Sunday, December 2, 2012

Breaking the Builder Beige

When we moved into our home almost every room (excluding the living and dining room) was painted a boring shade of the dreaded builder beige.  Even in our old 1941 home the previous owners had bought into the off-white beige trend that all of the newly built cookie cutter homes now have.  Over the years I have remedied most of this, but two rooms have still gone untouched by my compulsive need to paint:  the upstairs attic area (currently our storage/hoarding room) and the basement bathroom.  Given that our basement was likely remodeled in the early 2000s I can understand the enormous amount of beige covering every surface.

Until recently I have been able to ignore our basement bathroom given that I would only use it in rare circumstances.  My decorating consisted of a bench from IKEA, a few cheap IKEA prints and frames, and two light green bath mats.  It doesn't look bad, just blah.  And after daily use it ended up looking more like this...

This past summer we had a plumbing issue with our upstairs bathroom rendering our shower useless.  At the time, our street was completely torn up in front of our house so we were unable to get a plumber.  Luckily we were able to use our basement bathroom and shower after failed attempts to fix the plumbing ourselves.

Call it laziness, or just wanting to avoid the inevitable plumber's bill, but we've continue to use our basement bathroom everyday for showering even though our street is now accessible and we could have called a plumber months ago.

Being faced the beige on a daily basis finally drove me to my paint brush a few weeks back.  After my clearance trip to Target I was finally inspired and had a look in mind.

I started by clearing out the room and breaking out the putty knife, spackle and caulking gun.  This is definitely the least-fun part of painting, but a necessity.  I took down all of the fixtures including the mirror over the sink.  I knew that I wanted to raise the mirror up so that my husband and his tall friends could see without having to stoop.

After everything was patched up and sealed up I scoured my stash of paint to find the right shades for the room.  I had an accent wall in mind, and decided to carry the same gray-tone (Olympic "Silver Dollar") from the family room in the basement into the bathroom.  I loved the slate-gray color (Behr "Antique Tin") from the upstairs bathroom and decide this would make a great accent wall.

Another thing that bothered me about the bathroom was the mismatched metals and finishes.  We had chrome, brushed nickle and polished nickle.  I was also tired of our crystal-handled faucet and started looking for possible replacements online.  I had an oil-rubbed bronze (ORB) finish in mind, but the cheapest I could find was around the $60 price point.  Given that this is a basement bathroom, and not our main bathroom, this was little pricey.

And then I was inspired by Young House Love's obsession with ORB spray paint.  Jason and I took a trip to our local Habitat for Humanity Restore and found a hand towel holder for $1, as well as a nice hefty faucet for $5.  I recommend going late on Saturday night right before they close when there's no chance of anyone else shopping there (this was the West O location, not the one on 24th and J).  It makes it much easier to rummage through everything.

We decided that even if the ORB treatment didn't work, we were only out the $6.  The ORB can of spray paint was around $7 at Lowes.

I gathered and cleaned all of the to-be-ORBed items.  For the faucet I unscrewed the "mouth" of the faucet and removed the filter screens as to avoid getting them clogged with paint.

After several light coats we had newly ORBed "matching" fixtures!

Some people may have used a primer first, but this paint claims to have the primer included, and I just plain forgot to buy primer at the store.  So far after about a month of use everything is holding up well. I reinstalled the mirror, toilet paper holder and the new hand towel holder using drywall anchor screws.  Even this doesn't go perfectly all the time...

I had to break out the spackle and paint for a touch up after running into a metal stud of some sort, but I did get everything reattached eventually.

This project also marks my first solo plumbing job, as I "successfully" installed the faucet by myself!  Simply turn off the water supply, unscrew the old water connections, faucet and leaver, and remove the faucet.

"Simply" is a rather deceiving word as it takes a lot of elbow grease, strange positions and various wrenches to get all of these connections undone.  I did have to consult my husband at one point when the reconnected supply lines kept leaking.  He discovered we were missing a rubber washer, so we did buy a new supply line for a few dollars.  I reconnected the new hot water supply and voila!  We had cold AND hot running water out of our new ORBed $5 faucet!

And now for the fun part...accessorizing!  I had a few clearance deals that I scored at from the Humble Home a few months back.  These are insurance documents that are over 100 years old!

I know, insurance documents as art in a bathroom?  Well, my husband does work in the insurance business.  But more so I like the fact that they fit in with the slightly eclectic and "rustic" vibe this room was giving me.  I also don't mind the cracked glass that the one frame has.  It sort of adds to the charm!

I also had a few ORB finished hooks I had picked up previously at Anthropologie on clearance.

After installing them, the silver screw heads were a little unsettling.  I thought about buying some nail polish that matched to cover them, but luckily my genius husband thought of this handy little trick.  Spray the ORB spray paint into a cup and use a q-tip to apply paint to the screw heads.

I then added in all of my Target clearance finds with the old IKEA bench...

So what's the budget breakdown for the basement bathroom redo?

Accent Wall Paint = Free! leftover from old projects
Wall Paint = $30 for 1 gallon, used some leftover but needed more, have plenty left for future projects so we'll say I used $10 worth
Spackle = Free! leftover from old projects
Bathroom Caulk = Free! leftover from old project
Oil Rubbed Bronze Spray Paint = $7
Ring Hand Towel Holder = $1
Bathroom Faucet = $5
Water Supply Line = $5
Mirror = Free! repainted hardware
Toilet Paper Holder = Free! repainted
Framed Insurance Documents = $38 for both
Nate Berkus Hand Towel = $8
Nate Berkus Bath Mat = $20
Nate Berkus Basket = $20
Orla Kiley Hand Soap Dispenser = $3
Target Clearance Mirror = $21
Target Clearance Pillows = $6 + $17.50
Target Clearance Rug = $7.50
Target Clearance Ceramic Table = $21
Anthropologie Clearance Hooks = $6 for both
IKEA Molger Bench = $40 new, but already had, Free!
IKEA Baskets (similar to PJAS) = already had, Free!
Target Clearance Ceramic Vase = already had, Free!


We are really happy with the results, especially with the total price tag under $200!  What do you think of the results?  Are pillows in the bathroom too much?  I know some may think the bench is weird, but it's a big space to fill and I love to incorporate textiles and texture wherever I can!  What are your feelings about builder beige?  Do you find it easy to decorate with, or just too plain?


  1. I love the accent wall. I'm hoping to paint my hall bathroom gray soon, and now I am wondering if an accent wall would work in such a narrow space.

    1. I bet it would look great! Just make sure it's on one of the shorter walls or sections, not a long wall that takes up half of the bathroom. Having uneven amounts of color is more interesting (like 1/4 or 1/3 of the total wall space). I actually learned something in my classes ;)

  2. I didn't think it looked too bad. My old apt had stark white walls and that bugged me. But what you did with it made it look AWESOME! Good job. :)


    A Pop of Style

    1. Thank you! I grew up in a mostly white-walled house, so I have a compulsive need to paint every bland surface ;)

  3. What the name of the light grey that did you use?