the slow renovation | a small, white bathroom



I realize white for the home may seem rather dull or unoriginal, but I love it unashamedly, especially in small spaces with ample natural light. It always looks fresh and broadens the visual space, and I knew from the moment we purchased our old home two years ago, I wanted the dingy pink-tiled and sage-walled bathroom we would share with our girls and guests to be swathed with shades of white, a prominent mirror, and a few well-placed pieces of art. Still, knowing and doing are different processes, especially in home renovation. Our home needed far more than we had the initial budget to accomplish, and as it goes, the bathroom renovation fell several lines down the prioritized list. For small beginnings, we stripped the wallpaper border and painted the walls in Benjamin Moore’s Chantilly Lace along with the rest of the home. Then we turned to other projects and settled into life with tired pink tiles and a low-set, cracked mirror. It was one of many invitations from our house to look more deeply at the idea of home, and also to live with gratitude and patience.

Henri Nouwen wrote, “A waiting person is a patient person. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.” Perhaps the slow renovation of our home, although frustrating at times, is training me to see what is hidden, not necessarily in the pink tiles but within me. Waiting reveals a motive, a heart-attitude, an expectation. Sometimes the patient remaking of a space reflects the process of the soul, a beautiful evolution happening one piece at a time.

Last August, we had a bit of money saved to throw into a new project. It wasn’t quite enough to re-tile the bathroom, but we could re-finish the existing tile. Mark pulled out the mirror (in pieces) and filled in the space with matching square tiles. Generally, the floor and wall tile were both in good shape, even with a shifting pier-and-beam foundation, so we hired someone to fill the few minimal cracks and refinish the entire space in a glossy white. He sprayed the sink and the tub, too. On a side note for those who may opt for this, I recommend staying elsewhere for a few days during the process, especially with children. The odor is strong.

We replaced the broken toilet and also the damaged sink and bath hardware. We opted to clean and keep the vintage towel racks and soap and toothbrush holders. We haven’t yet put them on again. The existing cabinetry was vanity style, a low counter top for sitting, with an open space in the middle for a stool or chair. For our lifestyle, that space was wasted, as none of us sit at the bathroom mirror. Also, the far cabinet was shallow and awkward, so Mark pulled off the door and built open shelves across both areas for towels, toilet paper, and baskets of bathroom miscellany. We re-painted the cabinetry in Benjamin Moore Winter Gate to add depth to the space, and a close friend offered me the drawer pulls she had found at the Habitat Re-Store. I added $5 paper blinds to window and a couple of rotating green plants to the space. But we still didn’t have a mirror. Again, we waited.

For eight months we didn’t have a bathroom mirror, and the space felt obviously blank. With all of the white, I wanted to add a statement piece, a mirror preferably in wood or antique gold. We scoured online classifieds and ebay for months. I’d pop in antique stores when I had the chance. It was the sort of purchase I knew I would randomly stumble upon. And then on a recent weekend date with Mark, we did. Mark discovered this one in the back room of an antique shop, within our budget, waiting for us.

Like every space, this one isn’t yet finished. I’ve added little details here and there: a framed print from Paris, a framed botanical from a hike with the kids last year, a delicate milk glass soap dish found at an estate sale. A home is like people in this way, always evolving, waiting. The best details tend to unfold with time.



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  1. I’m amazed at what you did to this space! And I so admire someone who can work with a space the way it is to create something beautiful instead of gutting it and starting over. I think this is absolutely beautiful.

  2. I think white–like many other neutrals–can be bland or fabulous, depending on how it’s done. And it’s obvious which side yours falls on: what a gorgeously simple room! (And the house I grew up in totally had the same pink tile, by the way!)

    I know a lot of interior designers will point out that white has its seasons just like anything else, but for me, I’ll go for a classic white look anytime. Thanks for sharing your beautiful home with us.

    (Btw, I’m a longtime reader, but I’m not sure if I’ve ever commented. If I haven’t before, just know that I think you’re a well of inspiration, and that I love coming to your site because I know that the ideas found therein will be positive, uplifting, and motivating. So glad I found you!)

    1. Author

      I love these thoughts, Torrie, and completely agree about the timelessness of white interiors. And thank you for sharing your thoughts here. I love hearing from readers and am honored by your encouragements. x

  3. A beautiful bathroom. Simple and thoughtful. Was it less to refinish than replace the tiles? They look great and I like that you gave new life to what was already there. I’d love to know how you make the paper blinds look good…most I see are pleated and don’t look as nice as yours do.

    1. Author

      Thank you, Justine. Yes, it was significantly less to refinish than retile. I have had to adjust a few things, like my mixture for cleaning the tub, since it’s too abrasive and can scratch the finish. As for the paper blinds, we have them throughout the house, since we needed something immediately and it was affordable and convenient. Two years later, they’re still up. (Insert: blushing cheeks and covered eyes) I think they look as good as possible, but you’d noticed the crinkled paper if you had a closer look. ;)

  4. I never knew that you can ‘re-finish’ tiles! I adore this, and that mirror is absolutely perfect for the space.
    Ronnie xo

  5. Beautifully done and described, Bethany! Your home is such a tranquil foil for all the life it contains.

  6. enjoyed reading this; you write beautifully. when time allows I find myself visiting your blog and instagram and always walk away feeling inspired and grateful.

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