Half-Bathroom Before and After

I detailed the half-bathroom renovation drudgery in previous posts, so now it’s time for a whole bunch of before and after photos! All of the sources are linked at the end of this post.

Before:First Floor Bathroom.jpg

After:Half Bath Under Stairs.jpg

The moulding around the door was replaced with a simple Craftman style that is more appropriate for our 1913 bungalow. I used Metrie architrave (the part above the door) plus trim from Home Depot. The vintage five panel door is what would have been in the house originally – I picked it up for $20 at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore here in Chicago.

Before:Door Before.JPG

After:Five Panel Door.jpg

Five Panel Doorknob.jpg

The previous tile was overly high: it crowded the window and made the room feel short. I chose the beadboard height so that it was as tall as the faucet – that way when people turn off the handles, there’s little risk of water splashing on the wallpaper.

Before:Half Bath Monet.jpg

After:Powder Room After.jpg

Another choice that helps make the room feel taller is continuing the wallpaper up the sloped ceiling. The Cole & Sons wallpaper is so beautiful; it looks hand-stenciled.

Wallpaper on Sloped Wall.jpg

There’s an odd wood stump up there from a staircase beam, so I put a vintage brass duck on it because why not.

Brass Bird Flying in a Bathroom.jpg

I love the new matte white hex tile from EliteTile. Porcelain mosaic tile feels perfect for a bungalow bathroom, and the black grout will be easy to keep clean.

Before:Half Bath Toilet Before.jpg

After:Kohler Toilet.jpg

The support post bump-out fits in with the room a lot better now that the beadboard and baseboard wraps around and continues down the rest of the wall.

Before:Half Bath Tile Tower.jpg

After:Bathroom Bump Out.jpg

Another big change I’m very happy with is the window trim. The window previously looked really rough – you could see the brick around the edges. Now it looks like a feature of the room, not an afterthought.

Before:Window Before.jpg

After:Glass Block Window.jpg

Jarrod is a birder, and he’s always admiring the John James Audubon Birds of America book on display at Northwestern University, where he works. I sent him a link to Joel Oppenheimer’s Audubon listings sorted by ascending price, so we could find an entry-level piece. Jarrod selected boat-tailed grackles, and I picked up the print at Oppenheimer’s beautiful gallery in Chicago. It’s a 1856 hand-colored lithograph.

Tip: All of Audubon’s Birds of America illustrations are available for free download as very high-resolution files (10,000 pixels!) via the Audubon Society’s website.

Framed Audubon Print.jpg

This print is the only art I have in here; I may eventually hang something over the toilet, but for now I’m letting the wallpaper do the work. I’m keeping the windowsill simple as well with a woven tray, tissue box, and plant.

Bathroom Window Sill.jpg

One more photo just because I like this detail!


The bathroom finishes are a mix of matte black and antique brass. The Tolson toilet paper holder from Rejuvenation matches the vanity knobs.

Brass Toilet Paper Holder.jpg

I reused the bathroom’s existing sink: there are very few sink options available with such a shallow depth (14″), and this one was in perfectly fine shape. It looks so much better with a new black faucet and a new vanity.

Before:Half Bath Sink.jpg

After:Bathroom Sink.jpg

I customized an IKEA SILVERAN vanity with paint, tapered legs, and brass knobs. I also reduced the depth of the vanity to fit the sink. This was one aspect of the powder room that I thought might be a total fail, but I ended up being 100% pleased with it. So, I am super glad I did not waste money on an expensive custom vanity (all of the quotes I got came in around $1k). I’ll share details of this IKEA hack in a follow-up post.

Before:Half Bath Vanity Before.jpg

After:IKEA SILVERAN vanity hack.jpg

I purchased the rug, tissue box cover, and antique brass bird hook when I redid our apartment bathroom. There’s actually an identical bird on eBay right now – but she’s $175 and has a candleholder on her head! Looks like my $14 bird “hook” used to be a sconce before her hat fell off.

Brass Bird Hook.jpg

Going back in time, here’s what the bathroom looked like when we bought the house.


Interim:Half Bath Mirror Before.jpg

After:Dark Vanity with Brass Mirror.jpg

The light fixture was lowered and replaced with a Schoolhouse Electric sconce. I love those faceted shades. The switches and outlet were moved next to the door, which is the logical home for them.

When we bought the house:downstairs13

Interim:Bathroom Door

After:Bathroom Five Panel Door.jpg

When we bought the house:downstairs10

And now:Powder Room.jpg

I love this view:Round Brass Mirror in Bathroom.jpg

Portrait of a Lady who is Relieved this Bathroom Renovation Wasn’t a Huge Mistake:Round Brass Mirror.jpg


Previous posts

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!