Creating a Guest Bathroom in the India pied-à-terre

So, we carried bathrooms to India in suitcases! Our suitcases were packed with hammered  copper and unlacquered brass sink basins, faucets, exposed shower pipes, shower heads, various knobs and handles, mirrors, and lighting. Not your usual tourist vacation suitcases! What did we do with it all? Well, yesterday I shared our almost-done master bathroom and its copper and oil rubbed bronze. Today I’ll show the guest bath and its golden brass touches.

First, so you can get your bearings, here’s the floor plan and location of the guest bathroom:

Chennai Apartment Floor Plan

Here’s the bathroom when we arrived. It had sat empty for four years. You can’t see in the photos but it was full of dirt and crud after having an open window for all those years! Here’s the view when peeking in the door:

Guest Bath

The tile was installed four or five years ago, I forget now. So long ago. Now, finally in 2015, it was time for everything else! Here’s the sink/vanity/sconce area:

Guest Bath Sink Vanity Area

The repeat pattern in the tile on the wall is  bugging my eyes here, but it will soon be covered up with lighting and a mirror.

Toilet Troubles

One day, we made a trip to a toilet warehouse. We had toilet troubles. The plumber installed provisions for pipes on the right and left sides of the toilets. We wanted plumbing on the right where it would be hidden from view. But the toilet tanks were set up for plumbing on the left, where you’d see a tangle of chrome pipes from every spot in the bathroom. Ugh. So off to the toilet warehouse we went, where I took an Anthropologie-esque photo in an appropriately shabby Anthro-style place:

Anthro Knockoff

That’s me trying to make an Indian toilet warehouse as pretty as possible! My mother-in-law saw that photo and said, “why do you show people ugly places of India? Why not show them pretty places?” But you know what, people like this shabby chic stuff! At least I’m not showing you the mountain of porcelain thrones that were piled up just next to me! The blue grates matched my outfit, good enough.

Back at the apartment, the Burmese teak wood for the bathroom counter was delivered, and we had a meeting to discuss placement of the brass sink basin:

Sink Basin Placement

Faucet and Basin Placement

Creating the countertop was a challenge. A space that seems spacious fills up fast once you start putting things in it. If we weren’t careful with the counter shape, there wouldn’t be much room to squeeze past the shower to get into the bathroom. This is not a “wet bathroom” as is common in India, where there aren’t any barriers between the shower faucet and the rest of the bathroom, and everything can get wet. We would be installing glass shower walls and door. So we had to pretend the glass was already there, taking up space.

You can see here, below, how tight the space really is. I’m standing by the toilet. My husband is to the left by the basin, and the carpenter is between the shower and the door. We had to shave that bulky block of teakwood down into a slim shape that would let us get in the room:

Bathroom Space Planning

Because the bathroom has so many sharp angles, squares and rectangles, we decided on curves for the counter. We cut a round shape around the basin, then a long elegant slim counter that rounds off by the door. We also needed room for the brackets to attach the counter to the wall. Here’s a drawing of the first curvy design:

Counter Mockup

But this was still too bulky to allow enough elbow room in the bathroom.

So we shaved the counter shape down even more. This is the final shape the carpenters created:

Counter Top Shape

Here it is, going up on the bathroom wall:

Counter Installation

You can see at the bottom of the photo here, the edge of the shower in the left corner. This is why the sink counter is so slim. It gives us enough space to set things like shampoo, and still allow about two feet of clearance to walk past it comfortably.

Bathroom Sink Counter

Yay! Installed!

I can’t tell you how much head-scratching and forehead-wrinkling there was, trying to figure out how to squeeze a counter into this spot. The brackets are a little long and obvious. But we don’t have a ton of choices in this little corner of Chennai, India. We went to the biggest bathroom hardware store in the area — Thakir — and these brackets were the only choice there. Plus, the brass sink basin is substantial and very heavy — we don’t want to risk something falling down here.

After a visit from the electrician, the sconces (bought at Home Depot and hauled to India) were installed. Still covered in plastic here. They’re fabric and it gets so dirty here, maybe I won’t take the plastic off, just like my grandma left the plastic on her chairs, LOL!

Bathroom Sconces

This space needs a unique mirror, right? My eyes are on the look-out!

Here we’re showing the plumbers a photo of the shower plumbing. They ran into a snafu and needed to see a photo of the final result:

Shower Installation

They got it, and here’s the shower, it’s a brushed gold color:

Brushed Brass Shower

Here’s how the brass basin and the faucet look, once dropped into the counter:

Brass Basin and Facuet

It’s off-center, but there just isn’t enough room for the basin to be centered here.

On our next trip, I’ll fix the plastic pipes underneath to look like brass. No one thought it a good idea to use wood for the countertop. But as I shared above, it was so difficult to find a shape that would fit in this space, that wood gave us the most flexibility to create a shape. You can seal wood, and I’m sure it won’t be a problem. If it ever is, we can always replace it.

I’m loving this combo of faucet and sink. If I remember right, I think I got both at Signature Hardware.

Unlacquered Brass Basin

Once we finished the bathroom, we had only one day to use it before it was time to catch a flight back to the U.S. But it’s ready from the time we unlock the door on the next trip!

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8 Replies to “Creating a Guest Bathroom in the India pied-à-terre”

    1. Ha ha, wish I was bringing suitcases of fabulous fabrics back, but amid all this, not much time for real shopping! Instead, there was fabric in our suitcases, but it was old laundry!

  1. your efforts are really inspiring! i dont think I wouldve taken this mmuch effort to get things the way I want ( maybe the ‘Indian” attitiude :P) but now it looks like its all worth the effort. Its always nice to have things around that are pretty and in a way you like. let the pics keep coming :)

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