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Too many baths are hampered by awkward floor plans or suffer from previous renovations and a lack of character, thanks to unimaginative builders. This house's two very different bathrooms, both far from perfect, needed better organizing and a little style infusion. See how small but effective ideas can help these little rooms live up to their great potential. Maybe you can learn a thing or two from these bathroom makeovers.
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Room 1: Stale, Wan, and White-Tiled
Though it's an 1840s house, this bathroom felt more like the 1990s -- utterly nondescript -- before renovation. But with new and readily available supplies (and a little bit of renovation oomph), the room looked properly old-fashioned, classic, and stylish. For the renovation, bathroom fixtures and most of the white tiles were removed. One charming element -- a '30s-era built-in cabinet -- was left intact.
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The black, white, and chrome colors in the bathroom already were very reminiscent of the 1930s and 40s, but the room felt lacking. Jadeite-green accents add color and warmth. For convenience and cost management, reproduction materials are much cheaper and just as effective as vintage materials.
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The New-Old Look
White horizontal wainscoting replaces tile on the walls; made of medium-density fiber-board, it is inexpensive and resists warping. The walls above are painted a soothing green. A black border gives this white-tiled floor a Jazz Age sophistication; black knobs and a folding chair offer vintage echoes.
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A wall at the foot of the bathtub was cut to a quarter of its original height, then topped with black granite. This opened up the room to the sunlight. In addition, a hospital-cutrain track for the shower creates a long line that visually elevates the low ceiling of this upstairs bathroom.
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To make separate mirror and light fixtures look like one unit, a stock medicine cabinet was framed with flat boards and lattice strips, leaving holes for the fixtures; quarter-round molding allows space for the mirror door to open and close. Electrical boxes are directly behind the unit.
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Out with the Old, in with the Retro
The chrome light fixtures flanking the mirror provide a new sparkle and a retro style.
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Green and Black and Beautiful All Over
Replacing an old pedestal-style sink is a long table with a black granite top and a backsplash. The table provides a generous amount of counter space and partially conceals the radiator beneath. (A bonus: On chilly winter days, heat from the radiator warms the stone countertop.) A houseplant finds all-season warmth in its home at the end of the counter, enjoying the sunny window. Colorwise, the soothing green on the walls stands up to the black counter.
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A blank expanse of wall is put to ingenious use: Next to the window, a simple foldway drying rack is both economical and aesthetically pleasing. It's constructed from two wooden frames -- a smaller one, fitted with eight horizontal dowels, inside a larger one. Then two frames are hinged together at the bottom, and the larger frame is attached to the wall.
A small metal latch at the top keeps the rack closed when not in use; when open, the inner frame is held by eye hooks and chains. The rack is painted to match the wall; closed, it subtly mimics the venetian blind and the horizontal pattern of the wainscoting.
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Room 2: Humble but Handy
In this Brooklyn brownstone, a half bath and laundry stood side by side. Each had a bland, utilitarian look, and neither made good use of space. Using natural elements and a soothing, modern decorating plan, the two rooms were combined to create a modern oasis.
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These materials will bring the outdoors into the windowless room. The flooring is faux-bois ceramic tile, the walls Italian glass tile. River stones serve as a shower floor (they come on backing, like tiles), and bath mats are aromatic cedar.
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The new, rectangular bath-laundry has a tiled "bump wall" along the back, allowing for pocket shelves on either side of the sinks. This storage eliminates the need for under-sink cabinets, keeping the room uncluttered.
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A Pocket Full of Bathroom
Where the walls of the two rooms once met, there is a space-saving pocket door. A mirror over the sinks fits flush with the tile wall. Three long incandescent lamps are mounted vertically over it, reflecting light and making the room seem more expansive. Each lamp is attached to a ground fault breaker; for safety, consult an electrician for such installations.
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With Fronds Like These...
Fern fronds in a clear-glass vase on the edge of the sink continue the room's natural theme.
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Sleek towel bars are inexpensive wooden dowels painted in a yellow-green latex and mounted with chrome curtain hardware.
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A Stand-Up Soap Dish
Flat, smooth stones give the shower the look of a clear streambed. To construct the shower stand, five concrete "bowls" were cast and stacked one on top of the other; it makes a convenient spot for soap and sponges. A cubby holds shampoo bottles and other necessities without interrupting the wall's clean line.
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A laundry workstation and storage area fit along the far right wall of the room. The stacked, European-style washer-dryer set is a great space saver; a shelf between the machines pulls out for folding items fresh from the dryer, then slides out of sight. Shelves hold baskets for sorting laundry, and the cabinet makes convenient towel storage. Bathroom and laundry supplies are kept in baskets on top of the units. A matchstick shade lowers all the way to the floor, gracefully hiding the utility area when guests are expected.
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