As designers we seem to live a cruel phenomenon. We are generally born into the world and classified as visual learners – or as my wife calls me, a “visual demon”. I learn quickest when it is taught visually, but with that comes the nuisance of being overly aware of my surroundings.  She jokes how I can walk into a room and immediately notice the new 2″  tree ornament that is on the bottom, around the back, behind the much larger Christmas ornament. However, the cruel phenomenon is this: I can walk into a space,  my home environment for instance and know – visually see – how to make it better…yet I don’t have the funds (or time for that matter) to make it happen! So we go on trying to turn off that creative motor we call a “right” brain and just be OK with our sub-par environment.  Now that is all “tongue and cheek…but if you are a designer – or the loved one of one – you know there is truth in it!

My family and I have been living in our home coming on 4 years now, and slowly, project by project, I have tried to put money away and make our home a little better. As for the time factor of doing the work – which is how we also save money,  the projects usually don’t get done until I take a vacation from my day job. So, this past holiday season I took some vacation time to install tile that I have had  sitting in my garage for the last 6 months.

So, for my design entry I will show you the process of tiling some accent walls in my bathrooms. Now mind you , these projects don’t necessarily represent my BEST ideas, but are more in line with GOOD ideas for a home we won’t be in forever.  And of course the tiles that I REALLY wanted cost more than I wanted to pay. But these will do and raise the level of style and comfort of our home.

My intent with this entry is not to be another DIY blog that shows you step by step instructions – there are plenty of sites that can do that for you.

Here are the before shots for the two restrooms:  designshadow

First, the shower wall: After making sure the wall was clean, and everything was prepped and ready to go, I laid up mortar on the wall and installed some strip  channels into the mortar to give a finish edge to the tile. Once they were in place I started to lay the sheets of glass mosaics. I find it best to do this in sections so I don’t get a head of myself and have a mortar bed that gets too dry for the tile to be set.

For both this front wall and the side wall, I made sure to lay out the tile on the floor to make sure the tile would fit properly. Then I make all the needed cuts at once before I put on the mortar. This way I don’t feel pressured with a time crunch once the mortar is installed.

Once all the sheets were installed, I went back and made sure that all the tiles were pressed firmly in the mortar.

tile setting

Next, I moved to the second bathroom to get it caught up. I began by removing the existing mirror and light fixture. When the mirror came off, I got a surprise: a hole in the wall. At the time I didn’t think it would provide much of a problem and even believed it would save me from some work.,

In the first restroom I used a traditional mortar method. For the second bathroom, I wanted to try out this newer product that I have heard about and is at your local Home Depot.

It is basically a double stick paper that sticks to the walls and with little beads that adhere to the tile. It is more expensive than mortar, but I figured this would be an easy place to try it out, since I have only one flat wall I am working with. So after filling the divots in the wall that the mirror glue left behind, I started installing the sticky mat.

Once the mat was down and firmly in place, I was able to start to install the sheets of mosaic glass tile. The Simple Mat here proved a benefit, because my existing wall wasn’t perfect and I had to keep pulling up the sheets of tile and re-sticking them to re-space the grout lines to hide the inconsistencies. Once they were all in place I went back and applied pressure to get them completely adhered.  

Next came grout. The first image shows some of my cheering squad and little helpers. The second image shows a close up of tan colored edge that was installed to cap the tile around the shower opening. I will go back in the end and use caulk to finish the bridge between the edge and the shower wall.

Once the mortar was in and wiped down, it sat for a number of days until I was able to get back to it to caulk all the edges.  It was also at this time that I realized I had a problem with the blue tiled restroom.  Since discovering the hole, I had intended to cover it up with the framed mirror I had planned for the wall. What I didn’t take into account was how little space I had from the light shades to the wall.


The second image above shows how there was no way I could get a framed mirror to get up under the light shade to cover the hole. I looked at various options…which took almost a week to finalize. My first option was to install a new light fixture. We have never loved this one, but after some debating, we decided to keep it. It matched the other bathroom, and everything else we really wanted cost more money than we really wanted to spend. Once that was decided, we knew we had only one option: I had to install a plain piece of sheet mirror. Luckily I already had that from before. But we didn’t want to cover up all the tile that was just installed, so our plan was to cut it down to size.  I was left with three options.

1. Buy a glass cutter and a glass polisher for the edges and then buy hardware to mount it.

2.Pay $20-25 to have it cut and then another $ .17 an inch = another $12-15 to have it polished and then buy hardware to mount it.

3. Buy a sheet mirror at Ikea for $25 that included the hardware.

 Ikea it is!

 So,  I am finally done. Mirror is in place and everything is caulked and cleaned up, with pictures hung. Here are the finished images followed by the original condition.

Tile Manufacturers:

1. Marazzi. Series: Caicos

2. Premier Decor. Series: Ivory Iridescent Glass
 Final-blue-bathroom designshadow

From start to finish, this project took about 2 1/2 weeks to complete with the life that “happened” around the process. The week I was on vacation I took breaks to spend time with the kids, run to the store to get something I forgot, watch movies and try to revamp what I was going to do as problems raised their ugly head. It took another week and a half to fit in all the finish caulking and getting the rooms photo ready.

Nothing goes as smoothly as one would hope – ever. Hence why this work happens over a vacation from work. But alas, this “visual demon” feels a little more at peace.

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