One Room Challenge

Before and After: A “Bland” 1961 Bathroom Is Revived with a Luxe-Looking Makeover

published Jun 16, 2023
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About this before & after
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Before: a tan bathroom with a white sink with a silver faucet

You don’t have to do a gut reno to make a dramatic change in a room. (These five demo-free transformation ideas prove it!) A lot of times, all it takes to make a change is a new color and a few new accessories — especially if those accessories add new metallic tones, new textures, or new function. 

In designer and artist Aynsley Wille’s ( powder room redo, wallpaper, a gold-framed mirror, and a new shelf were the simple changes the space needed to really shine.

Aynsley shares her duplex with her fiancé, Paul, and during the One Room Challenge she transformed their “very bland,” and “purely functional” space into something that made a bigger impression. “I knew this space had the potential to pack a huge design punch,” Aynsley says. “I wanted a room in our home that felt true to my style.”

Because Aynsley and Paul rent, they had to stick with the sink, toilet, and yes, even the carpeted floor, but Aynsley found ways to make the place unrecognizable. “I had the freedom to pick paper and new fixtures, which would be plenty to make it feel completely new,” Aynsley says. “The wallpaper, hands down, made the biggest impact on the space. Of course, we couldn’t just start there. We had several weeks’ worth of prep to do.”

That prep involved drywalling and a bit of light plumbing because when they took down the mirror they learned it was a medicine cabinet built into the wall. The discovery meant they had to patch the hole with drywall. They hit another speed bump when they went to change the sink hardware: One of the water valves was rusted so tightly that it couldn’t be shut off.

“When we used a solvent to remove the rust, it was still locked partially open so we ended up needing to remove and replace both valves,” Aynsley says. “That may or may not have been four separate trips to the hardware store.” Aynsley jokes that Paul is “an honorary plumber” after the experience.

In addition to the (turns out, extensive!) prep work, including giving the walls a good scrub, Aynsley did a couple of paint projects to spruce up the room. She gave the baseboards a fresh coat of white (Benjamin Moore’s White Dove) and the ceiling a blue-gray-green found in the wallpaper (Benjamin Moore’s Caldwell Green). 

“When I was first planning out this project, I really wanted to bring in one of the pinks or blues [from the wallpaper] for the trim, but because we have a pocket door in that bathroom, it didn’t make sense,” Aynsley writes on her blog. “Typically, if you’re painting the trim and door in one room, you will have a good stopping point, so it doesn’t need to wrap all the way around (meeting up with the baseboard in the connecting room and looking weird).” Because the pocket door made it so she didn’t have that, she decided (with her landlady’s permission) to go for a pop of color on the ceiling instead.

After paint, it was time for wallpaper. Aynsley went with a pink Milton & King choice, which she enlisted a pro to install. And to cover up as much of the carpeting as she could, Aynsley added a green circular accent rug to the bathroom. A few other litter details in the “after” Aynsley loves? The sink skirt “to hide anything necessary-but-not-cute” and to add a hint of extra pattern to the room, the new hardware on the pocket door (which makes it so the room actually locks now), and the floating walnut shelf that Paul built on the back wall. 

“It’s solid wood and spans the whole wall, which, I think, makes the tiny room feel bigger,” Aynsley says, noting that she loves her new accessories there, too.

Aynsley says if she could change one thing about the space, she’d choose a different light fixture. She loves the look of her ceramic shade, but if she were to do the project over she would opt for “something that throws light more evenly around the room,” she says. “The direct light being forced only downward is a little bit harsh.”

The actual install of the light was surprisingly simple, though. It took under 30 minutes, Aynsley recalls. “Electrical is intimidating because, well, electricity,” she says. “I’m sure we can all relate to a desire to remain un-electrocuted. Once you shut off the power, it’s as easy as removing a few screws, connecting a couple of wires, and popping your new fixture up.”

Still, Aynsley’s best DIY advice is to “remember that very little will go according to plan,” as she learned in this project. “You’ll have a much better time if you roll with the punches and remember that the finish line is just on the other side of whatever challenge you’re facing. Don’t be afraid to Google something, always measure at least three times, and ask for help and advice when you need it.”

Aynsley and Paul maintained this motto throughout their powder room refresh, and their patience and hard work was worth it. “I am so proud of this space,” Aynsley says. “It brings me an unbelievable amount of joy to have a fully made-over room that I created from concept to completion.” 

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.
Inspired? Submit your own project here.