Letters From Basecamp Gallivance: Vanity Thy Name Is … Done!!

Vanity FI

If you’ve been following our Basecamp Gallivance series, you may have noticed that we’re nearing our one-year anniversary in the condo, and thankfully, the renovation is winding down.

For a number of reasons, we saved three difficult projects until the end, and this week, we finished the last of these – the bathroom vanity.


The old vanity was an unusual size with a pink formica top, and we considered buying a custom vanity. But, as frequently happens in our renovations, the easiest solution isn’t always the best solution, so we decided to work with the existing vanity.

What resulted was a five-step project: demo, new top construction, mosaic tile, new sink and faucet installation, and mirror framing.

The vanity materials and techniques were similar to the bar top project, but claiming to have perfected the routine would be a gross exaggeration. We reached the laugh or “run for the nearest exit” point when trying to remove the old sink. The installation contractor must have been paid by the amount of adhesive used, because the sink had to be broken to be removed.

Remove Sink

Our calculations were a smidge close on tile, which resulted in some very careful planning on tile usage. To make it work out we created a map with numbers for each section of tile. Are we over-the-top or what?


Tile Finished

After the tile, we installed the new vessel sink and faucet.

Sink Installed

We also framed the mirror. This was relatively simple, and is another “big bang for the buck” project.

Mirror Parts

Mirror in progress

Mirror done

Vanity 1

vanity 3

Vanity 2

So the vanity is finally finished, and after a few days of use, we couldn’t be happier. And not surprisingly, this is yet another example of a “We won’t ever do THAT again” project. But it’s nice to have our bathroom back.

Auf Wiedersehen from BCG,
James & Terri

Vanity 4

Author: gallivance.net

We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at gallivance.net.

39 thoughts

    1. Louise, you are too funny … and many thanks. I promise the flowers will stay right there! How are the two of you doing? Exploring and soaking it all in, I bet. ~Terri

  1. Very impressive work! Can I ask, did you tile on top of the old pink formica? And what is the grey stuff that you tiled on to? I love the edging around the tiles, it goes great with the vanity and the mirror edging. Well done.

    1. Thanks Christopher. Yes, we left the formica in place, but we didn’t tile directly on top of it. I see that you’re in the UK so the terminology may be different. We attached plywood directly to the top of the formica. Then we used a cement “backerboard” on top of the plywood (attached with screws.) This is a product used in the US in showers, etc. that prevents problems with water. The grey stuff is a product called “Bondera” which is a super sticky mesh that takes the place of the gooey adhesive used to hold the tile in place while the grout is applied. It’s relatively expensive, but it makes the job so much easier and cleaner. We love the results, and as in most of our projects, we are very happy to see the end of it. ~James

  2. wow! it’s great, lots of hard work, well done. I think with renovation work it’s like childbirth….. you think you’lll never do it again….. but then you want to do it again… having just finished our Croatian home, we are embarking on another project of buying a house here in London…. more renovations to come. Enjoy your new bathroom

    1. I’ll have to take your word for the childbirth analogy, but it seems appropriate. As you say, renovations (like children) are a labor of love. We’ve enjoyed all our renovations, and it’s rewarding to see a project turn out well. This one turned out great, and it’s so nice to finally have it finished. As an experienced renovator, you know that some projects are more rewarding than others, and this one was on the high end of the reward scale. ~James

  3. Gorgeous work! You two are so talented! We are thinking of redoing our condo in Palm Desert…kitchen and bath need updated. Don’t suppose you’d want to spend the summer in the desert doing a bit of work, do you?? Obviously, we don’t rent it much in the summers. It’s a dry heat…

    1. Thanks Brenda. It’s great to hear from you. E&K tell us that you’re loving Indy. Another kitchen and bath reno … ummmm. You wouldn’t want us as contractors, because given our experience with our project, it would take us a year to finish yours. ~J&T

  4. buen trabajo! it’s beautiful, and i laughed about the ‘we won’t do that again’ project! that’s how i feel about the bodega floor! i finished the final touches last night and am about to formally put it to bed by brushing the first coat of varnish. ah, that’s going to feel great, just as when you placed those lovely flowers in your bathroom!

    1. Thanks Lisa. One of the reasons we DIY is to learn. I’m sure that as an artist, you feel this way as well. I have this philosophical question that I’ve wrestled with for years. Can one gain wisdom without experience? I’ve reached the conclusion that the answer is no. This reality has implications large and small, but on a mundane level, this is why I say on some projects – “I won’t do THAT again!” ~James

      1. “Can one gain wisdom without experience?” – without blinking, I said “NO!” Experience is the best teacher, and we learn profound lessons from her! One can probably learn a little from exceptional books and movies, but there’s nothing like first-hand experience.

    1. Thanks Amy, it is quite a transformation, and after a week of use, it also works well. I never assume that things are going to go smoothly with plumbing projects. ~James

    1. Thanks Joyce. Isn’t it amazing that I had to re-do an entire bathroom just to get a new pink glue gun! LOL! Hope that you and Dascal are doing great. Much love, T & J

  5. This is the absolute “latest shout” in home decor. And when someone looks in the mirror and asks “who is the fairest of them all? – the reply will be me ME. THE BATHROOM! vIRGINIA

    1. Thanks much Ruth. We’ve used the mirror idea before, and it’s super easy and looks great. It’s a great way to update old bathroom mirrors with minimal effort and money. ~James

    1. Thanks Jeannee. We’ve always been big believers in recycling. Sometimes in renovations this just isn’t possible, but with a bit of creativity and planning, frequently it works out. The vanity is a good example, and we’re happy with the results. ~James

    1. Thanks Tanny. We’ve been renovators for years. We’ve used it as a way to live in new cities. We move to a new place, buy a fixer-upper, do the renovation, live there for a couple of years, sell the house, put our stuff in storage, and go traveling. But this place is different. It’s a small, one-bedroom condo and we plan on keeping it as our base (hence Basecamp Gallivance.) We can just lock it up and go. ~James

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