Half-Bathroom Renovation: Day 4 and Beyond

I’m back with the second half of my half-bathroom renovation chronicles. You can check out previous posts here: Half-Bathroom Renovation is Underway! and Half-Bathroom Renovation: Days 1 through 3.

Day 4

On Day 4, I woke up very early so that I could put another (better) coat of paint on the walls and ceiling before the crew returned. I knew wallpaper would cover most of the flaws, but I didn’t want that to be an excuse for shoddy finishing work.

Bathroom Painting.JPG

When the guys arrived, they tackled all of the finishing details: beadboard, trim, etc. The weather was beautiful that week, which was great for an outdoor construction zone.

Outdoor Construction Zone.JPG

New trim and architrave above the door:Architrave.JPG

I had this photo printed out to show the guys how I wanted the window trim done, which was helpful for explaining details: mitered corners, slightly extended sill, etc.

Window Trim Photo.JPG

They went rogue on one detail – cutting angled corners for the bottom piece of trim – but I decided to be fine with that.

Window Sill.JPG

Day 4 was the last day the crew was scheduled to be at our house. They had another job booked for Friday and, with Patrick gone, were very pressed for time. They started rushing things.

Bathroom Beadboard.JPG

I won’t go into all of the small errors because that’s really boring, but here’s one example: the door was hung without chiseling out one of the door hinge slots. They simply screwed the hinge on top of the door. (I had them hang the door prior to my painting it.)

Door Hinge.JPG

The biggest problem was that the beadboard was installed crooked. The height varied by over 2 inches and the trim along the top visibly sloped.

So, at the end of the final day we were left with crooked beadboard, uncaulked trim, a door with no knob, and a handful of miscellaneous issues.

Bathroom Progress.JPG

The Following Week

I asked Patrick to come out the following week to discuss the job. To his credit, he looked at the beadboard and immediately said “This is unacceptable.” They removed and reset the trim along the top so that it’s more level (it’s still not perfect, but it’s within a margin of error that’s acceptable to me). They also re-mudded some areas to fix a few drywall issues…

Drywall Mud Fail.JPG

Not great, right?!

Drywall Mud Fail 2.JPG

At this point I figured it was best to cut my losses. We parted ways amicably and I finished the work myself – sanding the walls smooth, caulking the trim, etc. Everything’s fine now. All totaled, I think the guys did a B- job. It wasn’t a terrible contractor experience; it certainly wasn’t great, but they were very reasonably priced, so I feel like I got my money’s worth. Let’s call it a learning experience and move on!

Painting and Door Details

Painting the trim and beadboard in this tiny powder room was a real chore. It was cramped and involved a lot of toilet straddling.

Cramped Space Painting.JPG

DIY Throne.JPG

In the weeks prior to the renovation, I had purchased a wonderfully solid, vintage five-panel door for $20. It was covered in a hundred years worth of paint, which obscured the wood details. I stripped it to, yes, paint it again. Don’t you judge me! (You can judge me.)

Door Stripping.png

It was slow-going but satisfying work.

Door Progress.JPG

I removed the old mortise lock and cut a piece of wood to fill the pocket. I used some chopsticks to make it extra-tight and then filled everything in with Bondo putty.

Door Progress 2.JPG

I painted the door following this helpful Family Handyman guide.

Five Panel Door Painting.JPG

Their screw tip was really helpful: it let me paint both sides of the door without waiting for the first side to dry.

Door Painting.JPG


Finally: wallpaper! I hired Midwest Paperhangers to do the job, and they were great.

Wallpaper Table.JPG

The multiple angles of this room required careful planning. This father-and-son team measured precisely and planned where seams would meet, doing calculations that would have broken my brain.

Planned Wallpaper Seam.JPG

Connel Sr. and Connel Jr. knocked out this awkward, angled room in only two and a half hours. It was amazing.

Bathroom Wallpaper Crew.JPG

Wallpaper Installation.JPG

And that’s where I’ll leave you for now! I’ll be back on Tuesday morning with photos of the finished bathroom.

Toilet Straddle.JPG

Half-Bathroom Renovation: Days 1 through 3

Our half-bathroom is finished, but before we get to those satisfying before-and-after photos, I’m going to subject you to a few renovation progress posts. They’ll be heavy on pictures and light on narrative – I just want to document all the work that went into this tiny powder room.

I hired a contractor to do this renovation job. I considered doing some of the work myself (such as plumbing and beadboard installation), but ultimately chose not to because the price difference was negligible and I don’t need to be a DIY hero. I thought it would be really nice to simply write a check and have it be done in 3 days instead of 3 weeks (or, more realistically, 3 months). Turns out I wrote a check AND did a lot of work myself. This project was not without some hurdles and disappointments, but it all worked out in the end.

Let’s dive in!

Day 1

On Monday, the contractor I hired (Patrick) and his two crewmembers arrived. Patrick and I went over the plans and his guys immediately got to work. They put down canvas drop cloths for their walkway and then put up a plastic airlock in front of the bathroom.

Tarps on Ground.JPG

This prep work effectively contained the construction dust and mess, which I really appreciated.

Plastic Airlock.JPG

Meanwhile, the cats were confined to the basement, with their pet door locked shut.

Basement Cats.JPG

Patrick left, leaving his crew to do demo. I expected this because demo doesn’t require skilled labor; I did not know, however, how absent Patrick would be for the majority of the job (I’ll talk about this more later).

The crew removed an exploratory tile to see what they were getting into, and then fully demoed the wall tile and drywall.

Tile Demo Begins.JPG

I left a “KEEP!” note on the sink (seen above) so they wouldn’t forget my plan to reuse the sink. I didn’t want them to damage it when they removed it or to accidentally discard it. I wish I had done this on two plinth blocks that they mistakenly removed and tossed – learn from my mistakes, dear reader!

Tile Demo.JPG

Despite a language barrier (they spoke little English and I don’t speak any Czech), the crew and I bonded over this huge praying mantis one of the guys found in our yard.

Praying Mantis.JPG

By the end of Day 1, the floor tile was gone, the new drywall was up, and the mantis was back out in the wild.

New Drywall.JPG

Day 2

Day 2 was more dirty work. They installed the new ceiling fan.

Fan Installation.JPG

They taped and mudded the drywall, and put down new cement board on the floor.

New Cement Board Floor.JPG

Newly-relocated switches next to the door:Electrical Switches.JPG

Newly-flat ceiling – see before photos in my previous post:New Bathroom Ceiling.JPG

They wrapped up Day 2 with some exciting progress: laying the new hex tile.

White Hex Tile.JPG

I know that installing tile is a doable DIY but, you guys, I just didn’t wanna. I would have fretted and taken forever and I’m very happy I handed this over to someone else.

Newly Laid White Hex Tile.JPG

Day 3

Day 3 began with even more exciting progress: grouting the tile.

White Hex Tile Black Grout.JPG

Wipe on:Black Grout Wipe On.JPG

Wipe off:Black Grout Wipe Off.JPG

There’s not much else to show for Day 3 because, as the grout was drying, the guys worked on a couple of other projects elsewhere in the house. They finished the day by slopping some paint on the walls using an unnecessarily thick 1-1/4″ nap roller (the kind intended for painting masonry), which led to a lot of paint runs like you see here.

Paint Drips.JPG

While I had been happy with their work up until this point, this paint job was the first sign of trouble.

Patrick came highly recommended by someone I trust, who has a lot of renovation experience. Unfortunately, I had a different experience than they did. (This happens – I referred someone to a friend who painted their room pink, which was not the color they requested…)

See, Patrick unexpectedly left town mid-job. His crew was nice and hardworking but when left unsupervised, they cut corners and did sloppy work. They were muscle, not the skilled contractor I had hired. Womp womp. It’s water under the bridge, and this post is overly long, so I’ll stop now and return tomorrow with the second half of this renovation story!

Half-Bathroom Renovation is Underway!

Today our contractor started work on our half-bathroom renovation! I wanted to pop in on this ol’ dusty blog to let you know that I will be posting progress shots on Instagram Stories – if you’re interested, you should check out those before they expire. I’m @martipalermo. I’ll do blog posts as well after the fact, so no worries if you’re not on Instagram.

Half Bathroom Plastic.JPG

While I have you here, I thought I’d share some before pics of the bathroom and point out a few things I’m excited to change.

First Floor Bathroom.jpg

To be honest, this half-bath is fine. Everything is working, and it’s relatively modern (remodeled within the past 20 years). It’s not glaringly ugly but, to quote this blog’s namesake, it’s a full-on Monet: from far away, it’s OK, but up close…

Half Bath Monet.jpg

Ugh. Beige tile town.

Half Bath Toilet Before.jpg

The bathroom is small: smaller than 4′ x 8′. Because it’s tucked next to/under our stairs, there are odd ~features~ that make the square footage even more limited. There’s this angled wall, which I can fit under perfectly.

Half Bath Mirror.jpg

And this support post bump-out.

Half Bath Tile Tower.jpg

The tile job reminds me of Pokey from Mario Brothers.


We can’t do anything to change those elements because they’re structural, but I do hope to make them a little more seamless with the rest of the room.

Speaking of seams, this ceiling will be replaced with new drywall. It will fix that ridge you see in the foreground and the stair-step in the background.

Ceiling Ridge 2.jpg

On this wall, the junction box will be lowered to a standard 78″, so the new light fixture won’t crowd the ceiling. The switches and outlet will be moved next to the door, so guests don’t have to fumble looking for them and I can hang a centered, larger mirror.

Half Bath Mirror Before.jpg

This vanity will be replaced with one from IKEA that I am customizing; see vague plans in my last post and a sneak peek on Instagram.

Half Bath Vanity Before.jpg

The sink and the cat are the only things staying! And the cat is on thin ice, so we’ll see about that. (You know what you did, Doozy.)

Half Bath Sink.jpg

More to come!

Update: see the rest of the posts here!

Bathroom Decision Making

Looks like I am moving forward with the half-bathroom remodel! I hit my savings goal thanks to our tax refund, annual bonus, and squirreling away of money. Now I get to dive into a capital project.

For reference, this is what our bathroom looks like currently:


It’s tucked under the stairs, in the center of our home’s first floor.

Stairs Bathroom

Virtually everything you see will be changed, so I have a lot of decisions to make. It’s equal parts fun and stressful. I’m nowhere near a congealed plan, but I wanted to round up the major choices. Many of you commented in my reader survey that you’d like to see more in-progress details, so here goes.

Floor Tile: Decided!

Marble tile doesn’t feel right to me for a bungalow bathroom, so I zeroed in quickly on porcelain mosaic tile. Here are a few options I considered:

Tile Options.JPG

Jarrod saw the penny tile and said “They don’t fit together!” and now I think he’s right: it’s weird each tile is an island in a sea of grout, instead of being more like a puzzle piece.

I was on the fence on basketweave vs. hexagonal until I stopped to appreciate the tile of the wine shop in the Merchandise Mart, where I work (the Merchandise Mart, that is; I don’t work in the wine shop. I would be terrible at that job, because I am an undiscriminating lush).

Wine Shop Floor.JPG

Simple matte white hex tile with black grout. Worn and imperfect, it still looked beautiful. And, this tile is very common in original bungalow floors. I’ll order it from Wayfair. Decided!

Wall Beadboard: Decided, ugh, Menards

Did you know Menards charges a 25% restocking fee for anything you order from their website? I’m not talking custom orders: just off-the-shelf online orders. I ordered something recently and was vexed – vexed! – to learn this. Don’t worry: I channeled my grandma, pushed back, and was issued a full refund.

Beadboard Sample.jpg

Anyway, I want a v-groove beadboard with wide planks, because it looks more modern, and I want it a few inches taller than the standard 32”. The closest thing I could find to what I have in mind is at Menards, unless any of you lovely readers have a hot tip.

Faucet: Decided, with fingers crossed

I want a matte black fixture, which is a limited pool of options. I plan to reuse our existing sink (to save money and reduce waste, and because I like it), which requires a centerset three-hole faucet – further limiting my pool of options. This MOEN Kingsley Centerset 2-Handle Faucet is The One.


The cost was hard to swallow, but when it arrived it was clearly worth it. This thing is remarkably heavy. It’s beautiful. My only concern is that the arc of the faucet may make the water stream be too close to the front of our shallow sink. Fingers crossed.

Vanity: 78% chance of success

Our bathroom requires a very shallow sink and vanity. The 14″ x 24″ sink in there now is as big as the space can handle. Hours and hours of perusal of every online store plus lots of local shops did not turn up a wide variety of options.

I got quotes from a variety of places for a simple custom vanity, all of which came in around $1k (for the cabinet only – sink excluded). I am not opposed to spending that amount of money in general, but a tiny vanity isn’t really where I want to sink my budget.


Why not a pedestal sink? You see this sink from the side, which is the least attractive part of a pedestal sink due to the supply lines and wall drain (for example). I know there are some nice kits for exposed plumbing, but I’m just not feeling that look here. Also, a vanity is the only opportunity for storage in this bathroom.

So, I am going to use the $109 IKEA SILVERAN vanity as a starting point, and customize it with brass hardware, inky-black paint, and furniture legs.


I’ll buy the pine version because all of the parts are solid wood. The $89 white one is foil/plastic-coated particleboard, which feels and looks a lot cheaper.

Here are some inspiration photos for the general vibe I’ll be going for, though none of these are exactly the end goal:

Dark Vanity Inspiration

Here’s the tricky party: I need to cut the vanity’s depth down to size to fit our 14″ sink. The 15″ SILVERAN is too deep, and the 9″ version is too shallow. So, that could end in total disaster. I’m willing to risk it, because I’m excited about this idea and I like the challenge.

Wall sconce: So many good options

Schoolhouse Electric – Davis Double Sconce ($199 fixture + $44/shade)

Davis Sconce.jpg

I would get the brass finish with the faceted shades.

Davis Sconce Faceted Shades.jpg

Rejuvenation – Graydon Double Wall Sconce ($399)

Graydon Sconce.jpg

Wade Logan – Rickford 2-Light Wall Sconce ($95); maybe too modern, but sharing because it’s such a good deal!

Rickford Sconce.jpg

Rejuvenation – West Slope Sconce ($399)

West Slope Sconce.jpg

This babe is my favorite by far, but I’m afraid the size options won’t work. 27″ is too wide, and 15″ seems too short.

But first, I have to choose wallpaper.

Wallpaper: All over the goddamn place!

Literally and figuratively all over the place. There are over a dozen wallpaper samples currently taped to our bathroom wall, in a wide range of styles. You know the Crazy Wall trope, where the detective’s obsession with the case is his downfall? That’s me in this bathroom.

Crazy Wall of Wallpaper.JPG

If you’re also on the hunt for good wallpaper, the brands I’ve been looking at include:

My Top 3 contenders are:

York – Stencil Overall (YC3414) (only $14/roll!)York YC3414.jpg

The online photos are so flat and lifeless – ordering samples is necessary to see what they’re really like.

York Stencil Wallpaper.jpg

Don’t worry, that antique bird towel hook is definitely staying. (I used it in our last bathroom.)

York – Ashford House Flower Vine (AK7500) ($14/roll)York AK7500.jpg

Speaking of channeling my grandma! In real life, it looks rich and hand-stenciled.

York Wallpaper AK7500.jpg

Cole & Son – Dialytra ($125/roll, unpasted, which will add a bit to the hanging cost)Cole Dialytra Pattern.jpg

Cole & Sons has the best product photos, which must be what $125 a roll gets you.

Cole Dialytra Paper.jpg

One point of consideration is that there are several awkward corners and angles in this room. A pattern with strict lines may make that more obvious. A botanical print would be more forgiving of the not-perfectly-square space, especially with the sloped wall (due to the overhead stairway).

Here’s a slap-dash, not-to-scale mock-up I put together back when I was thinking I’d do a white vanity, which – now that I’m looking at this – is maybe back on the table. Sigh.

Bathroom Options.png

I’m torn because I want something interesting, but it also needs to vibe with the rest of the first floor. You see it as soon as you come in the front door. I want the bathroom to be interesting when you’re in there, but I don’t want a bathroom to command your attention from our foyer (although I guess we could just keep the door partially shut).

Most importantly, I don’t want to go all wackadoodle just for the sake of punchy After photos.

What’s Left to Decide

Every time I feel like I’m close to having considered all of the decisions I need to make, I remember a ton of other things left to decide.

  • Mirror: Preferably wood and antique, circular or with rounded corners
  • Door
  • Bathroom fan: I have not even looked at the options. Surely this is an easy one? I’ll just buy whatever is rated highest.
  • Art
  • Baseboard and trim

Okay, that’s all for now. I’ll do plenty of other posts detailing the exact budget, final design board, and contractor plans. If you feel strongly about any of these options, please weigh in with a comment!

Thanks so much for all of your feedback on the reader survey – I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your funny, thoughtful, and encouraging remarks. It’s made me really excited to keep on blogging, and it’s warmed my paint-it-black heart.

Reader Survey – I’d Love Your Feedback

Dear readers:

I put together a brief survey to help me learn a bit more about you, the readers of this blog. I’d love your feedback!

If none of the multiple choice options provided work for you, please select “Other” and fill in your own answer. The open-ended questions are optional: feel free to skip if you don’t have anything you’d like to add.

If the embedded form below doesn’t work for you, or if you’re on a mobile device, please go to Google Forms to fill it out.

Thanks so much! And thanks for reading this blog.

Marti Palermo