From boring to bravo: Bathroom re-do uno.

Dear friends,

After a few obstacles (there’s always obstacles), Mr. Mom and I finished up one of our bathrooms yesterday.

The powder room off our kitchen and pantry was beyond boring when we bought our house. It was downright tacky. Take a look:

The good news is the bathroom was tacky in a clean-slate kind of way. I’ve told you before how much I disliked the golden oak cabinets and blue Formica counter tops that were everywhere in this house. But at least there was nothing seriously bad to tear out. And the house was sparkling clean. I would have eaten off the floors (before we moved in — not so much after.) The previous owner painted everything white for a reason. She had an eagle eye and banished every speck of dirt. Even the garage floor was clean. Emphasis on was.

So what did I do to jazz up this small space? I added a little drama in the form of color and texture. Some wallpaper, a little paint, a new light fixture, a frame around the mirror and, voila, I suddenly had a powder room worthy of guests.

Isn’t it amazing what a little wallpaper and paint can do to a space?

I’m not usually a silver wallpaper kind-of-gal. But in a space this small, daring can be good. And this is essentially a contemporary home, so I needed to break out of my vintage-cottage shell.

The crazy thing is — I actually thought that wallpaper was going to work with the blue counter tops. I pulled a similar trick in the kids’ bathroom — I used wallpaper to tone down bad counter tops. (I’ll show you that re-do in a future post.) But as soon as this paper was hung, I realized it was never going to work. So I simply broke out the paint and a sponge and remade the counter tops with my own hands.

Here’s a close up:

Painting Formica is the oldest trick in the book to update on a shoestring. You just have to use a really good primer (I’m a Benjamin Moore fan) and cover the paint with three or four coats of polyurethane. Repeat with a new coat or two of polyurethane annually, and you’re good to go.

If I had my druthers, there would be white marble in this bathroom. But we don’t always get our druthers and I solved my counter top problem for $20 and a little elbow grease.

I know a lot of people are afraid of wallpaper, but I have always loved it. (My first job at age 18 was selling wallpaper, flooring and light fixtures in a home improvement store. I think I’ve had a pretty good eye since then.) Nothing transforms a space faster than wallpaper so, in that way, it’s really an economical decorating choice. The pattern is this room was on clearance for $9.99 a roll. I often buy wallpaper on clearance because it’s just too pricey otherwise.

By the way, I’m not a fan of wallpaper in large expanses. It gets boring fast. I find it works well in bathrooms, closets, pantries, laundry rooms, rooms with wainscoating, or rooms where a single “statement” wall is appropriate. And, by the way, I went through a wallpaper-border phase in my life. Please don’t go there. The time for wallpaper borders ended about 20 years ago, though I’m sad to say they had a longer shelf life in my homes.

One thing I haven’t figured out is how to photograph a room like my bathroom without capturing  myself in the mirror. I guess if I knew how to use Photoshop, I could cut myself and my camera out of the photo, but I’m not that skilled.

At anything except painting. (I told you I was an excellent painter.)

With gratitude {for my early stint in the home improvement store where I learned all about home decor and determined a college education was my ticket to something more than a minimum-wage retail job},

Joan, who, kitchen and bathrooms completed, can now turn her attention to the master bedroom where surely something fabulous awaits



  1. Love it!

  2. Don Hill says:

    Nice. D&H

  3. What’s the widest angle lens you have? If you use a wide angle, around 17mm, and take the picture from an elevated position, facing your bathroom at an angle, (you can stand on a step stool placed outside of the door to one side and reach your arms like you did in that photo), then you won’t be in the reflection. Your hand has to be lined up near the top of the mirror. It might be tricky depending how high the door frame is.
    Or you could always send it to me and ill PhotoShop you out for free haha! Beautiful remodel!!

  4. texasdeb says:

    Gorgeous. I wouldn’t be able to stay out of there for longer than 10 minutes after pulling off such a transformation. “So, where’s Mom?” “In the powder room again.”.

  5. IrishJenn says:

    Holy COW! Fabulous, just really fabulous!

  6. bungalow56 says:

    A true transformation, and I love that it was on a budget. So… do your guests have to walk through your pantry to get to it? You even changed out the dishware in the after picture to all white. You do have a good eye Joan. Job well done! I’ve been looking at my main bathroom for a year now trying to figure out if I should paint my now white vanity to something darker. I think this post may have given me my answer.

  7. Dana — the “before” photo was taken when we didn’t own the house — so they aren’t my dishes. And it’s hard to tell in the photos, but I also painted the walls a light grey instead of white. Actually, “behind” the kitchen is a long hallway that leads to the powder room and a laundry room, and down that hallway is what I call the pantry because there are both open shelves and cabinets.


  1. […] It’s shocking, really, that I lived with this monstrosity for more than a year, especially given how quickly I tackled the other eyesores in this house. (Anybody remember the awful blue Formica counter tops?) […]

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