Champagne Bronze (a brass /gold look) finish on all the other plumbing fixtures. So I popped one of Delta’s Cassidy Collection Toilet Levers into my cart and got ready to switch it out.

I also went ahead and screwed in the toilet water supply line into the tank and into my favorite water shut off valve that looks so cute coming out of the baseboard. I kept the water off still, but I wanted it to be ready to go once the lever was switched out.

Switching out the lever was also super easy. I took a short handled screw driver and just unscrewed the single machine screw that was holding it in place and popped off the lever.

The Memoirs toilet looked kinda cute all handleless and naked too! But.. that wasn’t going to stick around for long! I’d carefully noted the placement of the original nuts, washers, and other bits that came off the original toilet lever and meshed those in together with the new Delta parts.

I kept the delta parts that held the lever to the toilet themselves and screwed the original Kohler handle arm and chain into the new lever. That way the interior of the tank was mostly the same.

The Delta lever had some with a plastic handle that was supposed to replace the handle and chain, but that seemed like opening a larger can of worms than I was ready for so I just ignored that bit.

I checked several times to make sure the combination of parts together were still raising the flapper and thus “flushing” the toilet before I even considered turning on the water to this new throne!

But after it passed that test several times, I decided it was ready, got my bucket and dry towels ready and turned the water shut off valve to on. The tank and bowl began filling with water until it magically stopped at it’s capacity point. The moment of truth: would it now flush?!

Yes! It worked! And with no issues or re-dos or mishaps along the way! Turns out installing a toilet is really not as hard as what you’d think. And when everything in the bathroom is brand new and never before used, it’s not even the little bit gross!

So now I had a toilet! A whole toilet to myself! Well, for myself and my sister who moved in the very next day! Sure… we had to wash our hands in the kitchen sink until I got around to installing the bathroom sink and faucet a few days later, but eh, no big deal! Plus a functioning toilet and shower felt a thousand times better than the gross original bathroom!

In all the plumbing fixtures were one of the most expensive parts of this bathroom renovation. BY FAR. Which is to be expected since they are the fancy finished bits! Here’s the breakdown of the toilet bits and pieces:

  • Reinforced Wax Ring $8
  • Toilet Water Supply Line $6
  • Sink water Supply Lines about $20 for two lines
  • Toilet $380
  • Toilet Lever $25
  • Toilet Install Total: $439
  • Now, you could totally spend a whole lot less if you went to Home Depot and bought some cheaper fixtures, but since I was trying to restore some of the original character of Berrybrier back into this house and I wanted a specific look, I splurged a bit for pieces I liked and would like for years to come.

    If I was a better blogger I would have snapped a picture of the final toilet all installed with it’s lid on but I am not a very good blogger so I will go ahead and just give you this sneak peek. The toilet installed, complete with a few plants on top of the tank and a preview of the installed sink!

    Ohhhh progress! It feels sooo good right? Boy is it nice to have a place to shower and relieve yourself after months of a messy construction zone! I mean, the rest of Berrybrier still looked absolutely insane considering the kitchen floor disaster, but even that was looking up! My sister Bronwyn had moved in with me which meant a whole bunch of free labor. Yay! Double time progress!