One Room Challenge

Before and After: A ‘90s Powder Room Ditches the Dated Vibe and Brings in the Drama

published Jun 8, 2023
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About this before & after
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Bathroom with wallpaper wainscoting before renovation.

From seashells to horses to ornate florals, there are some wallpaper patterns that just scream “the 1990s.” But a lot has changed in the decades since, including the sheer amount of available wallpaper patterns — and there are also a ton of incredibly chic wallpaper designs out there now. Designer Gaudy Southard’s powder room redo for a client is an example of pivoting from one end of the wallpaper spectrum to the other. 

“This powder room was stuck in the 1990s,” Gaudy (@psinteriorsco) says, noting the farm-inspired wallpaper/chair rail combo in particular. “With all the outdated decor, fixtures, and lighting it looked and felt like I stepped back in time,” she adds. “The fixtures and mirror were just as old. The flooring was builder-grade, and the vanity was not the correct size for the sink. It protruded past it, which made the entire space feel smaller than it was.”

Gaudy’s goal during the Spring 2023 One Room Challenge was to create a “sophisticated yet inviting” powder room for her client — “a modern design with vintage charm,” she says. While her client’s home is full of ‘90s aesthetics corresponding to the time it was last updated, it’s located in a historic district and was built in the style of ornate Victorian-era homes. Gaudy was looking to add the sort of sophisticated glam that references that Victorian era, as well as some moodier jewel tones. 

“In my experience, when it comes to making the biggest impact in a space, it’s all about lighting and paint,” Gaudy says, adding that for this particular project, changing the vanity to something that was the right size was also a game-changer. After the farm-inspired wallpaper was removed, Gaudy installed picture frame molding below the chair rail, which she painted dark gray (Behr’s Dark Secret). She went with Sherwin-Williams’ Pure White for the ceiling and trim for some crisp contrast. Gaudy chose petite white hex tiles from Home Depot for the floors, and a black and gold avian-inspired wallpaper for the walls. The lighting, mirror, and faucet echo the shiny gold notes from the wallpaper.

Replacing the old vanity with a new pedestal sink was not without its difficulties. Although Gaudy’s client didn’t necessarily need the storage the other vanity offered, it was nice for concealing the water pipes, and the pipes ended up having to be moved higher so they could sit behind the sleek new pedestal sink. (Gaudy hired pros for this part.)

Installing the new wallpaper on the upper portion of the walls, which aren’t totally flat, was also a challenge, Gaudy adds. “But we got it done,” she says — and she adds that her Tempaper wallpaper from Target was cost-effective. (For advice on how to install peel-and-stick wallpaper so it looks pasted and professional, check out these six tips.) “Overall, it went very smoothly,” Gaudy says of the $15,000, eight-week project. 

Her best DIY advice for tackling a room reno is to “plan, plan, and plan some more; the more prepared you are, the smoother the project will go,” she says. Another piece of sage advice from Gaudy? “DIY whenever you can, but if that’s not your cup of tea, it’s OK! Just do your research and hire the experts.” 

Gaudy says the newly recreated powder room she accomplished (thanks to input from her client and work hired out to tradespeople!) is timeless and “elevates the everyday” — a great feeling for a room that gets frequent use! “It makes you feel pampered every time you use it,” she adds. Cheers to treating yourself daily through design!

This project was completed for the Spring 2023 One Room Challenge, in partnership with Apartment Therapy. See even more of the One Room Challenge before and afters here.

Inspired? Submit your own project here.