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Small-Bathroom Before and After: Smart Paint Opens Up a Space

Lightening up overhead—and underfoot—allows a windowless bath to be wrapped in a warm, dark shade for a sophisticated new look

BEFORE | Washed Out

A small space can be the perfect place to add some drama. Even though designer Laura Ulam’s Yountville, CA, home was a light and bright mix of modern-farmhouse and cottage styles, she envisioned a darker, “more masculine” look for the small guest bath in her 1982 home.

Shown: The guest bath lacked personality, with washed-out colors and builder-basic materials.

Contractor: Mario Samayoa

AFTER | Dramatic Mix

Photo by Paul Dyer

But first she added some much-needed light in the windowless space, installing a skylight in the shower and recessed lights in the ceiling. Oversize white-marble hex tile on the floor brightened the room even more, allowing Laura to add shiplap walls painted a warm dark gray, making the bath more cohesive with the rest of the house and softening the room’s sleek modern fixtures and finishes. A shower door on a rolling track suggests a sliding barn door, while saving floor space.

The result is a comfortable yet refined bath that Laura—and her guests—love. “In fact,” she says, “it’s become my favorite room in the house.”

Shown: With a dramatic paint color and a mix of rustic and modern finishes, the updated guest bath has a style all its own.

Paint (walls): Benjamin Moore’s Iron Mountain

Sconces: Restoration Hardware

Vanity top: Caesarstone

Toilet: American Standard

Shower head: Rohl

Custom Vanity

Photo by Paul Dyer

V-groove shiplap helps take the edge off the sharp lines of the quartz countertop, while echoing the farmhouse style found in other rooms in the house. A custom vanity optimizes storage.

Vanity: Smith’s Custom Cabinets

Drawer pulls: Rejuvenation

Tip: “In small spaces, experiment with different colors than you normally use. The rest of my house is light and bright. It’s nice to have a dark, cozy room, too!” —Laura Ulam, Yountville, Ca

Space-Saving Shower Door

Photo by Paul Dyer

With a tight footprint, the bathroom wasn’t large enough to accommodate a shower door swing, so the contractor suggested a rolling door on a barn-door-style track to save space.

Shower door: OVE Decors

Shower wall and floor tile: Agora

Hex Tile

Hexagon patterned ceramic tile flooring. Paul Dyer

Five-inch marble-and-basalt hex tile makes for a stunning surprise on the floor. It also adds another brightening element in the windowless space.

Tile: Mission Stone & Tile

Cross Faucet

Photo by Paul Dyer

No-fuss contemporary fixtures like the cross-handle faucet contribute to the bathroom’s modern and masculine feel.

Faucet: Rohl

Shiplap Walls

Photo by Paul Dyer

The V-groove shiplap was primed, then painted with three coats to stand up to moisture. A 1⁄8-inch gap between planks allows room for expansion.

Sconces: Restoration Hardware

Towel Warmer

Photo by Paul Dyer

A towel-warming rack in chrome kicks up the comfort factor for guests.

Towel rack: Warmrails

On Track

Photo by Paul Dyer

Measuring just over 4 feet wide, the bath’s footprint didn’t allow for enlarging the shower. The homeowner was able to ditch the old shower curtain for a chrome-trimmed door on a rolling track without compromising floor space.

Floor Plans

Floor plan by Ian Worpole

While the layout stayed the same, a skylight and improved lighting brightened the room; all-new finishes gave it a style boost.

  1. Lightened up the windowless space with a skylight in the shower and recessed lighting elsewhere.
  2. Maximized storage with a custom vanity topped with white quartz. A tall mirror flanked by sconces reflects even more light.
  3. Replaced a shower curtain with a frameless glass door on a rolling track to preserve open floor space and clearance around the toilet, which kept its location.
  4. Added an extra-luxe element for guests with a towel-warming rack.