Project: Personalize and modernize a dated bathroom
Before: Allyson, an attorney, purchased her 1920s East Flatbush, Brooklyn, home in 2017 with every intent to renovate and make it her own. Over the years, she’s collected goods and artwork from around the world, so she knew her first home would be an opportunity to showcase those finds and express her creativity. Allyson posted her renovation project to Sweeten, including the kitchen, full bathroom, and a powder room. After matching with a general contractor and getting an electrical inspection, she learned the scope of work had to increase to include a full electrical update (stereo wire had been used to establish connections, and it was a matter of when, not if, the house would catch fire). While that major work was underway, her contractor also started the full bathroom renovation. It’s on the second floor along with the main bedroom, so the idea was to finish an entire floor so Allyson could move in sooner rather than later.
After: Allyson had a very clear vision for the space. “I really wanted my bathroom to combine and reflect my love of vintage, mid-century modern, Afrocentrism, brass, and natural wood elements,” she shared. A separate shower and bathtub were also important, which meant removing the 1950s wall hamper and claiming a closet in the adjacent bedroom to make room for a shower. P.S. That bedroom is going to become a full walk-in closet!
Every element, from the flooring to the vanity, was a result of Allyson’s pursuit to make the bathroom a reflection of her personality and style. Both she and her contractor worked together closely to make sure the materials she found were the right size and configuration. “I took on the part of figuring out what I wanted, while he would tell me about what mechanisms it’d need to fit,” she said. Her contractor turned a vintage credenza Allyson found online into a vanity, installing brass sinks she sourced all the way from Australia.
The bathroom floor, a mix of marble tile and brass rod inlays, required laying it out in a separate room and individually cutting the brass pieces. “I knew I wanted a look that was geometric, unusual, and somewhat imperfect,” Allyson said. The “new” door, an 1800s brownstone pocket door from Big Reuse, a nonprofit for salvaged and surplus building materials, became Allyson’s personal undertaking and definitely earned her some sweat equity. After at least two months of stripping and sanding to remove seemingly endless layers of paint and varnish, she decided to leave it to the professionals. “I could not be happier with having that vintage element added to my bathroom,” she said. Overall the scheme is a mix of cool and warm tones, with brass making an appearance in the shower and bathtub fixtures, as well as the lighting. The shower tiles, a rich aqua, have a windblown texture—the idea behind them was to make you feel like you’re surrounded by water.
The biggest and most time-consuming part of the renovation was sourcing all the materials. Allyson hit all the stops: Etsy, Instagram, Anthropologie, and international sites to find ideas. The process even inspired her to start a business called Cultivate Self, where she’ll curate items inspired by global design and travel, and share her tips for cultivating a home.
Throughout the entire process, Allyson’s contractor helped to achieve her vision. “My contractor was patient and never dismissed my ideas as ridiculous or impossible. If something wasn’t how I liked it, he made sure that it was corrected. Because a lot of the items I wanted to use came from outside of the country, he worked around my undependable delivery schedule. He took a potentially stressful situation and provided steady guidance and expertise,” Allyson said. “I truly appreciate their amazing work and help in making this renovation happen. I really feel like my bathroom reflects my creative vision and I love every inch of it.”
While she’s still very much in the weeds of the rest of her renovation, the homeowner and first-time renovator has advice to share. “Don’t be afraid to take risks. I read that if you’re not doing something in your renovation that scares you, you’re not doing it right.”
Bonus: The brass inlay and marble floor was inspired by a backsplash Allyson saw on Instagram.
Style finds: Thassos 1×1 white marble tile, Thassos white Greek marbled honed subway tile: Houzz. Brass rod inlays, #MTL-03-BR: Inlay Product World laid by contractor to create custom flooring pattern. Wall tile in Glassio Lumiere 3×6 Angel Feather crackle subway tile; California Faucets shower fixtures (handshower #9128S, shower head #SH-177-6, arm flange #9132C, flange #9103) in satin brass; California Faucets wall-mount faucet, #TO-V6602-7; California Faucets wall mount tub spout, #TS-65: Decor Planet. Brass basin sink, #10284 and bathtub handshower: JustinPlace. Shower wall tile in Glasstints dune textured glass in Aqua and shower floor and niche in Glasstints corundum texture glass tile in Aqua Beryl: Interstyle. Broyhill credenza converted into vanity by Sweeten contractor. Reclaimed 1800s pocket door and vintage wood (for floating shelves): Big Reuse. Emtek mid-century pocket door lock; Maykee barnet oval bathtub: Amazon. Perch round mirror with shelf: CB2. Double bare bulb wall sconce and mini helix flush mount light in brass; wall brackets for floating shelves in brass, towel rack, toilet paper holder, and wall hook: Pepe & Carols. Kohler Persuade dual-flush toilet, #K-3815-0: Home Depot.
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