Monday, August 11, 2014

Bathroom Reveal: Birds, Butterflies, and Bill Murray. Or, How to Live with Almond Bathroom Fixtures.

Wow, that title is a mouthful. If you follow me on Instagram, you've probably seen some sneak peeks of this room. But now it's done. Yay!

This is the first room we've finished, and I'm so happy with it. I started with the guest bathroom for two reasons: a) The master bathroom needs a full gut job, and we'll need a usable bathroom in the meantime, and b) I didn't want guests using a sad, gross bathroom. Because when we first saw the house, this room was pretty awful. The first thing I did after we closed on the house was strip that damn wallpaper.

I want our home to feel serene and elegant, but I'm drawn to bold wallpapers. Like, CrAzy bold. So I wanted to use at least one fun wallpaper in our house, and I think a powder room is the best place to make a strong design statement. Since you won't spend a lot of time in there (uh, I hope), an in-your-face look won't drive you mad. We don't have a true powder room, but this bathroom is the one used by guests, so I applied that logic here and used my favorite wild wallpaper on just one wall.


I apologize; those sconces are so difficult to photograph.

I can't resist adding one more picture of this wallpaper!
What we did:
  • Hired a pro to paint the walls, ceiling, and vanity and install the wallpaper
  • Put new hardware on the vanity
  • Replaced the builder-grade mirror with a framed wall mirror
  • Replaced a corroded, outdated fixture with two wall sconces (Spoiler alert: This was the scariest part.)
  • Replaced the squishy toilet seat (Yes, the previous owner left us with her squishy toilet seat. Ew.)
  • Replaced the corroded towel bar and toilet paper holder
  • Screwed nickel switchplates into the walls
  • Bought a rug and art
  • Hung my favorite shower curtain and used accessories we already owned
How long it took:  I made choices slowly and carefully, worked on the room little by little, and finished in two months.

The almond fixtures were the biggest challenge. For those of you who are normal (and therefore not obsessed with stuff like this), almond is a dark, dingy cream color with greenish-yellow undertones. It was a popular bathroom fixture color in the 70s and 80s. And when I say "fixture," what I mean is, "Porcelain stuff like tubs, sinks, and toilets." A lot of us are still living with almond fixtures, and that sucks for us because almond always looks a bit dirty. It looks especially gross next to white.

Even though the fixtures aren't cool, we kept them because they're in great shape. They don't have any cracks, stains, or other weird stuff. It feels wasteful and kind of princess-y to gut a bathroom in good working condition. If not for the fixtures, I would've probably chosen a trendy black and white bathroom. But I'm glad I was forced to come up with a different design. I ended up choosing things because we love them, not because they're popular.

The trick to working with almond fixtures is to choose paint colors and flooring that are in the same color family as the fixture, but just a bit darker. This makes the fixture look light, bright, and clean in comparison. I chose Sherwin Williams' Kilim Beige for the walls, and it works perfectly with the fixtures. The floor tile was replaced very recently by the former owner when she had the house on the market. She chose a beige and cream faux stone pattern that I don't love, but at least it's clean and new. Normally I think beige is boring, but the wallpaper is interesting, so I'm pleased with the overall effect.

Can we talk about that wallpaper? I know I already dedicated another post to it (and to the incompetent local distributor who made it so hard for me to get  my hands on it!), but I really love it. We've been living with it for over a month now, and it's a lot of fun. If you're considering it, but you're not sure if the bold statement will be too much, I say go for it.

We didn't replace the vanity because it's solid hickory and in good shape, but I don't like the raised detailing on the cabinet doors. We painted the vanity black because a) we like black, and b) it makes the raised panels recede into the background. I think the paint does a good job of camouflaging the doors. We replaced the hardware with chunky nickel pulls and nickel cup pulls.  In the interest of complete honesty, the counter top is damaged: The apothecary jars hide cigarette burns left by the previous owner. I'd like to replace it, but we have other priorities right now.

Like mirrors. I hate frameless builder-grade mirrors that stretch over the entire vanity, so we took ours down and replaced it with a framed mirror from Lowe's with pretty silver beaded detail. It's meant to be a sofa mirror, but we hung it vertically. It hangs at the same height as the shower curtain on the opposite side of the room, and makes the room look balanced.

We had to take down the old light fixture to hang the mirror, so new light fixtures immediately became a priority. Overhead lighting casts unattractive shadows on one's face, and HELLO... I'm in my thirties now, so that matters! Ha. That's why I wanted sconces on either side of the mirror. But there were no existing electrical boxes there. Uh-oh. The project was so intimidating that the sconces sat on the floor, uninstalled, for weeks. But when Keith finally mustered his courage and picked up the drywall saw, the project went smoothly. He cut two holes. He installed two $2.50 electrical boxes. He went into the attic, drilled some holes, and ran wiring to the boxes. He installed the fixtures. And voila, beautiful sconces!

Finally, it was time for art and accessories. When I chose the wallpaper, I jokingly began calling this "The Wes Anderson Room." Then I bought the Bill Murray portrait for Keith as a birthday present, and the theme solidified. Society 6 fans will probably recognize it; it's one of their more popular pieces. And if you'd rather have a version with David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Mr. T., or someone else, they can do that, too. Awesome. The brass bit of fanciness above the portrait was $10 Gaslamp Antique Mall, and I like the way it offsets the square lines of the gallery-wrapped canvas.

Wall Paint - Kilim Beige by Sherwin-Williams, color-matched to Glidden paint
Vanity Paint - Black Beauty by Benjamin Moore, color-matched to Valspar paint
Wallpaper - Picture Gallery by Sanderson, purchased on eBay
Mirror - Lowe's
Sconces - Cannondale by Z-Lite 
Vanity Hardware - Pulls and Cup Pulls from Lowe's
Soap Pump - Threshold at Target
Rug - Safavieh at Overstock
Bill Murray Portrait - Replaceface at Society6
Hardware - Delta at Home Depot
Shower Curtain - West Elm (Discontinued)
Switch Plates - Hampton Bay at Home Depot

I'm so glad it's finished, because now I just want to focus on the dining room!


  1. The bathroom is absolutely perfect. I love it. But not everybody hates almond. Maybe because I lived with it in its heyday, I think it is versatile and I don't think its looks dirty either. I really really like the rug. And kudos to Keith, he is the magic man.

    1. Thanks, Mom! As soon as you come home, I hope you'll come over and see it all in person. Honestly, if anyone could make almond fixtures work without trying to hide them, it's YOU. What paint and flooring colors did people use with almond fixtures back in the 80s? You're right that they're not the worst thing, but I do think they look pretty dingy against bright white walls or floors.

      Give everyone in China big hugs for me? :)

  2. it looks so great! that paint really does help the almond fixtures. i can't wait to see what you do with the rest of the house! and i'm really interested to see what happens when you finally get to do the master bathroom with that tub.

  3. Thank you so much!! We're saving up for the master bath renovation now, and tentatively planning to do it in about a year. The layout is bad, and we need more solid walls so we can move stuff around. So we may fill in a wall that currently has a window OR remove the french doors that go outside and put up a solid wall there. It's going to be craaaaaazy. I'm scared already!


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