A Crumbling 1970s Bathroom Gets a Makeover That’s a True Work of Art

published Feb 18, 2024
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Several talented DIYers who submit projects to Apartment Therapy have painted wall murals in their home — and these can range from geometric to landscapes and botanicals to little creatures for a kids’ room

With a bit of painter’s tape, any beginning DIYer can tackle a mural. And if you’ve always had an affinity for drawing or painting, you might even be able to get a little fancy with it — like Emily Radford (@emilyshouseremix), who painted a gorgeous heron mural as part of her bathroom redo. 

Before, the bathroom was “tired and extremely dated,” Emily says. It had textured wallpaper that had yellowed over the years (which you can see outside the door in the photos); under that, the plastered walls were damaged. There was “a stained and beige carpeted floor,” Emily says, and the toilet came straight from the ‘70s with a floral motif on it. “There wasn’t much to like about this room,” Emily says. “However, I did become accustomed to the floral toilet after having to live with it for three years.”

Basically, “there was no other option than to rip it all out and start again,” Emily says. The toilet was on its last legs, and she decided it wasn’t worth investing in fixing it. Because it’s a guest bathroom, Emily “had the confidence to experiment with something different,” she says. That something different? A bold green mural and equally bold black and white floors. 

“Because it is a small space, I felt like I could create something really unique and go bold on colors, as we didn’t need to see it and use it every day,” Emily says.

The floor tiles were left over from a previous project. 

The new flooring was professionally installed, but the tiles were left over from a primary bathroom project — so this round, the materials cost Emily and her husband, Aaron, nothing. “We were keen to save costs and they worked perfectly in here,” she says. “We played around with different arrangements, including diagonal stripes, but felt that this zigzag gave an impressive optical effect.”

The new toilet still has a vintage vibe. 

Emily and Aaron added more black and white with a new toilet that’s vintage in style “to tie in with the age of the building,” Emily says. (Her home was actually once a Victorian-era hospital.)

Emily says if she could change one thing about the bathroom, she’d move the toilet slightly to the right because it’s not centered. “This drives me mad, but moving the waste pipe would have been too much work,” she says. 

“I sold the existing floral toilet on eBay for £10, and someone drove all the way from Scotland to collect it, which still baffles me to this day,” she adds. (If that’s not proof positive that one woman’s trash is another’s treasure!)

The heron mural is the star of the show. 

Of course, the most time-consuming part of the project was the mural on the walls — a DIY project by Emily. She planned out the basic arrangement on her computer first using heron images, and then she painted the room a white base color. 

From there, Emily drew the herons freehand. She painted the background bright green (Mylands’ CSO Green) around them, and then she went bird by bird, or “one at a time, using an array of the off whites and stones … the finishing touches being the metallic gold beaks and cobalt blue eyes,” Emily says. “The first bird seemed to be the easiest to paint; they seemed to get harder as I went along.”

The mural plus the all-green ceiling and light fixture “give the ultimate visual transformation,” Emily says. 

Accessories complete the space.

You can find the green pendant light from Lumens, and the new gold hardware pieces are from Dowsing and Reynolds. “They are the perfect color, are excellent quality, and tie in with the metallic gold paint of the herons’ beaks,” Emily says. “I am so proud of what I achieved. It is a tiny space with massive impact.”

For another avian-inspired bathroom mural, check out this hand-painted yellow mural.