Before and After: A Water-Rotted Bathroom Gets a Gut Reno — and Some Surprising Ceiling Decor

published Aug 11, 2021
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About this before & after
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Before: Dilapidated bathroom with orange walls
Credit: Joy Williams

Name: Joy Williams (@joyfuldesignsstudio)
Redo: Bathroom
Level: Pro remodel

It takes a careful eye and balance to pull off orange in a home. And although orange is a favorite of designer Joy Williams, the electric shade was not so great in her 64-square-foot bathroom.

Credit: Joy Williams

“Oh it was BAD bad,” Joy says. Rather than electric and in-your-face, she wanted the bathroom to be a “calming respite.”

Credit: Joy Williams

“We really wanted to feel like we were getting away from it all when we spent time here,” she says, as she and her fiancé use this apartment to escape cold Chicago winters.

Credit: Joy Williams

After the couple started in on a cosmetic redo, though, they found a surprise challenge: rot. “When we tried to do just a cosmetic reno, we quickly found out that the tub and shower were draining right into the floor boards and rotted everything in the bathroom,” Joy says. “We understood that we would need to start over completely, so we did. We had to take out all of the drywall and flooring, just everything. The only thing we retained was the window.”

Credit: Joy Williams

Once that was fixed, though, Joy was able to bring her vision of a calming bathroom escape to life. She based her design on an Art Deco marble fixture, an Anthropologie outlet find that she was saving for the perfect space. The tile fell into place from there.

Joy opted for Aegean sea blue in the shower, which instantly reminds her of vacation, and a neutral motif tile for the wall and floors because it reminds her of her Moroccan roots. “Any link to the motherland is a plus from a design perspective,” she says.

Installing the tile (a DIY job for the couple) was both the hardest and easiest part of the reno. The shower tiles took three days and required some precision, Joy says, but the floor and wall tiles — 8×8 tiles with all the same pattern — were hard to get wrong.

Joy and her fiancé decided to keep the footprint of the bathroom the same to save money on plumbing but made modern upgrades to the sink, toilet, faucets, lighting, and mirror (a HomeGoods find) to make the space feel fresh and new.

Credit: Joy Williams

One of Joy’s favorite details is the ceiling, which has the same striped treatment as its adjoining hallway. What you can’t see from the photos is that the outlet light fixture is actually quite heavy, so Joy’s fiancé had to make some adjustments to make sure the ceiling could actually hold the scalloped beauty. It’s a triumph structurally and stylistically, with the stripes completing the head-to-toe makeover.

Credit: Joy Williams

“The stripes in the hallway were a last-minute add, but I am so glad I did it,” Joy says. “Ceilings are always an opportunity to add a little spice to a space.”

From the stripes to the tile to upgraded finishes, this bathroom is the perfect balance of interesting and calming — just like the best vacations. “It feels just like it looks: a summer trip to the Mediterranean coast,” Joy says.