Monday, December 16, 2013

Office Bathroom Redesign: Part 1

Want to see a really ugly, outdated, and frankly pretty gross bathroom?
Want to see it five days a week for years on end?
This is the lovely bathroom that my poor coworkers have had to deal with for years. They lease the office, and apparently the landlord thought this bathroom was "good enough." But when a slow period at work came up, we decided that "good enough" just wasn't cutting it anymore. So my employers hired me to give this space a major overhaul.
And I. Was. Thrilled.
Not that I loved the thought of climbing around on the floor of any bathroom, especially one that wasn't mine, but I was excited to take on such a great challenge. And not only did I not have to pay for materials like I do with my own home design projects, but I also got paid to do it! Can I get a "woo hooo"?

Plus, not having to look at that hideous grey stain on the wall above the toilet is payment enough (it's just from burning candles on the back of the tank, but still...)
So here's the plan for this little bathroom:
  • Remove wallpaper and vinyl baseboards
  • Prime and paint walls in a cool grey shade
  • Paint trim glossy white
  • Install white baseboards
  • Hang a new, prettier mirror above the sink
  • Install toilet paper holder and paper towel holder
  • Replace outlet and light switch covers
  • Create a sink skirt to cover the electric water heater under the sink
  • Hang pretty artwork
Let's dive right in, shall we? I have to say, if it wasn't such a hideous shade, I would be impressed at how well the previous occupant was able to match up the color of the wallpaper and the painted trim. Although the beige light switch cover, dark brown vinyl baseboards and vinyl tile don't really go with anything. So.
Anyway. Step one was getting rid of the wallpaper. And on my very first section, I thought my interior design/handyman/contractor career was going to end before it began. Because this happened.
Yep. I made the tragic mistake of trying to just rip the old vinyl baseboards off the wall. I was planning to put in new baseboards, so I figured it wouldn't matter what the wall behind them looked like. Except that the wall above it started tearing too. And that was only going to be painted, which would mean a jagged ugly mess. Eeep.

I looked it up later and the proper way to remove vinyl baseboard is to use a heat gun to melt the adhesive backing. No damage to the walls, although I'm not sure if it turns into a sticky mess on the floor or what ...

Not having access to a heat gun and wanting to get the show on the road, I instead scored the line at the top of the baseboards with a utility knife and then made sure to rip the baseboard off in a downward direction. This worked ok for the most part, but if I ever do that again, I definitely want to give the heat gun a try.

The rest of the wallpaper wasn't too bad. I used a portable clothes steamer and just worked my way around the room. For the most part the backing and the wallpaper stayed together pretty well, so I didn't get stuck making the unfortunate second pass to scrape away the backing.
Not to say that I lucked out completely. The problem was the glue used to hold the wallpaper onto the walls. I had heard that vinegar was an effective way to get excess glue off the walls, and it definitely got the glue moving, but basically, it just seemed to push the glue around on the wall. Once you put some paint up there, you could still see darker, craggy spots where the glue remained.

So I scrubbed and scrubbed and started feeling like I was in over my head again ... until inspiration hit. I used the vinegar to get the glue to liquefy, and then I followed it up by scraping the glue off with a paint scraper. After each pass I had to wipe the glue off the scraper, so it was long and tedious, but I was finally seeing progress.

But when I finally tried out a few test swatches of paint ... you could still see some glue. Sigh. So I agreed with the company owners that I should just slap on some primer and hope for the best.

And just like the vinegar, the primer (I used Kilz brand latex primer/sealer) activated the glue and made it all liquidy and slimy again. But the benefit was that the glue patches appeared darker once they were covered with tinted primer. I could now see which patches still had glue and which spots were clean. So then I went over the walls with primer, scraping the glue patches off and re-priming.

Tedious? Yes. Frustrating? A little. But this was my first pair design job and I was determined to do an amazing job for my lovely coworkers.

Here's a pic of the bathroom all naked (except for those baseboards, which I ripped out shortly after this shot).
After two coats of primer (the instructions on the can recommended two coats) I was ready to get some pretty paint on the walls. Or so I thought...

The saga of the office bathroom makeover will continue shortly.