You start with whatever is in place, you dream about what you wish was in place…

and then you go about designing that dream space.

This bathroom most definitely did NOT look like this when we started. Not. Even. Close.

You might not know but our house was old and abandoned with broken windows and lots of grossness (for lack of a better word). It had never been lived in full time- and was left for vandalism and yuck in the country for YEARS. As in like 60 years. Where who knows WHAT happened.

All we know is that when we bought the house- we were pretty alarmed at some of the grunge and damage in all the rooms which leads us to think it may have been a party house or squatter house even at some point during those 60+ years .

And this bathroom… well this bathroom was what you might refer to as a diamond in the rough.



Okay- honestly, a diamond in the rough is generous.

This bathroom was a

Remember how I said I saw the potential for a fault? This house is a perfect example.The Before- was incredibly hard to look past.

Short ceilings, old hodgepodge mismatched tile- including my favorite- ‘Giraffe Tile’ which was a golden yellow with brown spots on the floor, broken shower door, cracked sink, red subway tile on the walls- except for the brown that was on the other walls and then all that water damage and broken tiny windows.

I actually liked the sink but it was cracked and unusable.
And the large built in cupboard was great – lots of character in the doors –

it really just needed major amounts of cleaning
(ahem BLEACH) and paint and primer.

We took that apart and re-used it in another room.

But you know what?
That is likely one of the reasons why so many passed on this amazing little old house- because I was the only looney toon who saw a diamond waiting in that very.thick.and
dark. coal.

And the bathroom along with the rest of this old vandalized neglected house….aside from the obvious repair it was in-
it just didn’t fit our idea of ​​what a dream would look like. So we dreamed up a new look and waved an amazing magic wand…and this is what it looks like now.

And I have to tell you… that magic wand?
THE best investment we ever made.

ha ha

Okay- so obviously ‘the wand’
looked more like, blood, sweat, tears and A LOT of work. We removed the old and started with a little bit of reconfiguring to make the space work for how we live. And when it comes to tackling any kind of renovation or re-decorating project- I always start with what works and what I WANT the space to look like.

And with this project, we learned more than a few things.

#1. Work with what you have

Obviously, unless you are adding square footage or raising the roof, etc. the best thing and easiest thing to do is work with what you have.
For this bathroom, the plumbing didn’t move.
We kept the sink along the same wall as it was originally- where the cupboard was next to the original sink- we added a second set of pipes (my dad was a contractor extraordinaire) for the double sink. The shower is in the same spot, the tub is an addition but it piggybacked off the water heater plumbing and sits in the spot where the water heater used to be.

That door way looking in is where the new wall for the bathroom is which allowed us to expand the space within the original footprint.

If you can work with existing – go for it.

#2. Keep your choices simple

Something I feel like I see again and again-
is a small space with a big amount of chaos and patterns.
It is like someone who puts on all their favorite outfits along with 3 hats and 4 scarves
at the SAME TIME.
I know it might be something that is fun to do once in a while but on an everyday basis where you might want to slowly wake up or relax in the evening-
unless you love overload of pattern and color- keeping that simple backdrop is a good choice. So when designing a space like a bathroom- which is generally going to have a footprint of maybe a few hundred sq ft depending-I like to keep a cohesive and somewhat simple look.
If that is tile, wallpaper, whatever floats your boat- go for it!
I had wallpaper in this bathroom for years- I loved it.
I paired it with a simple white beaded board to keep it from feeling overwhelming.
Then you can add in your pops of colors, patterns and details and all your favorite outfits and hats – and then change them whenever you feel like it.

#3. Splurge

Something that was a splurge for me- the vanity and the cast iron tub.
I firmly believe that if you cut high end choices in one area – you can splurge in others and have an overall decadent bathroom feeling.
Another splurge- all that marble. On the floor, on the walls, in the shower. (I might be obsessed)
The way that splurge worked into the budget is the next tip.

#4. DIY what you can

IF you area a diy kind of person- and really be honest with yourself there- then you can tackle things like doing the tiles and save at tons.
BUT *Absolutely do not tackle anything like wiring, plumbing or moving walls/construction without a qualified person helping you. *

HIRE all those jobs you are not qualified to do.
DIY can go very wrong- and anytime you are working with plumbing, construction and electrical situations- I have my go to phone a friend to come over and help.
Plus, if you do it wrong the first time- you will be paying twice as much to have it fixed.
Just hire the job out and get it done right the first time and put your mind at ease on if it’s done correctly.

#5. Shop online for the best prices

Some of the BEST items for renovating are things I have found online.
All the faucets, sinks and even that cast iron tub – all sourced online. My local big box home improvement stores did not have them and the finish, style and size I was looking for were not easy to come by. A favorite source for vintage style is Signature Hardware – all of those things mentioned above were from them.

#6. ShopVintage

Shop vintage as well- some of the best items come from the thrift store or flea market- and the prices can’t be beat. I included several vintage elements in the bathroom to give it that ‘old world’ feeling. The French armoire is a perfect example.
Sourced from Craigslist- I use it to store baskets full of everyday things that I don’t want out and about. The laundry basket under the sink is another- perfect for holding rolled towels and extra rolls of tp behind them.

#7. Think about functionality- for YOU

It sounds simple- but I can’t tell you how many times I bump into a design that LOOKS incredible- but doesn’t work. A toilet in an awkward spot even though it adds more floor space or a bathtub in the center of the room even though you bump into it when trying to reach the sink.
Remember to think about how you live everyday in that space- and make it work for you.

#8. Embrace the quirks

Something I had to learn while living in this house- embrace the quirks. There are a lot of things I don’t love about certain rooms, layouts, etc. And some of them could be changed if I spent a ton of money and changed entire rooms-but I choose to embrace those quirks and recognize they are part of the character and age of this home- and that not everything has to be changed. That shower? I would have loved to have enlarged it and made it double the size it was – but that would have required moving the toilet and redoing plumbing. And that quirky slanted ceiling above it wouldn’t be nearly the same if it was in a different spot.

#9. Layer what you love

Cozy towels, shades of white, marble on marble, crisp and clean finishes, rich elegant finishes, classic old world style or more modern touches- whatever your dream bathroom looks like- it doesn’t have to be expensive, new or renovated to be Love – layer those elements.
From brass hardware to wallpaper or marble subway tiles to beaded boards and
sightly over the top chandeliers – I am a big believer in the thought that if a room makes you happy when you walk in – that it is perfect.
So think about what you love and enjoy the process of creating a space that you love.

I hope that helps a bit with how this renovation came about.
And something fun- see those sconces?
They are from Lamps Plus (here)

And some of these photos are from my book- if you don’t have it yet-

Giveaway is CLOSED.

Disclosure:I partnered with Angie’s List to update this bathroom- but all designs and opinions are my own.