As you recall, the first time Cowboy and I saw The River House there was a lot of “oohing” and “ahhing” going on . . . about the gorgeous river lot it sat on.
As for the interior? Yeah, there was a lot of “ewwing” and “oh my gawding” going on. And the main floor guest bath probably won the award for the most proclamations of the latter combination.
Not only was it, of course, pink (doing its part to uphold the Barbie Vacation Home motif) complete with a floral wallpaper border, its finishes were also all brass and oak. All these dated cosmetic issues definitely caused the expected “Ew!” reaction but were also clearly something that could be easily addressed. But the “Oh. My. Gawd.” proclamation came from the odd mirror intersection this room boasted. You see, the builder made good use of the small space with his clever idea of installing a corner vanity. Ok, that’s cool. But the not so clever idea was the installation of two large mirrors that intersected at said corners.
Anyone who looked in the mirror was seeing themselves as a Cyclops.
Eye am not kidding.
Here is me demonstrating the effect with my iPhone. (Of course, as usual, I am one third of the way into the project before I snap the “before” picture so hence the bottle of hot water on the vanity that I am using to scrape off that wallpaper border. And ignore my sweatpants. It was a weekend and I had just announced to Cowboy that I could NOT TAKE THIS BATHROOM ONE MORE SECOND. One minute I was lounging on the couch. The next I was a blur of conviction, resolved to transform this eye sore. After all, this is the guest bathroom. This is where our guests go. To sit and . . . wonder what the hell Cowboy and I were thinking when we bought this giant hideous pink weird house. Super weird house. I mean, check this out. One eye? Am I in a funhouse? (That is what I imagine was the internal dialogue of all our guests who had to utilize that Barbie oddball bathroom when they visited us the first year we lived here.)
I honestly considered asking people to don a blindfold before using the facilities. It was that embarrassing.
And yes, I am breaking my rules and being all conventional by showing the before pictures before the after pictures like a normal person. But for this project, it needed to be done. I had to show you the mirror. And the rest of it.
Oh yes, pink linoleum. Cowboy calls it salmon colored. I call it hideous. And it is everywhere in this house – every bathroom, the laundry room . . . the original owner just loved pink! In fact, it was the original flooring in the kitchen. It had been updated by the time we purchased The River House but we did find this pink linoleum under the appliances when we upgraded to stainless.
Believe it. A pink kitchen.
“I’m a Barbie girl, in a Barbie world . . .”.
After I painted the walls a calming color and the oak cabinet white (see my Design Tips at the conclusion of this post for the best paint to use for painting cabinetry and furniture without having to strip or sand) and updated the hardware with some fantastic wrought iron pieces, the next thing to go after the wallpaper boarder was, you got it, the pink/salmon/hideous flooring.
Because it was such a small space, flooring was super cheap to switch out. We could have done tile but I love the look of dark hardwood. We chose a high end laminate (that may be an oxymoron, I do realize) and in one afternoon Cowboy whipped out his muscles and worked his magic. (Isn’t he so stinking cute?)
Why not real wood? We decided not to invest too much into flooring for this room in anticipation of a massive flooring investment a few years down the road for the entire main level. And the truth is, we reasoned that anything would be an improvement. (Our ginger kitty, Kip, agrees.) And yes – I used the same white paint on all of the trim in this room as well. It tied it all together nicely.
The final two aspects of this bathroom that I think are the most exciting are the custom rustic shelves Cowboy built in the dead space above the toilet and the custom wooden counter top he made for the vanity.
This picture is the blah dead space above the toilet that I felt just called out so seductively, “Build shelves here . . . looooook at alllll the spaaaaaace . . . “.
And so I found some great ideas on Pinterest one evening while Cowboy and I were lying in bed. (Bed time is the absolute best time to shower your husband with home improvement ideas. Ok, maybe not. But in this case it did work out well!) I shoved about 25 pictures of this style in his sleepy face. At first he was annoyed. (So baffling! Who doesn’t want to look at shelving right before bed?) And then, slowly I did see a glimmer of inspiration wheels a turnin’ behind his beautiful blue/green eyes as he mumbled just before drifting off, “Babe, I can build that in about an hour.”
I did come to the conclusion that he must not have been saying that just to pacify me so he could get some sleep. How do I know?
Because a few days later that is exactly what he did.
Last but not least, our dreams of a marble counter top were dashed when we realized the cost would be about $500 to have it cut and installed. Ok, we loathed this bathroom but we didn’t hate it enough to spend that kind of coin.
Cowboy to the rescue!
I’d noticed a wooden kitchen counter top trend and we decided that it would be the perfect approach for this bathroom. Using the old (pink!) Formica counter top as a template, Cowboy cut out, stained and installed a dark wood vanity counter top all by his little Cowboy self.
It was the Mac Daddy of counter tops by the time he was finished.
I’d picked out a raised bowl sink and it contrasted perfectly with the dark stain we chose. One brushed bronze faucet install later (yes, Cowboy did that too) and a vintage refurbished Ethan Allan oval mirror on one wall (not two!) and this bathroom was on its way from fun house crazy to sophisticated sanity.
A few finishing touches with accessories (yes, those are weeds from my backyard!) and this bathroom was no longer an embarrassment but a source of pride when our guests felt the need to freshen up a wee bit.
And so concludes the story of Cowboy’s slaying of the Cyclops bathroom. When it was all said and done we were so glad we tackled it. It inspired us to keep on keeping on and kept us motivated to continue eating this elephant one small bite at a time.
Design Tip ~ Painting Cabinets
I used Annie Sloan Chalk Paint for the oak cabinet in Pure White. If you have not used this paint previously, run don’t walk!, to your nearest retailer. This paint is fantastic! You need not sand or strip finished wood. Simply paint it on (2 coats) and then finish with a clear wax to give it a sheen and to keep it easy to clean. (A dark wax can also be used for a more rustic finish.) It is also a fantastic option for refurbishing furniture, the results are so transforming. I am absolutely addicted to it.
I have used this paint a lot in The River House. Sneak peek: my kitchen, my oak built ins in my dining room, and even my knotty pine fire place – all of it got a make over with this paint. Stay tuned for a ton of chalk paint projects on this blog!
Design Tip ~ Project Timeline
This entire project from start to finish was four weeks. We have day jobs plus we were waffling on some choices (flooring? counter top?) and that research alone caused the project to go long. Be realistic about timeline and just accept that these projects can be time consuming and oftentimes take longer than expected. Keep your sense of humor and know that the “in between” time of having one less sink in the house does pass.
Design Tip ~ Updating Finishes
Finishes make a big impact. We switched out every one for this project. That included new towel racks, a new light fixture, new outlet covers, a new toilet paper holder, new cabinet hardware and a new faucet. For a room this small it was necessary to go big or go home. We couldn’t leave one piece of the original intact, it would have looked undone. So if you are going to take on a small room, plan a budget that allows you to completely transform all of it in one fell swoop if you can.
Design Tip ~ Color Scheme & Accessories
For a room this small, stay away from dark colors or busy wallpaper. Keep the pallet simple and clean. Less is more in a small space.
The only accessories in this space are the items on the rustic shelving, a basket for toilet paper next to the toilet, a cozy round rug and minimal wall hangings – all of it keeping with the neutral color scheme required for such a small room.
I hope you enjoyed this transformation! Tune in next weekend for the surreal transformation that Annie Sloan Chalk Paint had on our oak and brass kitchen. It was the stuff dreams are made of.
Peace, Joy and Blessings,