Before and After: My Pumpkin-Orange Bathroom’s Makeover Is a True Cinderella Story

published Jan 31, 2024
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I don’t know how other designers do it, but I usually have to start with a spark of inspiration. Maybe that’s a Milanese cafe designed by Wes Anderson or a taxidermy shop in Paris. When it came to the sole bathroom of my shotgun house, the inspiration came courtesy of a visit to a coffee shop. 

The building across the street sported a jaunty black and white striped awning and mint green painted trim, and suddenly my vision for my bathroom came together when I went home and searched for mint green vanities.  

My husband and I started with a pretty scary-looking pumpkin orange room with a long and narrow shape and dark brown stick-on tile. Not exactly appealing. The brown wood, dated vanity and cabinet, plus the mystery niche in the wall over the medicine cabinet also didn’t do it any favors. With only one window, the bathroom didn’t get much natural light, so my mission was to make it cheerful, bright, and a little whimsical. Here’s how I did it.

Credit: Dana McMahan
Credit: Dana McMahan

I made a statement with tile.

So, the tile. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the herringbone black and white tile floor that surfaced in my mind as a perfect complement to my mint color choice was already there somewhere. I’d fallen in love with exactly that floor at a hotel where I stayed in Paris. I didn’t mean to just … steal it, but hey, it stuck with me for a reason because it was perfect.

My budget go-to, Floor & Decor, didn’t have what I wanted, so I called the fancier Tile Shop and described what I was looking for. The employee got me — and happily, had the exact tile I wanted. It was pricier than I’d hoped, but if you have to splurge on material, do it in a small space like a bathroom!

This was the only room we didn’t completely gut, for timeline and budget constraints, but we did tear the floor out, so down went this gorgeous, bold tile. It immediately brightened the room, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Credit: Dana McMahan
Credit: Andrew Kung

 I added whimsy with color.

The mint green trim on the building I liked on my coffee run gave me the direction needed for an accent color in the bathroom. And for the first (and probably only time in my life) when I searched for what I wanted online, the very first result was perfect. 

I ordered the mint green vanity from Wayfair and saved myself, not even kidding, at least a dozen hours that I would normally spend looking at Every Vanity on the Internet.™ 

Credit: Dana McMahan
Credit: Dana McMahan

I kept the color simple everywhere else.

To really let the cheerful green make a splash, and to lend the space an open, airy feel, I went with all white on the walls, trim, and ceiling. Okay, technically Benjamin Moore calls it silver (Silver Satin, to be exact). But it reads white. Their pearl (aka satin) finish on the trim set it off just enough against the matte finish of their Aura bathroom paint.

This bathroom came with a bathtub, which we kept, so a shower curtain was the finishing touch. A white linen number feels understated and doesn’t steal any limelight from the fun vanity or the tile. 

If we get to have a phase two of this room’s transformation, I’d love to remove the plastic shower surround and do (even more!) black and white tile.

Credit: Dana McMahan
Credit: Andrew Kung

I did one unusual, unforgettable thing.

This bathroom was an addition to the house, which was originally built in 1883 sans an indoor bathroom! For reasons that will remain lost to time, the doorway is seven feet tall. That was going to require a custom door (because the flimsy, hollow core door that came with was a no-go) and that was going to take more time and money than I had.

What I did have, though, was an obsession with a cool and very unique vintage door I’d found that was the exact right size. The only issue? It’s meant to be decorative only … and it was three inches thick, so sliding door hardware wouldn’t work. But no fear! Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and I found a company online called Rustica that makes custom sliding door hardware they were able to turn around quickly.

The very handy handyman we’d hired to do some carpentry at the house took on the challenge, and successfully mounted the door with the pretty “mountain gold” finished hardware. 

It’s definitely unusual, and that’s what I love about it. In fact, the same can be said about the entire house!