Brownstone Boys: Battle of Old Vs. New in the Bathrooms

The classic floret vintage-style tile will be highlighted in the guest bathroom

Editor’s note: Welcome to the ninth installment of Brownstone Boys Reno, a reader renovation diary. We’re excited to publish their tale of buying and renovating a brownstone in Bed Stuy. See the first one here. They also blog at

Jordan and I are pretty aligned on most of our design choices. Picking out tile was a breeze. We are eyeing a few light fixtures and both have the same favorites. No arguments over furniture. We both love vintage charm as well, but other than restoring original features of our house, up until this point we haven’t added more to the historic detail.

One of the only things that we are actually adding to the house is a guest bathroom upstairs. So our challenge is to make something that will be brand new fit with the house and our style. I’m pushing for some serious vintage features since our master bath will be more classic and modern. I think I have Jordan coming around!

bathroom helen bankers

Master bathroom inspiration. Photo by Helen Bankers via Homes to Love NZ

The top floor of just about every brownstone basically has the same layout. The stairs are in the center of one side of the building. The width of the stairs and hallway are typically about 6 feet (give or take a few inches). The wall from the hallway to the rest of the building is structural. This creates a space in the front and back of the stairs that is about 6 feet wide (in the front this would be above the vestibule).

Some buildings have a little mini bedroom or office there. Some open up the wall to the neighboring bedroom to create an L shaped room. Some build in bathrooms or closets.

Our building is currently configured with a bathroom in the rear and a small bedroom in the front. We think the room is too narrow for a proper bedroom. The dimensions are 10 by 6 feet. It will fit a twin bed at most. We think it’s the perfect size for our guest bath! So we are going to renovate the existing bathroom as the master bath and build a brand new guest bath in the front. Below are some details of the two bathrooms — we like to think of it as battle of the bathrooms.

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The current master bathroom

Master Bath
Currently the bathroom that will be our master bath is the only one on the top floor and has access to the hallway. We are going to close up the hallway entrance and restore a previously closed up entrance from what will be the master bedroom. Jordan loves the look of modern hotel bathrooms (inspired last by a staycation at the 1Hotel Brooklyn).

While it will have some vintage touches, overall it will be classic and modern. We’ll have a glass double shower on the shorter wall, a new toilet, and a double vanity. The finishes will have a large charcoal hex tile on the floor and running up the shower wall, with off-white subway tile on the wall with the vanity. All of tile will be from Chelsea Arts Tile & Stone.

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Pedestal sinks at a local salvage yard

Guest Bath
Since the master bath will be modern with its glass shower, I’d like to go full vintage in this bathroom. We’d like to get a old pedestal sink, a clawfoot tub (this is practical too because it will go in front of a window), bead board wainscoting, classic black and while small hex florets on the floor, and light fixtures to match. The toilet will of course be new. It could be a bit overboard I guess, but I think the end result will just make us very happy.

We’ve already seen what we need at a local salvage yard. All of the fixtures will require some restoration. Also, I love wainscoting and I’m determined to get some in the house somewhere.

Some of the original details were unfortunately erased from our place over the years, so we love the idea of putting some back in a new feature. I’m going to keep working on Jordan and we’ll see how many vintage items we can work in! In the meantime, if you have any tips or tricks in restoring a pedestal sink and clawfoot tub let us know.

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The room that will be transformed into a vintage-style guest bathroom

With that we are rounding out the design phase of our project. We’ve gone through a couple of rounds of revisions with the DOB and at this point expect to get approval to start in the next couple of weeks. If you have followed along we’ve shared many of the design choices, problems and resolutions we have had. Fingers crossed we will start demo the first week of January (we’re still waiting for our Christmas present from the DOB).

[Photos by Brownstone Boys unless noted otherwise]

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