The airy simplicity of this small bathroom belies robust planning and meticulous execution.

That and a dozen renovation challenges not presented by ‘Cheap and Cheerful’.

My client was already prepared to part ways with her bathtub to re-think her bathroom when we met. Attention was due: neither the (1) bath drain nor the supply plumbing worked; the (2) wiring had been reconfigured with little regard for polarity or circuits being in parallel.

There was just enough juice in the outlet to power Christmas lights.

Key to any economical renovation is keeping the fixtures where they are.

That was possible with Cheap and Cheerful; not so with this bathroom.

‘Airy Simplicity’ had (3) a basic flaw in its original design: the head of the bath and the main drain stack were in opposite corners, which meant the bath drainpipe ran diagonally across the room, piercing and weakening each joist along the way.

Locating the new shower where the foot of the bath had been allowed the drainpipe to follow a shorter route, parallel to the joists.

Several challenges were out of sight underfoot: to make the floor (4) flush with the adjacent hall obliged us to reduce the height of the already fragile joists; the slope-to-drain of the shower pan further reduced the (5) fall of the shower drainpipe to the main stack.

(The ‘main stack’ is a 6-inch diameter ‘black’ iron drainpipe imbedded in the house; it runs from the basement to the roof and weighs anywhere from 500 to 1000 pounds. Which is to say the (6) height of the connection to the main stack was non-negotiable.)

I had to (7) reinforce the joists without damaging the ceiling of the kitchen below.

In the end the bathroom floor relied very little upon the original joists for support.

The toilet was already in the right place, discreetly to the left of the door and adjacent to the main stack, but (8) in the path of the door.

The solution was a sliding ‘pocket’ door installation. This had its own design challenges; the door moulding assumed a structural role as one side of a sandwich structure stiffening the opening of the ‘pocket’.

Cheap and Cheerful had a shower base to keep the floor dry; the entire floor of this bathroom is the catch basin for the shower,  necessitating a (9) waterproof membrane underlayment.

Being adjacent to an exterior wall, the bathroom also required (10) a vapour barrier.

We (11) reconfigured the window opening for both practical and aesthetic reasons.

Although the overall finish of the house was of a high standard, the original wall framing of the bathroom, like the floor structure, was below par. The studs were twisted and either notched or interrupted and had to be (12) reinforced and shimmed to render the walls planar for the abundant ceramic finish (Airy Simplicity has a tiled area of 139 sq. ft. compared to Cheap and Cheerful’s 47).

All the foregoing attention was the necessary underpinning for this small room to express a sense of order: you may not notice the floor is dead flat or the walls perfectly plumb, you feel it in your bones.

The absence of a bath or conventional shower makes the room feel spacious; familiar, traditional elements such as the original medicine cabinet and door, the period wall sconces and console sink, make you feel at home.