Before & After: A Dated Bathroom Gets a Luxe, Island-Inspired Designer Glow-Up

published Apr 29, 2023
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About this before & after
Home Type
Project Type
bathroom before renovation
Credit: Bailey Li

Sometimes the best way to usher in a new phase of life is with a change of environment. That was the case for designer Bailey Li’s client, Zenola, a recently divorced empty nester, who had a functional but less-than-inspiring primary bathroom that was begging for a little design TLC. “Her previous bathroom was outdated and reeked of a past life that no longer served the fabulous woman that she is becoming,” says Li of her client and the space, which did have nice bones in terms of its size and dramatic, high sloped ceiling. “The goal of the redo was to bring paradise home to Zenola so that she can feel feminine and free, as she pampers herself in her newly renovated bathing oasis.”

Interestingly enough, direct inspiration for the bathroom renovation came from an unexpected place: lyrics from the Stevie Wonder song “Love Light in Flight.” Specifically, the refrain “makes me feel like paradise” stuck when the duo imagined the overall feeling for the new space. With those words in mind, an island vision came into focus, and Li made quick work of moodboarding by translating that directive into light woods, wicker, and raffia. Surprisingly, the client wanted a little bit of a darker edge to her version of paradise, though, so Li amended her mock-ups with a medium-toned honey-colored vanity and some grounding elements, like smaller terracotta-look tiles for the shower pan.

Credit: Bailey Li
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Once the design direction was approved, Li began ordering products, liaising with contractors for installation, and working on the pièce de résistance of the bathroom: a hand-painted palm leaf and floral mural that set the paradise tone for the entire space with its lush green hues and custom creamy iridescent finish. Li is, after all, also a talented visual artist known for her one-of-a-kind decorative painting. Many of the design choices for the room were also inspired by this bespoke feature. For example, the gilded leaf-shaped sconces flanking the vanity mirrors, as well as the vessel sinks, hardware, and bath fittings, all echo the prominence of gold in the mural.

Credit: Bailey Li
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This striking wall and ceiling treatment may be the biggest visual change in the space, since Li opted to keep the layout mostly the same, with a long, storage-packed vanity along the right wall (as before), the tub still as the focal point on the smallest back wall of the space, and the shower stall still to its left, across from the vanity. But each of these features really did get a total overhaul. Li and her team demoed the flooring, shower, and dated, built-in corner tub to make way for large hexagonal tiles with botanical detailing underfoot, a freestanding sculptural slipper tub, and a fancy shower with luxe glass doors, green stone look tile, and gold fixtures. The new design also called for a small arched niche inset into the wall above the tub, an on-trend architectural touch that provides a perfect storage spot for toiletries and other bathing essentials.

Credit: Bailey Li
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As with most projects, plenty of pivoting occurred with shipping issues and item availability. To mitigate those setbacks, Li was very intentional with her sourcing. She shopped locally at The Tile Shop and Floor & Decor for the various tiles and surfaces in the space. Wayfair Professional came in handy for ordering affordable fixtures that were in stock. Smaller accessories were sourced from HomeGoods and Homesense. “The palm leaf chandelier was the last piece to be delivered and was absolutely worth the wait,” says Li. 

The entire bathroom project took about four months, but for both Li and her client, the reno was well worth the wait because the space now looks like the fancy island resort they always wanted it to be. “I love the botanical feel of the space, particularly the green focal wall with the arch that serves as the backdrop to the soaking tub and chandelier,” says Li. “My client is now thoroughly delighted and is likely luxuriating in her personal paradise as I speak!”