the upstairs bathroom…

Marian ParsonsBathrooms, My House52 Comments

Before we step into the tiny upstairs 1940’s bathroom, I thought I would answer a question that several readers asked –  Why haven’t you painted the doors in your house?  


When we first moved in, all of the trim and doors in the house were glossy, orange pine.  It was too dark and too much for me, so I mustered up the courage and painted it all white.


It made a huge difference and I’m so glad I went through applying a coat of primer and ultimately three coats of paint to all of that trim!

miss mustard seed-3922

I have painted all of the walls, ceiling, trim, radiators and even cabinets, but I stopped short at the doors.  I have learned that un-painting something is much harder than painting it and I wasn’t 100% sure I wanted to paint the doors, so I didn’t.  I still love that I left them alone and how the warmth of the wood, even the cheap build-grade 1940’s pine, looks against the bright white trim and cool walls.


The doors are sort of the “wood top on my dressers” so to speak.  If you’re familiar with my furniture, you understand what I’m saying.


So, the upstairs bathroom.  This is really the last room in the house that has been almost totally neglected.  It’s actually the only room in the house that I didn’t paint!  I was six months pregnant when we moved into this house, so my dad painted this room for me and it’s remained this color for eight years…a record in this household!


Jeff also built the shelf as a tutorial for a few years ago and, since it’s the only storage in the space, we’ve kept it there.  Obviously, it’s too big, especially compared to the mirror and the sink, so we’ll be taking it down.  Jeff is going to build a cover for the radiator and we’ll go from there.  I need to see how everything else balances out and let the room develop as I find things for it.

I received the mural wall paper I ordered from Anthro.  It is almost the perfect size for this little bathroom.  (It has a 5′ x 5′ floor plus the bathtub and that’s it.)

anthropologie paper

I must admit that it looks softer in the picture on their website, but I’m cautiously excited about it.  It is really bold, but I think it’s going to end up stealing the show.  And if you can’t get a little gutsy in a 5 x 5 bathroom, where can you?


The ceilings and baseboards are going a bright white.

I ordered marble hex tile for the floors.  I have the 1″ version in my half bath, but I bought the 2″ version for this bathroom.  The shower surround is a simple white tile, which isn’t worth removing just for the sake of having subway tile or marble.  That would be a lot of money spent on something that isn’t really necessary.  I do want to remove the green accent tiles, though, and replace them with marble to tie in with the floor.  I had quite a time finding 4″ x 4″ tiles and thought I would have to cut down 12″ tiles to make it work, but I actually found marble floor tile samples that are the perfect size.   I was able to get all of the tile for the accents for $35, making it a much more economical update.


I am really happy that the original faucet handles have stayed in this bathroom and they will continue to do so on my watch.  I really need to clean those hard water stains, though.  Any tricks?

mms-4743 mms-4742  

Speaking of faucets, this original fixture will not remain…


I just ordered this faucet to replace it with.


We are going to leave the original sink, but I’m going to make a skirt for it and clean up the caulking where it meets the wall.

I’m on the hunt for a vintage wood-framed mirror to hang over the sink.  We’ll remove the medicine cabinet and patch the wall.


And that light…that ugly light is still there, because it has been almost impossible to find one that won’t hang down to low or be too big for the space.  I finally found this one


If fits the space, has a vintage feel and is soooo much better than what’s there!

And we’ll be getting a new toilet.  There’s nothing wrong with the one that’s there, except it’s almond or bisque or whatever they call cream toilets and it has bugged me since the day we moved in.  I’ll take a boring, white toilet, please.   The 1940’s cast iron tub is much deeper and wider than a lot of modern tubs, so we’ll be keeping that as well.  The enamel has been pretty well etched over the years and it’s now stained, so we’ll most likely have it reglazed down the road, so it feels shiny and smooth again.  I know you can paint a bathtub, but I’d honestly rather have that sort of thing professionally done.

A lot of these projects are being done for freelance tutorials, so I’ll share lots of details along the way.


By the way, for those who are wondering about it, I did finish my whole30 a few days ago.  I haven’t had the chance to write about it, but an update is coming soon.

the upstairs bathroom…

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52 Comments on “the upstairs bathroom…”

  1. Just want to say that I LOVE the fact that you didn’t paint the doors. You painted just enough…I was nervous reading this…thought you were going to paint the doors! That mural is going to be fantastic, as will the new fixtures. The light fixture is perfect for the space. Can’t wait to see the transformation!

  2. I love mural, I just saw it used recently, I think it was in “House and Home” (could be wrong),
    We just replaced our shower head and faucets, they had to go through the wall and left a huge hole….not fun. Can’t wait to see it all come together.

  3. Just curious, what are your plans for the old mirror medicine cabinet? Do you have any suggestions for where I could find one like it? I’ve been looking for good storage for our many bottles of vitamins and that would be perfect! And I think it’d look great in my bathroom too! Thanks 🙂

    By the way, I also grew up on a military base in Germany (Ramstein) and having that in common was one of the first things that drew me to your blog…now I ready it daily!

  4. Loved your thought process for the bathroom up-grade/remodel. I am presently doing a 1953 bathroom but haven’t been able to save any of the existing items. As far as cleaning the chrome fixtures, use vinegar. It chemically dissolves the calcium scale, this usually does the trick. You then may want to polish them with a metal cleaner like Maas.

    1. I second the vinegar idea (but test first). Works great on my faucets – I soak paper towels in white vinegar and drape them around the faucet; let sit for a bit while I do other cleaning; when I lift them off most stains are gone. I have also tried the vinegar gel you can make at home by heating vinegar with a little cornstarch – that clings nicely. I need to make some more….

      But test the vinegar in an inconspicuous place first! It is very acidic and can etch some surfaces….

  5. In response to the question of removing water spots: straight vinegar and the finest grade steel wool you can find. For really tough spots, like the end of a faucet, a straight razor and/or pumice
    ?A great way to keep them shiny after the fact is to regularly use vinegar spray, but also to use a baking soda ‘soft scrub’. There isn’t a super specific recipe – you can start with a baking soda base (I put two or three cup’s worth in a larger tupperware container), add essential oil for scent (I like lemon), castile soap (maybe a couple tablespoons) and water until you get a slightly soft paste. A little more runny end result doesn’t hurt, but it just won’t stick as well to whatever you’re cleaning. I use this all over the house! It’s great on sinks, tubs, walls, appliances, everything.
    I worked long ago for a residential cleaning business and we used all-natural cleaners. We had to add other things to aid in the removal of some gunk and such, and ultra-fine steel wool, pumice stones and razor blades work wonders!

  6. I have a very similar faucet in my bathroom and I love it. It is sooooo nice to have a higher faucet in the bathroom, just as you would in the kitchen. I never would have thought of this but it is a big plus. I’m excited to see it all come together!

  7. Regarding cleaning the chrome, check Pinterest. I just saw several ideas. One was rubbing it with lemon. I don’t have chrome so I haven’t tried these, but check it out.

    I just bought a darling little table and am going today to buy my first MMS Milk Paint. I’m very scared and excited!! I’m worried that it won’t chip and I’m worried that it will chip too much. You might be hearing from me again, with questions.

  8. I am also glad that you haven’t painted your doors. I noticed that in the photos you shared yesterday, and love the warmth and additional color that the doors add. Even though they might be the cheap builders’ grade doors, they feel very much a part of the house to me. Good luck with your bathroom, I can’t wait to see how the mural looks – its good to be bold and adventurous now and again!

  9. The best product I have found for removing hard water spots is The Works bathroom soap and scum remover. Had the same problem in our 1950’s rambler. Now the faucets shine like new…good AND bad…would have liked to update but I am too practical!

  10. Have you ever thought about adding a bottom to that shelf on the right of the sink?
    I was just thinking I would miss the storage of the medicine cabinet… and my bathroom is huge with loads of storage and I still need more!

    If you boxed out where the heater is, and added that register screening, you could then, to the right of the register, have a cubby area or enclosed storage… and above the register and that cubbie area, have a couple more shelves or enclosed storage that encompassed the entire width of the unit.
    Kinda’ make it like a whole hutch instead of a floating shelving unit?

    I LOVE that mural idea. I want to do something that [but a hunt scene] in my foyer/entry hall…. but I am too afraid to commit!

    We moved this past summer and our previous master bathroom had everything ORB. The new master bathroom has everything silver. This house was a huge upgrade for us yet the previous owners had the same inexpensive sink faucets as yours.
    Long story short…you have solved my new sink faucet search.
    I love what you have chosen. I’ll be ordering today!
    Thank you!

  12. I too love that you left the doors natural. Don’t you think builder grade anything from the 40’s is still superior to anything post 70’s? Whenever I look at photos of your home, see the beautifully painted walls and the warm doors peeking out, it looks so classy to me.
    As for the bathroom, just for fun, wouldn’t it be better to say the bathroom is too small for the shelves, rather than the shelves are too big for the bathroom? And since you can’t make the bathroom bigger, the shelves stay. (This is why you have a blog and I don’t.) I love the shelves, but totally understand the next incarnation for that wall. Fingers crossed for you!

  13. I like Lime-A-Way for lime, calcium, and rust deposits. I’ve tried the vinegar trick and it required a fair amount of time and scrubbing. Lime-A-Way gets rid of the deposits in about 30 seconds. Just my 2 cents worth. 🙂

    I also like it that you left your wooden doors unpainted. I’m with Cassandra–my ugly hollow-core doors were painted immediately and hopefully someday I can afford to upgrade, but your doors are charming–why mess with it? Sometimes I think we all jump on the “let’s paint it” bandwagon–good to see that you’ve put some thought into it.

  14. As we have updated bathrooms in our 110 years old farmhouse, we have replaced toilets with Comfort Height or handicap stools….no biggie, but we did it for my daughters home years ago. and the older couple who bought their home. mentioned to realtor, it was a selling point…Who would have thought…My grandchildren have no problem using them and that was my main concern…Just a thought>

  15. For more storage, I would build a box around your sink and on either side of it-one to cover the radiator, and one on the other side for symmetry. I would make the side boxes only as deep as the radiator, and the sink box a little bit deeper for interest. You will also have two flat surfaces on either side for functionality. Then, I would paint the new wood with your paint–maybe something purple underneath and white on top to match the wallpaper? Just another suggestion. 🙂

  16. Could you build a frame for the existing medicine cabinet?? This would eliminate the cost of removing and repairing the wall and still give you or the next owners a place to store their medicine.

  17. Vinegar for hard water. Our water is crazy hard. Soak a rag in vinegar and leave it on there a good while. You won’t have to scub it as hard. Yes, it will smell, but it’s better than toxic chemicals.

  18. lemon does work…I save my lemons from juicing them and then I put baking soda right in the lemon itself and rub it all over my fixture and let it set a few minutes while I scrub rest of tub and then rinse everything! then I tear up the lemon and flush it down the toilet so it kind of cleans the toilet bowl too while I am waiting to flush 🙂

  19. I LOVE the mural !!! but I think it needs a further perspective, a longer depth….does it make sense? The bathroom being such a small and intimate room, I am afraid you will be nose to nose with a bunch of stripes and you will not be able to fully appreciate the landscape. I hope I’m wrong and I can’t wait to see the end result!

  20. I really like the idea of having a vintage dresser for a sink vanity. Maybe something painted with MMS paint. Ironstone white maybe? If you found something large enough to hold the sink in the middle, and cover the radiator inside the vanity. With all storage underneath the cabinet for simplicity. Then add a large somewhat ornate mirror over the vanity to make the room feel larger. Then more than one person can see in the mirror when getting ready for school, etc.
    I am looking forward to your transformation. As I know it will be lovely as always!

  21. I just cleaned up some bathtub fixtures just like yours. and I used simichrome. I’m amazed at the results as now the chrome looks brand new.

  22. Love what your going to do in the bathroom. Ive been looking for a vintage looking wood framed mirror for our remodeled bathroom for months!!! But I’m pretty cheap, might have to have my husband make one. Cant wait to see the mural wallpaper. Wallpaper is really making a come back. My sister put some on one wall in her living room and it looks fantastic!

  23. Can’t wait to see the after picture with the wallpaper! I’d consider the medicine cabinet a bonus though. Just curious…how does that work with the toilet paper across the room?

    1. The bathroom looks a little wider than it is, because of the lens I’m using. It’s actually an easy reach from the potty. Even my boys, who are 6 and 8 can reach it.

  24. Your bathroom is going to be fabulous when you’re done with other!

    At our old home we didn’t have a water softener, and the hard water was terrible! I would do a daily spritz of vinegar on the faucets to keep them shiny and would deep clean with Lime Away.

  25. Hi again,

    About that tub. Be grateful for a cast iron tub, it holds the heat better than any of the new kind. I can remember lounging in my parents cast iron tub in the ’50s. Not so in the molded ones of today, when you want to relax those tired bones, they just don’t hold the heat

    Just my opinion,


  26. All I have to say is I CAN”T WAIT FOR UPDATES. The bathroom sounds so exciting and one of my favorite renovations/designs are kitchen and bathrooms. Sounds like some great ideas and I can’t wait to see:)

    On a side note I’m LOVING that anthro print


  27. Marian, I completely agree about the doors! The warmth of the wood plays nicely with the whites and cool blues/greys in your house. As for the little bathroom, I can’t wait to see it finished! That mural wallpaper is going to make a huge difference alone, not to mention all the other changes you are planning to make. By the way, I hope the wallpaper is safe for such a high humidity space as a bathroom.

  28. My vote is for Lime Away but don’t let it sit on for more than 10 mins or so it can etch the stainless. you may have to repeat a couple of times if debris is really build it. use a scratch pad on anything stubborn and thick buildup. Let us know how you made out!

  29. I can not WAIT to see the bathroom when you’re though with it! The wallpaper will be so dramatic, and the marble will be a lovely touch. 🙂

  30. Vinegar does work great but also Bar Keepers Friend gets your faucets clean. I also use it on my copper bottom pots. It works great! You can find in in the cleaning aisle in your supermarket

  31. Definitely get a comfort height toilet when you replace that one. When I broke my leg and couldn’t put any weight on it for almost two months, we borrowed one of those potty chairs to go over our regular/lower toilet. If I’d had a comfort height toilet, I don’t think it would have been as difficult to stand up.
    Great ideas for your bathroom upgrade — I actually think those pale green accent tiles are pretty! 🙂 I too like that you didn’t paint the doors. They don’t look builder grade to me and seem to be in good shape.
    Thanks for sharing with us!

    Sue P.

  32. Oh my word… I’m on pins and needles here waiting to find out how the removal of the green tiles works out. I sure hope that you do a post and let us know how you decide to remove the tiles (without damaging the other ones). I have similar tiles in my kitchen backsplash and would love to do this. I’ve just been too scared!

  33. I am glad you kept the doors the way they were. The beautiful door knobs look much better on your doors in the wood color than they would on white, and it is more in keeping with your style. I had a white tile back splash with a row of tiles with fruits when I bought this house. The fruit tile had to go, so I asked the contractor to remove the tiles with the fruit. In doing so he chipped some of the white tiles and then removed the entire back splash before he told me what he had done. I suggest you really study how to remove the green tiles so this does not happen to you. Since this I have seen how tiles can be painted and this is what I wish I had seen before this happened. There may be other ways to cover the green tiles, too.

  34. CLR works on faucets. I love ideas you have and I liked that you are keeping the original look..

  35. Try a Magic Eraser on the fixtures. I use it on mine when I clean and it gets hard water stains off immediately. Can’t wait to see the finished bathroom!

  36. So glad you didn’t paint your doors. In my younger years I saw a picture of part of the White House where the doors were stained and all the trim painted. I fell in love with look. So when I bought a huge 1940 house in the garden district of my town. The first thing I did was drag every door out and stripped the lead paint off of every one. I kept the original glass knobs and never regretted a moment of all the hard work. I eventually sold it and when I built the home of my dreams- you guessed it. Stained every door.. Please don’t paint them Marian.

  37. To get rid of those hard water stains (and any other gunk, dried soap scum I’m looking at you) mix up 1:1 blue Dawn + white vinegar & pour in a spray bottle. Spray it, let it sit about 15 minutes, and all the stains/scum will wipe RIGHT OFF. Seriously, this trick changed my life, lol! I have a lot of vintage chrome with nooks & crannies. 🙂

  38. CLR will take off the water stains. Put some in a baggy and wrap it around the fixture. Leave it overnight. If all doesn’t remove – repeat the process. It works great!

  39. Couldn’t you have the Hubby build out the bottom of that shelf over the Rad to make it look like a hutch? Put the radiator metal on the doors that might cover the Rad. It might even give you some more storage and look like a piece of old furniture
    I’m glad your not painting those wood doors too. I love them

  40. Marian, are you looking for a simple framed mirror or something more decorative? also approximate dimensions? I’m looking for a mirror myself for one of our bathrooms so I can keep a look out for you too. I also have an older simply framed (wood) mirror up in my attic right now. It came from my grandfather via my mom but neither of us are using it and she probably wouldn’t care if it found a new home.

  41. I enjoyed hearing your plans for updating your bathroom. I still have serious reservations about the mural, but I will reserve my final opinion ’til I see it done! I was going to suggest cleaning the water spot on faucets with vinegar, too. If you need any kind of abrasive, tho’ I would go with plain baking soda before any kind of steel wool. Just a caution to avoid any scratching.

    I will be excited to see how the bathroom transformation come along. I am finding such pleasure in learning about your projects. Very inspiring. Do take time to sleep, tho’! Your energy is awesome!

  42. Mr. Clean Magic Erasers will remove the hard water spots effortlessly and without the smell of chemicals. Can’t wait to see the finished bathroom!

  43. I like the contrast of the doors to the trim and wall but not the plywood look of the wood. That cheapens the doors to my eye.

    Originally that wood was called “paint grade.”

    Having been in many old houses since the 1950s I can say that doors of that grade were always painted.

    If a door was to be left unpainted it was made out of something attractive, like solid mahogany.

    I would love to see you utilize what you have [the stripped wood] and do something creative with it. With paint or stain. Upgrade it, come up with a new look!

    And what about the toilet paper holder in the bathroom?

  44. Isn’t it quite the reach to get to the toilet paper across the room? Sorry, that was the ‘thing’ I noticed out of all the photos.

  45. Hard water stains can easily be removed with bar keepers friend. It works amazingly well. Can’t wait to see your progress on your bathroom. I love all your ideas. We have a small master bath that I’m dying to redo. I’ve bought a vessel sink and two wonderful old table legs to use to create a new vanity for my beautiful white vessel bowl. I’m still trying to figure out a good storage option because there just isn’t any storage except a small closet I am removing to enlarge the walk in shower.
    I really love the glass cover on your old light and the one in your hallway. Would you want to sell them to me?

  46. I love the way everything looks! You have such wonderful interior ideas! The upstairs bathroom is lovely. The hard water stains are a common problem and it is hard to clean, but it isn’t something that can’t be cleaned! Thank you for sharing these great ideas!

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