Brava Magazine Feature - An Old World Bathroom Revamp

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Transforming a dated guest bathroom into a fresh, European-inspired space

By Sarah DeRoo

Marilyn Blettner is no stranger to a remodel. After calling her west side neighborhood home for more than 40 years, she’s brought her own personality into every inch of her house. From landscaping the outdoors to fit her classic exterior to a new kitchen, library and basement, the once-standard spaces are now a happy blend of modern fixtures and finishes topped off with her own eclectic style. But after tackling major work in her main floor, Blettner decided to keep it simple when it came time to
update her second-floor guest bath.

A standard bathroom layout, Blettner’s dual-sink counter and vanity were situated directly opposite the tub and shower. Not wanting to expand the space into the nearby bedrooms or master bath, Blettner realized her bathroom would be even simpler than she initially envisioned after meeting with her team at Madison’s Sweeney Construction.

“We were really hampered with the space we had to work with,” Blettner explains.  “Luckily, the existing layout [already] worked.”

So did one other major design choice.

“We decided to keep the flooring the same. It’s a 40-year-old floor, and it just looks great,” she explains. “But this meant we had to keep the vanity the same shape and in the same spot because there is no more flooring [underneath].”

 Knowing what already worked for the space, Blettner looked for smaller upgrades that would turn her dated bath into an old-world retreat.

“Even though it’s a small space, we chose to keep it dark,” Blettner says. “I like a warm look in my home.”

 Structurally, the vanity was upgraded with cabinetry in a deep finish while the marble countertop was replaced with a chocolate-hued granite and new undermount sinks. In the shower and tub, dated Venetian marble was hauled out and a new tub and tile surround went in.

“I can tell you those guys sort of groaned getting a new tub up the stairs, but they made it,” Blettner recalls with a laugh.

But the real key to this old-world look is in the accents. Layering textures, finishes and accessories, Blettner brought her vision to life in every corner of the room. The framed mirrors and artwork perfectly set off the patterned wallpaper, which lends a touch of texture to the walls. The window and shower were dressed up in deep rich fabrics that coordinate with a cozy cushion perched below the vanity and rough baskets hold towels and bath accessories. But the most personality and warmth comes from the simplest addition: A countertop lamp that offers a warm glow.

“It’s homey,” Blettner says of the lamp. “I leave it on at night.”

After tackling a host of upgrades, Blettner knows that paying attention to even the smallest details is worth it.

“I’ve found that if you put your money where it matters to you, you really get a home you love,” she says. “And I really like this room!”

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