Before & After: Gray + Green Bathroom Redo


One of the best vacation experiences of my life was the time my family and I stayed in San Luis Obispo at a beautiful inn called the Sanitarium. Anyone who has spoken to me for about five minutes has almost certainly heard about my love of steam showers — it’s one of those odd obsessions I can’t seem to stop blathering about — and our room at the Sanitarium had the most amazing bathroom, with allover white tile and marble, green plants tucked into corners and a luxurious steam shower. I’ve wanted to re-create that bathroom for myself ever since, and when I saw this lovely makeover from photographer Kara Healy, I was reminded of that experience and what made it so beautiful.

Kara has chosen a beautiful shade of gray for these walls; it’s a clean neutral that is elegant but also very warm and welcoming. I also love the mix of antique furniture and pots with the modern photographs, and the plants tucked in everywhere give the space energy and make it fresh. I could easily spend an afternoon in here just mellowing out, bathing and soaking in the light. If only it weren’t improper to spend hours upon hours in the bathroom . . . although it worked for Margot Tenenbaum, didn’t it? And her bathroom wasn’t nearly as heavenly as this one. — Kate

Have a Before & After you’d like to share? Shoot me an email with your images right here! (Low res, under 500k per image, please.)

Read the full post after the jump . . .


Time: One week

Cost: $500 (linen for the curtains at $12 a yard; 2 IKEA Hemnes bookcases ($240); Ikea Kolja mirror ($10); a can of paint ($40); and baskets, shower curtain, curtain rings, etc. )

Basic Steps: I knew I wanted to clean out the clutter and unnecessary features of this bathroom. The architecture of this converted 1900s brick mansion* is so interesting and historic, and I wanted to showcase the height and light of this space and create a clean and warm impression. I wanted to emphasize the height of the ceilings by hanging both the window panels and the shower curtain high on the wall. (As you can see in the before picture, the previous owner’s shower curtain truncated the amazing height of the room.) This particular gray is wonderful because it is able to create warmth in the winter yet a nice coolness in the summer. The windows as well as the white furniture, floor, and fixtures illuminate the room in such a bright way that I was able to take a risk with such a rich color on the walls.

The advice I would give others is to start clean and to not try to turn a space into something it’s not. As a photographer, I can appreciate the light that a room has to offer and think that should be one of the first factors in the renovation of any space. Also, bringing plants to a clean, minimal room to add color and a living, changing dynamic to the space is one of the features I am most proud of. — Kara

*Here is a link to a shoot that Kara did in this interior for MOCIUN’s Fall collection in 2010.

  1. Emily R says:

    Amazing architecture in that bathroom. It may just be larger than my condo! I’m not a fan of all the vines – they remind me too much of office plants, but it is amazing otherwise. I’m dying to know what the large basin with the four taps is.

  2. Oh my gosh, what a FABULOUS BATHROOM! I love early 1900’s style… the subway tile, the white… LOVE. Good job. :)

  3. Mary McDaniel says:

    Kara, this is lovely! Well done!

  4. apayne says:

    emily r- possibly some sort of mop sink? interesting for sure.

  5. jHill says:

    oh my goodness. this is my new bathroom inspiration!! beautiful kara!

  6. June says:

    Love Love love! Having a shower there must be a dream!

  7. Really lovely. All the plants are great. This is my favorite sort of before-and-after: significant improvements that aren’t so dramatic that the ‘after’ is unrecognizable from the ‘before.’

  8. June says:

    What an amazing transformation. I love the stripe of pebbles in the kitchen floor. You must be so proud of your accomplishment!

  9. PJ says:

    Can you tell me the paint color and brand? Thank you.

  10. Esther says:

    Beautiful results–such a fresh and serene atmosphere! Ditto on PJ’s comment re: paint color and brand, as we’re looking to update our bathrooms. Thanks!

  11. Nancy says:

    Im sorry, is that a fireplace in your bathroom? LOVE

  12. Jess says:

    Paint color please, it’s absolutely gorgeous.

  13. Kelly says:

    I’m pretty sure that’s a sitz bath.

  14. Wow, this bathroom looks like a spa!

  15. Leslie says:

    wow, this is amazing! what color grey paint is it?

  16. Michele says:

    Paint color, please!

  17. Casey says:

    this is a dream!!!

  18. Vanessa Bailey says:

    I really like this a lot. It’s clean, the plants are wonderful (and I bet they are happy in there) and it looks like everything important has been recycled. I don’t ever think of grey as being a warm color though, I think it’s cool, very cool, and you have to be careful with that in the dead of winter. It can really add to the feeling that it’s time to hibernate.

  19. Gale says:

    What is the small tub? between the two windows on the fireplace wall? Beautiful bathroom, by the way.

  20. Catherine Littell says:

    I would love to know the paint color, too.

  21. Elisabeth says:

    I love plants in the bathroom, especially the shower. thanks!

  22. Julie says:

    Loving the paint color! Looking for a gray like that for my living room (and now maybe my bathroom!). What color is it?

  23. ingrid says:

    First, amazing job. A pretty vine other than a philodendron (if those aren’t philodendrons i apologize) would be a hoya, so beautiful and they flower. It would love that environment. Orchids would too!

  24. kiki says:

    I am DYING to see the rest of this house! Especially after clicking through to the look book shoot. LOVE

  25. JOYCE KEHOE says:

    I WOULD LOVE TO KNOW WHO DESIGNED THE HANGING POTTERY- SHE SHOULD MARKET THEM- SO DIFFERENT AND UNIQUE. GREAT JOB -WHAT A DIFFERENCE IN THE BEFORE AND AFTER.

  26. Ann Howell Brown says:

    Ditto everything!!!! In particular — the paint color, please! I love the warmth of that gray

  27. bonniek says:

    Love this upgrade, amazing what a coat of paint and some small changes can do to a room. Given all the writing in the article about how great the paint is, I’m surprise the color and brand aren’t mentioned. I too am also fascinated by the purpose of the small tub….obviously two questions that D*S readers need answers to!

  28. missralph says:

    The small basin is a sitz bath…gorgeous bathroom makeover!!

  29. sharon newsom says:

    Swooning right now! So beautiful! Love!

  30. Kate Pruitt says:

    Hi all, thank you for your kind words on the post! Here are a couple answers to the source questions from Kara:

    The paint is C2 LoVo Paint in WoodAsh
    The small basin is called a Sitz bath

    – Kate

  31. This particular shade of gray is the perfect compliment to Kara’s large format black and white photographs with their black frames. The plants she’s chosen are so well curated and don’t overwhelm the space. Her minimal hanging ceramic pots are both functional and beautiful. I love how she uses one as a soap holder in the shower. This lady is incredibly talented!

  32. Amanda says:

    Wow, amazing! I am filing this under inspiration for my bathroom redo in my own 100 year old home. Does the shower steam cause problems for the window sill? I’m about to relocate my tub under my shower, but I’m concerned about water damage.

  33. I love the plants, I need to add this touch to my flat!

  34. Not sure about the plant IN the shower but love the bathtub!

  35. rob16a says:

    I like bold colours so I prefer the before photo

  36. Ahmad says:

    This is the first time I prefer the “Before”. The bland whiteness stripped the bathroom of its character that it had before. It felt cozy and comfortable. A place where I would like to read the newspaper. The “after” became too generic, too sad for a happy place. A place where I will be constantly scared of making any mess in.

  37. Carmen says:

    What is that “thing” in the middle next to the fireplace and by a window that you put a plan in? It looks like a mini-tub with a lot of fawcets on the sides??? BTW, your bathroom looks beautiful, very peaceful and clean.

  38. Anouk says:

    Wow, can you do it to mine as well?

  39. Trent says:

    Wow… that is stunning… and now I want to change my bathroom which I just did. LOL. Excellent job… really really lovely.

  40. Denise says:

    beautiful room but i prefer the before photos – much more unique character!

  41. Heidi Cunningham says:

    Wow and Wow! I have been falling in love with GRAY but this is spa culture beautiful!!!

  42. Amazing architecture in that bathroom.I love the plants

  43. Wow. I’ve found that I’m drawn to this kind of minimalism. Green/white/wood. I would love to have the room to achieve something like this.

    I’m currently looking for a new home and this website is making me awful picky with spaces!

  44. Anne Benjamin says:

    Jesus, what I wouldn’t give for a permanent sitz bath! Use that, girl!

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