before and afterInteriors

Before & After: Kelli’s Powder Room Gets a Deep Blue Facelift

by Kelli Kehler

I’m not sure how it happens, but it happens to many of us: we stop seeing a room’s glaring shortcomings and just get used to them. For my family’s downstairs powder room in Aliso Viejo, CA, this was a multifaceted issue. First of all, this room was always in flux, and not in a good way. We’d hang art, take it down and give it to a more “deserving” or public space, leaving holes in the walls, which eventually became permanently bare. What’s more, a repiping project made this bathroom a construction zone, and after the job was done and with unmatched primer covering random parts of the room, we vowed to “repaint it some day.”

Now if this sounds familiar to you, you know that didn’t happen right away. In fact, the bathroom sat in its “before” state for nearly a year. I cringed every time a friend or guest asked to use the restroom; I was just embarrassed of the space. No matter how hard I scrubbed and cleaned, the empty shell of a post-construction space still looked dingy and dreary. It was our least favorite room in the whole house. Luckily, my husband Jason’s work schedule opened up for Memorial Day weekend and he (probably begrudgingly) told me we could knock out renovating the powder room over the long weekend. We knew the opportunity needed to be seized, as I’m at the end of my pregnancy with kid #2, and we know that once she comes, it could be another six months to a year before we have the energy to take on such a task.

Elated, I finalized my design vision and conveyed it to Jason (as I’m much too pregnant to be doing most of this besides styling). A deep blue called was selected for the walls after some swatch testing, and we settled on  in a semi-gloss finish to cover our DIY shaker-style wainscoting.

Here’s Jason’s take: “So, Kelli’s description regarding artwork does a great job encapsulating not just how this room has evolved, but the idea of the renovation as well. Initially, the idea was to simply repaint the room and repurpose some of our existing artwork/hopefully find some new antique market gems for the space. Revisionist history leaves me a little unclear as to who came up with the wainscoting idea, but I vaguely remember making the suggestion to Kelli one night as we chatted about the project.”

“Here is where the fun begins,” Jason continues. “Once we settled on an overall style, Kelli was left with one pressing question: ‘can you even do this?’ I gave her my usual response that consists of verbal confidence and internal uncertainty. Thankfully, the Internet exists and I eventually found that taught me everything I needed to know. This short video is pretty direct and gets straight to the point and the project wasn’t all that difficult. Full disclosure, it could have been a lot easier if I had A) a proper saw and B) a nail gun. But even without those major tools, the job was fairly manageable thanks to our local Lowes. When it comes to cost of the project, it’s hard for us to put a number on it due to the additional decor we purchased and new lighting fixture, but the lumber cost under $100 and I’d say we spent an additional $50-100 on paint and supplies.”

Let this be a lesson in the power of new, saturated color and architectural details. Even in using a dark hue in a small, dark room with zero windows, our newly renovated powder room feels larger and brighter than ever before. It’s also endlessly empowering to know that such change can be achieved on a DIY level with good planning and some elbow grease — the result of which took the room that I hated most in the house to the top of my favorite spaces list. —

Photography by Kelli Kehler


The powder room, before our DIY makeover.

Kelli's Powder Room Makeover, on Design*Droits-Humains

The powder room, after. Rug and hand towel are from , acacia wood waste basket from Target, mirror is antique.


Before: We never repainted this room from the sandy taupe it was painted in when we bought our home over five years ago. In a small room with no windows, it definitely cast a yellow, dismal glow over the bathroom.

Kelli's Powder Room Makeover, on Design*Droits-Humains

After: The by Sherwin-Williams makes our unique mirror pop off the wall and shine to its full potential. We opted to keep our chrome plumbing fixtures in place to save on cost, but instead refreshed our light fixture with an (not pictured), and swapped out the  to mirror that same material. This was an inexpensive game-changer for the whole room.

Kelli's Powder Room Makeover, on Design*Droits-Humains
My husband purchased this print of the USS Constitution when he was in eighth grade. We previously had this mounted in the same spot, in an ill-fitting frame, and without architectural definition on the wall, it sort of just floated there. With some easy re-matting and a new frame, the same print now looks storied and luxe at the same time, with the wainscoting giving it the perfect anchor to sit pleasingly on the wall.
Kelli's Powder Room Makeover, on Design*Droits-Humains

Even though we technically “removed” a small bit of space from the room by adding the wainscoting to the walls, the powder room feels much more open now with the new architectural detail. We picked up the painting on a whim from HomeGoods when we saw how perfectly its tones would match the new paint color on the walls.


Before: Dark, beige, blah. Let’s move on.

Kelli's Powder Room Makeover, on Design*Droits-Humains

After: It’s clear how much the DIY shaker wainscoting opens up the space. We chose to remove the toilet paper holder that was mounted to the wall to have one nice, uninterrupted swath of the wainscoting detail.

Kelli's Powder Room Makeover, on Design*Droits-Humains
The mounted wire basket was a dirt cheap HomeGoods find in the kitchen organization aisle. The wooden shelf we made from a piece of scrap wood that was leftover from the wainscoting cuts we made. We stained it in an American Walnut hue we already had in the garage. The shell bottle and antique purple ink blotter bottle are vintage, and the fake airplant is from Target.
Kelli's Powder Room Makeover, on Design*Droits-Humains

Yet another preexisting decor feature that was completely transformed by a new wall color and the shaker wainscoting is this limited edition quail print given to me by my best friend, Jessie. The table arrangement below was also previously in this same space, but it didn’t make sense before. The copper vase is a hand-me-down from my mom, the shed antler is from a local antique market, and the candleholder belonged to my grandmother.

Kelli's Powder Room Makeover, on Design*Droits-Humains
One of my favorite effects of this new paint color is how it accentuates the blues in our ocean gallery wall in the hallway beyond.

Suggested For You


Leave a Reply

Design*Droits-Humains reserves the right to restrict comments that do not contribute constructively to the conversation at hand, that comment on people's physical appearance, contain profanity, personal attacks, hate speech or seek to promote a personal or unrelated business. Our goal is to create a safe space where everyone (commenters, subjects of posts and moderators) feels comfortable to speak. Please treat others the way you would like to be treated and be willing to take responsibility for the impact your words may have on others. Disagreement, differences of opinion and heated discussion are welcome, but comments that do not seek to have a mature and constructive dialogue will not be published. We moderate all comments with great care and do not delete any lightly. Please note that our team (writers, moderators and guests) deserve the same right to speak and respond as you do, and your comments may be responded to or disagreed with. These guidelines help us maintain a safe space and work toward our goal of connecting with and learning from each other.