One Room Challenge

Before and After: A Once-Cookie Cutter Powder Room Now Feels Like a “Fancy Hotel”

published Jul 31, 2023
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Sometimes there is nothing particularly “ick” with a given space. The walls are painted in an inoffensive shade, the floors can be shown to guests unironically, and the light fixtures illuminate the area without making anyone feel like they’re being investigated. But, even though a room can be fine, it still doesn’t mean that it’s all that great. At least that’s how Malissa (@malissa_doesitall) would describe the origins of this before-and-after in her family’s home. 

“This powder room was in a brand-new house, so there was nothing wrong with it exactly,” Malissa says. “It was just boring!”

Malissa, her husband, and their two young kids moved into this new home recently — construction on it finished this year — so everything was a blank slate and a fresh opportunity. The square-shaped powder room featured beige walls alongside a white pedestal sink and toilet, as well as a cute window that streamed in the sun from on high. Chrome fixtures filled out the rest, from the vanity lights to the paper roll holder, and wood floors were installed below. Again, nothing was too bad about it. It was just blah.

“Besides the basic, builder-grade finishes and beige walls, there was just no character to the room. However, I did love the floors, tall ceilings, and natural light,” Malissa says. “After taking a long break from DIY projects, I knew that the powder room would be perfect because I could be as creative as I wanted in this small space.” She took on the project as part of the eight-week-long One Room Challenge.

Malissa wanted the powder room to better reflect her personality, and because it’s the one enclave that’s almost guaranteed to be seen by visitors, she also planned on making it distinctive from the identical ones of her neighbors.

To start, Malissa installed wainscoting on the bottom third of the walls herself, using less than $100 worth of PVC pipe and a miter saw, and painted it all a deep gray (Behr’s Whale Gray). That same gray-blue shade covers the walls, too, except for an accent wall dressed up with a coordinating botanical-print wallpaper around the mirror and window. 

“I’ve done all of these tasks before, but this was the first time that I did it all in one project,” Malissa says of her multi-part redo. She took her time to measure the PVC pipe to ensure a seamless architectural finish, and maintained her patience while installing the peel-and-stick wallpaper and “moody” paint up to the ceiling. Swapping out the chrome fixtures and lighting for brass features was no sweat, and it was “a breeze” to change the faucet, too.

“But installing the drain was a lot more involved than I expected,” Malissa says. “Since I had a pedestal sink, I had to pull the sink away from the wall to remove the old drain pipe. I got everything hooked up with no leaks, and then when I went to test it one last time, it started leaking. I ended up calling a plumber to finish the install, but I felt a little better after he complimented my work.”

Like many other DIYers, Malissa says that the biggest issue with this powder room redo was actually finding the time to get everything done. “I was 13 weeks postpartum when I started the challenge, I have a toddler, and I work full-time,” she says. “So, between having to work on the project during my kids’ naps, traveling for my job, and my kids getting sick, doing this makeover had its ups and downs.” 

Nevertheless, she’s proud of the results and only has one slight detail she’d do differently: Malissa would’ve probably picked a flat finish instead of an eggshell one for the paint, so that the inconsistencies in the drywall weren’t as visible. (No one would notice that besides her, just because of how much effort she put into the transformation!) 

“I love the color the most,” Malissa says. “I feel like the powder room is a conversation piece now because there’s so many different details to enjoy, even down to the toilet paper holder or the way the water pours out of the new faucet. I feel like I’m in a really fancy hotel or restaurant when I use this bathroom.”

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.