Queen of May Bathroom: Before

We're renovating, exploring style and design with a dash of cocktail making and cooking thrown in. 

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This renovation has been a slow one. I want to talk about this part of the process because renovation and design has a public face of being ‘fast and easy’. We don’t talk often enough about how that isn’t always true.

Media has trained us to respond to ‘instant results’. Think about interior design shows on TV: a new room in 30 minutes for $200. I don’t know about you, but that’s never been the case with us! When we do a project correctly, it takes time. The only time we’ve done rooms ‘fast’ is during the One Room Challenge, which has a 6 week timeline. And believe me, it is a back breaking, exhausting pace to work at.

This house is not a sprint for us, it’s a triathlon. It’s about good pacing, managing our energy levels and having our eye on the prize. We are not flipping it or selling it, it’s our home. We have to live through the renovations and live with our design decisions. It can take me 4 months to find the right wallpaper or fabric. I save patterns I love, but it’s a lot about mood. Sometimes things you love work out and sometimes you have to keep searching.

After completing our downstairs bathroom last November for the One Room Challenge, I said we’d do this bathroom, but as a slow renovation. Work on it when we could, spend money on it when we saw a good deal, etc. But let me tell you: when I was ready to be done: I was ready. We put a rush on it and wrapped this up!

Feast your eyes on the before pictures.

Our to-do list was a long one in this little space. Here’s some top shelf renovation and design notes we considered when working on the space.

  • This room was an addition to the house around 1900 when indoor plumbing was added.
  • It’s a guest bathroom that’s second on the list for being used. (We have another guest room we use more frequently.)
  • This room is crazy bright because of the two large windows.
  • The walls are in terrible shape and we can’t fix it.
  • The tub doesn’t work. We want to make it look nice for now and plan on dealing with fixing it in the future.
  • This room had leaking issues in the past – with the gutters. It appears to be resolved now, but I don’t want to invest in custom wall paper. It’s wayyyy too risky.
  • We are not changing the historic tile or fixtures. They are a major highlight of the house.


Before you leave 8,000 comments about how awesome the wall paper is and can we keep it. NO. It is yellow because it’s completely covered in cigarette smoke. Which grosses me out at the deepest levels. We did save the paper and might put it behind glass at some point as a little history of the house, but again, behind glass. Where I can’t smell it.

Design Considerations
Before I look for any products, I think about what design problems I need to solve.

  • Find a wall paper that connects the Gracie wall paper to the room. When you enter the guest room you have to walk through the room with the Gracie paper to get to the bathroom. I looked for teal or navy blue. I considered some lighter colors that were quickly eliminated.
  • Find vintage rug that better speaks to color story.
  • Paint tub striking color that connects the bottom half of the room to the walls.
  • Curtains that still let light in yet provides privacy.
  • A shelf for open storage.
  • Find a skinny mirror. Only 14” wide, but tall.
  • Add picture moulding to top of wall. To help with wall unevenness, and finish off the room. The bathrooms on the second floor have no trim work, but the third floor does. I have a feeling the picture moulding was removed at some point.
  • Find new light.
  • Make curtain tie backs.

Aesthetic mood.
For every project we work on – I make it a point to stay away from anything too transitional. Meaning it’s not modern or traditional, it’s in the in-between space. I find when I stick with modern or vintage, I capture the look so much easier. I call our style Avant Revivalist, and wrote a blog post about it here. We had a renovation to-do list and a design to-do list. I broke them up so you can see how many tasks are on each list! A small room like this still has so many details.

To-Do List: Renovation

  • clean floor, scrub and remove old paint
  • clean tiles, scrub and remove old paint
  • paint trim, door frame and window casings
  • paint storm windows
  • prime ceiling with special primer
  • prime ceiling with regular primer
  • ceiling, two coats of paint
  • remove wallpaper
  • scrub walls with paste remover and wash
  • prime walls with wall paper primer
  • wall paper
  • paint medicine cabinet
  • put rust stopper on tub
  • paint tub
  • hang mirror
  • hang curtain rods

To-Do List: Design Items

  • find wall paper
  • curtain rods
  • make curtains
  • make curtain tie backs
  • paint color for tub and cabinet
  • rug
  • accessories

We have our work cut out for us! We’re close enough that we’ll have the after pictures soon enough!

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  1. Haley says:

    The floor tile is just like mine! Do you have any tricks for cleaning it? Our looks perpetually dingy and I assumed it was just age, but maybe there’s a secret? Also, you mention the walls are terrible and can’t be fixed, what do you mean by that?

  2. Tricia Sandahl says:

    Susan and Will,

    Thanks for the wonderful content! If you ever do a line of merch, please consider an “Avant Revivalist” t-shirt. I’d buy it in a heartbeat if it was in my size.

  3. Nadine says:

    Oh I love it! Even in not so good but authentic shape. And I know you will make it perfect.

  4. April says:

    I can’t wait for the reveal!

  5. Kathy says:

    I love your sentiments about taking your time and being respectful of the age and style of your house. I feel the same way. I ruminate and dream about all the possibilities for my beloved 1936 mansard roof house and I love it. I feel so invested in my home and I want to preserve it for the future because things that are made to last are the best. Also your old (quality but tired) windows remind me exactly of my old windows. Someday they will be back to their glorious window selves. Thanks for the inspiration you remind me of what is important!

  6. Nate says:

    What stunning photos! This makes me want to find an old home and renovate a bathroom. It is a lot of hard work, but it is worth it!

  7. Naiya McKizia says:

    Did you guys get a chance to finish the bathroom?

  8. Jason Myopic says:

    I love how you kept the old when updating the room. Restoring old windows is great! Updating doors and windows not only helps with energy usage, but also freshens and changed a space.

  9. jackie says:

    The tile on the walls and floor are amazing. The windows. That tub.
    Can’t wait to see the big reveal.

  10. Love the care and devotion that you clearly bring to every project you touch. It looks like you have a beautiful project ahead of you- looking forward to seeing the results, however long it takes. We couldn’t agree more that the slow, careful process of design should be shared and spoken about more in the media.

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