Rental Bathrooms, Church Budgets and Shiplap! Oh my!
In case you missed it, we renovated our church bathrooms a few weeks ago. (To see the shiplap tutorial, view here.) It was a big undertaking for a number of reasons. First, our church is currently renting a building, so the whole process involved navigating an awkward ship, one where we needed to do quality work because we want to be hospitable to members and guests, but we can't do too much quality work that we're placing too much money on a space that isn't ours, and where the heartbeat of our church doesn't find its foundation in its restroom facilities. So there's that. Second, it was my spring break. Being a full-time teacher, I honestly should have slept all week. Or netflixed. Or both. But I just can't let myself look at free time and sit idly by. I should indeed sit idly by sometimes, but I haven't picked up that skill yet. Third, the three of us who did the majority of the work were not professionals in what we were doing, meaning we were learning a lot along the way, and taking time out of our other jobs and hobbies to make this all happen. It was all set up for failure. Good news, though, is that I think it turned out quite alright!
I'll lay out the process from my perspective. I was the designer of sorts, so I was taking all the knowledge I had ever stored up about designing (which is very, very little) and decided to have a go at it as follows:
1. Assess the space. I took pics beforehand of the bathrooms and mulled over them for a few weeks. I looked at our budget. I looked at our skill set. I looked at our reasonable design ideas and started painting the portrait in my head.
2. Feel the space. For me, this looked like walking into the bathrooms and feeling the ugliness that I wanted to get rid of. The floors needed to go. The stalls were painted a disgusting black. (I'm not opposed to black at all, but it was a terrible color choice in this space.) The bathrooms were tiny and cramped. The lighting was putrid. I could go on. I felt out the things that I could actually, tangibly tackle and renovate that would not only give a facelift to the area but also a refreshing feeling. Since the bathrooms were, well, deadly in a sense, I wanted them to be lively.
3. Make action steps and agenda. Since I now knew what the space needed to become, I started making all my decisions around that environment. I love dark and moody spaces, but this was simply not the scenario for those things. I chose paint colors, accents, decor, lighting and even the shiplap walls, all centered around the need to recreate the bathrooms as refreshing and alive. We are, as you know, a church. The last thing we need is for visitors to walk into a bathroom and feel gloom hang over them. Those moments, as silly as it may seem, make a difference in the whole experience of a Sunday gathering. Those moments matter.
4. Continuously check the budget and make decisions based on the budget. We would have loved to put in new stalls, maybe a few more mirrors, or fun artwork to really top off the bathrooms. But we needed to make the biggest statement with a restraint of money. This is partially where my decision to make the shiplap walls comes into play. I already knew the installation process from a previous project, and the shiplap fit every category we needed checked off to make the biggest bang for our buck: budget-friendly, refreshing (with a coat of clean, white paint), and a true statement piece. It was an easy and fun decision to make. Immediately when people enter the bathrooms now, the eyes are drawn to the shiplap and not to the imperfect stalls. And if they go into the stalls, they are cleaned up just enough to make the, ahem, process a comfortable one.
5. Be ready and agile to go a few rounds with different tasks and arising problems. For example, when I first started installing the shiplap, I soon realized that the nails were too long and were piercing through to the other side of the stall. I had to make adjustments to purchase short-lengthed nails, which were harder to secure. Also, the base boards we applied came in a roll, which made the adhesive not as strong as a connecting factor when trying to straighten the roll out and attach the boards to the wall. We were also fighting against the clock, and constantly we found ourselves having discussions of when to tackle which projects based on timing (like how long it will take paint to dry, when do we need to reinstall the stall doors, what has to happen before flooring goes in, etc.),
Needless to say, I still need to catch up on some sleep. We worked hard, hard. I didn't know my back could ache like it did. I didn't know I could get so much paint in my hair. I didn't know painting a ceiling would be so exhausting. Lord have mercy! But the deed is done and I'm still glad we did it. It's a learning curve and a project I would take on again, in a year or more, and not during spring break. :)