Projects & Improvements

Before and After: A “Generic and Soulless” Gray Bathroom Gets a Traditional Redo with Punch

published Jan 5, 2023
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About this before & after
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Before: a white toilet and sink in a white bathroom

When you think of classic, traditional, and historic homes, a few hallmarks likely spring to mind, such as subway tile backsplashes, textured tin ceilings, and schoolhouse-style lamps. Two other design features that feel synonymous with the style? Toile — popularized during the Colonial era on walls and curtains and pillowcases and still thriving today — or maybe a black and white checkered marble floor with flecks of sparkle or veining throughout.

Leigha Iadonisi’s (@littlemainehouse) vintage bathroom redo beautifully mixes both of those, and the result is a far cry from its “generic and soulless” before, as Leigha puts it.

When Leigha and her family moved into their 1941 Colonial-style home in 2021, the half bath “was painted a standard contractor white with faux stone flooring and there wasn’t much else to it,” she adds. The half bath is right off the kitchen, often frequented by guests, and Leigha knew it could look better than it did.

“I knew as we started renovating that I wanted to include classic elements of a Colonial home… but also layer in elements that reflected my current style, as well,” she says. Leigha was particularly inspired by remnants of the home’s original toile wallpaper, which she unearthed in a supply closet one day. “I decided to pick a more modernized toile as an homage to the original home,” Leigha says. “I knew pretty immediately that I wanted to do a bold, floor-to-ceiling wallpaper.” She went with a blue-and-off-white leafy toile from Birch Lane.

Leigha also wanted to add bold-yet-classic flooring, and she landed on 12-inch-square marble tiled floor in a black-and-white checkerboard pattern. “The pattern is so classic, but mixed with the toile, I knew it would pop,” she says — and because the bathroom itself is tiny, she was looking for something large-scale and bold for the floor. Leigha chose the fixtures, but she hired professionals to take care of the actual installation.

“I would say my biggest piece of advice is find contractors you really trust,” Leigha says to those also hiring professionals. “Ask them all the questions — what their on-time completion rate is, how many of these types of projects they have completed, how they communicate, and more.”

Leigha’s bathroom reno took eight months thanks to a few setbacks. “After our contractor ripped up the floors, the pipes in another room burst, and we had to repair the ceiling and walls,” Leigha recalls. “It then took us months to find a subcontractor to hang the wallpaper. I ended up calling local paint and wallpaper stores to find recommendations and finally had an amazing team who installed it in half a day.”

The long search (but quick install!) was worth it — the toile paper is Leigha’s favorite part of the room. “I’m most proud of how the pattern mixing came together,” she says. “Don’t be afraid of wallpaper or going bold, especially in a small space where it’s easier to redo if you change your mind. I think people get nervous about how an over-the-top print or pattern will feel in a room, but if you love it, embrace it! I love how it kind of takes your breath away when you walk in.”

Plus, she loves how the wallpaper looks with her other selections, like the wall sconces and the mirror. “I purposefully got an oversized mirror, and the effect is seeing yourself almost become part of the wallpaper,” Leigha describes. “It’s really cool and trippy; my selfie game has definitely been elevated!”

She also purposely chose black metal for these items so that the floor would tie in. “The entire room is black and blue — an underrated color palette!” Leigha says.

The design takeaways here? Traditional does not have to mean “boring,” and small spaces do not have to be exempt from big, bold design choices. Leigha’s black and blue bathroom is here to prove it!

“I had a vision of how it would look together, and this is better than what I even imagined,” she says.