To be totally honest, the bathroom is the most difficult room in the house to renovate sustainably. I found this out the hard way.
Because a bathroom is a place where everything has to be functional and watertight, it’s hard to source reclaimed materials.
I was quite proud of myself when I found some new, gorgeous brass fixtures at Build It Green! … until I found out that all your fixtures–and the hardware that fits into them behind the wall–have to be by the same manufacturer. (Which is ridiculous, in my opinion. What a waste.) So I ended up with a lot of useless brass fixtures on my hands, and ordered new, conventional ones in a panic a week before we were supposed to move in. If I had to do it again, I would have gotten a special low-flow shower head. Maybe I still will, eventually.
The biggest change we made in the bathroom was switching the toilet and the vanity. Before, the vanity was below the window, and the mirror was over the toilet – an awkward setup. We switched the setup and put the water-saving, dual-flush toilet under the window. Now, you don’t have to lean over the toilet to look at your reflection.
The tub is reclaimed, though it comes with some … character. It has some hairline cracks in two corners that I didn’t see until it was too late. But everyone has graciously avoided mentioning them to me. You can’t really see them in the picture, but you can see them in person!
I also bought a reclaimed vanity in black, and a white reclaimed countertop. My contractor lost the vanity, however, and in another panic, we went to Home Depot and bought a conventional one, outfitting it with two extra knobs from the kitchen and the reclaimed countertop to class it up a bit. The basin sink is reclaimed as well – it’s the best reclaimed thing in the whole bathroom.
The subway and hexagonal tile is also conventional and new (and affordable. If you’re looking for eco-friendly tile options, most are fancy and expensive). But doesn’t it look pretty? I wanted it to fit in with the early 20th century look of the apartment. I did my best to find a reclaimed medicine cabinet that would sit on the wall, not inside it, since there was no space in the wall. But I could only find the kind that go into the wall. So the one you see is new from Home Depot, too.
We’re quite proud of the shelf. We painted some reclaimed wood with no-VOC paint, and put it up using handmade brackets off of Etsy.
We enclosed the exposed heating pipe to make it pretty. Unfortunately, our contractor messed it up somehow and not much heat gets out into the bathroom. To fix it, we would have to rip some stuff out. We’re going to save that project for a few years down the road. Tip: Make sure your heating pipe is all good before you tile it closed.