One Room Challenge

Before and After: A Seriously Small Powder Room Gets a Bigger, Brighter Look with the Same Footprint

published Nov 25, 2022
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About this before & after
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Before: a tan bathroom with a square mirror over a sink
Credit: Francesca Zanetti

While a big, expansive, spa-like bathroom is certainly a welcome luxury, the truth is that you don’t need a ton of square footage to create a stunning space. Case in point: powder rooms. As long as they’re well-designed, even the smallest half-baths can feel both sufficient and sophisticated.

If you’re struggling to make your own bathroom feel more functional, get inspired by Francesca Zanetti’s budget-friendly reno. Compared with the rest of the 1940s bungalow it was part of, the powder room didn’t hold up. “The small half-bathroom stood out as an ugly space that needed to be updated or eliminated,” Francesca says.

Credit: Francesca Zanetti

As it existed, the space was dark and wholly uninspired. The fixtures (including the corner sink) were standard-issue, the color palette was a monotone tan shade, and the room felt entirely too dark. None of it matched Francesca’s style.

But Francesca and her husband couldn’t deviate from the floor plan too much. “We didn’t want to move drains in order to contain costs,” she explains. But it quickly became clear why the original bathroom had such a basic corner sink: The super tiny space required such a small vanity that it was almost impossible to find.

“I looked for a small sink, and to my surprise, it was difficult to find a selection of small bathroom sinks,” says Francesca. But she remembered a unique sink that she saw in a vacation rental, which had the faucet on the side of the sink rather than the back, and set her sights on something similar.

Credit: Francesca Zanetti

Finally, Francesca found a winner. The wall-mount vanity minimizes visual clutter — thanks to a white tone that matches the surrounding walls and floor — and offers enough room for hand-washing without any wasted space. Plus, the vanity offers something that the old corner sink didn’t: hidden storage.

To bring the rest of the bathroom to life, Francesca garnered inspiration from her childhood. “I grew up in Italy and always try to bring in a little Italian flavor,” she says. So for the wall behind the mirror, Francesca chose a porcelain mosaic tile with old-world Italian flair. The light blue tone veined with rust-toned brown offers a little hint of color in the otherwise white bathroom. “I love how the colors — the blue, white, and a tiny bit of brown — are picking up clues from the rest of the house,” says Francesca.

Credit: Francesca Zanetti

Keeping the rest of the bathroom white — with new white subway tile on the walls, existing white penny tile on the floors, and crisp white paint on the walls — helps brighten the once-dim space. In turn, that helps give the illusion that the teeny bathroom is just a bit bigger. A backlit mirror helps with that, too.

In the end, the bathroom is basically unrecognizable. “I am very happy with the outcome,” says Francesca. “This bathroom went from an ugly space to a beautiful bright space to be proud of.”

This project was completed for the Spring 2022 One Room Challenge, in partnership with Apartment Therapy. See even more of the One Room Challenge before and afters here.