Before: Dated and Dowdy
Decorative touches and practical finishes made an old bath fit for a young couple’s new baby and guests.
Hannah Wolfson and Randy Law made a first-home buyers' mistake -- neither realized the bath of their 1920s-era bungalow had no showerhead until after they moved in.
"We were distracted by the 1980s bridesmaid dress-looking shower curtain," says Hannah. They soon bumped up their future renovation hopes and called neighbor (and Cottage Living's style editor) Heather Chadduck for help.
What Stayed: The sink and tub stayed put. By working with existing plumbing, they were able to keep costs down.
What's New: The changes were purely cosmetic: They used decoupaged maps (glued and sealed) for wallpaper, painted beaded board for wainscoting, and patterned hexagonal tile for the flooring. The only building project was a tiled box on one end of the tub to hide plumbing for the new shower fixture.
How It Works: The owners now enjoy a fun, pretty bath that doubles as a space for their baby son, Alexander, as well as visitors. "There's always something to look at -- it's never boring," says Hannah of the maps.
Start to Finish: One month
Wallpaper: Consider decoupaging maps or prints as an affordable alternative to wallpaper. Hannah and Randy love to travel, so the maps suit them.
Shower curtain: Repurpose items in clever new ways. Hannah found this chenille bedspread at an antiques store; Heather used it as a shower curtain.
Vanity: Elevate the sink. Heather put this one (from a home improvement store) atop a table she bought at a flea market. “A raised sink allows more space,” she says.
Showerhead: Try a handheld fixture for flexibility. Heather designed a tile box to hide the plumbing, including nooks for shampoo and soap to maximize storage space. “This really cut down on construction costs because we didn’t have to demo the wall,” she explains.
Floor: Choose a splash-proof tile. Bad linoleum probably installed during the seventies was pulled up, thrown out, and replaced with hexagonal tile appropriate to the cottage’s age.
Josh Haralson’s bath wasn’t completely hideous. “There were octagonal-shaped floor tiles and classic subway tiles on the walls,” says Heather. The real problems were behind the walls, such as old plumbing and out-of-date electrical fixtures -- everything had to come out.
“It certainly wasn’t fun, but it was necessary,” says Josh. “I couldn’t have a guest bath with leaky pipes.” So, he decided to update the room from the inside out with modern amenities while maintaining the historic character of his 1915 Memphis bungalow.
A tabletop vanity made from a side table and a leftover marble slab supports a sink original to the house. A towel bar attached to the front of the vanity is both functional and (with towels) a nice way to repeat an accent color.
What Stayed: The existing bathtub was reglazed, and floor tiles were replaced (and matched to the old).
What’s New: After the "hard work" -- replacing all the plumbing—Heather suggested Josh reclad the walls from floor to ceiling with V-groove paneling painted white. The shower got new subway tiles and a tailored curtain.
How it Works: Now guests don’t have to endure leaky faucets, and the new vanity opens up the narrow space.
Start to Finish: Three months
Paneling: Try an alternative to tile on the walls. Here, Heather used V-groove painted white. It stands up to moisture and, when applied horizontally, has modern appeal.
Shower and floors: Keep permanent finishes, such as tile, in line with the era of the house.
Tub: Salvage original fixtures when possible. The tub was in good working condition, so Heather just reglazed it for a fresh look.
Shower curtain: Soften utilitarian spaces. “I treated the opening of the shower as a window,” says Heather. The valance across the top and panels on either side frame the area like a window treatment, hiding the tub.
Vanity: Give flea-market furniture a second chance. Josh and Heather got rid of a prefab cabinet and replaced it with a simple side table. They topped it with a vintage sink and a marble slab left over from a kitchen remodel.
Before: Dark and Tiny
A drastic renovation expanded this cramped space into a roomy guest bath, with all the perks and charm of an old hotel.
The plumbing in James Schwartz’s cramped, circa-1912 guest bath was due for an overhaul, and a lack of windows meant the room had no natural light. He decided to open up the sink wall, stealing space from an adjacent porch to bring much-needed sunshine and air into this dark space.
What Stayed: The vintage claw-foot tub remained, but James moved it under the windows. Heather suggested he paint the outside of the tub blue to match the walls.
What’s New: James replaced the old galvanized pipes with copper during the renovation. Besides a new shower, James added two pedestal sinks with tile “rugs” for splash protection, and beaded-board wainscoting around the room.
How It Works: James kept the vintage appeal of his guest bath, but he didn’t skimp on modern amenities -- such as up-to-date plumbing, a separate shower, and two pedestal sinks in a classic, old-hotel style. The sinks make the space easy to share, and the generous tub with a view is the ultimate relaxation spot.
Start to Finish: Five months
Pedestal Sinks: Choose two instead of one. Heather and James agreed that the sinks should be placed on either side of the divider wall, making the room more functional.
Beaded-Board and wainscoting:Go with classic cottage details. James replaced the ceiling with new beaded board that matched the original and added beaded-board wainscoting around the room.
Copper pipes: Invest in quality. While copper pipe is more expensive than plastic or galvanized, it’s less likely to corrode and lasts longer.
Additional space: Knock out a wall. James took advantage of an existing porch adjacent to the room. By incorporating that space, the bath gained two walls of windows, ideal for basking in the tub.
Hardwood floors: Keep it classic. James got rid of dull, multicolored linoleum from the 1970s and went with new red oak floors. The wood warms up the room and is in keeping with the era of the house.