Renovating Your Bathroom? I've Got 5 Designer Tips That No One Else Talks About!


I promise that I’ve never heard anyone talk about most of these tips that I want to share with you for your bathroom renovation. They make SUCH a difference to the final result! 

Our small master bathroom got a big update last year, but I haven't had a chance to show it to you until today.

Actually, we had two of the bathrooms in our sweet house completely renovated over the summer, one right after the other.  A little brave, but we wanted to bite the bullet and then be done

We learned a couple of things that form the basis of my tips.  The above picture shows the coffin, I mean, the shower.   Dark and narrow with a lowered ceiling. Who does this? Actually lots of builders in the 80’s did this. Here's another view of the room:


tallwood mba before 8.jpg


The vanity had two sinks--a really important feature in a tiny bathroom.  There's also a toilet, but you don't need that picture.  You know what a toilet looks like.

And now - the "After:"





Same space--can you believe it?  We knocked that coffin down--and discovered that the shower pan had been leaking underneath for YEARS!  Talk about good timing. Now there's light, glass, white subway tile on the walls, chrome accents and beautiful recycled glass tile on the floor.  The renovation was a journey (as all renovations are, right?).  




Good lord, look how pretty this is.  I don't mean to brag, but we really do love how this looks and functions now.  White Marble, acrylic pulls, pretty mirrors and that gorgeous Sea Salt interior paint color that Sherwin Williams has blessed the world with.

Home renovations aren't easy for anyone.  Here's my short list of what I learned on this one:


Gray_bathroom_cabinets copy.jpeg


Bathroom Renovation Tip #1 - Pay attention; no detail is too small.  Did you notice this in the photo? The contractor put white quarter round molding between the floor and the cabinet toe kick. I understand why he did it--he was "matching" the base molding in the rest of the room.  I didn't even think about it until everything was done.  That piece of molding should have been painted to match the cabinet.  I'll get around to it. Someday.  In the meantime, it bugs me.  First world problem.




Bathroom renovation tip #2 - look at the Big Box store's online selection of pulls and knobs.  These came from Home Depot.  They look very similar to ones carried by Restoration Hardware, at half the price,  I love them.


bathroom_before 2.jpg


Renovation tip #3 - pay attention to lighting.  Look at the "Before" above of the light fixtures.  The famous clown lights that every builder seems to adore. 

Since it's a small space and we were using LED bulbs in the new fixtures, we were able to remove the light inside the shower.  There's glossy white subway tile in there and a recessed can outside of the shower (you can see it reflected in the mirror) along with 2 lights on each side of the sink.  With all the glass, we could also taking better advantage of natural light coming through the window.  Any more lighting and it would have felt like showering during an interrogation (now that's a weird thought)!  Too much!




Reno tip #4 (the day is long, I'm obviously conserving my characters). Choose your wall color carefully in a tiny room with light and mirrors.  I LOVE Sherwin Williams Sea Salt on walls and I swear it often feels like  everyone in the U.S. has Sea Salt in some room in their home.  It's a well loved color and rightfully so. So soothing.  But when it first went up, everything suddenly had a greenish blue cast to it.  The floor, the walls, the tile.  I gave it a couple of days and all was well.  Some of the change was because of the LED bulbs.  Incandescent bulbs give off a very warm color, so switching to the LED meant we shifted to a soft white color.  In the end, soft white is a true-er color.  True-er?  Is that a word?



Tip #5 - don't tile anything all the way to the floor.  When a vacuum cleaner hits that tile, it will crack.  Sigh.  We'll fix that someday.


Soon I'll show you the results in the other renovated bathroom, which Grandboy uses.  If you have updated your bathroom in an older home lately, I'd love to hear what you learned!



An Amazing Transformation Is Underway!

How many people move into new spaces that feature a VERY neutral decor style--like this townhouse?


beige foyer with small light fixture


The Foyer.  Check. The full window storm door is a nice touch.  The homeowner probably did that.




This ceiling is quite the non-feature with that air grate and nipple lights.  I don't quite understand the placement or materials used. 




The Stairway.  Check. At least the bannister has a nice stain color and the balusters are iron, but it kind of looks like the stairs lead to a wall.




White powder room off the foyer -  very blah. There's a window opposite the sink, so it's not a dark hole, but the pedestal sink guarantees no hidden storage for tp, tissues, soap, towels.


The whole first floor continues the VERY neutral theme.  Great bones, as we say in the trade, but needing attention to create warmth and character. 


Mr. H. bought this townhome in a wonderful location in Raleigh and called me to schedule a 2 hour design consultation.  We had a great meeting,  both shared lots of ideas and I went on my merry way.

Mr. H is a good looking guy, but this is Cary Grant.  He looks a lot like George Clooney, don't you think? How is he keeping those glasses in his mouth while he smiles?  

Mr. H is a good looking guy, but this is Cary Grant.  He looks a lot like George Clooney, don't you think? How is he keeping those glasses in his mouth while he smiles?  


And then Mr. H. started sending me pictures of his progress....


warm inviting foyer Raleigh NC


I don't get to see a lot of "After" photos from 2 hour consults, so when I saw these in my email, I was tickled pink.  And blown away.  He did the trim work himself!  I think you need to see a side-by-side comparison to fully appreciate it:


New foyer light fixture, replaced the nipple lights with LED recessed cans, painted the walls a warmer shade (Greenbrier Beige by Ben Moore), a better rug and hanging favorite artwork -- all great. But the star is the gorgeous millwork that Mr. H. created with precision, skill and care.  He cut, sanded, installed and painted the whole shebang.  It looks SO GOOD!  The man is a DIY Superstar!

original artwork by homeowner


The stairs are right at the front door, so we thought a piece of art should be hung at the landing.  Mr. H. created this piece out of scrap wood and paint that was used in the Powder Room.  We're still working on finding the right light fixture to highlight his artwork.


Speaking of the Powder Room:




Remember the before?  Here's another--it's pretty darn stark.  There I am, trying to squeeze it into a shot.

Let me show you what he did to that tiny white room:


I had a LOT of fun collaborating on this space.  Mr. H. moved to Raleigh from Arizona and wanted to bring some of that vibe to his new home.  I think we succeeded nicely.  

 Installing copper trim around the stone tile and the blue paint wrapping from the wall to ceiling added the sparkle we were looking for. The continued millwork that blends traditional and southwestern style is both masculine and polished.  And he found that copper framed mirror on his own!  In a 2 hour consultation, I don't usually find specific products.  I can, but that takes more time and comes under the heading of a "full design service."  Instead, I describe exactly what to look for so you'll know it when you see it and can scoop it up.



Seemingly small things, like building up base and crown moldings, hanging meaningful art, lighting up dark corners, putting just the right color on walls, adding mirrors, rugs and furnishings in the right places--these add personality to every room. Together, it all creates a home.  Not a catalog picture, not something just like your neighbors. Your home.   


Mr. H. is now working on the Kitchen and Great Room decor.  Between my ideas and his own, he's got enough to keep busy for months to come (I've done 2 design consultations for him-- a couple of rooms at a time).  I can't wait to see what he accomplishes next!