Doing things “The Hard Way”: Do you have what it takes?

pink-bathroom-fixtures.jpgWelcoming 2015, here’s the story that now has become our Retro Renovation new year’s tradition… kind of summing up the bumpy journey so many of us share, or can expect to, when we decide to undertake a period-inspired renovation including preserving what we have and/or using hard-to-find and salvage material. Yup: Taking this less-traveled route means you are in for an adventure. You may find yourself walking the very fine line between genius and insanity. You will need tenacity, patience, a good spirit, and faith that you are on a righteous path. The Retro Decorating Gods will be with you, throwing flower petals — and burying barbed wire, just to test your mettle — they love to make mischief, too.

My The Hard Way essay, originally published in Dec. 2007, less than two months after I started the blog:

We know about taking the road less traveled. To me, doing things the hard way has the same allure. The hunt for the perfect estate sale light fixture, the set of vintage cabinets that are just right, the document wallpaper that pulls things all together.

Honestly, the reason this blog even exists is that after completing big projects, I had so much info in my mental hard drive about the resources available to renovate, remodel and decorate a mid century home — all obsessively and endlessly researched — that it seemed a shame to simply be done with it when my projects were completed.

But the dangers of the hard way came into focus this week, when I pulled Palm Springs Stephan into the vortex.

A week ago Friday night I spotted the brand new, mint in box, never installed set of circa 1958 bathroom fixtures in this exact photo, on a forum. They’d just been posted. Hot! I happened to be emailing a bit with Stephan, and knew he was working on a bathroom renovation.

Long story short, he was very excited about the prospect of pink fixtures and spent hours back-and-forth with the seller in Cheyenne, Wyoming, trying to certify the exact color, before he sent a certified check. Hours with a tile store to coordinate tile. Planned to switch the plumbing. Worked out shipping. At one point thought it was a done deal.

Ultimately, though, the color didn’t pan out for him, and it was back to plan A.

The moral of the story is — I guess — to know thyself. If you really truly want very special retro finds to complete your renovation vision, it’s gonna be a roller coaster. Requiring patience, tenacity, and a belief that once you put your vibes out there, the Retro Decorating Gods will send you what you need. If you think that sounds fun — so then, will be doing it the hard way.

P.S. Anyone within driving distance of Cheyenne, Wyoming, interested in a set of brand new, mint in box, never been installed Crane bathroom fixtures? Tub, toilet with really cool seat, sink with chrome legs/towel bar, lav faucet, tub faucet. $1000. Email Gary, who seems very nice and appreciative of them, at: [item sold]. He can give you the whole story, which begins in North Dakota.

Oh yeah. They’re not really pink. They’re beige. Or taupe. Or a sandy pinky beigey taupe. Something like that. Buckle up.

This post was originally published Dec. 9, 2007, then repeated on Jan. 4, 2008, and every year since 2010 on Jan. 1.

Have you found gratification in doing your renovating and remodeling projects The Hard Way???
But tell the truth, sometimes don’t you just want to throw in the towel, take the “what’s easy to install today” route, and move on???

  1. vicki says:

    Just purchased a home built in 1954. The very small powder room was completely tiled in mint green (all four walls about half way up) with a mint green toliet and matching console sink. Also, included a recessed medicine cabinet with fluorescent lighting. I have medicine cabinets if anyone is interested and will have a pink toliet and sink in the next few months if anyone would like them. Chicago area.

  2. Nick says:

    Happy New Year! And you guys have inspired me to redo my grandmother’s 1957 ranch. She moved in mid 80s and made some unique choices. Anyway, the powder room is my starting point, but I haven’t been able to find ’50s powder room designs. And tile is not an option. So you see where I’m stuck.

  3. Debbie says:

    I have been “in the process” of remodeling my kitchen and bathroom since the summer of 2011. First I was sidetracked by three deaths in my family within a three month period. Then my toilet overflowed, ruining my just-installed Marmoleum floor. Next came attempting to paint over metal bathroom tiles that were really too far gone to be saved (just like I’d been advised, but sometimes I’m stubborn). Can’t find “swirly, marble-y looking” floors like in the 1940’s kitchen design books. Can’t decide between tile or laminate kitchen counters (although God bless B&W, the only place I’ve found vintage-style “box cap” trim). I am fortunate that the very-patient man who’s eventually going to do the remodel has been a good friend of mine for years, or else my contractor would be firing ME.

  4. Lee says:

    I agree completely. Whatever happened to Palm Springs Stephan? I never see him post on here anymore…

    1. Laurie Louise says:

      And while we’re at it, what happened to Gavin? I’ve been reading the blog from the beginning, and I always looked forward to his witty and erudite comments.

  5. Jonny says:

    It’s happening right now. Bought a gallon of coral pink paint, painted a bedroom wall with it, decided it looked like a little girl’s Barbie themed room, completely changed course, bought another gallon of bluish grey but wimped out and made it way too light, put some on the wall, looks like a little baby boy’s room, had my awesome local hardware store add a bunch of tint to the second gallon to get it dark enough.

    Now it’s perfect, but I’ve got a bit more money and a LOT more time into it than I’d hoped, and it’s just started. Gotta keep the faith! And be willing to bite the bullet and redo mistakes.

    1. Mary Elizabeth says:

      Hey, Jonny, been there, done that, feel your pain! Many paint-only stores (Sherwin Williams, Benjamin Moore) and even some big box stores have small samples you can buy and paint a swatch of several different colors on your wall. Paint them during a sunny day, then look at them at night and on a cloudy day, then decide. Beats wasting money on two gallons of paint, only to discover you hate it.

      My other trick is to pick out the color I think I want, then go two shades lighter on the scale and buy a quart, if samples aren’t available. It’s easier to paint the second coat darker than to go lighter and try to cover it all.

      Pretty soon you’ll have a grown-up room you can be proud of! 🙂

  6. larry fairbanks says:

    how do i order something from your website? i am looking for 2 drop in light blue oval bath sinks with 8 inch holes for faucets.

    1. pam kueber says:

      We don’t sell anything here. You need to refer to the story… and look for links to the company listed as selling whatever is featured in the stories…. For new sinks, see Bathroom Help / Sinks category – we have stories on various companies that might have what you need there.

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