Every DIY project has challenges, but designing a modern bathroom remodel for a historic rental property has unique hurdles. “There isn’t much opportunity to change room configuration, or do any major demolition,” explains designer Kara Healey, who faced these difficulties when remodeling her historic rental’s bathroom. “The materials and fixtures have to stay the same; and as a tenant, there is little leeway with added construction.” Here’s how Kara gave her 1972 bathroom its historic feel and modern function.
1. Planning: Kara knew she wanted her bathroom remodel to focus on the building’s architecture, history and peculiarities. The original clapboard mansion was built in 1898 and later donated to a private educational institution. In 1972, it was converted into faculty apartments. She also “wanted to create a room that could be large and spacious, yet intimate and comfortable,” Kara says. She chose gray as the room’s main color. “It can be light or dark, cool or warm, soft and luxurious. I chose a gray that has a slight green hue to keep it in the cool color family, but a color that when mixed with window light warms up the large room.”
2. Refining the Space: Because Kara completed the entire bathroom remodel herself in about a week, there was very little demolition. She removed some very old shelving and patched holes and other imperfections with wall spackle.
3. Adding Storage: Kara reworked the existing space with an emphasis on storage. A large medicine cabinet tucked around the corner from the sink works great for general bathroom products, but she needed accessible storage at the sink. “The Hemnes bookcases were perfect to flank the gorgeous original, now clean-and-deskirted, porcelain sink. These pieces were easy to install,” Kara points out. The mirror brings a simple contemporary touch to the antique sink and acts as a window on that side of the room.
4. Crafting the Look: Kara filled some of the space in the huge, deep shower with a vine plant that grows along the walls. She hung white linen as a shower curtain and window treatments for the 10-foot ceiling. One of the bathroom’s unusual features is the original sitz bath. “I decided to put my large oversized ZZ plant there. It doesn’t detract from the original fixture, adds to the focal point between the windows, and utilizes a space that would otherwise collect dirty laundry,” Kara says. Many of the planters and accessories are ceramic and crafted by Kara. “The glass jar collection is made up of gifts, antiques and regular mason jars. I love the way they fill the shelves with a clear, reflective texture. They are also a nice way to store cotton and other toiletries. The towel hook, toilet paper holder and sink soap dish are a set—a gift from my mother from an antique store in Paris.”
Written by Rosa Lee Jude
Photographed and styled by Kara Healey