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