Before and After: A Designer Takes a Bath from ‘90s Sad to Mid-Century Rad

published May 6, 2023
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About this before & after
Home Type
Historic Home
Project Type
Mid-century Modern
Skill Level
Rental Friendly
Bathroom before renovation/makeover: outdated marble-look countertop and wood cabinets, brownish gray tiles on lower half of wall and in shower, drab warm gray tile floor
Credit: Sarah Storms

Designer Sarah Storms of Styled by Storms loves a decorating challenge. And in the case of this South Orange, New Jersey bathroom, that consisted of taking a past-its-prime renovation from the ‘90s into the present — but with an emphasis on the past, specifically in keeping with the architecture of her client’s mid-century ranch home. The bath on the whole felt dated, slightly dingy, and just wasn’t working for the new homeowners in its current form. “The before state was sad, drab ‘90s — maroon and beige,” says Storms. “Everything was very used and starting to mold from previous leaks.” 

Credit: Sarah Storms
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Beyond the tired state of the fixtures and finishes, the vanity had also been custom-built for the previous homeowners and just wasn’t the right height for her clients. Structurally, the couple also wanted more out of the sink area in terms of its storage potential and the ultimate luxury: separate sinks. 

Keeping these more functional mandates in mind, Storms was essentially tasked with brightening up and modernizing the space while blending the design in with the rest of the atomic ranch-style architecture. She and her clients landed on a largely neutral color scheme of creams, beiges, and woods, but all of the main elements — tile, flooring, vanity — have special textures to them to give the space a warm, layered look. A little on the smaller side, the room’s layout wasn’t really worth reconfiguring. For that reason, the plumbing and electrical would remain in place. This decision freed up budget for spa-like, luxe finishes, including Artistic Tile’s swirl patterned Riverside Drive marble mosaic tile underfoot and their textured Teju ceramic field tile for the shower surround.

Credit: Aimee Ryan

After taking the space down to the studs, Storms was eager to get to work on the mid-century modern-inspired design plan, but water damage in the bathtub area needed to be addressed first. Once that was corrected, tile and plumbing fixtures were ready for install. To give the shower area a little bit of contemporary edge, Storms had the rectangular, almost reptilian-like textured tiles laid in a vertical stack bond configuration. “Subway tile is such a safe choice that there is room to use an interesting texture, color, or lay it in an unexpected way, like a vertical stack,” says Storms. 

Credit: Aimee Ryan
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For the vanity area, the designer brought in the ultimate statement piece: a fluted-front, marble-topped wooden cabinet packed with shelving and drawers. A few key design elements elevated this setup even further. First, a large custom mirror was hung above the cabinet to reflect as much light as possible in the space, giving the bath the illusion of being brighter and bigger than it is. Also, Mitzi’s Ashleigh Wall Sconces were installed over the mirror as opposed to beside it, which reads as a high-end, hotel-like custom touch. The Slim Aarons print and vintage photography hanging on the walls add a pop of color and that last hit of polish to the walls. “Oftentimes, art is something that is overlooked in a bathroom, but it really elevates the spaces besides giving you something fun to look at,” says Storms. 

Credit: Aimee Ryan
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Upon completion of this project, Storms couldn’t be happier with the end result. “My clients love this bathroom because it truly blends form and function,” says Storms. “It is modern and sophisticated without being stuffy.” 

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