The Saga of Jess’ $3k Vintage Toilet (+ Her Bathroom Design Plan!)

There are a few things I never thought I’d love and as the title suggests, that thing is a vintage toilet (and as you and I will come to find out…a VERY expensive one). When I toured my apartment for the first time this toilet was a PERK. The Grecian style pattern, the above-average seat height, the cute blue stamp on the inside of the bowl, what more could I have wanted?! This love affair continued for over two years until one day she wasn’t flushing well, the tank wasn’t filling properly, and now (after some temporary problem-solving) the eternal need to jiggle the handle. Look needing to jiggle a flush lever is not the end of the world, but as the building’s highly experienced plumber stated, this gal is on her last leg, and getting a new one sooner than later is advised. A new toilet? From this century?? DEVASTING NEWS as you can imagine. But look. I’m a reasonable woman who doesn’t want her toilet to crack open and flood her usually unflooded apartment. It’s just hard to say goodbye. So to ease my impending bathroom depression, I got to creating a design plan to make over the whole room. My thought was if I love everything else in this room maybe I’ll soon forget a piece of my heart is missing.

And don’t worry! I’ll show you the plan and walk you through a few other issues that need tending to because with the charm and beauty of a 100-year-old building comes really cool challenges. But first, let’s walk through what this bathroom looked like the first time I saw it…

Love At First Sight (My Initial Walkthrough)

The potential is almost too much to handle. The floor, while a bit dingy and cracked, is my favorite. The blue tile border that matched the toilet pattern is hysterical and incredible. The AC is a bummer, but it’s the only window in my apartment that can have a window unit. I also don’t understand all these towel bars since there are also three other hooks between the two doors. Two people can live in this apartment MAX. But removing both and replacing maybe one is super easy.

Here is a close-up of her! She’s not in perfect shape, but my god is she cool. I wish I could end here and this just be a show-and-tell but now I will show you the less-than-cool reality that my plumber pointed out to me…

The Current (Gross-Looking) Issues…You’ve Been Warned

The real issue is that crack in the back of the bowl. According to him, it’s not worth trying to fix given that in a few years we could have the same issue come back. The other photo is just a pic of the corrosion that’s forming on the tank pipe. That could be replaced I guess, but again, no real point.

After the plumber and I broke the news to my landlord (the sweetest and coolest woman in the world) she asked me to find one I liked knowing I love design and very much respect the history of this building (as she does). I asked what the budget was and she said not to worry about it. Dangerous words to a design-loving gal with tragically expensive taste. I was a little nervous since I’d never shopped for a toilet before, but I began my search. Naturally, I started with salvage yards, eBay, Etsy, etc. Then I saw it!

Ummm Excuse Me???

WHAT?! This is my exact toilet bowl!! While I wasn’t given a budget, I knew that $3,200 for only a bowl (aka no tank or pipes) was far too much. And I definitely needed a new tank too. But man, was it fun seeing what it was selling for!

I kept searching and came across this guy who restores and sells truly beautiful vintage toilets on eBay!

My First “Real Find”

I feel HARD for this one. Sure it was less ornate but it was from the same time period of the home and those curves were UNDENIBELE. I’m sure you are curious about the price…it was $2,100 but hear me out. This toilet is fully constructed (minus the seat) and has gone through a thorough series of tests to make sure it’s solid and functioning perfectly. I also contacted the seller and worked out a deal to give him my bowl and get $500 off the price of the new one. “But Jess, that other site said it was worth $3,200!” Correct. But remember mine is cracked and while I didn’t notice it until he pointed it out, the tank is clearly not original to the bowl. A bummer but $500 off was helpful!

Okay, so imagine me, PUMPED that I found a vintage toilet that runs like a new one and was now at a slight discount. While $1,600 is a lot for a toilet it’s not the most considering the market AND I was told not to worry about budget. Well, as you can imagine, that price was more than my landlord could (or more likely and understandably, wanted to) spend on a toilet…especially in a rental property regardless of its history.

Ok, The Real Replacement Options

After her very kind “it’s a no-go, Bunge” on the vintage one, she mentioned a couple of other affordable retailers to look at where the prices were closer to $300. Now, I say this with all the love in my heart… always give a budget! Had I known that likely $400/$500 was the max budget, my search would have looked muuuuuch different. Anyway, these are the two top contenders currently. Originally, I was leaning toward the one on the right because the details looked a bit more vintage and sweet. But then after reading a few reviews, it was mentioned that too many parts were made out of plastic which doesn’t give me confidence for longevity. So now, that simple but perfectly great one on the left is top billing. I really love the Kohler one Emily has but it’s too far out of budget, unfortunately. Any vintage-inspired budget-friendly suggestions (with personal experience) are very welcome! Nothing has been ordered yet.

Current Photos (Don’t Judge)

Now, before we move onto the other not-great issues, this is what this bathroom looks like now. It’s still very much in the “so much potential” stage.

Oh, There’s More…Shower Plumbing Issues (HELP!!)

Ah, the shower. In terms of functionality, it’s perfectly fine with zero complaints. Well, aside from needing that skinny section of shower curtain on the far side of the shower plumbing. But as you can see quite clearly, I am dealing with A LOT of corrosion. It’s pretty gross and according to my plumber also not really fixable… I guess I could have helped to maybe prevent some of it but I was never told I needed to do anything and as someone without any vintage plumbing knowledge that wasn’t something I knew to do.

Here’s a very beautiful, closer look at the irreversible damage to my pipes. COOL! And if all this wasn’t fun enough, I have NO IDEA where to get replacement plumbing because this particular type and configuration isn’t something that is widely sold. Is it even sold at all? It’s a mystery that if any of you have knowledge I would be SO so so so so grateful. I know some of you will say your landlord should be handling this but I want to help and honestly wouldn’t mind having a say in the design decisions. No, I do not have any control issues thank you very much:)

My main worry is that it’s a ticking time bomb for bursting pipes that are not easily replaceable. So if something starts leaking or worse, it’s not like my landlord can just order something for a next-day delivery or pickup. My biggest concern is that if a pipe bursts I might have to temporarily move out of my apartment and I DO NOT want to have to do that. PLEASE HELP!

This Vanity Needs A Facelift

This next issue is purely cosmetic so no need to panic. But if I’m going to design this bathroom and love it, I need to do something about this vanity. As you will see on my moodboard, I have this vanity as the dream option. But with the repairs needed, I don’t see a world in which my landlord will pay to replace a perfectly fine vanity for one that is simply prettier. So my current plan is to get it reglazed which I learned from Ajai is not too expensive and then replace the plumbing and front legs. Not exactly sure how I’m going to be that but I’m sure I can figure it out.

Reality Bites But At Least It’s Keeping Me Sort Of Cool

My love and my nemesis. As I already said, this is the only window that can hold an AC unit. Again, the charm of an old building has costs. I would like to make it clear that I am not the one responsible for this foam/masking tape situation but also haven’t been bothered yet to fix it. And while this AC works fairly well, there are newer and WAYYYY prettier options on the market that will make this necessary evil less evil-looking.

Currently, this July air conditioner is my top choice. It’s sleek, has a pretty cream color option for that front panel and it doesn’t make me sad when I look at it. Does anyone have this? Do you like it? Are there any other pretty options I should look at? This is turning into a “Please help me” post but I actually do need some real help if you can’t tell.

I Want A Custom DIY Makeup Vanity (Les Bunge Has Been Called)

I took this photo on Friday so it’s very current but far from how I want it to look. I borrowed this table from Emily when I was going to style a sponsored thing two years ago. It was for a styled Urban Outfitters entry vignette that ended up being something else. So since Emily was already in Portland, I asked if could use it temporarily for my bathroom. You actually might remember it as her mountain house quarantine desk. What a DIY that was. Anyway, it’s been useful but it’s clearly too long and too low for what I really want which is a makeup vanity. And no I don’t think I want the paint can look🙂 I really want something that’s wood but in a deeper and warmer tone so why not torture my father once again and have him help me build something “simple”? The 3-D wood panel below is the inspiration so stay tuned!

Just in case you were wondering, that towel bar is outta here and that Tushie bidet has never been connected to the water line. Whooops. Oh, and I found that trash bin at the Rose Bowl and I will never part with it. It’s one of my forever treasures:)

The Dream Design Plan

And here is the overall plan! I want to wallpaper at least the top half of my walls with that VERY cool sand-colored wallpaper. Oh, and if you are wondering what happened to my closet design, that is still in the works because honestly, this design will dictate that space since they are A. the first thing you see when you want in the front door and B. you can see then at the same time meaning they need to talk to each other nicely. NO FIGHTING in this house. So yes, the plan for the bathroom is to be mostly neutral (letting the floor tile shine) and really play with pattern and texture. I love my black toilet seat so that will go on the new toilet, as well as my vintage flush lever. Fingers crossed I can switch it out!

cool thumb dad.

If you are wondering what is on the far top left that is a new door!! Yes, my dad found the perfect-sized glass center door from an architectural salvage yard, Greenlynx in Santa Rosa, CA, where a VERY dear family friend of ours works. With her discount, it was $50!!! This door will replace the one that connects my closet to my bathroom. Why replace it? Well, I don’t love that a toilet (even a cool $3k one) is the first thing you see when you walk into my apartment. BUT, I don’t want to lose the only natural light that the closet and hallway get by closing the door that’s there. So getting this door means I can close it and potentially add a light filtering shade or (and ideally) somehow replace the plain glass with ribbed glass so it has a cool texture. I just don’t know how much that will cost…knowing me probably one million dollars. It’s a gift really.

Only Available Items Listed: Brass Vacant Engaged Lock | AC Unit | Wicker Pendant | Wallpaper | Brass Knob | Vanity | Soap Dispenser | Faucet | Switchplate Cover | Towels | Ceramic Vessel | Table Mirror | Stool | Black Toilet Seat | Toilet | Bath Mat

Now back to the design. I really wanted to use brass but the shower pipes are silver meaning it might be too imbalanced for everything to be brass except the shower. So, that’s why I chose a polished nickel vanity, faucet, and switchplate cover. Most everything that is more “permanent” goes with the shower and then the accessories (like my ridiculous $90 French soap dispenser) can be brass. I think choosing a warm-toned silver like polished nickel works nicely with a warm brass:)

Oh, and see that’s that wood piece I’m using as my vanity inpso and I am excited. For the lights, those are really there for the vibe I want rather than actual pieces I’ll use. First off, a bathroom needs good light for activities like doing your makeup. Neither of those lights will provide that but man are they sick. As for the checkered towels, I have wanted those from the moment I saw them. My hand-me-down sad, not soft dark gray ones need to go. Oh, and how fun is that bath mat! It might not be right but I really liked it on the board.

Ok, I think that’s it for now. I still have more design things to think about like paint? Ah! Maybe another post is coming your way. Until then truly any and all advice for my shower is VERY welcome. I feel pretty lost in the vintage plumbing game. Oh, and if we can all pour one out this month in honor of my toilet I would really appreciate it.

Love you, mean it.

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