before and after

before & after: cheery nautical bathroom makeover

by Kate Pruitt

I love my rental apartment, but if there’s a room that makes me wish for the chance to own my home, it’s the bathroom. In my mind, it’s one of the spaces that benefit most from even minor renovations. I love gathering inspiration from great submissions like this crisp, sunny makeover from Julie of Belle Vivir. A kind reader of ours recommended this project to us, and I loved it so much that I thought we should share. The bright, cheerful colors; warm wood; and clean white tile put me right at ease, and the tub is incredible. Amazing work, Julie! — 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: three weeks

Cost: $7500

Basic Steps: For this bathroom, my vision was of a space with a nautical, bohemian and refreshing atmosphere with traditional references. This is a bathroom that is most of the time used by a three-year-old boy, but it’s also the guest bathroom, so it was very important to create a space that could appeal to the little boy as well as to adults. We gutted it down to its bones, got rid of the glass block wall in the middle of the room and re-configured the water pipes in order to replace the wall alcove bathtub with a freestanding pedestal tub. By doing that and installing floor-to-ceiling tiles, the space instantly opened up. I hired professionals to do all the work, and it was so worth it. A professional result is incomparable. This is how I put together that specific atmosphere: For traditional reference, I used penny tiles with a different color border along the perimeter of the floor; the custom-made wooden vanity and the over-mounted vessel sink were on the bohemian side; the gingham curtains keep the room fresh and young, and the adorable sconce and ceiling fixture are totally nautical.

My humble suggestions are to make sure to do all your research before starting your project and think about all the little pieces that would make up your vision. Take your time. Do the walking and don’t rely solely on online searches. There is only half what you can find on the internet. Visit different vintage stores and flea markets and just see what speaks to you. Go to open public showrooms and hunt the floor samples.

Also, for a more exclusive and creative result, don’t rely only on big stores when looking for vanities, which are usually very expensive for their looks. Again, visit regular furniture stores. You’ll be surprised at how much you can save and how much better things look when using unique non-vanity pieces. If it’s man made, it can be altered. A piece of furniture can be converted into a vanity, so can a console be cut to the desired size.

Not enough space for drawers? Make niches (insert openings in the walls) for creams, soaps and knickknacks. For niches outside the showers, choose to surprise yourself and cover it in a wallpaper you love or cover it in mirror. You don’t need to use expensive wallpaper; go to an art store and get decorative paper if you like, and put it up with decoupage glue. Don’t be afraid to mix and match metals. I used polished nickel for the faucets and antique brass for the lighting and the final effect is a lot more interesting and collected.

As an interior designer, I believe that the most important consideration when designing a space is a clear vision of the final outcome and making sure that every decision you make along the way is interlocked throughout the entire process to conjure that final result. It’s like a mental puzzle. — Julie

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  • super cute. my only concern is the butterflies in the shower area. the moisture can be really damaging to preserved specimens…

  • This bathroom is so cute! I really love the tub and show curtain setup(though I question its functionality unless you strictly take baths).

  • This is nice-looking, but I find this entire room to privilege form over function. That would bother me a lot in a bathroom.

  • It feels so cheery, yet impeccably done. I love the fish mosaic and the sink and the tub and the pops of color.

  • Thank you all for the beautiful comments and thank you Design Sponge for posting this renovation.

    The toilet is there but my photographer decided to exclude it from the photos and there is a closet for toiletries just outside the bathroom.

    This bathroom is extremely functional. The vanity is huge which allow me to sit my son on it to brush his teeth every morning.

    The bathtub is more often used for baths, although it can also be used for showers. That’s what the curtains are for.

  • I love everything about this! The tub, rod, storage! It could totally work in my teany tiny bathroom! Also wondering about the toilet? :)

  • I love the blue on the ceiling. And oh that penny tile on the floor…. every time I see a room with penny tile I get a little green with envy.

  • Functionality because of a counter top? Hmmm…This room is nice looking but it falls into the ‘Architectual Digest’ trap – great looks, but where do you keep the required things that you need for living? No storage inside the bathroom? You have to step outside for shampoo, perfume, etc ? And back out to put things away? What happens when you forget something? The toilet is an important feature and well worth showing – it’s the main reason for the bathroom. Toilets are designs too.

  • This is beautiful and cheerful. Love it. But I do wonder, like some others, where you put your stuff? I guess if it’s just a child’s and guest bathroom, there might not be a lot of toiletries, etc., so it probably works fine. In our house, we have one main bathroom that everyone shares, and the previous owners redid it with no medicine cabinets, pedestal sinks with no storage, no niches, nothing–and it’s a big room, but everything is spread out, leaving no space for regular storage pieces. It was gorgeous, but awful to use. I finally had long, narrow cabinets with sliding doors custom made to fit in next to the sinks and the clawfoot tub, and now it’s much better–we have some storage and some counter space. Anyway, long story short, I agree that function is most important in bathrooms, but given the use of this one, it probably had all it needs.

  • This looks really pretty! How do you take a shower? Is there a mount for the shower head that we can’t see?

  • Let them worry about where to store their stuff. I just love that it is so beautiful! As for the shower, it’s a vintage style tub, so you can stand and hold the sprayer (or whatever it’s called).

  • Gladys,

    Don’t be so mad :) As if one niche wasn’t enough, there are three in this bathroom. One on the wall of the bathtub (shampoo, soap, oil etc can go there), one above the console (toothbrush, paste, etc) and one on the wall next to it (make up, perfume,) trust me there is a lot of storage in this bathroom. There is a huge basket under the vanity for towels. Sorry if I didn’t show the toilet but I promise it’s there.

    I think a regular vanity with cabinets underneath would have closed the space and that’s not what I was looking for.

  • I love this, and especially love the hints on DIY – I realize now I have been relying online too much. Anywhere specific in NYC you would recommend?

    Also – can you share credits for wall sconce and sink?


  • Lovely job to open up and reinterpret this space. I agree with Julie, I think the storage space is ample here. I have also made the choice on my own home to have a beautiful bathroom, and store the bulk package of toilet paper and basket with hairdryer, makeup and essentials in the closet just outside the bath. It’s really no sacrifice to bring the basket in with you on the way to get ready in the morning and put it back on the way out. I find it really makes you purchase only the products and STUFF that you really need and is a great way to stay organized. A lovely, light and inspired space. Great job!

  • Hi Everyone,

    I’m sorry I didn’t share with you the sources before.
    Here is the list:
    The sink/basin and curtain rod are from Signature Hardware (those people have everything you can imagine)
    The tub is from Bath of Distinction (they have packages that include the tub and faucet)
    The sconce and ceiling fixture are from Circa lighting.

    Marcie, check out the Flat Iron district. There are a bunch of businesses for kitchen and bath and sometimes they have floor samples on sale.


  • I liked how Julie constantly payed attention to the details, even the little, tiny ones. It is true that the aesthetics are appealing, but the space seems amazingly functional, and very well organized.

    Kids are like sponges, they absorb everything. This is a great way to start ones childhood.

  • Love the look, and everything looks well thought-out and executed….except for the tub/shower! I put two of these in a house I renovated several years ago, and found that a free-standing tub simply doesn’t cut it as a daily shower! It might be fine for a child to soak in, but your adult guests are going to have a hard time with it. I suppose it’s fine for this particular bathroom, but I would definitely suggest that people who love this look not try it in a master bathroom or in one that gets daily use!

    Love the sink and everything else, though, and think the mix of classic, bohemian, etc., really works.

  • How on earth did you do this for $7500 while purchasing all those materials AND hiring a professional?? I’m dying to know since I have a bathroom that needs a similar remodel. Looks awesome!

  • What a great make over! The original bathroom was very closed off, and taking that glass wall out really opened up the room. Simple sink, simple tub, simple everything which really makes this bathroom look so great! And the tile work on the floor looks great, too!

  • I love the light blue ceiling. I have bathroom envy…mine is awful and I’d love to have a go at ripping it out myself and re-doing it, because it’s so expensive to get someone else to do it.

  • I love a nautical bathroom. I adore the tub and fixtures. What I like is the amount of shelving to put your design objects. In general, bathrooms lack spaces in which to add design.

  • The After is much, much better. Gorgeous tile floor, tile walls, and a beautiful tub and curtain.

    I agree with others who note some impracticalities. The designer may use bathrooms differently, so it’s a non-issue, but I keep cleansers, antiseptic mouthwashes, toilet brushs, baking soda, extra razors, etc., stored in the bathroom so I don’t have to travel somewhere else to clean the bathroom fixtures when they need it, nor dash out of the bathroom mid-shower in a towel to dig out more soap or the Super Conditioner.

    I know I’m a minority, but I’m not a fan of sinks that rest on the counter. They invariably create a strip at the seams that requires extra effort to clean, and where grot tends to accumulate. I’m all about function and practicality and beauty.

    The niches aren’t real storage. They display things that aren’t ugly, and a lot of bathroom needs are in packaging (see, cleanser) that is not something I want on display, it’s not pretty. Bags of cotton balls, nail polish remover, heck, I even keep an old hand towel under the sink to wipe up splashes from washing my face.

    Remember also that second bathrooms sometimes serve the homeowners, in addition to guests. They provide a second shower when partner is using the master, for instance. The gaps between the tub and the surrounding walls are not practical for showering without soaking the floor. I’ve stayed in lovely places with this kind of arrangement and they curtain the entire 360 of tub, and it’s claustrophobic, the curtain often clings to the bather, it makes a nasty ring where the curtain rests, etc. And those curtains have to be cleaned more often. All by way of pointing out that no, this is not the most practical bathroom, but I love the photos and the aesthetics and the ideas it offers the rest of us. Thank you so much for posting.

  • yay for the little yellow plastic ducks! and i am in love with the blue of the ceiling, such a great idea for ceiling! and of course the floor tiles! this bathroom is really superb!

  • The before and after is a huge difference in this renovation, and it does look very pretty. I don’t think I would personally want to have a vanity outside the actual room. And I do agree that with tubs like that where you just have a curtain hanging around you the curtain tends to cling to the bather. That can be annoying. I understand why the home owner wanted to have a bathroom that looked so much better, and I’m sure it functions better than the old one, but I still know I would do at least a couple of things differently. Also, why did you choose that sink in particular? I haven’t seen one like that before, but I like it.