Before & After: A Crumbling Apartment Bathroom Gets a New Lease on Life — Sweeten

As a connoisseur of all things vintage, I am certainly not immune to the appeal of an old-school peach-tiled bathroom, but this one had seen better days. The tiles were cracked and patched in mismatched colors, the toilet was one of those tankless numbers where you always feel like you’re going to fall over backwards, and the flooring (almost definitely not original) was more gas station bathroom than mid-century dream. Emily, a homeowner new to New York, wanted a clean, bright, and modern update to this small space — one that would feel classic and not cramped.

Enter my old friend beveled subway tile. Beveled subway tile is only a tiny step away from plain old subway tile, which is affordable, classic, and, according to some, painfully overused. The beveled version maintains the classic look but adds texture and a touch of the unexpected. In this case, it adds character to a small bathroom, where the wall tile must be a prominent feature, without constricting the space. A thin black border provides a lovely accent.

The new bathroom isn’t totally traditional, though: the cement tile floor adds a bit of an industrial edge. And the floating vanity is modern and streamlined while also helping to open up the space. But unlike the old pedestal sink, it provides extra storage (and conceals the sink piping, giving the space a cleaner look).

The new medicine cabinet has a less obtrusive profile than the old one, while still providing plenty of storage. And the rope wrap on the pipe adds a bit of texture to the space, but also has a practical purpose: protecting stray limbs from burns. (Anyone who has an old plumbing pipe like this running through their bathroom can attest to this hazard.) And the black accents — in the towel bar, the above-vanity lighting, and even the bathroom scale — add a bit of modern edge to the space. The new bathroom feels cleaner and crisper, sure — but it also sits neatly between new and old styles, a fusion of classic and modern that’s sure to please for a long time.

Emily found her contractor on Sweeten, a free service matching homeowners with local general contractors. You can read more about the project, see more photos, and find sources on the Sweeten blog.

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