Interiorssneak peeks

Our Downstairs Bathroom Makeover

by Grace Bonney

When Julia and I first found our new (old) home, I knew I wanted to tackle our downstairs bathroom first for a few reasons. First, I think it’s always good to start with a small space when you’re working on a new space. You can (usually) finish things quickly, and that boost of happiness gives you the excitement and energy to keep going and tackle bigger things. So when I saw this little powder room across from the stairs, I knew this was my starting point. It also happened to be the perfect place to use my favorite wallpaper, Seascape by Abigail Edwards, to create a little jewel box of a room. With some help from the new wallpaper, a fresh coat paint from Ralph Lauren Paint and a little DIY tile removal, we now have a fun room that feels more like our style. I’ve been posting bits and pieces on our Instagram feed for the past few months but today I’m excited to share the (almost) finished room. Click through to see the makeover process! xo, grace

Photos by Maxwell Tielman

This post is brought to you by The Home Depot. View the complete Ralph Lauren Paint collection here.




When we first saw our downstairs half bathroom, I knew the mirror, sconces, wall color and floors had to go. They hadn't been cleaned or touched in at least five years and everything was covered in a gross, yellow film. I don't know what it was, but it needed a major scrub-down.
The vanity/sink before. The wainscoting color is a pale yellow-green, which was the color theme of the house when we moved in.
The toilet side of the room, which is about 6 feet by 3 feet in size.
The floors were covered in a faux-terra cotta style tile that was peeling up everywhere. We spotted wood underneath and decided to rip it all up, in hopes of finding hardwood underneath, like the rest of the house.
After breaking two different blade tools, I bought a 5-in-1 tool and went to work on the floor. Unfortunately, what we found was not hardwood, but subfloor. New wooden floors weren't in our budget and I'm not a fan of vinyl tiles, so I decided I would sand the subfloor down as much as possible, level it out with filler in patches and prep it to be painted.
But before we could do the floors, I wanted to get the walls painted and the wallpaper installed. The pattern I chose was more intricate than I realized, so I decided to hire a professional wallpaper hanger to help out. Because the space was so small, the job was done in less than an hour! For the paint color, I wanted something neutral and sophisticated, but not as green/yellow as the original color. So I chose Ralph Lauren Paint in "Dry Set; RL1255" to paint the wainscoting.
The final result was a bathroom that is filled with beautiful hand-drawn waves and a soft, neutral paint color. The paper has a wonderfully Edward Gorey feel to it, which I love, and I think the tan/cream paint color contrasts it just enough to be noticeable, but not too much as to distract from the pattern.
I still need to fill in some gaps in the wainscoting, but I really love the final result of the paper and paint combo.
I'm still hunting for a great basket to put on top of the tank to hold extra TP and other bathroom must-haves, but I'm really happy with the art hanging on the wall, which is our wedding party invitation! Max actually designed this poster for us, which we rolled up and mailed to friends to come celebrate with us last year.
I wanted a little pop of darkness at the bottom of the room, so I chose Ralph Lauren Paint "Black Dose; RL1161" to paint the subfloor. I did two coats of grey primer and then two coats of Black Dose in semi-gloss. I'm really happy with how rich the color is. It's somewhere in between a very, very dark charcoal and a black. It's just the right hue to pick up the color of the wave lines in the wallpaper. (The rug is an antique Turkish rug fragment I picked up at John Derian for a surprisingly low price!)
I jusssst had these sconces installed yesterday, so I snapped a quick, last-minute picture so you could get an even more up-to-the-minute look at the room. I have dreamed of having rope sconces for years and finally found an affordable pair on 1stdibs. While these required some tricky electrical installation (and having to wallpaper over some metal plates, which was no small matching feat), I'm so happy with the look. It's just enough nautical to not go overboard with a majorly themey feel. One reader on Instagram said the room feels like a Decemberists song come to life, which I love. The final step is getting a simple, beveled mirror cut to fit between the sconces. I want something super simple so it doesn't compete with the wallpaper or sconces.

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  • Lovely space! That wallpaper has been a long-time favorite of mine as well. We have a 1920 home and always wish we had even just a tiny bathroom on the first floor.

    • leanna

      i’m pretty sure this little downstairs bathroom was something the previous owner added on at some point. but i love how teeny it is. it’s just the right space for a wallpaper this detailed, but beautiful. :)


  • This room TOTALLY feels like a Decemberist/Edward Gorey dreamland. I absolutely love it!

    • Laura

      Thank you! That was pretty much what I was going for. I didn’t see the Decemberist connection (I kept referencing Edward Gorey when I planned on using the wallpaper) until someone pointed it out and now I tooootally see it. I feel like I should frame a typed out lyric from one of their songs that uses the phrase “stevedore” ;)


  • oh man, I’d love to see more tiny bathroms on DS. I have no idea what to do to mine to make it work, esp in regards to storage. I don’t know where to keep makeup and TP and towels!

  • Love it, Grace!!! The wallpaper is super Edward Gorey-esque. So fun!! And great advice to start on a small room. Never thought of that before. Almost instant gratification. :)

  • Beautiful. The sconces look like they were made for the space. And you definitely made the right choice by hiring a professional. If you were off even a millimeter on the wallpaper seams you would go nuts every time you had too look at it.

    And I think the floors came out spectacularly. Can we get photo later though, after Hope has been in there? ;)

    Could I offer one tiny suggestion? Please consider a small shelf (maybe glass?) under the mirror to hold the candle and matches or a small vase and flowers? Or whatever else you might need in there? Getting it up off the sink will give your hands more freedom to really scrub!

    • hmr

      not sure about what you mean re: hope being in there? i did a coat of poly on the floors, so her nails won’t be a problem. (she also is scared of small enclosed spaces, so she doesn’t go in small rooms like this).

      i’m not big on glass shelves, i feel like they get dirty and have to be cleaned a lot. and this wallpaper isn’t coated, so i don’t want to encourage a pattern of wet hands going up to the shelf for something and back over the paper. i’m keeping a hand towel below the sink or to the left so people’s hands stay near the wainscoting, not the paper.


  • I so agree with your feelings about tackling a small project first. My husband thought I was crazy to start working on our house by painting the small (gross) laundry room when there was so much work to do on the living spaces. I knew that I would never be motivated enough to take care of that space once we were living in the house and actually having to keep up with the never-ending pile of laundry. But…the joy I felt when opening the door to Benjamin Moore Sweet Orange walls and white tiled floor was priceless.

  • Job well done! A teeny space now filled with character. Can’t wait to see the metamorphosis of the rest of the house.

  • Wow, you really came through on how to make a yucky, tiny bathroom look amazing! The rope sconces are a touch of brilliance and the wallpaper a conversation waiting to happen. The yellow film on everything I think, was cigarette smoke — it makes a person shudder. Your home is going to be amazing!

  • Looks good and the mirror will complete the scene but where do you keep your bathroom essentials? Even if you don’t use make up, a hair dryer etc, you must brush your teeth, use soap and deodorant, keep a bottle of aspirin handy. In a 3 x 6 bathroom there can’t be much room for another piece of furniture. Just curious because although I like the look, I can’t imagine living without a vanity sink and a medicine cabinet or shelf system.

    • hi isabelle

      this is our downstairs powder room/guest bathroom. it’s not our upstairs regular bathroom (that one has a cabinet, etc for toiletries).


  • This is such an amazing transformation, Grace! That’s my favorite wallpaper too! I love following along with your home renovations. It is motivating to see what you’ve done, and to know we are not alone in this hard, but satisfying work.

  • My master bath is also 3×6 and in a 100+ year old home (and has a shower in it!) I’m prepping for new paint and mini makeover on it this weekend. Seeing this is a nice assurance that it can, and will, turn out great!

  • This is absolutely lovely – kudos on the small space renovation – it is perfect! Love the wallpaper, the paint color, the scones and the artwork … just perfect. Can’t wait to see the mirror!

  • It looks fantastic! You’re inspiring me to tackle my own tiny powder room. I appreciate the 5-in-1 tip; I too need to remove an ugly tile floor.

  • I love what you did with this bathroom! Its beyond beautiful. Love the wallpaper and the dark floors. A rug will really help make the painted floors last.
    And just a note, there could be hardwood underneath subfloors–often people put subfloor over worn hardwood or tile. But love your painted floors!

  • What a beautiful job. Fresh, inviting, elegant. One question–were you able to repurpose that wonderful mirrored bathroom cabinet/paper towel holder into another room somewhere? I see lots of fun makeover potential for a cool vintage piece there.

    • fran

      that cabinet was nasty and rotting in the inside from water damage. it got tossed. it was no where near as nice as it might look in that picture. :(


  • I love the way this looks, and I particularly like the wallpaper. However, I think it’s a bad idea to have the subfloor be the top flooring layer in a bathroom due to water damage concerns. I’ve seen painted subfloors in other rooms before (living rooms, bedrooms…) and I think it’s a great economical solution. However, a bathroom is an environment that is constantly exposed to water. I know it’s a half-bath (no shower, no tub), but there is still a lot of water that could leak from the toilet or sink over time.

  • It’s a dream at the intersection of classic and fresh. Can’t wait to see an update with the mirror and I’m dying to know where you’ll put the soap. Those dark floors are just perfect; you couldn’t get away with them anywhere else. Well done.

  • I agree with others: so glad you kept this sink and didn’t go for something new and unnecessary! As to a shelf (if you need one): don’t put it right above the sink! We did, in a small space, and were constantly hitting it. Better to put off to the side…

    • hi guys

      we’re definitely not adding a shelf, because it’s not needed in this space. this is a tiny downstairs bathroom and there are 2 more upstairs by the bedrooms. there’s plenty of room on the sink for soap and a candle or flowers, so i don’t think we need much else than that. i may find a place to hang a hand towel, but i like to keep things pretty simple. upstairs bathrooms have all the necessities for getting ready in the day :)


  • Love the wallpaper! I’d love to wallpaper at least one room in my house, but the texture on the walls makes it auch bigger invesent than I can handle right now. Can’t wait to see what you choose for a mirror.

  • What a great makeover! When you said “super simple” beveled mirror, I instantly pictured a long oval, whose curved lines would mimic the curves in the waves.

  • Very lovely! When I saw the first photo on my phone screen, for a minute I thought it was my own bathroom. (We have a similar sink, sconces, and bead board). Love the choice of wallpaper and rope sconces. Also, the floor! Wondering if the Astoria Mirror from Restoration Hardware could work here. Or an 19th century oval wood frame.

  • I have had that wallpaper on my wish list for so long. I’m wondering how the seams look. I have had wallpaper done twice, by highly recommended professionals, and have never been happy with it. Both installers ripped my paper and kept going, and the seams are always a little off. Did you install yourself? Did you have a pro do it? How did the seams turn out?

    Looks incredible in the photos :)

  • Grace,
    SO happy for you and Julia to have found such a lovely home to make even lovelier. you are off to a superlative start.

  • Grace: those sconces are fabulous! I love the rope accent! Likewise, that wallpaper is so whimsical … it reminds me of beautiful illustrations from a children’s book. I just love it! Congrats on your new home. I’ve really been enjoying following along as you two renovate these last few weeks :)

  • Love that wallpaper and the floor! What a fun space! And you’re right, tackling a smaller project right away is a great way to stay motivated:)

  • Just used the Abigail Edwards wall paper in a hallway with wainscoting below. It’s really an amazing paper, so much movement without being hard on the eyes. It feels quirky and yet kind of classic all at the same time. Lovely remodel! (And I agree about the shelf).
    Aside to CVJN: We hired a pro to put up the paper after doing it ourselves in our previous home. (We put up Cavern’s Blackbird and it nearly ended in divorce.) The pro lined everything up perfectly, seams were perfect. The only issue was the painters had to do some touch up and TAPED the paper to paint which meant that some of it tore very slightly near the ceiling in a corner.

    • darcy

      oh! i feel your pain. i did the same thing (accidentally taped on the paper) but thankfully it was only a quarter-sized patch and i repaired it by using a Micron pen and just drew the lines myself ;) worked like a charm!


  • I love paint on the floor this is such a perfect look, you have made such a small space come together so beautifully. I now feel i should tackle my downstairs toilet. With Love sojustnice.com

  • I love what you did with your bathroom update, Grace! Even moreso, the poster that Max made is great! It especially caught my eye as I’m going through some wedding planning of my own and debating totally scaling back and doing the same thing you did (tiny wedding, BIG party!) I totally understand wanting to balance how much you share on here, but if anyone could do an honest, tasteful etiquette guide/how-to for those interested in small weddings, big parties, I think it’s you! It’s apparently a very sensitive subject I’m finding, but I love that it no longer seems culturally normal/required to drop 50K (that you don’t have) to impress your parents friends for one day. Rant over :)

    • thanks elizabeth!

      drop me a line at designsponge@gmail.com– happy to answer any Qs. i just think guides are hard bc budget is SO subjective and everyone spends on different things. so there are a million ways to make it work, but it depends on your needs and style :)


  • the tinier the bathroom the more charming it can be as long the building codes permit it. the wallpaper makes we want to wallpaper after spending weeks steaming of dated paper.

  • I love the result. If I had any negotiating power when it comes to home decor with my husband I would want a subtle wall paper like that. But alas he’s the official home decorator and over his dead body would we have wall paper. *sigh*. I love him anyway :)