Ask an interior designer: Bathroom makeover

Photo of Leigh Hornbeck

As I launch my new newsletter this week, I’m inviting readers to send in their interior design questions, and a local interior designer will give their expert opinion. I’ll start with my bathroom. 

My house was built in the early 2000s and my husband and I are the second owners. The largest bathroom needs an update. It hasn’t been painted since we moved in 2012 and I haven’t used the tub as much as I imagined I would when we bought the house. But I’m not sure how to start. Should I paint the cabinets? Replace the hardware? Rip out the tub? 

I sent a few snapshots to designer Julie Maleski Putzel of JMP Interiors and judge for our Fourth Annual Times Union Home Design Contest. Below is her advice. Check back in a future Places & Spaces newsletter to see how it turns out and send me your questions at [email protected].

1. Paint those walls: Depending on what “feel” you are going for, this is a vague answer. Let’s assume that because of your late father, you are a mountain and lake girl ( I know you are, but just play along!) I would tell you to paint it a light color with subtle green/gray undertones. I usually spec only Benjamin Moore paint, so I would have you look into 3 different colors: Titanium, Moonshine, or Gray Owl. Depending on how adventurous you were feeling, I would also tell you to paint your ceiling a slightly darker tone then the walls to highlight the angles. 
2. Update the flooring: LVT (Luxury Vinyl Tile) all the way. This product is pet-proof, waterproof, and kid-proof…or so they claim. We are seeing it used EVERYWHERE! It will take a beating and keeps on ticking. Try for a color weave that has browns and greys in it so that if your style changes down the road, it will still work color-wise. The big box stores have plenty of options to choose from. Make sure to get one with a rubber or cork backing. 
3. Change your faucets on the sink and tub: Update these. The satin nickel  or chrome finish is acceptable, but I would lean into black or ORB for a change up. 
4. Paint your window trim: Change any wood to a white. 
5. Update your base: In the photo it looks like a rubber base; update to something more substantial.
6. Paint your vanity: Have fun with this color. Unless the budget allows for a new vanity. Big Box stores have some really great options that include the sink and counter. Do NOT order from Houzz or Wayfair! They can miss components that your plumber will need to go out and get, which costs more time and money. 
7. Update your toilet: I know you didn’t show a picture….but is the bowl round? Is it low? Updating this will also conserve water. Newer models are made more efficient.
8. Update your mirror: Do you like one long mirror? Open to two independent ones? This can be an area to shine.
9. Update your lighting: Either a horizontal style over each mirror, or three vertical options (two could be placed on either side of the mirrors and one in between them). 
10. Storage: This would be a conversation to be had on sight to help organize any items that “live” on your counter. Although they are items you use every day, they can visually look messy and cause anxiety. I would be looking to help troubleshoot ideas for where we could squeeze in more storage.

11. How is your ceiling lighting? How old is your fan? These should be updated/added, which would require you to paint the ceiling anyway.
These ideas are all based on renovating a bathroom on a budget, and not a “cribs” budget of designing for the stars.

Julie Maleski Putzel, ASID, is the owner of JMP Interiors, an interior design firm in Ballston Lake. Julie recently received a “Best Of Houzz” award for Service on Houzz, renovation and design site.

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