Guest Bathroom Mini-Makeover: It's Finished!

We successfully completed about 95% of our guest bathroom makeover last week before we had guests arrive to spend the week-end. The plan was  to give this room a cosmetic face lift and keep the budget under $2000. You can read more about the project in these posts:

Guest Bathroom Mini-Makeover Part 1
Guest Bathroom Mini-Makeover Part 2
Guest Bathroom Mini-Makeover Part 3
Guest Bathroom Mini-Makeover Part 4

This is what the bathroom looked like before we moved in three and a half years ago and then right before we started the project.

As you can see, we didn't do much to it except add some color with towels and a shower curtain. We briefly considered a major renovation, but in the end, we decided we would rather spend that money on our master bathroom.

I had originally planned to paint the pinky-beige wall tile but decided against it, so the plan evolved from there. My original selections still worked, but I needed to find a paint color that would coordinate with the tile and make it, hopefully, disappear. The best choice for the walls ended up being Benjamin Moore Alphano Beige 989, and I selected a shade three shades darker for the vanity Ticonderoga Taupe 992.

Keegan and I demoed everything that wasn't staying - countertop, medicine cabinet, toilet, hardware. And, we had a spirited debate about those horrible shower doors. I was dying to rip them right off, but he didn't agree. The next morning, he told me I could go ahead if I wanted to, and so I disassembled them and got them out to the curb right just as the Bagster was being hauled away. It was so satisfying to see them gone even though we were left with a little damage to the shower liner that needs addressing.

This is a bad phone photo I took after they were removed and I cleaned up the tub.

You can see the paint swatches on the wall above the tile. After I painted the walls and trim the lighter shade in an eggshell finish and got a base coat on the vanity, it was time to install the floor. I chose a peel and stick vinyl from Home Depot that resembles Carrera marble. It was my first time installing this type of product, and I thought it was really easy. The whole thing took about 4 hours, and it made the biggest difference to the space by far. I do not miss the hideous stained peach vinyl at all!

If you look back through the vanity, you can see the hideous wallpaper/paneling that was originally used in this room. It was all over the house in various patterns and textures.

After the flooring, it was time to bring everything else back into the space. We ran into a little snag with the faucet and had to call a plumber who also set the toilet for us.  It was well worth the extra expense to have a professional handle the plumbing.

Here is what the bathroom looks like now. We have some minor items to address, but it's fully functional and looks so much better than it did before. My favorite changes are the new floor and the new sink and faucet.

I did make some changes to my original plan in order to stay on budget. I selected a cultured marble sink and countertop from Lowe's because I liked it better than the quartz when I saw them together in person. The knobs on the linen closet are from World Market instead of Anthropologie, and the toilet is a one-piece model from American Standard that we got at Lowe's. When I saw it on the shelf at the same price as the one I planned to order online, I couldn't resist the idea of not having to clean around the traps anymore.

The towels, rug and soap dispenser are all from Target. I did struggle to decide on which accent color to bring in, but I really love the pops of orange and yellow.

I wish it were possible to get a photo without the light on so that you could see it better, but this room is pitch black without it. The photos are a little blurry from the lack of light, but they're fairly accurate in terms of color.


I was able to visit Anthropologie in person twice on my trip to the East Coast - in Montreal and Baltimore - and fell in love with these brass and mother of pearl knobs. I ordered two more for the linen cabinet, but I preferred the look of the dark bronze on the lighter paint color instead.


A final before and after comparison...

Overall, this was a fun project and well worth the time and effort. Even with the $287 for the plumber, we came in right on budget at around $1750. The space is much more pleasant to use, and I no longer cringe when we have guests ask to use the restroom. I still have some little things to do like figure out how to reattach a portion of the shower liner and replace the shelves inside the medicine cabinet, but for now, I'm pretty happy with the results.

Ten Great Table Lamps from West Elm (On Sale!)

West Elm consistently offers a wide selection of beautiful table lamps at great prices. Today they're offering 20% off all lamps (there are other site wide sales too), so you can snag a great new lamp for an even better price. These are just a few of my favorites...

1. The Clear Disc Table Lamp

$159 marked down from $199.

2. The Faceted Stone Table Lamp

$199 marked down from $249.

3. Abacus Table Lamp in Mercury

$159 marked down from $199.

4. Mid-Century Jar Table Lamp

$103 marked down from $129.

5. Mid-Century Bullet Table Lamp

$119 marked down from $149

6. Clint Mini Task Lamp in Red

$79 marked down from $99

7. Mini Abacus Table Lamp in Milk

$55 marked down from $69.

8. Marble Pillar Lamp

$183 marked down from $229

9. Perch Table Lamp in Rose Gold

$79 marked down from $81.

10. Parsons Bone Tile Table Lamp

$119 marked down from $149

Many of the smaller lamps would be great for adding light to book case shelves if you have holes drilled for the cords or in other tight spots. If you like any of these lamps,  I would order today in order to take advantage of the sale.

Project Notebook: Living Room & TV Nook in a Transitional Home Part 2 - Choosing a Color Story

Once my client and I agreed on a direction for the furniture layout in her living room and dining room, the next step was to determine a color story for the space. The colors we use need to play well with the existing elements in the space. The trim is oak, and the floors are a light maple. The fireplace is a red brick, which is thankfully not too bossy. The floor in the entryway is a slate look tile, and the walls were just painted Benjamin Moore Litchfield Gray. The kitchen, which is visible from the TV nook,  was designed in shades of warm grays and taupes. 

I knew my client loves red, but I wanted to see what other colors she would be open to, so I sent her my Color Questionnaire and asked that she and her husband to complete it separately. The questionnaire is based on researched conducted by Shigenobu Kobayashi in Japan during the 1980s in conjunction with the Nippon Research Institute. I relied on Kobayashi's work heavily for my masters thesis and found that his results are still relevant today. I've previously used his Color Image Scale with other clients to establish palettes for their businesses and homes and love how accurate it is.

My client was convinced that she and her husband would want completely different moods and colors in their space, but their responses were actually very similar. I analyzed the results and found that they wanted to create an enjoyable, casual, natural space that was simple, open and cheerful.

I looked at each of the colors that they selected and used them to generate several color palettes that would invoke the mood we were hoping to create. In each of these palettes, the color on the far right is the Benjamin Moore Litchfield Gray.

Option 1:

Option 2:

Option 3:

Option 4:


I emailed these options to my client for her to review with her husband. Neither of them care much for Option 1, saying it was too boring, which I totally expected. Nor did they care for Option 3, which I also expected. Her husband liked Option 2, and she liked Option 5 because it included the bright red she likes so much but didn't care for the "peach" tone. I tweaked them a little and came up with a final palette.

These colors are just a guideline for the different elements, such as rugs, artwork, pillows, lamps, and other accessories, that we'll be pulling into the two connecting spaces. I am envisioning the tan hue in the middle as representative of the wood tones in the flooring, furniture and trim. I am picturing neutral, light colored furniture and possibly a sleek leather recliner in the corner of the living room where the husband can read. I think colorful rugs, maybe flat weave kilims, would connect well with their artwork and help set the stage for the other accessories by bringing in color and pattern.

If you are interested in a personalized color analysis, I would be happy to work with you on connecting how you want your space to feel with the colors you should be bringing into your space. Call or email me today to begin the process. or 515-344-3140

Project Notebook: Living Room & TV Nook in a Transitional Home - The Floor Plan

Hello! I am back from an extended vacation to the East Coast to visit family and friends and happy to return to my husband and puppies as well as my clients and projects. Just before I left, I met with a client, with whom I worked last year on remodeling her kitchen. Once the kitchen was complete, she wanted to continue designing the rest of her first floor living space by turning what had previously been the formal dining area into a TV watching nook. She also wanted to update the look of her formal living area as well as the paneled wall and railing in the entryway. In addition, we're going to turn a little sunroom off the master bedroom into her office, since she works from home and needs a dedicated, well organized space.

I am especially excited about this project because the client is so wonderful (and has adorable dogs), and I always enjoy our conversations about her home and how she and her husband use their space. She has a great eye for antiques and a beautiful collection of Alaskan sculpture that we are going to incorporate into the design.

Before I left for Pennsylvania, I measured the living areas on the first floor and the sunroom. At first glance, I didn't think that I would run into any difficulties determining a space plan, but the layout turned out to be incredibly challenging. The formal living area is large, but the windows are off center in the space. I prefer symmetry as much as possible, so I have to admit that I am struggling with this a little.

Here is the living room, looking straight in from the entryway.


The substantial brick hearth juts out into the room and sits up fairly high, which reduces the actual floor space considerably and blocks the corners of the room once the furniture is placed. Since the former dining room is now going to be used for watching television, I was also concerned with how the two rooms relate to each other both in terms of of flow and aesthetics. I think that what happens at the corner where they meet is particularly important.

In this view, I'm standing back by the fireplace looking towards the entryway and the former dining area (soon to be TV nook). You can see how all of the spaces are open and connect to one another.

I came up with several options for the formal living area and two options each for the TV nook and sunroom. The formal living room is going to be used primarily for entertaining and possibly for reading. Even though it's a more formal space, my client wants the furniture to be comfortable enough for relaxing, and I agree with her. I have a difficult time designing spaces that aren't meant to be well used.

Here is the space without any furniture in it...

I started by flipping the current arrangement and using a smaller sofa in order to create a space in the corner of the living room for my client's future home office. We were concerned that this plan felt a little awkward, and she didn't like the idea of facing the wall while she works.

This layout shows the living room much as it is configured now. The client currently has an 8' sofa and two upholstered chairs as well as a leather ottoman. The sofa and one of the chairs are a little too big for the space. The flow from the kitchen into the TV nook is somewhat awkward in this layout as well, so we've already ruled this plan out completely.

I felt that I had to come up with one option where we used the living room for watching TV and the old dining area as an office. Neither the client or I liked this configuration at all and discarded it right away.

While we were moving furniture around during our meeting, we experimented with putting her sofa facing the fireplace and the two chairs in the corner. Again, the furniture she currently has is too large, so it felt a little tight, but when I got home, I drew it up as an option using smaller scale pieces. Both of us like this layout the best so far. I think with a low backed sofa in a light color, it will still feel fairly open. It makes the best use of the living room space and doesn't conflict with the furniture in the TV nook.

The one downside to the option above is that there are no electrical outlets in the floor where I've shown the sofa. It is important to consider how you are going to provide lighting at every seat, especially when floating furniture in a room. In this case, I would probably want to position a floor lamp behind the sofa, so the lack of outlets are a big negative and something we'll need to consider adding if we go this route.

Finally, I drew up a plan at the last minute that shows two sofas facing each other. Here, I've used the same sofa on each side, but I think that the one on the right of the fireplace could be a love seat instead. I like this plan because it opens up the room quite a bit, keeps the fireplace as the focal point, and provides ample seating. Plus, I was able to use a 9' x 12' rug which would be the jumping off point for the rest of the design.

In each of these options, I've assumed that we'll be adding built-ins on either side of the fireplace, but I have some additional ideas for that wall space that could work instead. So, what do you think? Which layout would you choose if it were your space?

Hiring a Professional Designer Can Save You Money

Earlier this week, I met with one of my clients at her home. She and her husband purchased this house within the last couple years. Last Fall, I helped with redesigning her kitchen, and now we are working on creating on office space and furnishing the rest of her first floor.

As I was measuring a space off her master bedroom, I caught of glimpse of her master bathroom. From my view point, it looked particularly pretty and well done - lots of white marble tile paired with aqua glass mosaic, a huge frameless glass shower, a soaker tub and a double vanity.

After I finished up and was getting ready to leave, I mentioned to her how pretty it looked and asked if she had remodeled it. She said no, that the previous owners had remodeled it. And, then she took me into the bathroom and showed me that while it was pretty, it wasn't very functional and that certain details were very poorly done. She said, "I think they just went to (insert big box store name here) and had everything done through there."

As I thought about it more, I realized what a shame it was that the previous owners hadn't hired a professional designer to help them through the process and make sure that the project was executed properly. I estimate that this bathroom cost between $30,000 and $40,000, which is a lot of money for something that doesn't work and isn't perfectly finished. 

For example, the vanity was obviously a stock piece and didn't fit in the space properly. The countertop had gaps around the edges that the contractor attempted to cover up with pieces of marble trim (not a good look). The storage was less than ideal, and instead of medicine cabinets, they used decorative mirrors. Those can look great but not if the lack of storage isn't made up for somewhere else. 

If my client is ever up for it, I'll suggest completely tearing out the vanity and having a new one made from semi-custom cabinetry to fit exactly, swapping the mirrors for medicine cabinets and recessing some shelving into the adjacent walls. The sad part is that this solution probably wouldn't have cost any more if it had been planned for from the beginning.

So, if you're considering any sort of renovation project, think about calling an interior designer first. She may be able to more than make up her fee by saving you money on costly mistakes. Even if you don't think a full service designer can fit into your budget, many designers, myself included, would be happy to meet with you for a couple hours to answer questions, make suggestions, and do some quick sketches to get you off on the right foot.