Subway Tile for that Old World Look at Brick House 319

Subway tile happens to be my favorite. When we renovated our house in NJ, we ordered 3/8″ thick tile imported from Italy. I chose a wavy subway tile with a gloss glaze which had an old world look. John grew up in a house built at the turn of the (20th) century where the bathrooms had the classic pre-war subway tile. So we were both set on this classic and clean look.


We only had one bathroom in our house in NJ so we wanted everything to be high-end. We didn’t want generic tile from Home Depot so we went to a local tile shop where we special ordered enough subway tile to cover the walls from floor to ceiling. On a side note, my grandfather built the house in 1928 and he had an outhouse until 1950–when he finally put a bathroom in the house. When we moved into the house in 1995, the bathroom was the same as it was for all of those decades. It had powder blue tile, a pedestal sink with two faucets and a they-don’t-make-them-like-that-anymore-bathtub.


Since we wanted the entire wall tiled, the tile contractor who we hired (John had worked with him on several jobs and he did excellent commercial and residential tile work) suggested accenting the wall with the black mosaic tile about 6ft up so it was about eye level. Anything lower, wouldn’t be as aesthetically pleasing, and of course he was correct.


There are several reasons why I love subway tile: It’s classic! It’s easy to clean, it has that sanitary clean look that bathrooms should have and it’s light reflective. I remember when I ordered the tile, the owner of the tile shop said I would be a slave to the black and white tile floor, but it was only the two of us in the house, so I wasn’t as much of a slave as she thought I’d be.


The mosaic black and white tile floor came in a sheet and the tile contractor cut it to fit our floor. The vanity was a special order from Home Depot, and at the time, it cost close to $1000.00


You can’t see it in any of the photos but John had vaulted the bathroom ceiling which made the one and only bathroom in the house appear more spacious. The ceramic cap moulding topped off the subway tile right at the point where the ceiling was angled. Note: I would never have a fixed shower head again. Without a handheld shower head with a hose, it made it very difficult to clean the shower stall.


I absolutely loved this faucet. It was such a luxurious treat to use. It was Italian-made and very expensive (to us anyway) and because we wanted to make the solo bathroom shine, this was a splurge item. In 2003, it cost $700.00. When we sold the house to Princeton University, we had a sneaking suspicion that they were going to bulldoze the house. I said to John, “I want that faucet.” I must have said it ten times. “Please, take the faucet out….please, please, please.” OK, so I was beating a dead horse. The day we closed, we went back to the house and John was literally on his hands and knees making the house absolutely spic and span for the university. (Just imagine Mr. Clean spinning across the room in the commercial). I said, “You’re spending too much time on cleaning for the university.” The house was already clean. The house would remain empty after we left with the faucet in it.

Of course, the university bulldozed the property. I wonder who got the faucet?! I’ll probably never put the faucet story to rest.

The undermount sink was a custom order to fit the granite slab that we purchased at a nearby 6-acre, unbelievable granite company. This place was incredible! I hope to go back there to look at granite for the kitchen.


I’m showing this photo again for several reasons. Starting with the light fixture above the vanity mirror. We purchased everything high end, but when it came to the light fixture, we suddenly faltered. We purchased it at Home Depot and it never really worked plus it was cheap. I was completely unhappy with the vanity mirror; it was from Home Depot and I didn’t like the fact that it wasn’t recessed. The carpenter working with John said we couldn’t have it recessed because the bedroom closet was on the other side. Over the years the sharp glass edge darkened and the glass chipped; I just didn’t like it. Those two things were the only things I didn’t like about the bathroom.

For the Andersen double hung window, we ordered frosted glass (there was a house next store, which the university owned, with a second floor looking down). For the window blind, I really wanted a wood shutter, like this this tier on tier style at The Shutter Store. For our three bathrooms at Brick House 319, I plan to have wood shutters in each one. After perusing the Internet, I have found that The Shutter Store has the cheapest shutters around as well as a line of hardwood, USA-made shutters.


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