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You'd Never Know What Went Wrong By the Looks of This Bungalow Bathroom

Names: Emily & David Schmidt, plus our two daughters (3 years old and 4 months old) and our cat and dog

Location: Portage Park, Chicago

Type of vintage home: Frame bungalow

Time lived in: Almost 2 months

Tell us a little about yourself and others in your home: We're both transplants—Dave is from Maryland and I'm from Wisconsin—but we're proud to be raising two native Chicagoans here in Portage Park! I moved here to study historic preservation at SAIC and Dave moved here to pursue improv. Chicago is a great place for both!

How did you come to live in your home? Dave got bit by the gardening bug and really wanted a yard to dig in. Oh, and the pandemic and birth of our second kid made the apartment less appealing. As a preservationist, only a vintage home would do!

Describe your home's style in 5 words or less: Work. In. Progress. (LOL) Or, Cheap and cheerful.

What are your favorite original elements and vintage details in the home? The window openings! Our original windows are sadly long gone, but the casings are intact. We get such gorgeous natural light that we rarely turn on a light during the day. And it makes our 1,000 square-feet feel much roomier than it otherwise would.

What area of your home do you want to highlight? Our one and only bathroom.

Tell us about the recent bathroom update: With 5 days between closing and moving, we thought we could sneak in a quick bathroom update. HA.

The initial plan was to remove the ceiling fan (yes, in the bathroom) and replace it with a vanity light, put down peel-and-stick tile, replace the 1980s wood soap dish, toilet paper holder, toothbrush holder, towel rack, and paint.

However, we found that the subfloor—under two layers of roll vinyl—was wet and rotted. It had to go! Under all that, we discovered what we feared was a layer of asbestos tile over the original tile. We promptly stopped all work and had the floor tested for asbestos, which it was, along with asbestos adhesive!

After confirming with a plumber that the moisture was from an old leak, we patched the holes and encapsulated the offending asbestos with floor leveling cement (thanks, dad!) and covered that in new tile. We also replaced the old vanity and sink, which were removed to deal with the floor and weren't in great shape to begin with.

In the end we're so happy with the look of the new bathroom, even though it meant some late nights tiling after the girls went to bed. And some sleepless nights worrying over the asbestos.

Any proud DIY moments? I'm proud of our late night tile sessions—we had to wait until the girls went to sleep to start.

Any budget-friendly considerations you want to highlight? Shoutout to my handy dad, Rick, and his collection of tools. His help saved us a LOT of money!

List any professionals you hired (if you recommend them):

Patrick Bauer (773.218.2400) - plumber, vanity/sink installation

Wizard Electric - electrician, vanity light installation

List sources for decor or materials (if you recommend them):

Tile, epoxy, grout - Floor & Décor

Replacement trim - Crafty Beaver

Vanity cabinet and sink - IKEA

Vanity light - Home Depot

Toilet paper and towel holders - Lowe's

Shelf - Ross

Shower curtain - Target

Where do you source your inspiration from? CBA's IG, of course! I also love Apartment Therapy for small space ideas. And is great, too.

Any advice for other vintage home owners? Beware the project snowball! Our "quick and easy" immediately became "long and arduous."

I also wish someone would have told me that finding asbestos is NOT the end of the world. It's serious, and you need to stop what you're doing the minute you suspect you have it, and test it, but you can remediate it and move on.

Last, but not least, consider getting a camp commode to set up in your basement so you can take the toilet on and off without fretting.

What are you planning to do next? Landscaping! Dave is a Monty Don acolyte and my mom is a landscape architect, so our postage stamp of a yard will become a beautiful garden soon enough.


We're inviting our members to share photos and narratives about the renovations, restorations, and redecorating they've completed on their vintage homes (not just bungalows!). Submit your Home Tour here, and we will reach out to you about a potential blog post. Not yet a member? Join today!

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