Best way to roast the broomstick. Must try. Five Stars.

The Armstrong Bathroom Makeover Catastrophe

UPDATE: If you don’t normally read the comments on these posts I highly recommend you make an exception in this case. Holy crap, the nutters have come out!

Two years ago when we moved into this house (a process chronicled here, here, here, and here) we knew that at some point we were going to do an entire remodel of the downstairs bathroom. We envisioned knocking down a wall, tearing out every fixture, installing a luxurious bathtub, and doubling the size of the shower. But like with many remodeling ideas, this one repeatedly got knocked on its ass when we realized that simple things like “removal of a wall” would first require completion of a series of other projects. Like say, the blood sacrifice of the first born child and agreeing to name the second one Wells Fargo.

So we’ve lived with the cramped space and rearranged our lives so that it no longer seems weird that the one bathtub in the house is not on the same floor as the bedrooms. But then a couple of months ago I got knocked in the head with a bowling ball of nesting hormones and realized we could make the space more livable with just a few small upgrades. This happened to coincide with a trip to Ikea where Jon spotted a bathroom vanity that he loved, and just like that we embarked on a bathroom makeover. Without any preparation or research whatsoever. While I’m in my third trimester of pregnancy. Because we don’t hate each other enough already.

Let’s start this journey with a few pictures of the bathroom before we used it to dismantle our marriage:

Now, let me just go ahead and point out that Jon and I had a conversation wherein he acknowledged that I was not going to be able to help him like he might need me to, that I was so uncomfortably pregnant and clumsy in my body that having me in that tiny space was going to cause all sorts of trouble, and that he might need to call someone else for backup. That conversation went something like this:

Me: “You know I’m not going to be able to do any heavy lifting, right? RIGHT?”

Jon: “Right.”

Me: “No, seriously. I CANNOT HELP YOU. You get that, right?”

Jon: “I get it.”

Me: “So when you reach a breaking point and ask for my help, I’M GOING TO BRING UP THIS CONVERSATION. And then I’m going to make fun of you on my website.”

Jon: “Heather, there isn’t that much to do. It’s going to be fine.”

This reminds me of the book I want to write about remodeling. It would go, “Nothing will be fine. Now go re-read that first sentence. The end.”

The first thing to derail our schedule was the discovery that the previous owners had not tiled underneath the vanity. Yes, we could have special-ordered that hexagonal tile from various places, but the quickest turnaround time we could find was more than two weeks, and HELL if I was going to go 14 days in third trimester pregnancy having to climb a flight of stairs every time I needed to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. So we compromised, installed a square tile that was similar in color, and have trained our eyes not to focus on the glaring difference:

And then I broke my toe. And while Jon was assembling the terribly constructed Ikea vanity he pulled a muscle in his back and couldn’t move his torso in any way for three days. But it looks nice, right?

That brings us to the 700-lb mirror and piece of crap light. I’m going to condense this story into one bite-size paragraph because otherwise I’ll get going and next thing you know I’ll have used up enough hard drive space to fill a warehouse the size of Michigan:

The wall behind the vanity is in no way whatsoever a level surface, so what should have taken less than an hour sort of snowballed into a three-day expletive-laden tug-of-war between an exhausted man and his basketball-shaped wife. With the man shouting LEAN INTO IT! LEAN INTO IT! and the wife going REMEMBER THAT CONVERSATION?! REMEMBER THAT CONVERSATION?! And at one point we both wanted to impale each other with a Phillips-head screwdriver. Fortunately, it was at that point that I had to go pick up Leta from school, and figuring we could both use a break I decided to run a few errands while I was out. Except I guess Jon was in no mood for a break, and Internet, I have saved on my iPhone the most desperate set of text messages ever transmitted between a married couple. I would share them here with you, but I fear Jon might not ever speak to me again. And I don’t want to raise this baby alone.

  • dooce

    I seriously believe that one day this particular set of comments is going to be studied by anthropologists in an effort to understand the gene responsible for assholery.

  • Valerie

    #66 is a joke right? No one would actually say that… right?

    The tile would drive me nuts, but I’m pretty obsessive-compulsive and it’s not my bathroom. And Ikea is Swedish for AWESOME, so whatevs #66. I do love the sinks and faucets.

  • I personally like the “before” look better, but it’s your bathroom. However, I do really love the flowers on your toilet, and the spiffy orange rug. 🙂

  • At least it wasn’t half of you house.

    At least you didn’t have to straddle over ceiling joist while 8 months pregnant to pee.

    At least yours is done and not still happening 3 years and TWO babies later.

    Go kiss your husband and tell him thanks for at least finishing it.

  • Manlycow


    Bathrooms and politics are volatile subjects!

  • OMG I can leave a comment. I’ve been reading your blog from oldest to newest and I’m only in the 05’s. I stalk you on Twitter, as well. Love the new stuff in the bathroom. Love all you do. You two are awesome.

  • maybe its the angle of the photos, but the first vanity looks larger then the second one. Either way, you guys did a good job.
    and the comments you are are priceless.

  • P


    Two words. More fiber.

  • Anonymous

    re: baby magic: i, in fact, was eating my lunch (chix curry and cabbage salad – not coleslaw- 2 separate dishes)and instead of grossing me out the visual of a slimy birthy baby foot coming out from between your baby chute made me laugh and choke a little. (i’m ok).

    and i never thought once about the comments you get until now and wow!

    keep up the good stuff.

  • So remember that, everyone! Don’t complain about your bathroom remodel, because WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!

    Important lesson, that.

  • I think the two different types of tile add a really interesting twist. Am I strange for liking it that way? I think it’s perfect. The white is very serene.

  • Liz

    I would have totally waited for the 2 weeks for the matching tiles to arrive, instead of having the mismatched tiles. It will drive me crazy. Love the rugs, but I like the old vanity better.

  • I’m not sure, but I think some of Jon’s hostility may have found its way onto my Twitter timeline. Around approximately April 22nd. Just FYI.

  • Oh man, I would give my FRONT TEETH to see those text messages!

  • Grace

    WHOA #93 (94 and 100). Dude – Prozac. Worked for Heather. Calm the hell down.

  • Laughing my ass off at these comments. #100 People die? Ok, good to know. We should all stop living because we will one day die? We can never complain because we will one day die? Not a great way to live. Heather, I can see why it would be a pain, but I do love it when you open comments.

    Like the bathroom, but wondered about you and Jon’s sanity in the beginning…but I’d also just read the book. Ooohhh just had a thought, if you can’t think of a name for the baby, Ikea sounds fun. Ha, kidding. Seriously, am kidding.

  • This is one fucking COOL ASS BATHROOM. Fuck anyone who says otherwise, you didn’t ask for opinions! I would honored to grace something so lovely with my excretions.

  • Cate

    I can thoroughly relate to the awfulness of renovating together. I’m married to the world’s most miserable handyman. He likes saving money by doing things ourselves but he absolutely hates the “doing” part.
    Stony faced silence for 3 days is usually what follows any sort of project requiring both of us to be in the same room.

    I applaud your ability to ignore the fact that your tile doesn’t match, it would drive me crazy. However, I like the rest of it. It’s very clean and fresh looking!

    To Tile hater 66 Spending a lot of money on things doesn’t make your taste sophisticated. Money can’t buy taste or, it would seem, good manners.

    And to Brava 97 the bowl on the toilet is decorative. A decorative thing’s purpose is to be decorative!!

  • Linda_M

    From the way you write about this, I sense another bathroom remodel in your future. It’s always better the second time around (not easier, better – because you know it won’t go smoothly).

    I love your sense of color and style, and the way you display your photos.

  • We remodeled our bathroom last year, and hit several of these same snags. Our tile didn’t extend underneath the vanity either, so we ended up having to remove the entire floor! It was very sad for me because it was otherwise perfectly lovely saltillo tile.

    Also, everything that we’ve hung on the wall seems to be hanging on by the tiniest thread of a screw. Every time I brush my teeth, I am a little bit afraid that the mirror is going to come crashing down because we didn’t anchor it right. I mean, I THINK we did, but I’m no professional mirror hanger, you know?

    But I must say, now that it is all done, I love that bathroom! I could poop all day!

  • #66 has to be a joke….!? Just an FYI, mine (#41) was totally a joke. Yikes.

    And #100 – is either a raging case of dark humor or… me thinks you just received a helping of this month’s mailbag as well as next month’s header.


  • Dude.. W-H-A-T-E-V-E-R.. People’s comments are SO hilarious. Especially anonymous who is pissing and moaning about you being spoiled… Jesus, most of us in this country are friggin’ spoiled and can’t be thankful for anything we’ve got.. everyone is wah wah crying because their credit card limits have been decreased.. Jesus, people what a country.. Band together! Be nice to each other, lend a helping hand!! and if her tiles don’t match WHO GIVES A FUCK!!! Why do you have to tell her they look awful! They DON’T really and they kind of give more isn’t your friggin’ bathroom so keep your mouth shut and just say something nice.. she’s PREGNANT for God’s sake
    Anyway, Heather is funny, and although I get jealous of her ability to write about the minutiae of her life in funny and entertaining ways, making both my writing and my life look increasingly bland and dull. I can’t fault the girl for wanting to remodel her bathroom, I just wish I had a man to yell at to re-tile, instead of doing on my own!!! Which I have to do! Plus, I learned today that you can spell ‘impale’ two ways! I never knew you could spell it ’empale’ NEVER.. so now i learned something new today.. and boy am I procrastinating right now!

  • Britte

    Just go to Lowes or Home Depot, buy some nice BIG tile for the floor and do it that way. Maybe hire some kid to help Jon out. Wouldn’t take long. My fiance’s parents did 3 bathrooms in 2 weeks (one was completely gutted) and removed a fire place and laid down hardwood in the missing areas. They hired a guy to come in and help them and it was just enough help that they did it really quickly. I mean 2 weeks. Easily done.

    Otherwise, looks good.

  • rhea

    I’m too much of scaredy-cat to redo my bathroom because I’m completely sure my mind will change half way through, or scream in frustration and leave it half done for eternity. Still, the weekend is upcoming…

    Wow, the crazies are out today, totally worth an anthropological study.

  • The remodel turned out fab! I love the crispness and the touches of color! very inspiring – thanks for sharing~

  • Wow. To #93, etc, etc… what. the. heck.

    How can you sit and call someone out for being negative while you sit there being SO NEGATIVE?

    Heather is at the end of her pregnancy. Look – I had years of infertility before I got pregnant and by the last trimester, I was cursing the fertility drugs that were the reason I was pregnant. GIVE HER A FRIGGIN’ BREAK.

    Just because someone has a lot of blessings does not make them superhuman. It does not take away from the trials that EVERY person has in life. Money, success… those things do not bring happiness. They just don’t. You can be dirt poor and still be happy so that means nothing.

    Go read her posts that she writes to her daughter if you want to see her views on how blessed she is – because she writes about that, too. And as far as the rest of the writing style, it’s satire. People like it – hence the reason you’re here reading her blog. And I don’t care how much your husband adores you – every husband is annoying. And when you’re that pregnant… most are just downright obnoxious. Lay off!

    I could go on and on about personal accountability for happiness, but I won’t bother. There are always reasons to be happy in life and there are always reasons to be unhappy. Just depends on which way you choose to see things.

    As for the bathroom – it is not personally MY style. But when I saw the pic, I thought it goes great with you and Jon and everything else I’ve seen as far as your decorating sense. I have to say as someone who is into photography – I absolutely love the way the simple lines you choose in decorations make your photos be the focal points in your room. Your home always looks like a gallery to me and I love your photography – so I am a huge fan of how you choose to decorate for YOU. I think it’s a great representation of you and your family and life.

    Don’t put yourself into labor, though. Good gosh.

  • derade

    Dooce…I have to say, your commenters are cracking me up! Anonymous (93,94, and 100) should do stand-up!

  • Wow, I had no idea a bathroom could stir up such condescending and nihilistic reactions from people who will never even take a dump in it.

  • Jennifer B.

    Hey, next time your hubby needs help, I would be glad to volunteer my hubby to help! I have been pregnant before and have had to help move things. I’m 5’2” so with a belly sticking out from Sandy, UT to Egypt, I know how you felt! Glad it got finished, now when things cool down you can have Jon rip out the “old” tile and finish the bathroom with the same “new” tile. (Sorry, I am a pretty square person!)

  • Katie

    The bathroom looks great. You’d never know that you (aka Jon) had a terrible time remodeling it. BTW, I noticed your extra toilet tissue by the basket, you can find this cool tissue holder at Target for about $15. It would fit right between your toilet and vanity, mostly out of sight, but very convenient:

  • Maggie

    Wow, #66 sounds nice after that Anonymous post! Why do people think they can say things like that…and then go and copy it three times? I think it goes a little deeper than jealousy. Just sad that there are people out there who are depressed & not getting the help they need!

    ANYWAY, I think the bathroom looks great! Love the vanity & plumbing fixtures! I liked one reader’s comment about a different color tile under the vanity, but I think it’s FINE for what it is now…FINISHED! Plus, no one will be eyeing your bathroom with the [I assume] wide-angle lens you used for the photos!

  • You are brave and I am impressed. As a fellow pregnant lady I can not imagine the sexual favors necessary to cajole your husband into attempting, much less completing this task. Kudos! Also, marriage is absolutely one big “I told you so!”

  • Terri

    Holy Shit number 93…give the world a break. Geez Louise. I mean we have two homes, both in foreclosure, my husband and I are both out of work and supporting NINE people..Yea, NINE, we lost our entire retirement portfolio in the stock market, over $250,000.00 and my father died, my grandmothers died, my in laws both died and my step father died, all in less than 18 months …. but seriously if I ran around like you, “we’re all gonna die” Gawd, you are a mess. A real disaster.

    Anyway, the remodel…did you try the rug under the vanity? Of course it might be exagerated due to the angle of the camera. And I do love the faucets. And the rug. And the photos. Maybe some paint to take the eye UP and not DOWN towards the unmatching tile????

  • Wow. Number 93 (and 94 AND 100) sure is a beaming ray of fucking sunshine, yes? Way to project your own issues at others.

    I think it looks great. It’s not my style but I can still appreciate it.

  • Heather,

    I love the vanity and the artwork, but I’m a bit surprised you guys bothered doing what you did, when it looks half done. Perhaps its the baby on the way, but it doesn’t look finished. Good luck with the upcoming pregnancy, and hopefully you will be able to do your full reno in the future. 🙂

  • dogman

    While we dont share the same taste (you are a bit minimalistic for me) I alwasy enjoy seeing your redone rooms. I have to tell you, in all honesty, that your bathroom looks bad. You can not possibly have two types of tile in your bathroom and why would you actually leave out toliet paper on the floor? I think your decor over the comode looks nice and your vanity is nice but why do this half way? Ug.

  • Anonymous

    WE ARE A BUNCH OF SPOILED READERS! I just love how you transform everything in your life into a fun story. Thanks so much!

  • I think I like the vanity… but seriously, that tile. Not that my bathroom looks even remotely as good as yours, but I rent. Love the orange, though!

  • What terrific timing! Just today the contractor came to start the process of completely remodeling our one bathroom and my son’s bedroom. In some period of time (6-8 weeks, I just keep reminding myself of that number), we’re going to have a glorious, bigger, functional, lovely bathroom, and my sons will have a bigger, beautiful bedroom. Until then I’m going to try to swallow every hurtful comment about tile choices and holes in the backyard and why we wanted to do this in the first place.

    Your bathroom is beautiful, though as someone who snags her toe on everything I pass, I cringe at the sight of that vanity! I would never have done orange and white; I think I’m not that brave with colors, though they look terrific. Now I’m off to look at (unbelievably expensive) floor tiles!

  • Trish

    People are CRAZY! Wow.

    I think you are amazing and oh so funny. You make me smile and/or laugh every day and I thank you. Screw the crazies, you’re awesome.

  • kim

    Oh my gosh. The above anonymous commenter (#93… and #94) would like to remind you all the life is fleeting and you have no right to complain about ANYTHING at all while you can still breathe. (Because we will ALL DIE!)

    Love the bathroom, but with the others who are kind of meh on the tiles. That said, I can totally relate and probably would have made the same decision myself. Hindsight is 20/20, no?

  • SuzieQ

    ALWAYS preface any remodeling/home improvement projects with the joint statement that “There’s going to be a fight!!” When that’s understood by both parties, one or the other can walk away and preserve some sort of sanity and composure while the other throws a fit, or maybe a hammer. It always worked for me and my late husband and we had 39 great and funny years before I lost him..

  • Masha

    It is sometimes hard to comment on the post and not on the comments.

    That said, who gives a flying f*** about the mismatched tile (that you can replace at any time in the future) when you have TWO SINKS!

  • Chris

    It looks new and fresh and it’s done!

  • becks

    ok, if number 93/94/100 is so upset, why are they wasting their time reposting an identical comment over and over? um, it’s your blog, talk about your remodel if you want….

    ps- love the bursts of orange. 🙂

  • Nicole

    I saw you kids (you and John) eating dinner at Cucina Toscana when you got home from your book tour, and it took every molecule in my body not to run over to your tiny table in the corner and embarrass myself by slathering you both with my affection.

    Whatever the condition of your bathroom, I’m sold on the great feeling that comes from being included in your life in even the smallest way. That was such an exciting night!! I was on cloud nine!! From afar.

    Thanks for living here! (Should I add “you selfish whore” just so I don’t seem too weird?)

  • I love your remodel. I think it looks great. Who cares about the tile? There’s ways around it if it bothers you, or if it doesn’t then LIFE IS GREAT! I definitely give you props to not maiming each other during this conquest, too.

    As for the “haters” and the spamming-anonymous-jealous-novel-length-commenter (seriously, that’s too long of a word)… I doubt y’all bother Heather. I’m sure, just like me, it’s just like reading a text-based Jerry Springer show.


  • Wow, I guess the anonymity of the Internet brings out the bitter critic in some – #100 scares me more than a little bit.

    My husband and I recently celebrated our 31st wedding anniversary – and we have gotten to this point by NEVER, repeat, NEVER working together on any housing/building/ remodeling project without at least two other parties continually present to keep us from killing each other.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences – you make me smile almost every day.

  • WOW! Why do people read your blog if they hate you so much?! Attention seekers…….

    At any rate, my husband and I have gone through a massive remodel of a 1950’s home. We too could not find the matching tile for our bathroom, and we have been forcing ourselves to over look the mismatch for over 2 years now of which I have been working full time and completing a Master’s degree. I am now finished with school and therefore, am much more observant of my surroundings. Furthermore, I am at the two year point in the home/marriage, and I sternly want to rip the each and every tile out of the bathroom and start over!

  • Julia

    Forgive me if I missed this discussion, but… the old light fixture. I see there was one light out. Is this one of those fixtures where it is just absolutely impossible to change the bulb? We have a similar fixture and absolutely CANNOT use our combined college educations (including one Master’s degree) to change these bulbs. Apparently the owners before us couldn’t figure it out either because some of the light bulb coverings were broken. Instead of buying new coverings, we found out it was easier (according to the lighting store) just to replace the entire fixture. Then a light bulb went out. Then another. When the last bulb goes out, we’ll have to get a new fixture I suppose.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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