before and afterInteriors

Before & After: Layers of Frills Become a Modern Board & Batten Powder Room

by Kelli Kehler

In the interior design or DIY world, there’s nothing quite like the satisfying feeling of seeing your vision translated from the twists and turns of your (sometimes indecisive) brain to reality, right before you in plain sight. These moments are even more gratifying and empowering when your own two hands pull off this feat — and for , her powder room renovation came out exactly as she envisioned and planned when all her hard work was done.

Emily usually has a distinct vision for how she’s setting out to design a room — her entire Pittsburgh, PA home with husband Andy is a testament to her color-saturated yet refined style. With the rest of their 1929 “Tudor-ish” home boasting stunning architectural details (arches, trim, and molding galore), it’s clear that this outdated powder room — with its frills upon frills — didn’t match the other rooms in aesthetic appeal. “I was inspired by recent One Room Challenges and home bloggers adding interest to their walls with trim work,” Emily shares. “I like the texture people are adding to their homes with shiplap but really love the way board and batten takes things up a level. I wanted this to be a project we could tackle on a budget and handle ourselves — with a lot of help from my dad, of course!”

Besides the layers of wallpaper in the small space that needed to be removed (“it was even on the ceiling, with a bonus cherub border!”) to make way for the new design, Emily and her family had to unearth original hex tiles that were covered up with thick vinyl tiles. A precise plan was executed to strategize the layout of the room’s new board and batten siding. “ is my favorite tool for planning projects in my home and I used it to make a perfectly measured plan for making our board and batten walls,” Emily says. “Thin plywood boards were cut to perfectly cover our definitely-not-plumb plaster walls and were secured with liquid nails and nail-gunned into place. Crown and base trim were added and then the vertical battens were placed. Then it was time to caulk for days and then paint everything in the lovely warm grey color I decided on at the very last minute.”

Sleek accessories with clean lines were added to give the whole room a modern vibe, along with pops of brass to lend both a current and timeless feel to the updated space. The whisper of a grey tone on the board and batten walls is so apt for the space you’d assume Emily agonized over it for weeks, but that’s not how the hue was chosen. “While I planned the board and batten details so carefully, I didn’t apply the same pre-planning to picking a paint color. As the new plywood walls were going up, I struggled over shades of greens and bought a gallon without ever testing it in the space. We all hated it. I spent an hour having it tinted darker and scrapped the whole notion of green in the end, settling on a instead. My dad likes to tell me I spent more money on paint than materials.”

All told, Emily and Andy have added new skills to their reno repertoire (they have the full how-to ) and a karmic I-told-you-so from none other than Emily’s own advice vault. “The whole process made me more confident in planning and executing more complicated projects in our home,” she notes. “It also made me want to board and batten everything! And it reminded me to always follow the advice I give to others — buy paint samples and test everything!” —

Photography by


“The mirror from the [before] photo was aggressive, to say the least. The previous owner was a talented decorator, but often did a little too much. It’s like that old advice our mothers gave us to take a piece of jewelry off before leaving the house, only she told herself ‘why not add two more?'” Emily jokes.


A minimal from Target continues the linear theme of the board and batten, but adds a touch of softness to the room with its rounded edges.


“It was interesting to uncover the history of the powder room, from its fleur-de-lis wallpaper to the hand-painted fleur-de-lis underneath it, to the signs of wall tile long ago removed,” Emily says.


From stuffy and dated to bright and modern.


Dark molding, dated wallpaper and an old light fixture were standing in the way of Emily’s clean and modern powder room update.


After, the room feels larger with a crisp white ceiling, a modern flush mount from CB2, and the clean lines of the new board and batten detail.


Before, the window shutters were just one of several elements that made this tiny powder room feel even more cramped.


“This is a very small room at only about 3’ 7” x 4’ so there is not a lot of space to work. It’s also a room with plaster walls in an old home and so nothing is quite straight or level, so extra care has to be taken to fill in gaps and make things look as smooth as possible.”


“I’m very proud of designing and executing the build of the board and batten walls,” Emily tells us. “It is so satisfying to see something go from plan to real life exactly as envisioned!”


A single brass matted from Target adds interest to the space without weighing down the walls or taking away from the new board and batten character.


“At some point, the previous owners had remodeled the powder room and placed thick vinyl tiles over the original hex tiles. I discovered that the tile was intact one day when I just started picking at it and peeled enough up to see those beautiful tiles underneath.”


Under the dark vinyl squares hid beautiful, original hexagonal tiles. “There was a lot of adhesive left over, but acetone did a quick job of removing every last bit of it,” Emily says. “I’m so proud that we were able to uncover and preserve the original tile floor. Details like that are largely irreplaceable and are so essential to the charm and character unique to well-loved old houses.”


Customizing a vanity from made all the difference in the powder room’s new modern spirit. “To give the board and batten look a modern vibe, I chose fixtures and accents with clean lines. I swapped out the cabinet hardware that came with the vanity with and chose coordinating brass accents for the light fixture, towel hook, toilet paper holder, and picture frame.”


Stripping the room of its layers of wallpaper and other features took work, but was essential in creating a clean slate on which to build out the board and batten detailing. “All extra frills removed, it was time to add some character back into this small space!”


Though it was a rather hasty decision, the paint color made all the difference in this calm and fresh powder room update.


“We ran into a bit of a hiccup getting the plumbing sorted for the new vanity, but nothing five late night trips to Home Depot couldn’t solve!” Emily shares.


Emily raised the towel hook from under the window to mid-height with the mirror. The new brass from CB2 adds just the right amount of glam and interest.


Emily works “as a photographer and one-woman-art-department at ,” when she isn’t exploring design trends on . Her first foray into a bathroom makeover was this peachy number.

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