Before + After: From Midcentury to Old-World in a Small Bathroom

One Lonny editor makes over a super-dated space for her most faithful client: mom.

When your friends and family know you spend your days writing about beautiful homes, wading through furniture line launches and diving head first into Pinterest wormholes, you better believe they have no shortage of requests for decorating advice. But it's a task I could never ever complain about. Over the years, I've leaked a fair bit of intel on secret editor sources, tapped out emails with links to 20 different pendant light suggestions, and approved—and vetoed (hi, mom!)—more paint colors than I can count. My sister once sent me a text asking my thoughts on waterfall countertops. When I called within two minutes she answered the phone, "I knew that would be catnip for you." I wouldn't dare deny it. It's like mood boarding IRL, or having a beloved pin board pumpkin-carriage into being before your very eyes. 

So when, after seven years in her current house, my mom finally caved on redoing a dated, all-beige bathroom, I jumped at the chance to make one of the many rooms I'd designed in my mind a reality. The vision: an essentially Old-World space with a hip, Scandi-modern overlay; a room with an ornate shell and a century-or-so's worth of apparent updates layered in. From a rustic light fixture that looks straight out of a 19th-century coal mine to a black-and-white midcentury architectural photograph, to of-the-moment x-shaped sink fittings, and accessories that span the time frame to tie it all together. 

The built-in cabinetry defines an alcove for the toilet.
The built-in cabinetry defines an alcove for the toilet.






The Before

The existing bathroom was a fully intact time warp. Thankfully, it lacked telltale trends of the decades it had seen, like orange wall-to-wall carpeting or avocado fixtures. But the scene was miserable in its own dated way. Everything was a weird, warm cream color, from the square floor tiles, to the laminate cabinets, to the plastic drawer pulls. A massive sheet of mirror took pride of place above the weirdly low counter.The pièce de résistance: a claustrophobic, one-piece shower/tub combo, its nozzle, six inches too far down the wall for contemporary humans. 

Oil-rubbed bronze bin pulls and knobs punctuate the custom cabinetry.
Oil-rubbed bronze bin pulls and knobs punctuate the custom cabinetry.

The game plan

Because I essentially had free reign style-wise and was working in a very small footprint, I knew the remodel was the perfect opportunity to indulge a few design elements that to-date only existed in my Pinterest-fueled dreams. I planned to recreate a sort of austere Scandinavian cabinetry style, inspired by this Copenhagen kitchen by Kobenhavns Mobelsnedkeri, and build out some faux-wood-paneled walls, reminiscent of the butler's pantries found in the Gilded Age mansions of Newport, Rhode Island. (Note: If ever you want to completely confuse a tile guy from New Jersey, just try explaining those two things as your bathroom reno inspiration.) I also got to indulge my obsession with painting moldings and doors the same color as the walls and use my favorite hue of the moment, Blake-Lively-Lucky-cover blue

An antique fixture from Old Portland Hardware & Architectural adds an unexpectedly industrial note.  
An antique fixture from Old Portland Hardware & Architectural adds an unexpectedly industrial note.  

The after

Even for this seemingly teeny project, there were a million decisions I hadn't foreseen. Picking out a toilet, choosing the size of those little built-in shampoo shelves in the shower, and figuring out where to mount mirrors and lighting, to name just a few. Luckily, I worked with an incredible team of contractors to bring the technical stuff I didn't dare touch to fruition. For the floors, I chose a small marble herringbone tile that grounds the space and adds a bit of texture. The countertop got a long slab of dramatically veined Carrara, and the inside of the shower was sheathed in simple white subway tiles. But the showstopper is without a doubt the blue-paneled walls. That concept and the color were the only tough sells to my frighteningly trusting mom and the crazy talented builders, and we went through more than a few FaceTimes to get the details just right. At the end of the day, I think I've said more than once that I could live in this space forever...and am just now wondering if this whole project was a ploy to get me to come (and stay) home more often. Catnip indeed.

Fresh flowers and some unique dangling greens add a lush, lived-in feeling.
Fresh flowers and some unique dangling greens add a lush, lived-in feeling.

Resources

Even the inside of the door was given a coat of Sherwin Williams's Take Five, a dusty pale blue. 
Even the inside of the door was given a coat of Sherwin Williams's Take Five, a dusty pale blue. 

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