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The Half Bath Makeover

Our house has a half bathroom on the first floor, but for the first few months after moving in, we would climb the stairs to the second floor to avoid it.

It looks nice enough here, right? But upon closer examination…

My son was afraid of it; I was repulsed. Even after a good cleaning, we wouldn’t use the half bath and so we took some major steps to renovate. Click to see what we did to create a more beautiful, inviting and clean bathroom.

It was a confined, dark and gloomy space. Spiders lurked in corners and hung from cobwebs on the ceiling. The vanity, mirror and cabinet were sloppily streaked with a deep burgundy stain that trickled onto the inside.

My son was afraid of it; I was repulsed. Even after a good cleaning, we wouldn’t use the half bath and so we took some major steps to renovate. Click to see what we did to create a more beautiful, inviting and clean bathroom.

The walls were painted a dingy yellowish-white. The floor boards were chipped and water damaged. And worst of all, there was a strange smell incessantly hanging in the air.

My son was afraid of it; I was repulsed. Even after a good cleaning, we wouldn’t use the half bath and so we took some major steps to renovate. Click to see what we did to create a more beautiful, inviting and clean bathroom.

My son was afraid of it; I was repulsed. Even after a good cleaning, we wouldn’t use that bathroom. We certainly couldn’t expect our guests to either, and so we took some major steps to renovate.


This is where I drew my inspiration in order to create a bathroom that would feel more beautiful, inviting and clean. I chose white and navy as base colors and coral as an accent.

My son was afraid of it; I was repulsed. Even after a good cleaning, we wouldn’t use the half bath and so we took some major steps to renovate. Click to see what we did to create a more beautiful, inviting and clean bathroom.

Inspiration board sources: {from top left} Home with Baxter // Swirled Peas Design shower curtain // Pottery Barn coral prints // Wisteria coral shelves // Bower Power

To start, we removed everything — baseboards, flooring, vanity, mirror, cabinet, fixtures and the toilet. The toilet was in decent shape so we gave it a good cleaning and bought a new seat, seal and tank parts. Anything that was salvageable was donated to Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore.

When we removed the cabinets, vanity and mirror, we learned the walls were once a dark red ocher color. Interesting… I suppose that’s some of the fun of a pre-owned home. Further prepping of the walls revealed that previous owners might have just painted over existing wallpaper because it peeled off in sheets!

My son was afraid of it; I was repulsed. Even after a good cleaning, we wouldn’t use the half bath and so we took some major steps to renovate. Click to see what we did to create a more beautiful, inviting and clean bathroom.

The flooring was probably the worst to remove as it was nailed and glued in place. After everything was out, we gave the walls a good wipe down with TSP diluted in water and cleaned the floor with a mixture of bleach, borax and water. That took care of that strange lingering scent.

Now with our blank canvas, we got to work!

1.  PAINT

The first thing we did to improve the bathroom’s appearance was paint. We applied two coats of KILZ latex primer followed by a few coats of Valspar satin interior paint in Vivid Blue. We painted the blue only halfway down the wall to where the beadboard would meet and the entire ceiling. The room already had crown molding, so it created a nice division between the walls and ceiling.

My son was afraid of it; I was repulsed. Even after a good cleaning, we wouldn’t use the half bath and so we took some major steps to renovate. Click to see what we did to create a more beautiful, inviting and clean bathroom.

Since the walls in this bathroom are smooth, we had to really take our time painting. I’m not sure if it was the paint color, wall surface or combination thereof, but imperfections and mistakes were easy to spot. We brought in additional lighting to help catch any drips and invested in a quality roller cover made especially for smooth walls. The walls still required some sanding, painting and re-painting, but in the end I think we did a good job.

2.  BEADBOARD

When I think clean, I think white and so we installed a beautiful beadboard halfway up the wall and all around the room. It really brightened up the small space.

My son was afraid of it; I was repulsed. Even after a good cleaning, we wouldn’t use the half bath and so we took some major steps to renovate. Click to see what we did to create a more beautiful, inviting and clean bathroom.

We bought the already-primed hardboard beadboard, but in retrospect, we should have invested in real wood. The hardboard puckered around nail holes no matter how much we filled and sanded. It was also a pain to paint, leaving patches of paint streaks despite our best efforts.

We used Valspar semi-gloss interior paint in Ultra-White to finish the beadboard and painted the crown molding to match. We probably could have used the existing baseboard, but we opted to replace it with a slightly fancier one. The beadboard was capped with standard chair moulding for a finished look.

This is the tutorial we used to install the baseboard, beadboard and chair moulding.

Despite the little DIY flaws, I still love the look and feel of the beadboard. Like the board and batten we installed in our daughter’s room, it’s a classic wall paneling that instantly enhances the space and adds a touch of beauty and elegance.

My son was afraid of it; I was repulsed. Even after a good cleaning, we wouldn’t use the half bath and so we took some major steps to renovate. Click to see what we did to create a more beautiful, inviting and clean bathroom.

3.  CERAMIC TILES

Do you recognize these tiles? They are the same gorgeous tiles that we laid in our laundry closet. But since the washer and dryer are now sitting on top of them, I hardly get to enjoy their beauty, and so we put them down here, too. Yay!

My son was afraid of it; I was repulsed. Even after a good cleaning, we wouldn’t use the half bath and so we took some major steps to renovate. Click to see what we did to create a more beautiful, inviting and clean bathroom.
They are called Gino Grey and the texture reminds me of linen. Fresh, clean and crisp.

4.  NEW SINK, MIRROR & ACCESSORIES

The clunky wooden vanity was replaced with a sleek pedestal sink. The previous vanity had small strips of wasted space on either side of it that was a haven for spiders and a challenge to clean. Removing the bulk underneath the sink opened up the space and brought more white to the eye. The sink also got a shiny new set of knobs.

My son was afraid of it; I was repulsed. Even after a good cleaning, we wouldn’t use the half bath and so we took some major steps to renovate. Click to see what we did to create a more beautiful, inviting and clean bathroom.

We further replaced the light fixture, mirror and accessories for a clean, modern look.

My son was afraid of it; I was repulsed. Even after a good cleaning, we wouldn’t use the half bath and so we took some major steps to renovate. Click to see what we did to create a more beautiful, inviting and clean bathroom.My son was afraid of it; I was repulsed. Even after a good cleaning, we wouldn’t use the half bath and so we took some major steps to renovate. Click to see what we did to create a more beautiful, inviting and clean bathroom.

Let’s take one last look at the Before and After.

My son was afraid of it; I was repulsed. Even after a good cleaning, we wouldn’t use the half bath and so we took some major steps to renovate. Click to see what we did to create a more beautiful, inviting and clean bathroom.My son was afraid of it; I was repulsed. Even after a good cleaning, we wouldn’t use the half bath and so we took some major steps to renovate. Click to see what we did to create a more beautiful, inviting and clean bathroom.

It is now used regularly by the family and is ready for guests! Next up, bathroom decor… I’m thinking nautical. What do you think? Thanks for reading! — v.

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16 Responses to The Half Bath Makeover

  1. Lynzie December 18, 2016 at 11:04 AM #

    What a great job you did! I love the bead board look! Just for future reference, I renovated my full bath this summer and wanted the bead board but heard about the problems some encountered with the puckering and warping especially if the bathroom wasn’t ventilated well, so I decided to go with the bead board wallpaper and the results came out great. It was easy to hang and it looks like the real thing!

    • v. December 18, 2016 at 9:44 PM #

      Thanks for the info on the wallpaper — I hadn’t heard of that! We’ll likely end up re-doing the bead board; I love the look — just not happy with the hardboard. Thanks for reading and sharing your tip, Lynzie!

      • Paula March 30, 2017 at 9:01 AM #

        We used pvc beadboard from https://www.aicmillworks.com/pvc-beadboard-wainscoting. It was a little pricier but it came in a nice white (it is paintable)…no puckering… and it cleans up so nicely. Great job on your 1/2 bath!!

        • v. March 30, 2017 at 10:24 AM #

          PVC? Thanks for the tip! We will likely re-do it so that is something to consider. Thank you for reading and sharing a comment, Paula!

      • Melinda Newton August 15, 2017 at 8:41 AM #

        Hi, I just stumbled across your blog from a Home Talk board on your entry way… Which I LOVE. But I was looking through your blog and say this and reading the comments. I would not worry about your board warping or anything do to moisture .. it is in a half bath, so no showering or bathing in there . There should be no moisture problems at all. I love it , and I think it looks great!!!

        • v. August 16, 2017 at 10:25 AM #

          Thanks so much, Melinda! You are right; we don’t have any moisture issues in the half bath. The only problem is the type of beadboard (hardboard) we used. It puckered around the nail holes and didn’t paint smoothly despite our best efforts. Should we do it again, we’ll invest a bit more for real wood. Thanks again for following and sharing your comments!

  2. vickie December 18, 2016 at 9:08 AM #

    where is the storage….you have to have some storage in the bathroom…no place to put extra toilet paper and wash clothes and rags…

    • v. December 18, 2016 at 9:51 PM #

      It’s just a half bathroom without a shower or bathtub, so I don’t need storage. There’s a stylish metal container in there for extra toilet paper and extra hand towels and soap refill are housed across the hall in the closet. I’ve thought about adding shelves above the toilet, but it’s a small space and I currently like that it’s open. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts, Vickie!

  3. Kathleen Conery September 30, 2016 at 7:55 PM #

    You did a beautiful job! I love the color blue you used. And I think we have the same faucet (just installed in our new vanity)!
    We painted over wallpaper in our house.,, The kitchen wallpaper was so awful we painted it immediately so that we wouldn’t have to look at it one more day!

    • v. October 1, 2016 at 1:39 AM #

      Thanks so much, Kathleen! Great minds think alike! ;) I can certainly understand the ease of painting over existing wallpaper; I had just never seen it done and was surprised when what I thought was paint came peeling off the wall in sheets! How long has your kitchen wallpaper been painted? How’s it holding up?

      • Kathleen Conery October 2, 2016 at 2:19 PM #

        It’s been about 3 years now and it still looks great! The only sign is the very occasional thin edge of a seam. But before painting we cleaned it well, and made sure the seams were flat and that there were no bubbles anywhere in the wallpaper. Sort of the way you’d make sure any wall surface is prepped for paint!
        We had wallpaper in many rooms that we removed before painting, but we were in a rush with the kitchen (it was a brownish lattice with brownish flower and fruit bunches on a beige speckled and smudged background… it had a permanent dirty appearance).

        • v. October 5, 2016 at 4:22 PM #

          Sounds like you made a great call on the kitchen — thanks for sharing with us! I took a quick peek at your blog — so fun! — and it looks like you’ve had your hands full with wallpaper/treatments! The blue is much better. :)

  4. Jeanene September 25, 2016 at 9:55 PM #

    You never cease to amaze me sister!! It looks beautiful

    • v. September 26, 2016 at 1:22 PM #

      Thanks, Jeanene! Now it’s all guest ready so come on over!

  5. Deb September 22, 2016 at 4:10 PM #

    You know I loved that tile so much, I put it in my guest bathroom also!!!

    • v. September 26, 2016 at 1:22 PM #

      That is awesome, Deb!

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