Stuck at 90%

The upstairs bathroom has been 90% done for more than a year.  90% is a dangerous place to be.  It’s just enough to be fully functional, which means the sense of urgency to finish it is extremely low, but it still lacks all the finished details.  There are only a few rooms in the house that are 100% done (or as we like to call it, “done-done”) – Lucy’s bedroom, Aiden’s bedroom, and the new loft space.  The kitchen, downstairs bathroom, stairs, vestibule, and exterior of the house are all lagging at below 50% completion.  Sitting comfortably in the 90% completion range would be the upstairs bathroom and commons area, master bedroom, dining room, playroom, parlor, and living room.

Let’s take a look at the bathroom when we moved in…


The upstairs bathroom is a perfect example of how a room can function just fine for more than a year in an incomplete state.  The sink, toilet, and shower all worked, there was adequate lighting from a hanging light bulb, and the room even looked relatively nice once we added new woodwork and paint (not pictured above).  But we still needed to add a custom mirror, lighting, a transition piece in the doorway, and change out the extremely loud vent fan that didn’t actually do much venting.  This all seems like no big deal – just take care of that in one weekend, right?

[Edit from Amy: You forgot to add that we went without a door to the bathroom for about three months. In the picture above you can see the curtain on the right that served as a door. We have also now gone a full year and a half without a mirror in our bathroom.]

The bathroom could have been finished a long time ago, but we ran into some creative difficulties with the mirror and lighting.  We ordered some schoolhouse light sconces thinking that they would look great with our sink.  Unfortunately, when we placed them over the electrical boxes we determined that the boxes were too close to the faucets, not high enough, and did not leave enough space for a mirror.  Keep in mind that we created this bathroom from nothing and had to envision in our head the placement of every aspect of the space.  Some things aren’t obviously wrong until you actually see them.


Another big hold up was that we couldn’t find a mirror that fit or made sense in this space. The big spark that motivated the completion of the bathroom occurred one day as we were walking through a local salvage store and Amy got the idea to use a transom window re-purposed as a mirror.  Perfect!  Once we broke the creative log jamb everything else started to flow.


We decided the schoolhouse sconces were indeed the right style we wanted, but we just needed to move the electrical so that the sconces were better located.  That meant lots of new holes in the drywall, which meant we might as well go ahead and remove and replace that cheap-o bathroom vent while we were at it.  Oh – and in order to do all that we needed to cut another hole in the wall behind the washer and dryer so that we could crawl in behind the wall.


And just like that we were back to making huge messes and experiencing familiar sights and smells.  In an odd sort of way, I think we experienced a little nostalgia when we crawled back behind the wall and got to see stuff like this again…


Right honey???



Well.  Maybe not so much.

Amy might have been just a little grouchy at having to rewire, create a junction box, and generally do things that we thought were behind us.  I guess I wasn’t exactly pleased to be cutting holes in drywall, moving sconces, and fighting with electrical work.  Have I mentioned I hate electrical work?


We had to think outside the box to solve several problems with the new bathroom vent and relocating the sconces, but it all worked out.  I’ll spare you the details.  The ridiculous thing is that when a project like this is done, it doesn’t look like you even did anything.


You know what else isn’t on the list of things I enjoy?  Working with joint compound.  I think repairing plaster in the entire house pretty much took the fun out of that.  But at least I am getting better at it from all the practice.


The worst part is over.  After a fresh coat of paint it is impossible to tell that anything changed, but the small adjustments do allow us to create the right lighting and mirror combination.  Plus, now we have a convenient access panel for any future issues with plumbing, lighting, or venting.

Re-purposing the transom window was relatively easy.  I stripped off the finish, lightly sanded it, and refinished it with a single coat of poly.  Good as new.  One last challenge still remained.  The wall space for the mirror is low enough that if the mirror just sits on the wall (like a normal mirror) it would mean that you get a great view of your stomach, not your face.  I wanted to find a way to make the mirror angle up in a way that looked natural.

Lucky for me, my father in law owns a machine shop!  I made some calculations, took some measurements, and drew up a sketch of what I was thinking.  A few days later…


How cool is that?  Two custom made brackets that will hold the mirror away from wall just enough for it to tilt up and down so that we can see our faces!

The transom window (now a mirror) has spring-loaded pegs on each end that fit perfectly into the hole.  This means we can easily install and remove the mirror if we ever need to do that. [Edit from Amy: We won’t.]


So here is the final result of all that hard work on the mirror, re-locating of the sconces, and installation of a brand new bathroom vent…


I’m deliberately not showing many pictures of the full bathroom until the blog post with the big reveal.  We are almost done.  Just a few more touch-ups, tweaks, and additions!

The laundry area and master bedroom are also nearing completion!  More on that coming soon.



11 Comments Add yours

  1. Cheryl says:

    I love your blog. You both make me laugh with your construction antics. The bathroom mirror is perfect for the spot, great design.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amy and Joe says:

      Thanks, Cheryl! We do try to laugh at ourselves every once in a while. It’s better than fighting, right?


  2. Jo says:

    I cannot wait to see the entire bathroom! I love this sneak peek.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lisa M. says:

    Love it! So awesome!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Debbie Nolan says:

    The sink, lights, and mirror work so well together!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amy and Joe says:

      Thanks! It took us an awfully long time to figure out something that would work. Sometimes it pays to not rush the creative process.


  5. Seth Hoffman says:

    That looks great! You really did a good job arranging things under the sloped ceilings without it feeling cramped.

    I definitely know the risk of the 90% stage. Our kitchen was at that level for 4 years until I finally made it a priority to finish. Once you move into a space and start using it, it becomes exponentially harder to get around to completing it.

    A manager I know in the construction industry despises the word “done”, because of the ambiguity in “how done” something is. He insists on “finished”, because of its more final connotation.


    1. Amy and Joe says:

      Thanks, Seth! Yes, the bathroom doesn’t feel cramped at all. We also lucked out with some decisions that turned out just right. I like “finished.” It does sound more final than “done.”


  6. Janet Wilhite says:

    Love it…..that mirror and lights are perfect! Good job you two! Hugs


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