Our bathroom makeover

Thank you so much for helping us choose a paint color for our bathroom! Here are the before-and-after photos, if you’d like to see…

Here are the “before” photos, yikes!! As you can see, our bathroom is old and crumbling, and the white walls looked drab. There was only one overhead lightbulb (not flattering), and we had an old shower curtain and towels. We also had an ugly shelf from the Container Store behind the toilet. I liked our artwork, but it didn’t really match anything else in the room. We needed help, clearly!

So, we decided to first give the room a fresh coat of paint. Valspar Paint was sweet enough to offer the paint, and since they have a “Love Your Color” Guarantee (where if you don’t love your first paint color, you can pick a second color for free), we felt like we could try something bold. After asking your advice, we ended up picking Ballard Blue, which is just a bit softer than navy.

Our friend Kendra Smoot is a prop stylist who understands how little elements can pull a room together, so she helped brainstorm affordable pieces that would perk up the room. And our friend (and interior designer) Jenny Komenda helped do some of the crafty projects that she’s so good at (and I’m not!). We’re thrilled with how it all turned out!!! Seth Smoot took photos, and here they are….

First, we created a frame wall with a nautical theme. The biggest print is a framed surfing photo from the fantastic affordable art shop 20×200. We also hung some family photos, a John Derian plate that was originally on our bookcase, and Kendra made some art! In the black frame on the left-hand-side, Kendra simply knotted three pieces of white rope! Then she framed pages from books on the right-hand-side (the sailboat and blue nude), and finally she just painted an anchor on a grocery bag and framed it! Genius ideas, right?

Jenny added the acrylic shelf; the bath milk is from Terrain and the ship in a bottle was actually a table decoration left over from our wedding.

Finally, one of my favorite improvements was wrapping rope on the heating pipe; you can see in the “before” photos that we had ugly insulation around the pipe to keep it safe for Toby, but adding nautical rope makes the pipe look a million times better. (FYI, Apartment Therapy has a tutorial.)
For extra storage, we got a red container from Kartell, and the navy bath mat is from West Elm. Meanwhile, Toby is totally in love with his new step stool, which allows him to wash his hands and brush his teeth all by himself, like a grown-up (!!!).
As you can see in the “before” photos, our medicine cabinet just had an old mirror, so Jenny framed it beautifully with white wood. Jenny also had an old ship’s mirror, which we debated putting something into, but in the end, we liked how it looked empty (plus, it showed off the new blue paint!). The chambray makeup bag and striped shower curtain are both from West Elm.
On the back of the door, we added five brass hooks, and hung Turkish fouta towels from Chance (have you ever tried foutas? they’re awesome) and a striped tote from etsy, where I now keep my hair dryer and brush.

Some small details:
Our shower rod was originally silver, so to make it look more polished, we painted it black and added brass curtain rings.
We had a glass shelf under our mirror that looked chipped and shabby. So Jenny had the brilliant idea to use leftover paint from the walls and make it blue! I love how fresh and new it looks, miraculously:)
Finally, we put mirrored light bulbs on either side of the mirror to add light and a design-y touch, as well as a brass hook next to the mirror for an extra hand towel.

That’s it! I hope you like it. We are PSYCHED and next time people come over to our apartment, I’m going to shuttle them right in. :) It’s amazing what a fresh coat of paint and a few pretty pieces can do. Thank you so much to Kendra, Jenny and Seth for the great ideas and talent!

P.S. Our bedroom makeover, our living room and Toby’s nursery.

(This post is sponsored by Valspar Paint. Thank you so much for supporting the sponsors that make Cup of Jo possible. Photography by Seth Smoot; styling by Kendra Smoot; interior design projects by Jenny Komenda)

  1. This is so lovely! I am generally not enamored with a nautical theme, but I am so impressed and inspired by this. The blue is so gorgeous and the new look is so classy. Plus the tote on the door = genius.

  2. Joanna, the makeover is well done… I love the nautical theme.

  3. Gorgeous! The color is bold and fun! what kind of toothbrushes do you use? natural bristles?!

    Can´t wait for the new design, especially which one you decided on!


  4. Anonymous says...

    Yikes!! The “before” is like a typical old urban apartment bathroom, so nothing to be ashamed of, but I still think you’re brave for showing it!

    The blue definitely perks it up and adds dimension and contrast. When you posted the options, this was not my choice, but I didn’t know what your bathroom looked like. Now I think the bold blue is a good choice.

    Do you own your apartment, or rent? There is usually empty space between the studs in the walls (and sometimes behind the shower pipes, depending on how the shower is laid out) and without too many DIY skills you can open up the wall and create an alcove with either open or closed shelving. If you own and you’re going to sell, that might be appealing to buyers.

  5. It turned out gorgeous! Enjoy it!

  6. Anonymous says...

    Wow… thank you for sharing all of these awesome tips… I am moving this week and this has me especially excited about my new bathroom… Great. stuff.

  7. Oh that looks fantastic! Im moving apt soon as Im too broke to keep paying too much rent. This is very inspiring. Maybe I can move somewhere cheap and a little scruffy and convince the landlord to let me sharpen it up. Great stuff!

  8. hi, the makeover is really well done. i have a practical question. we have the same heat system in our apt in ny, and we have a little girl of 7 months. i saw from the pictures you covered it, how exactly? thanks, from a mom, preparing the apt baby safe :))

  9. Anonymous says...

    Great makeover!

    I like a clear see through mildew resistant shower liner I buy from Walmart.

  10. i sure do love a good before and after home makeover, and this one takes the cake. the wrapping of that pipe, is just genius. you made the most of this space for sure!!

  11. Wow, it looks great! If I had a beach house this is what I would do, a nautical them. Great work:)

  12. The transformation is unbelievable! The colors are simple amazing, especially love the boat in the bottle! It probably puts you into a beach mood every time you walk into it!

  13. oh wow! it looks fantastic! i love it. The blue color really works well. Love the nautical theme, and the idea of wrapping the pole in rope? genius!

  14. The makeover looks great!! I am totally in love with your painted glass shelf and can’t wait to try it when I have one again!

  15. I love this! You’ve got so many simple ideas in there that would just never occur to me! I’m inspired!

  16. Like like like!!

  17. Egads! (and I thought my b.r. was tiny) Great job.

  18. Amazing difference! I love the idea of hanging a decorative bag on the back of the door to keep a blow dryer. You hate to have that stuff out in the open, but you need easy access to it as well.

  19. erica l.s. says...

    So cute! You guys did a great job, what a major improvement! :)

  20. It’s really fabulous, Joanna! I love the paint color and the fact that the bathroom is all sort of a mix and match that works when all put together. Bravo!!

  21. Mimichka84 says...

    Amazing ! I love the coulours

  22. what to say? done like a pro.
    the blue and the rope, the john derian. these aree the best pieces

  23. like the john derian plate.
    i admit the makeover is better than the original state. you cleaned he area left from the mirror, and the blue clour just makes the bathroom more cosier. not to mention the rope. as if youa re somewhere on the docks, a real sailing lover

  24. I love how the paint really makes the black border tile stand out on the wall! Great elements all around :)

  25. It looks really great!!! Do you have a window or fan in your bathroom? Are you worried that the art will be damaged by the steam from showering?
    I hate our bathroom so much!! I’m very inspired to paint it now. :)

  26. RK says...

    Whoa!!! Am blown away. That’s one fabulous makeover. And what a brilliant idea with the dryer in a bright tote! Love the pipe with nautical rope too.
    Am sure you will be spending much more time in the shower now :)

  27. I was just looking through some bathroom inspiration for our tiny one. Thanks for the post!

  28. Really cute! Despite the fact that darker colors can feel confining, this looks open and bright and beachy. Love the nauticul and the use of the red/white/blue – one of my favorite color combos. Baby feet on the mat are too cute!

  29. It looks great! You did a wonderful job :)

  30. Anonymous says...

    Mostly positive comments but a few not-so-nice. As my mother always said, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. It looks great, Joanna.

  31. Wow, what a gorgeous transformation. It’s amazing what a coat of paint can do!

  32. Anonymous says...

    Jo – you may want to reconsider the shower curtain rings. I had the same ones, and after just a couple of months they rusted or something and popped open and were impossible to close. Then the little beads started to fall off, which is a hazard for pets or toddlers. So keep an eye on them and consider replacing them if you can no longer close them, because I don’t think you want Toby finding those little beads on the floor!

  33. it looks incredible! I bet you’re obsessed with it!

  34. Love it! Congratulations! I love a thrify redesign – so great to see a project that doesn’t involve an architect. And I am totally stealing the hair-dryer-and-brush-in-cute-bag idea!

  35. This is totally fantastic! All of the elements pull together so well. I would love to use this bathroom ALL OF THE TIME, haha :)

  36. Anonymous says...

    Hi Joanna, this is awesome! You have inspired me to tackle my very blah bathroom. I’m always so hesitant to use bolder colors but that blue is amazing. Love it! -Jill

  37. Joanna,

    I just ordered the exact same print from 20×200 for our downstairs bathroom. My bf is a surfer and we both think it’s so calming!

    XO Jill

  38. Love the nautical theme! And a very efficient design too!

  39. that looks SO amazing! a totally new and fresh bathroom!

  40. Looks fantastic! I am pleasantly surprised by how great the dark blue looked in a tight space! Love your new bathroom! So classy!

  41. Oh that blue is just perfect! It provides such a great contrast to the white and black tiles. Good for you guys!!!

  42. Caroline says...

    Looks great. Really a big improvement. Two things could lift the room further:
    The nautical artwork seems to me a bit impersonal and screaming to much THIS IS NAUTICAL! I liked the artwork you had before much more. Could you not integrate some more personal items like a holiday photo taken on a beach, a painting (containing some blue colours?) that you already had?
    A second suggestion is to remove the round frame above the toilet. It serves no purpose and it is not very decorative. Install a small hanging cabinet there instead, I agree a round shape fits well though to break up all the boxiness. You could install a round, much deeper ‘frame’ in which you could store rolled up towels… Or a (round) frame filled with a nice holiday photo…

  43. love your new bathroom- love the blue very much :)

  44. Sandra Z says...

    This is terrific! Love seeing the transformation and getting your ideas. Thank you! One question for you – do you ever have issues with moisture from the shower affecting your pictures? I have often thought of putting art in our bathroom but stopped short because of that possibility. Thoughts?

  45. It looks incredible! I lovelovelove the nautical theme!

  46. Wow, this makeover is totally amazing, and utterly inspiring!!

  47. It looks so much better! It really is amazing what some paint can do!

  48. Wow! What a transformation! Congrats!

  49. That is amazing! It is very inspiring to see such a dramatic transformation of a small space.

  50. Emily says...

    I LOVE it, so glad you went for the blue, that was the one I preferred! In fact, you have inspired me to go for a bold blue in our new house, which we get the keys to next week – eek!
    Thanks for sharing

  51. Looks great! I realy love the changes!

  52. hair dryer storage is TOTES happening at my house TODAY. beautiful (and inspirational) makeover!! :)

  53. Love it! In the second to last photo, what’s the little pot with the whale lid? It’s adorable.

  54. We have the same rope wrapped around our hot water pipe…it’s a great solution!

  55. The bathroom looks amazing! The house I currently live in, my bathroom is wallpapered with shelf-liner. I am not kidding, shelf-liner. Needless to say, it’s peeling off the walls. My dad won’t remove it (the owner gave us permission).

  56. It looks like a whole new bathroom! I absolutely love the rich blue wall color, and the blue glass shelf. The hidden bag behind the door for your hair dryer is genius!

  57. Love it! This makeover gives me hope for my teeny bathroom. And the color with the nautical theme is just awesome.

  58. i’m obsessing over the after. it looks like a completely difference space all together. so perfect :)
    xo TJ

  59. Anonymous says...

    I’m so jelous! My bathroom is ceiling to floor flesh-toned tiles. It’s super dingy looking.

  60. I love this! The blue looks amazing.

  61. It looks amazing, great job!!

  62. Amazing! I had no hope for my bathroom but now I’m beginning to wonder…

  63. That is quite the makeover! Very nice!

  64. I’m crazy about this! I can’t believe the change! it gives me hope for the itty bitty bathroom we’ll soon be moving into in our apartment in Nebraska! Jenny sure is incredible with her work. And the pipe with the rope? Fan freaking tastic!

  65. Amazing! What a change!

  66. Unbelievable!!! I love all the personal touches and those brass hooks look so chic with the fouta towels!! So many good DIY ideas for an old bathroom…

  67. Love love love it. I love how dark colors in a small room can make it seem bigger. I’m adding that acrylic shelf to my “need now” list. :)

  68. It’s AMAZING! It really looks SO good. I love how creative some of the projects are, it’s quite inspiring :) Enjoy your new bathroom :)

  69. I love it!!! That color is amazing and what great designers they are! Wonderful ideas. Beautiful. I want to hang out in your bathroom!

  70. I am so glad there is someone else out there who loves Nautical themed stuff as much as i do. I swear i must have sailed around the world in my past life or something. i Adore it!

  71. H says...

    OMG Joanna I bought that exact same print from 20×200!!! “Waiting” is so peaceful and relaxing to look at, I put mine on a bookshelf next to my bed. It’s so corny but now I feel like I really do have cool style since you picked out the same one!!! Just love your bathroom makeover! xxH

  72. Kelly R says...

    OMG! That is the cutest bathroom EVER!!!!!!! Nice job!

  73. That seriously looks awesome!! So many unexpected design elements, and now it’s just a really happy place! I want to shower in there.
    So, my friend Kelsey told me (in one of those starstruck “guess who I MET?!” conversations) that she ran into you at a comedy club in the city. She just raved about how nice you were, and she was shocked at how real you were (because, you know, to us you’re famous:) Anyway, it got me thinking. I’m headed to New York in 3 weeks on a girls trip with my 6 sisters and mother in law, and just wondered what other places you frequently hang out, so we can “by chance” run into you:) I’m not forgetting that you just said you loved running into readers! lol.

  74. Samantha says...

    My mom is making some changes around our apartament. It’s very new, just five years, but some things needed an upgrade, like my bathroom’s white floor. My bathroom’s walls are all coveres in matte white tiles, with a little “stripe” all around it in little blue and green squared tiles. Very nice. But the white shiny floor, yuck. You couldn’t enter the bathroom wearing shoes cause the floor would get super dirty. So the floor tiles were switched to a beautiful blue tile floor. Looks super nice and it’s also practical. Other neighbors of our building are planing to do the same with their white bathroom floors!

  75. Holy moly, now THAT is a makeover! And since it’s a smaller space it’s less intimidating to think of doing myself. It looks amazing!! And that rope-wrapped pipe is genius.

  76. Anonymous, we rent (also in the West Village) and most NYC landlords don’t care about paint. know Joanna rents, but it’s a small building and she’s lived there a long time. Technically you should repaint before you leave, but if you don’t, they’ll just deduct it from your security deposit (maybe $200). We’ve also replaced our bathroom vanity (our management company, in fact, did that for us!) and we’ll be repainting our kitchen cabinets this summer. Assuming you don’t trash the place, the worst they can do is deduct money from your security deposit, but even that’s unlikely assuming you’re doing thing that *improve* the apartment.

  77. That is the perfect nautical blue! The room looks fantastic.

  78. Anonymous says...

    Do you and Alex rent? Did you have to clear all this with your landlord/rental company first, and how did you negotiate with them? I’d love more info on how you do makeovers as renters! Like do you have to change it back when you move, and do they help you pay for paint if the apartment is due for a paint job?

  79. LOVE the idea of keeping your blowdryer in a bag on the back of the door! They are always so cumbersome and awkward.

  80. OMG! Cup of Jo has the same exact bathroom tiles that I have! I feel so cool now. I also love that I know what my bathroom would look like with a bright blue color. It looks great!

  81. Anonymous says...

    Recognizing that there have been a number of comments as of late re: the rise of sponsored posts on A Cup of Jo, I just wanted to say that this was a sponsored post well done. It felt like the content, rather than the sponsor, was driving the post. Thanks for all the work you do!


  82. I love the makeover, and your bathroom looks AMAZING! But I can’t help to giggle to myself thinking of that portlandia scene with the knots!! Have you seen it?

  83. Looks amazing! It’s such a testament to you and the people who helped you– working with a small space can be so hard. Great job to everyone! I totally want to hang out in there!

  84. Fantastic!! It looks amazing. I’ve tried to talk my mom into painting our bathroom a cool color instead of plain old white, but she hasn’t gone for it yet. Someday! :)

  85. My boyfriend and I JUST bought that exact same print from 20×200. It is currently hanging above our kitchen sink, but we also contemplated hanging it in the bathroom.

  86. that was quick! I love it! well done x

  87. What a transformation!! It’s beautiful!

  88. Looks fantastic! I especially love the creativity in covering the pipe with rope. I know from my NYC days how shabby city apartment bathrooms can be…yours looks lovely.

    Something Ivory

  89. Really really beautifully done… It’s like one big belly flip of goodness!

  90. Wow, I can’t believe it’s the same bathroom! Love the nautical touches!

  91. I would take off that brown round frame of some sort and add some shelves for toilet paper, extra soaps, maybe some hand towels or even regular towels that have been rolled. I would have gone with not so dark colors but I guess since it fits your theme.

    Overall it looks nice, I just cant believe how small it is!

  92. Whoa, there are a lot of really cool ideas here! I like how you creatively turned around a lot of the eyesores (the pipe, the chipped glass shelf), rather than just gutting the whole thing and ikea-fying it. Great job!

  93. Your bathroom looks absolutely gorgeous! So soothing and inspired! GREAT JOB!

  94. Wow it is CRAZY how different and amazing your bathroom looks after the makeover! You and your “team” did such a great job. Please come re-decorate my house, thanks ;)

  95. I love this makeover! As a side note, I’ve totally been looking at your wedding pictures and love how the nautical theme seems to have become part of your signature since then!

  96. What a beautiful re-do! It’s so nice to have creative friends!!

  97. Not a huge fan of the overall massive theme and matchy match of every object. I do love the nautical idea but for myself I prefer less of a ‘THIS IS A NAUTICAL THEMED BATHROOM’.

  98. Love, love, love the naval/out-to-see look and feel!

  99. Our bathroom was similar to yours when we first moved in—it’s amazing what paint and well-chosen details can do! We also have all of our heating poles wrapped in the apartment. Such an easy and chic touch.

    What did you end up doing with the overhead light? We still have ours, but we put a vintage lamp on top of our medicine cabinet that adds nice soft light when guests are over.


  100. I LOVE IT!

  101. Awesome! We’re about to re-do our master bath, which is tiny with no storage space–I love the idea to hide your hair dryer behind the door in a cute bag. Genius! Great makeover!!

  102. I’m just a little bummed you didn’t go green, but the blue looks great! I love bold color in small spaces.

  103. Love it! It’s so hard to update New York Apartment bathrooms, especially with the dreaded heater pole!

  104. Anne says...

    Wow, talk about a make-over! Y’all did an amazing job on your bathroom. The color makes it such a classy, yet happy place!

  105. Love it, Joanna! It’s such great color, and I’m sure Toby loves the nautical theme! :)

  106. LOVE IT! So nice, I’m definitely using this post as inspiration for the bathroom in my new apartment.

  107. My previous apartment was a Brooklyn railroad apt with a tiny, tiny bathroom. It was so small you literally could only pivot. When you walked in you faced the toilet, pivot right, there was the sink, pivot left, there was the shower, full turn and you were out the door. Plus there was absolutely no storage and a pedestal sink. One of the best things we did was replace the medicine cabinet with an Ikea one that was probably 5 times as large and had a nice large mirror. We bought it in the “as is” w/o shelves and added them ourselves. I fell in love with this medicine cabinet and took it with us when we left. In our new apt, because the sink is shallow and the cabinet is deep, we hung the cabinet above the toilet and put a simple round mirror above the sink.

    In short if you are short on storage in your bathroom, go to Ikea and buy a new one. You will be amazed at how much you can fit in it and it will make your small bathroom look bigger.

    Here’s the one I got:

  108. Oh, my…it looks amazing! Such a fantastic makeover and I love all the new special details. My favorite part might be the rope around the hot water pipe. (genius!) I totally might have to try that. I have a separate “toilet room” that’s on the other side of the apartment from the shower/sink room. Oh, NYC living… :)

  109. NO WAY is that the same bathroom! WOW! Very well done. I would be proud to show it off as well.

  110. Beautiful job! I love how you painted the glass shelf – an awesome touch! Also, the tote to store your hairdryer is such a smart idea. Wish I had thought of that when I lived in a tiny NYC space.

  111. looks gorgeous – yay!

  112. wow! this is amazing! i love that using the bathroom can now feel like a little escape!

  113. thanks!!! and another thing: we painted the ceiling, which we thought might make the room look smaller, but it actually looks great! should take an upwards shot to show you:)

  114. Love the blue, my guest bathroom is in dire need of a makeover, great ideas!! Cat

  115. wow! what an improvement! Love the new decor. It’s gorgeous.

  116. Excellent take on the nautical theme– love the Hamptons stripes!

  117. This is fantastic! What a great makeover — and thanks for sharing all the little details that went along with it (rather than just before/after photos without explanation.) Love it; so inspiring!

  118. ama says...

    Oh wow!! What an improvement – it looks amazing. You’ve inspired me …..

  119. Oh it looks so good! And also gives me hope for my bathroom makeover since mine is also a small space. Love the bold color!
    Much love,

  120. So in love with this! Joanna! It looks so timeless.

  121. Anonymous says...

    looks so fab!!

  122. It looks amazing! Great job! Usually dark colours in small spaces make it look smaller but in this case I think it really works! You must be so happy!