Before and After: A 1940s Bathroom Gets a New Paint Color with Vintage Charm

published Jul 10, 2023
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About this before & after
Project Type
Skill Level
Rental Friendly
bathroom before makeover. White and gray plain room

Sometimes home issues come up that make renovations a need and not a want: Mold, gas leaks, broken water heaters, rotted floors, leaky roofs, burst pipes, and overflowing or clogged toilets are all matters that homeowners and renters (or their landlords) will want to address ASAP. 

DIYer Leigha of @LittleMaineHouse needed urgent home repair a few months after she moved into her 1940 colonial when a pipe burst in a bathroom during the cold Maine winter. It turned a wishlist project into one where decisions had to be made “in about a millisecond,” Leigha recalls.

She always wanted to renovate the bathroom because the before “was TRAGIC” she says. Leigha disliked the small pedestal sink which offered no storage, the “sterile” faux-stone flooring, and that the shower had been updated with a plastic insert as opposed to real tile.

“It’s our only full bathroom and [it] is tiny — 6-foot by 7-foot — meaning it needed to work really hard for us while also being beautiful,” she says. Leigha wanted to take her time making decisions, but when the pipe burst and the room flooded, she shifted her priorities a bit. 

“I wanted to make sure whatever I was deciding was not going to take a ton of time in terms of order lead time or installation, but also would fit with the style of the house AND be timeless,” Leigha says. “A lot to ask in a short amount of time.” And her quick-turn bathroom fits the bill. First, she and her husband, Steve, addressed the floors and vanity, then the shower, and then the paint and decorative details. 

Leigha always knew she wanted to have darker tiles (and nothing too small-scale or visually busy, like penny tile), so she landed on black porcelain hex tiles. Then she set her sights on finding a sink with storage, and she chose a two-drawer gray one with a marble countertop. 

For the tile in the shower, she actually wanted to try something a little more exciting than subway tile initially, “but knowing I was on a time crunch and needed to land on a classic design I decided to go for it,” she says. 

Plus, she thought the subway tile might be a nice complement to her favorite design choice in the room, the custom beadboard, which she had professionally installed by a carpenter, Luke. After the beadboard was installed, a pro painter (James) came in and painted the beadboard and tops of the walls in Farrow & Ball’s Dead Salmon, which feels new but vintage at the same time, and which Leigha also loves. “It’s exquisite,” Leigha says. “It’s purple-y with brown undertones and changes throughout the day.”

The final piece she and Steve added to the bathroom was the sconce from Visual Comfort, which Leigha says “softens up the overall vibe,” and paired with the artwork, gives “English country house vibes.” Leigha thought placing it over the toilet versus the mirror “was visually more interesting and cast light more evenly in the room,” she adds. 

And speaking of the mirror, down the line, Leigha would love to replace the mirror and maybe still will, but it’s built into the wall, and in order to swap it out, she and Steve would need to have someone sheetrock over it. “Unfortunately [we] did not have time to do this quite yet,” Leigha says. 

The main thing she’d do differently? “Not have my pipes explode,” Leigha says. She also says she might have chosen a different floor tile if she’d had more time to make decisions, but she’s satisfied with the way the dark floor balances out the plum-colored walls — which she says can’t be beat.

“I love seeing [the bathroom] when I wake up in the morning because the natural light on the beadboard with the purple-y color is so cozy and inviting,” she says. “This bathroom is so welcoming now and is easily one of my favorite renos in our house.” 

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