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Bathroom Plans: The Slightly More Difficult Choices

Tuesday I showed you some of the elements I’ve already chosen for our impending bathroom reno: walnut cabinetry, modern fixtures, a toilet with a skirted trap – easy decisions!  The tile and counter-top choices proved to be more difficult, mostly because I struggled with availability and affordability.  I fell in love with an expensive, mid-century inspired tile and was convinced that I was going to order some – until I priced it out.  A rough estimate for what we’d need saw our eyes bugging out over a lot of zeros (about $4,000 – for tile alone, not labor – just for the tub surround).  I don’t have that kind of money for tile and, if I did, I don’t even think I’d want to sink $4000 into something that will get covered by a shower curtain anyway.  (This is my poor loser pep talk.  Of course I would!  Their tile is gorgeous and mod and I want it.)

I originally had my eye on some beach-glass inspired tiles, but I realized that I was really gravitating toward organic shapes with more texture than colour.  Yes, although I drooled over beautiful, bold spaces like the bathroom below, ultimately I sought out more texture and less color.

But I had a hard time finding something I liked locally.  (Nothing compares, to you…)  When I found a tile I sorta liked, it would compete with a counter I also sorta liked, and vice versa.  I finally decided to just find a starting point – stop worrying about matching and pairing and just find either a tile or counter that I absolutely loved, and then let that dictate the other choices.  I spent days shuffling from place to place, dejectedly flipping through tile samples and lugging home chunks of rock and porcelain.  Living in a small city can have it’s drawbacks because the options are really limited (and some of what is available is kind of dated).  After all of my laborious effort, finally – I found it.  A beautiful piece of quartzite:

The sample called to me from across the room.  Actually a friend (Jazmyn, that’s you!), had talked to me about this gorgeous stone awhile ago but I didn’t think to search for it.  It’s White Fantasy, just one variation of quartzite, which is supposedly as hardy as granite but with a similar look as marble (my nemesis).  If you read Yellow Brick Home, you might have spotted another variety of quartzite.  At a local stone yard, I found a huge piece for sale and I am thinking of already putting a down payment on it so no one else can nab it.

It looks a bit flat (and cold) in my photos, but in real life there are these incredible veins and layers – it has a lot of depth to it with varying shades of warm and cool grey, balanced by some white.  Some of the veins have a really striking glint to them.  I managed to capture a hint of an elusive glint in this photo:

Hubby likes it because it reminds him of when the ice cracks and breaks on Lake Superior.  To me it looks like a map.  I actually would have loved to find this Aquias Blue quartzite, but no luck (I think the grey will serve us well, anyway).  Because everything is going to be neutral, I am thinking about ordering a pair of soft aqua sinks:


I like the look of a really tall stone backsplash, but because it really should be a thin piece to look right (I don’t want the same thickness as my counters, glued to the wall), I’ve been told by local installers that it’s not doable.  They can’t get the quartzite thin enough.  Which is a big bummer.  I am thinking of just going without a backsplash, because it can easily be added later and we didn’t seem to need one in the townhouse.  Hubby is adamant we at least get a little stone backsplash.  Not sure what to do there because I don’t know if I like that stubby little backsplash, but I think tile will be busy above the stone.

Once I settled on a counter, picking tile was easier.  A bit.  I originally envisioned grey tile, but with a stone counter that reads very grey, it seemed a little blah.  I considered a white porcelain, but it just didn’t “click” for me, even though it bounced a lot of light around and made the room feel bigger and brighter.

In the end, while pondering various shades of grey tile, I found the perfect floor tile by accident.

The soft black on the right stood out.

It’s a really nice black: not too dark or too blue, and it has a nice warmth and softness to it.  It has a subtle variation in colour, like slate.  It seems more matte in photos – in real life it has a perfect not-too-shiny, not-too-flat finish.  The contrast between it and the light grey counters elevates the plan from “everything is grey” land.  I’d love it with a matching grout.

I actually considered a large black hex (which I would also do with black grout), but I just don’t think I love hex enough to commit to it, plus it competes with the tub surround tile I love.

This one was a contender too, because I love the striations and the sutbtle sheen – it’s like it was shot with silver – but ultimately I’d love a bigger tile for as few grout lines as possible.

For the tub surround tile, this white tile with a great sheen and a square pattern is my favorite.  When the little irregular squares catch the light, they almost look like square mosaic – which is such a classic tile option – but without the myriad of grout lines.

I really like mosaic tile but I don’t like grout, so the tile above will give me the best of both words.

WHEW!  And that’s how I mostly arrived at decisions about tile and counter.  I really thought I’d have a long short-list today, but yesterday I really focused and narrowed down the many samples I had brought home.  This post feels ginormous.  If you feel like this post was way too wordy, you’ll get no sympathy from Hubs, for whom this is just a sampling of the endless chatter about tiles, counters, and cabinets to which he’s been subjected.  These feel like huge (expensive) decisions, so I’ve been agonizing over each one.  In the end, I’m going with my gut: the gleaming small square tile just kept calling to me and I plucked it out of displays in four different tile stores.  I knew I wanted the quartzite the moment I saw it – the rock collector in me won’t be happy with a man-made solid surface.  The soft black floor tile just looked so right and stood out to me from an impossibly deep sea of sample tiles.

We’re placing order for the cabinetry and likely the counter soon – but nothing is written in stone yet!  Feel free to chime in – especially if you’ve had any experience with quartzite or porcelain tile, which are both new to me!  If you’re curious about the bevy of inspiring bathrooms I’ve been digitally hoarding, take a look at my Bathroom Reno Plans board on Pinterest.  You can also follow me on Instagram, where I recently shared a beautiful teal tile (that, sadly, didn’t make the cut), and other sneak peeks.

Here’s a look at the samples all together – you’ll have to envision a pair of soft aqua sinks.

Now, time to lug 100 pounds of tile samples back into town…



  1. Jazmyn Strydom
    March 5, 2015 / 6:00 pm

    Tanya! You're getting the stone! It looks GORGEOUS! I can't wait to see it all together! I was contemplating walnut for my kitchen island (it has a slightly darker stain and a glossy finish and black glaze… so gorgeous) but husband preferred the Charcoal stain on Cherry (also much easier on the pocket! Even WITH employee discount!!!!)

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      March 6, 2015 / 6:37 pm

      I am 99% sure I am getting the stone! There is one shop in town where the staff are SO against it and they are really pushing quartz. They have me second guessing it. But it's so gorgeous and I don't think I would do stone in the kitchen, so it's nice to have some natural stone somewhere! I think charcoal on cherry is beautiful! And the pocket is important. Luckily the walnut cabinetry is $1500 less than a grey stained oak and the acrylic I was considering, so I feel like I'm "saving" money, lol. I am so incredibly nervous about how all of this adds up, though.

  2. stephanie, sandpaper & glue
    March 6, 2015 / 2:32 pm

    I had pinned some of the Fire Clay tile a while ago too.. it is sooo gorgeous. And so never ever in my budget. We can mourn it together. 🙂 I love the marble with the wood tone you picked out though, and the black floor is going to be really neat looking too!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      March 6, 2015 / 6:40 pm

      Yes, let's be sad together! I saw on IG that Emily Henderson had ordered a bunch of samples and I was thinking I just don't even want to see whatever project they're being used for, lol.The stone is actually quartzite, which is hard like granite so it's not as fussy as marble. But it has a similar look, which is what I love about it. Hopefully it's as durable as people say, because I hated the marble in the townhouse. I'm glad you like the dark floor. I am nervous about it showing dirt but the dirt-hiding greys just didn't look right with the counter and walnut. But I love how it looks…

  3. cred
    March 6, 2015 / 3:24 pm

    I think following your gut has paid off- I love all of these choices. However, it's expected that it would take a long time to finalize your decision; these materials are what makes kitchen and bath rents so pricey. The quartzite is perfect, there just is no other choice (and how appropriate for a rock hound). It does look like ice and with those Aqua sinks, even more so (appropriate for living lakeside). I love black tile but just as you describe- not too shiny and dark and I love the look of slate- I was thinking grey slate in our bathroom. And absolutely matching grout. I'm not a fan of grout- after the scrubbing I've done to attempt to remove stains and all the tile installs I've done, I hate grout. I think dark grout on dark tile is my favourite. And those tiles are perfect. I, too, love the classic look of mosaic but, ya know, all the grout. The fireclay tiles are beautiful- I do love all the modern shapes but I did imagine trying to scrub between those curvy or offset lines (shudder) Can you tell me the supplier for that tile and the manufacturer (the sample says Ceratic and anttila by North West tile)- is Anttila the style? I really love it. To clarify, will it also go behind the vanity and serve as a backsplash? I think it fits the bill- not to busy next to the quartzite. I have worked with porcelain tile before, it has the same qualities as ceramic (just a different type of ceramic). I found it to be a little more brittle than ceramic so I've lost a couple to cracking while cutting with a tile cutter- I would prefer to use a tile saw if I were to install porcelain again.How exciting- this is going to be a beautiful transformation.

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      March 6, 2015 / 6:49 pm

      Oh my gosh, I hate grout too! I loved the look of so many smaller tiles but I just kept making myself look at larger ones for fewer grout lines. I totally considered doing marmoleum for NO grout, but I just don't think it looks right with crazy stone counters. I think tile is a better look.You know, I was thinking about the cleaning with the Fireclay tiles. They aren't all smooth, either, so I think it would be a pain. I feel better thinking that!The black floor tile is by Centura, the style is Nero 7267075. I had two samples of the white faux mosaic and one shop said it was from Centura, but the other (pictured above) has it labelled as Ceratec. I think it's Ceratec, Tessara is the style. If you take a screen shot of the photo, your local tile shop will be able to find it right away. I am thinking of hiring out the tiling. The townhouse tiles has cracked in place (poor sub-floor, I imagine) and I don't want that to happen to us.

  4. Tawnya
    March 7, 2015 / 4:19 am

    Oh those aqua sinks…. I'm in total love. You simply must get them!!!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      March 9, 2015 / 4:12 am

      I want to! Can't wait to see them in real life.

  5. brikhouse2
    March 8, 2015 / 8:35 am

    Love the aqua sinks, a nice splash of color… pun intended lol.I also really like the counter top you chose. For the back splash, if you wanted the same material as the counter you could always recess the thicker piece into the wall to get the thinner look you want. Remove the drywall and put a thinner piece of drywall or plywood just in that spot and attach the back splash to that. Might get you a 1/2 inch thinner look. Or put the drywall/plywood between the studs and you might get a 3/4 inch thinner. I love hex tile, especially in the classic black and white…..or penny tiles! But I do agree, grout is a b*tch and I don't want to deal with a lot of it. And the tub tiles are kinda like the jewelery, it glimmers. I like it.

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      March 9, 2015 / 4:14 am

      Haha, splash of colour.I like your idea to recess it into the drywall…that's clever! Starting to think I can't afford it anyway, because it's something like $110 a square foot. But the counter guy is coming for a quote on Monday so I'll share your idea with him. Thanks!I am trying to convince my mom to go with a classic small hex or a penny tile in her bathroom, which is the size of a postage stamp. If she goes with big tiles, she'll need four and she'd be done, lol. So smaller tiles suit the scale of the space. I will live vicariously through her.

    • brikhouse2
      March 12, 2015 / 9:42 pm

      lol just like I live design vicariously through you.

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      March 13, 2015 / 3:22 am

      Happy to be of service! Your advice is always awesome. Said goodbye to the chrome living room lamp after you pointed out it didn't jive. But I stole my mom's lamps as a result, so she's got a bone to pick with you, lol.

    • brikhouse2
      March 18, 2015 / 5:45 pm

      lmaoooooooo sorry mom.

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      March 18, 2015 / 9:04 pm

      Haha 🙂

  6. Heather
    March 8, 2015 / 1:49 pm

    I love that countertop material.I wish I remained ignorant to the existence of that Fireclay tile, sigh……I foresee heartbreak in my life.We put navy porcelain tile in our kitchen about ten years ago. The finish isn't fully matte, more like 75% matte-ish if that makes sense. It was the worst possible choice. It shows every crumb (likely you won't be eating in your bathroom) and water spot.Then we did a green porcelain similar to what you show in our bathroom and I like it.

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      March 9, 2015 / 4:19 am

      Sorry. I feel kind of evil showing people the Fireclay Tile. I'm breaking a lot of hearts, I know. Well, misery loves company, lol.I am worried about my darker choice showing dust. I actually brought a dirty swiffer over and rubbed it onto the samples. The light showed specks, the dark showed specks. The most drab sample didn't show it. In the townhouse, our grey bathroom floor was perfect – never showed a single bit of dirt. But the white/black kitchen tile was a pain – the white more than the black (but it was glossier). I'm hoping water spots will be hidden in the tile I chose because the tile has a mottled/spotted look already. I really, really intended to do a grey like in the townhouse, but I just can't help but like this one, even though it's darker than what I planned. I have time to change my mind! I'm going to one last tile shop before I seal the deal.

  7. Jenn
    March 11, 2015 / 6:41 pm

    Hi Tanya,My question is a bit off topic here, but I wanted to put it out there anyway. My husband and I are planning to renovate our kitchen this fall (well really our whole first floor – it's a sidesplit so the first floor is just the kitchen and dining room). We don't have the skills to do very much ourselves except painting. This is our first house, and I'm feeling overwhelmed already about how to go about a renovation. Do we hire a contractor first? Or do we pick our cabinets, counter, lighting, etc, and then hire a contractor? We're probably going to have to go with big box cabinets (maybe Ikea) because of budget, but I would like to get the counter, backsplash, etc. other places so the kitchen looks a bit more unique. No need to answer me here, just wondering if you would consider a post on how to go about tackling a fairly large renovation. Thanks!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      March 12, 2015 / 1:14 am

      Truthfully, I'm probably not very good at answering this question because we've always done a mix of DIY and hiring out aspects of a job. We look at our limitations and fill in the gap with pros. For the bathroom, we're currently debating how much we'll do ourselves, what to hire out and who to hire. When I get it sorted, I'll share all of the details, but my situation is a bit different. Although, I can definitely relate to the feeling overwhelmed part! I will say that we're struggling with some installers refusing to install a brand of product they don't carry because it supposedly voids the warranty. So for tile, for example, we're thinking we'll hire tile installers who also have a retail side, and the brand of tile we want. But we're not sure yet. Our cabinetry place, for larger jobs, acts as a contractor of sorts so although they only do cabinetry and counter in-house, they'll hire out the other jobs for clients so it's hassle free. There's another place in town that only does bathroom renos but they do it all. We're considering hiring them because they'll do wiring, plumbing, lighting, etc., and let us still do some work to save money. But they will do entire jobs for people who don't want DIY.I'd say casually shop around a few places in your city because some of those places might be able to recommend a contractor /act as a contractor and/or illuminate the process. I've picked up lots of technical tidbits from going around to different reno stores, which make me more knowledgeable when it comes to hiring pros. Having a rough idea of what you want will help a contractor with a quote for the work – we're being asked what brand/size/type of tile we want because that impacts labor costs. So my advice would be to quickly browse around and have a rough sketch of what you want, then hire a contractor once you're armed with a little knowledge, show him/her your rough plans and have them guide you to the end because logistically some of those plans might need to change. And the contractor might have some great ideas/concerns. But they need something to work with because they can't design the space for you. I hope this in some way helps a little. But I'll definitely write a post on how we tackled the logistics side of our reno, once we figure it out!

  8. emily
    March 14, 2015 / 3:54 pm

    love seeing this design process. you've ended up with a really clean pared back style that is going to be timeless and hard working and low-maintenance…the best combo. can't wait to see it all in action!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      March 16, 2015 / 7:41 pm

      Thanks Emily! It's been a long process, narrowing down what we want and then trying to find that locally. I hope it's timeless and easy to care for. And, like you, I also can't wait to see it in action. We're waiting until the ground thaws so we can shower in the guesthouse. We just scheduled the cabinetry installation for end of June. Yay!

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