Q: I own a 1920s, two-bedroom, one-bath house in a modest neighborhood of Oakland, Calif. I am trying to decide how much of a bathroom upgrade to do, partly to make it more desirable for everyday use but mostly to improve it for resale.

The bathroom is tiny, about 4 feet by 7 feet. I have put in a pedestal sink. The bathtub is in good shape, but it’s mint green. The floor is marble and in good shape, but it’s an ugly orange color that clashes with the green tub. Also, the tile around the tub needs to be replaced. There is no space for a towel rack aside from the back of the door, so I thought about putting in sliding doors on the tub to make the bathroom seem larger and to add another towel rack. It currently has a curtain. In order to do this, a wall would have to be built at the end of the tub to support the doors.

My questions are:

  • What should I do about the marble? Is it smart to keep since it’s in good shape, or would it be better to rip it up and put down ceramic tile? Also, can the marble be covered up with vinyl without permanently damaging it?

  • Will the cost of putting in the wall and sliding doors over the tub be returned as an upgrade or is that not something that adds much value?

A: Your home sounds as if it’s one of the thousands of Craftsman bungalows built in the San Francisco Bay Area in the Roaring ’20s. Craftsman-style architecture was part of the Arts and Crafts movement prominent at that time and featured simple lines and rich wood interiors.

Unfortunately, in our experience, when it comes to bathrooms, smaller Craftsman bungalows fall short both in terms of function and design. Bathrooms in smaller bungalows are tiny and as a result, it’s very difficult to do much with them short of knocking down walls.

What a wild color combination, mint green and orange! The orange marble somewhat fits the style of your home, but lime green is more a child of the ’40s and ’50s. Perhaps your home underwent a “remuddle” in the past.

Given the choices you’ve given us, we’d recommend against installing the wall and the glass sliding door, even if you could squeeze a towel bar in the space you’d create.

We’d also leave the marble — not so much because marble is great for resale, but because we do not believe you’d recoup the cost to remove the marble floor and replace it with tile.

We’d advise against covering the marble with vinyl. You’ll most likely have to have it professionally installed, the seams in the marble will show through the vinyl, and it will fail eventually due to water spillage from the tub.

Even if you did all the labor yourself, we don’t believe the time and effort would be worth it unless it was part of a project with a larger scope. Rather than remove the marble floor, we’d try to work with it and incorporate it into a new look for your bath.

The tone of your question suggests that you are most offended by the color clash between the floor and the tub. There’s not much you can do about the floor, but the tub is another matter.

Why not have the tub refinished?

You’ve already installed a new pedestal sink. Have the refinisher match the color of the sink. Then paint and decorate the bathroom with a complementary color of your choice, and the orange marble, while not disappearing, will become more palatable.

We’d also suggest you look around the bath for another space for a towel bar or towel ring — and there’s nothing wrong with the back of the door. Also, to make the bath seem larger, replace the shower curtain with a clear plastic one.


What’s your opinion? Send your Letter to the Editor to opinion@inman.com.

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