Space of the Week: This Charming Green Powder Room Is a Lesson in Choosing Tile (and Wallpaper!)
Erin Kestenbaum doesn't mind taking her time with a renovation. For the past five years, she and her husband have been slowly updating the Connecticut colonial they share with their 1-year-old son, honing their skills with every finished task. "We've done much of the work ourselves," she says. "We're obsessed with DIY projects that don't look DIY."
Their home was built in 1940, inside a neighborhood dotted with other historic New England homes, which made it easy to lean into a traditional style that's delicately modernized with saturated colors and patterns. The original bathroom was more reflective of the '80s, however, so Kestenbaum did her first design overhaul soon after they moved in. She painted the butter-yellow walls black along with the ceiling and vanity, and later installed a brass faucet found on Craigslist to match a pivot mirror and a sconce. For a few years, this budget-friendly fix held its own. But as they focused on repairing the kitchen, the couple discovered that the subfloor in this bathroom needed to be replaced.
"We found ourselves with a mostly demoed bathroom for nearly a year, giving us the opportunity to really make this bathroom something special and more functional for our needs," she says.
This space functioned as a powder room on their main floor, since it had a tub that was never used. Kestenbaum and her husband were hesitant to remove the feature entirely, in case they needed it for resale value, and they also thought the footprint would feel too large without it. "We still wanted it to feel like a powder room for guests, but we needed to maximize the floor plan."
They decided to take everything down to the studs, and laid out a grouping that would place a sink and toilet side-by-side with a curbless shower and linen closet on the opposing wall. They thought tiles on the floor and midway up the walls would be best, and brass features throughout would give lights and fixtures a timeless shimmer. A modern radiator, new casing, and fresh paint would be added, too. And when it came to looking for inspiration for how to pull it off, Kestenbaum turned to the Polo Bar in New York City for its classic-yet-trendsetting touches.
"I loved the idea of using a strong color on the walls and making it feel immersive," she says. "We also thought to paint the trimwork and ceiling in the same color to make the space feel as large as possible, while also making it feel custom."
Kestenbaum chose a rich shade of rosemary green for the shower and wall tiles to match the paint along the ceiling, linen closet, and trim. She also picked out sconces with a touch of brass to coordinate with the cabinet pulls, the shower head, and all the little things in between. But the detail that truly ties everything together is the addition of the tree wallpaper, which climbs up to the ceiling with leaves in the same shades. After about seven months of work, Kestenbaum and her husband succeeded in creating a powder room that will stand up to time.
"I focused intensely on the details," she says. "Some of those details include the bullnose tile that wraps the wall between the shower and linen cabinet—we spent a week tiling this 8-inch wall! Others include the unlacquered brass fixtures that look appropriate for the age of the house, the exposed brass water lines, and the brass switches. There was a lot of thought that went into everything, and that took time. But because everything is visible, the payoff was worth it."