Category Archives: Bathroom

Upstairs Hall Bath – Original and Update

This will be an all-in-one post, because the update is only partial.

We have a hall bath upstairs that had out-of-date styling, but fixtures in good condition. The bath is for our preschooler (and guests), so it seemed like a waste to rip it up and spend money on a complete makeover just so that a small boy could have a more Architectural Digest-worthy bathroom. He only learned to use the potty just last year, so that seemed like a disproportionate reward. We ultimately decided just to paint and re-decorate the bathroom to buy us some time before we go for a full renovation.

I apparently took terrible before photos, but it’s not that different so it doesn’t matter much.

So, sure, the tile is gray with floral touches. But it’s perfectly functional.

We asked our son what theme he wanted for his new bathroom, and he said, “rainbows.” They are both his “favorite color and shape”, incidentally. Easy enough. I didn’t have a lot of other inspiration for how to decorate, but then found two prints to use as a jumping off point.

I bought these two prints at the One of a Kind Show in Chicago (they can also be found online here) and we decided to pull the wall color from here. We first thought we might go with a yellow for the walls, but as HGTV has shown time and time again, it is almost impossible to find a good yellow. After some false starts, we scrapped that plan  and went with an aqua that we matched from the fish print. It’s bright and happy and, as our son said, “looks like the ocean.”

As you can see in the before photos, the door is not original and had never been painted or stained, so we had to do that as well. Then we swapped out some hardware on the left and just had to buy a few accessories.

 Here’s the result:

The final flourish is below. My sister needle-pointed this Electric Blue Bathroom piece for me when we still lived in the city and had an apartment with shockingly blue, floor-to-ceiling tile. Two homes later, I still keep finding a place for it. If you needlepoint me a toilet, I am going to cherish it forever. That’s just the kind of guy I am.

Our son loves this bathroom (“it’s very, very rainbow”) and we are pleased with the stopgap result. Andy said that he thinks it looks a little more kiddie than he was expecting, but again, the kid is 4. When he turns 12, we can masc it up with a gun rack and deer mounts.

Kid’s Bathroom – Final

We were able to turn this kid’s bathroom around pretty quickly because it was more of a redecoration than a renovation. Here are the before and after shots:


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The shower curtain came from Urban Outfitters. I chose these Pottery Barn towels because the dots coordinated with the constellation dots in the shower curtain. We also swapped out the toilet seat to make it match the toilet — the other one was inexplicably beige.


The “So Many Stars” Andy Warhol print has always been one of my favorites.





All we did here was add a mirror over the sink.


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We used star decals on the wall because they are less permanent than wallpaper. It seemed like a good idea, but spacing them turned out to be a huge pain. We measured the whole wall, planned how to space them appropriately, and set to work– applying the decal, measuring down and across from the center of it, and placing the next star. It was ridiculous. Yes, it looks great, but I think my mom contemplated filicide halfway through this project. So be forewarned if decals seem like a swell idea to you–go random with the pattern or be prepared to hide sharp objects from the person doing the frustrating measurements. They will cut you.


Kid’s Bathroom – Stage 2

This bathroom is connected to the dinosaur-themed bedroom. Since the bedroom is so firmly rooted in terra firma (what with the green walls and the dino accessories), I decided to go celestial in the bathroom.

I wanted an element in each room that hinted toward the theme in the other. In the bedroom, I chose a star-shaped overhead light, which is one of my favorite things in the house.


And in the bathroom, I went with a toilet dinosaur. (Yes, I’ll explain.) Here’s what you do. Take a standard Apatosaurus toy.


Spray paint it silver.


Add an extra roll of toilet paper to his neck.


And there you have it. Toilet dino.

Kid’s Bathroom – Stage 1

This was a fairly straightforward redo because we decided to keep the white tile and fixtures. They are still in good shape and, after all, this is a 5-year-old’s room. He doesn’t need a luxe toilet. (You have to be out of diapers for at least 10 years before you qualify for one of those. Thems the rules.)

Step one was bleaching the joint from top to bottom, which made a huge difference. Then we painted the walls (Charlotte Slate by Benjamin Moore) and stained the unstained door to match the doors in the bedroom. (I forgot to take before photos of the door. Just imagine an untreated wood door. Now look at this after shot. Amazing, right?)


Then I wanted to replace the white towel racks so we could go with silver fixtures. This should have been easy. Andy went over one night to work on the house before we moved in, and I received this text:

“Tried to remove the towel rack. This happened. I have to stop now because I have lost my will to live.”


This was one of many projects that should have been a cinch and then turned into a frustrating nightmare. For whatever reason, these towel racks were installed to withstand chin-ups. So then there was a night of patching the hole, followed by a night of repainting. All for a silver towel rack. Worth it? Probably not. But once there are gaping holes in the wall, there’s really no going back.

Kid’s Bathroom 1 – Original

We designated the bedroom with the ensuite bath for our five-year-old son, using the sound logic that he was our only potty-trained child at the time. This bathroom was added during a previous renovation, probably in the late 1980s. Luckily the fixtures are inoffensively white and in decent shape, but as you can see, everything was in need of a good scrubbing.

Here are the before pics:

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Full Bath: House 1.0


Second floor bath original08809470_19_3This one was a simple re-do because we couldn’t afford to rip out the bath fixtures and renovate. Plus, the tiles and the vanity were in good shape, even if they weren’t exactly what we would have picked out.

Our solution was to make inexpensive fixes throughout. We painted the existing vanity and mirror black (using semi-gloss paint), and replaced the curtain with a retrofitted shower curtain. (I really love this solution. Shower curtains come in great patterns, the fabric wears well, and you can use one panel in a bathroom because you are unlikely to open the curtains very often.)

We also created the look of wainscoting without actually applying it. Wainscoting would have stuck out too much in this small space, not to mention that it cost more than we could spend. So we faked it. We created the look by building wood frames, and painted it the whole area white to make it look uniform. Then we painted the wall above it blue and voila! A revamped bathroom for less than $200.

Powder Room: House 1.0

First floor powder room original

I know some people go bananas for toile. I am not one of those people. (I don’t care for pastoral scenes in any context.)  Luckily the fixtures were high-end and in great shape, so the re-decorate was just a matter of taste.


Farewell to toile. In addition to the wallpaper, we pulled down the shelving and the mirror to replace them with items that didn’t jut out as much into this small space. The Moulin Rouge dancers (artwork, above) I purchased from a street stall in Paris 12 years ago and had never found a place for them. Now these coquettes have a home. The curtain is actually a shower curtain that my mom retrofitted for use on this window.


I also made this piece of inexpensive art (directions below) from print blocks, which I picked up at Architectural Artifacts (4325 N. Ravenswood Ave., Chicago, 773-348-0622).



These particular blocks were used to print the labels for the infant bloomers made at the Rubens Baby Factory. (You might remember the old sign from the building on Racine and Fullerton. It closed in 2004 and and has since been razed to make way for shops, restaurants, and other things of interest to DePaul students.) Anyway,  I thought print blocked underwear was funny and a perfect fit for a bathroom. Here’s how to frame them, cheaply and easily.

1.)    Find print blocks to provide artistic inspiration. The selection at Architectural Artifacts includes letters, old labels, print plates, and more vintage ephemera. I got all three of my blocks for less than $15.

2.)   Buy a suitable background. I found a piece of flat wrapping paper at Paper Source that matched my bathroom décor for $2.50.

3.)   Get the frame. The Ribba shadowbox frame at Ikea ($9.99) worked well because it allowed plenty of room between the background and the glass for the depth of the print blocks. I removed the included matting for my project.


4.)   Use the paper to wrap the back of the frame like a present. Scotch tape worked just fine.


5.)   Wood blocks are heavy enough that they need more than tape to stay put, so I used a power drill to attach them to the back of the cork frame.



6.)   Pop the backing into the frame and done. Fifteen minutes and less than $30 for a piece of creative art that is a conversation piece for everyone that uses our bathroom.