Cross-handle faucet taps can double as hooks. All you've got to do is mount them on a board—I used salvaged barn siding, but any scrap wood will do—and hang the assembly on a wall. For my project, I went a step further, adding a shelf supported by ornate cast-iron brackets, $22 each from Anthropologie. This way I can stack fresh bath towels on top and hang wet ones to dry from the taps below. Dummy door spindles, available at home centers for $4 each, anchor the taps in place, and vintage porcelain escutcheons hide the hardware.
Overview of Vintage Taps
Bathroom technology was pretty much perfected in the late 19th century. So why'd we have to mess with it? Case in point: the porcelain cross-handle faucet tap. To crank up the heat in your shower, you just turned that creamy white tap marked "HOT" or simply "H." These days, getting a satisfying steam can require an instruction manual for navigating iPod-like digital control panels and high-tech humidity regulators.
Luckily for Luddites like me, those old-timey taps were built to last and still grace the showers and sinks in many a well-preserved bathroom. If yours were replaced with something more modern, and likely less stylish, you can pick up vintage originals at a salvage yard for as little as $30 a pair. Just be sure to bring your faucet with you, or at least the valve stems, when you shop. The metal fittings that connect the taps to the faucets vary, depending on the manufacturer, and finding a good fit for yours will require some trial and error.
Most porcelain taps were white, in keeping with late-19th-century tastes for sanitary-looking bath fixtures. By the 1930s, taps came in colors, such as jadeite green (inset), to coordinate with lively hued Art Deco sinks and tubs.
Calculate the Space Between Taps
Use a tape measure to determine the rough distance between each tap on your mounting board. Factor in an extra inch on either side of the board for the brackets.
Mark the Board For a Shelf
Trace a line on the board where its top shelf will sit to figure out how high to position the supporting brackets on either end.
Position the Brackets
Position the brackets 1 inch in from the ends of the mounting board, with their tops just below the pencil line. Mark where the brackets' fasteners will go.
Screw the Brackets On
Drill pilot holes for the fasteners and secure the brackets to the board.
Mark the Tap Positions
Draw a horizontal line across the center of the mounting board using the straightedge of a combination square. Then mark evenly spaced vertical lines through the horizontal one to indicate where each tap will go.
Attach the Spindles
Place the dummy spindles on the marks and drill pilot holes for their fasteners. Secure the spindles to the board.
Glue the Escutcheons On
Mix a two-part, fast-drying epoxy formulated for bonding metal (try Loctite Weld, $4 at Lowes). Spread the epoxy on the rims of the porcelain escutcheons and place them over the spindles.
Set the Taps
Fill the metal fittings at the base of each tap with epoxy and fit them on top of the spindles. Wait 5 minutes for the epoxy to set. (It takes
1 hour for it to fully cure.)
Attach the Shelf Top
Rest the shelf top on the brackets. To secure it in place, drive trim-head screws through the shelf and into the top ledge of the supporting board. Now pick a nice spot in the bathroom for your new towel rack.