Powder Room Refresh: Antique Inspiration

source: Worthington & Shagen

When we first moved into our home, we didn’t think we needed to do anything in our first floor powder room except hang a towel. But we kept smelling something strange when we came into the house. At long last we traced it to the unassuming pedestal sink in our half bath. Instead of fixing a pinhole leak, the previous owners had placed an old plastic jar in the pedestal to catch the leaking water. Over time, this led to mildew growing up the container, and inside the back of the porcelain pedestal. Just one of the many examples of the super-fun things you find after buying a house! We fixed the leak and cleaned the pedestal as best we could, but the damage is done, and as we get into the warmer weather we’re smelling it once again. The problems with the powder room have continued to pile up as we’ve lived here. While investigating the mildew issue, we discovered that the baseboards in the bathroom aren’t wood, but MDF, and, likely due to the sink leak (but possibly due to toilet overflows), are so soft you can tear them with a finger. GROSS. Likewise, the wallpaper is yellowing at the bottom behind the sink, again because of the leak/toilet. YUCK. The primitive style vintage vanity mirror refuses to close. We currently have it jerry-rigged with a folded piece of paper to make it stick, which works about 50% of the time. Finally, we’ve had to get the toilet fixed twice since we moved in and the plumber says the best thing to do is replace. So even though I like the toilet and sink in there now and will buy the toilet again (they’re both Kohler Memoirs, which is a great, widely-available and budget-friendly line), since we have to replace the toilet, the sink, the mirror AND the baseboards – I figured it’s time for a refresh to replace the sconces and the wallpaper as well. Luckily, I won’t have to move any plumbing and there’s already plenty of storage in the room, so there’s nothing structural, just … literally everything else!

Here is what the powder room looks like right now:

This room is VERY awkward to photograph, but this actually gives a pretty good idea of what it looks like right now, stark yellow lighting and all!

We try to be true to the history of our house when doing work, but the fact is that there were no bathrooms in the house (or any other houses for that matter) back in 1732 when our house was built – by necessity, all the bathrooms are 20th century additions.

(An aside – I visited Peter the Great’s palace in Russia a decade ago, and he had a bathroom in his palace that is contemporary with our home. It legit had a stream that flowed 24/7 under the hole-in-a-bench that was the toilet to whisk everything away. Guess the man was not a fan of chamber pots. Respect.)

ANYWAY, that fancy-for-the-time bathroom was still just a hole in a bench. Indoor streams and bench potties are out, so we have to invent something that doesn’t detract from the house, as, in my opinion, so many bathrooms and kitchens added onto antique homes seem to do.

Because it’s a small space I’d like to do a bold wallpaper – given the room’s size, it wouldn’t be overwhelming to do a strong print. The house is just so amenable to repurposing antiques that I’m on the hunt for a piece of furniture to convert to a vanity. Because we live in a rural setting, I really want to bring the outdoors in with a forest or tree wallpaper that is classic but has a modern edge. With that in mind, I found some great inspiration as a starting point.

source: Domino

Bold wallpapaer? Check! Gorgeous converted vanity? Yes, please! Beautiful brass faucets, too, which add warmth. I love this wallpaper (Caitlin McGauley’s Panthera http://www.caitlinmcgauley.com/wallpaper/), but it’s not quite right for our house – which is less modern and more woodsy.


source: Worthington & Shagen

I love this vanity – they clearly made a custom marble top for this antique, so were able to use an inset rather than vessel sink. I so wish I could find a piece this perfect – gorgeous wood, turned legs, and most of all, great measurements for the spot, perfect height, and structurally that little cabinet in the middle (with the drawers on the sides) makes this about 1,000 times easier to turn into a vanity than any of the options I’ve found. This Old House has a great tutorial about how to do this .


source: Park and Oak

This converted dresser is pretty much my ideal. Stone top? Antique? Gorgeous proportions? I’ll take it all.


source: Susan Harter Muralpapers

This wallpaper is the DREAM. Hand painted, could not be more perfect for my house, so many gorgeous designs and colors. But for a room where we’ve already had water damage … it makes me very nervous to even consider an investment-level piece like this. I adore it so much!


source: Jersey Ice Cream Co.
Talk about bringing the outside in! This wallpaper is Chiavi Segrete by Cole & Sons. They have lots of colorways, and I love the ambiguity of the silver and gold keys. My husband thinks it’s “weird” to have a bunch of keys floating in a hedge, but I think it’s weird in the best way, and that the designer, Pietro Fornasetti, can do no wrong … I’ve already used another of his designs for my office wallpaper.


source: Tone on Tone Antiques

Unlacquered brass faucets like those above would work beautifully here – we currently have a lot of brushed nickel fixtures in the home, but some of our lighting, hardware and even toilet paper holders are unlacquered brass, and it looks perfect in our antique surroundings. These skew a little Victorian for our house, but the nice thing about a home as old as ours was that it was around during so many eras that there’s wiggle room as to what eras you pull from.


source: Kaemingk Design

This vanity is repurposed with a vessel sink, which is much more realistic for me. I have to find a piece of furniture that is 30 inches wide or less to fit comfortably in the space, so need all the flexibility I can get. A vessel sink allows for less carpentry under the surface of the furniture piece, since you don’t have to have the sink sit flush with the top. You can also purchase vessel sinks with space for soap and holes for a faucet, which allows you to avoid needing a stone top, but still keeping everything clean.


source: DesignSponge

I came across this photo years ago, and it was the first to make me fall in love with repurposed vanities. I am insanely jealous of their ability to have such a large dresser – it really opens up the possibilities.


source: de Gournay

Can de Gournay do any wrong? This is a beautiful grisaille wallpaper. Grisaille is a style of gray and white painting that pre-dates even our house by a few hundred years. It’s been revitalized in so many beautiful wallpapers, and as far as bringing the forest indoors goes, this is perfection. However, buying this wallpaper would blow through not only my powder room budget, but maybe my whole budget, so it’s off the table.

Decisions, decisions …

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