When Andrew and I walked through is old colonial for the first time three years ago we immediately fell in love with the upstairs bathroom. So many of the original features in this small space were still intact, like the antique hexagon and subway tiles on the walls and floors, the porcelain tub and sink, and the tiny old medicine chest above the sink with its beveled glass. It was painted a dark chocolate brown and closed off with shades at the time, but nothing that three coats of paint and new drapes couldn’t fix! And although I loved this room straight away, I did note it’s storage situation, or lack there of. Storage is always a bit wonky in old homes. You find closets in strange places and the rooms come is weird sizes. It is what it is. But the trade off is charm and squeaks and so much beauty that I think makes up for any odd bits that the makers of these homes saw fit ages ago.
This the only bathroom on our second floor, making it both the master bath and the kiddo bathroom. It’s really not an issue right now since our babes are small, but a tight squeeze if we all need to get ready at the same time, like Sunday mornings before church. We’ve always wished there was a little closet or storage space in here to hold all of our getting ready things and towels, so since moving in I have been keeping an eye out for a piece skinny enough, but spacious enough, to fit right here. Thank you Craigslist! She’s a beaut.
Let’s move onto paint! When we moved in we went through the process of painting over all lead based paint and layers of wallpaper before painting each room a soft shade of white. We love the way white instantly calms a room and makes it feel light and airy. It’s also a lovely way to show off old features in a home when they have a blank canvas to shine against. One place we didn’t paint was inside of our small closets. We have five of them on the second floor: two in our room, one in each of the kid’s rooms, and a linen closet in the hallway. The first week of unpacking I hung a shoe organizer on the inside of the linen closet to hold our extra toiletries and as another way to utilize every space. I only recently removed it when I brought home our new medicine cabinet because eep, new storage! When I took off the shoe organizer I saw, for the first time really, what was painted on the inside of the door. It was a light greenish bluish gray color, a muddy neutral that I could tell was not stark white, but also not belonging to a specific color family. It was perfectly subtle, and as far as I can tell, original to this home. I carved a piece of crumbly plaster wall out of the back of the closet and took it to the boy’s room to see what it looked like in the natural light against the white trim. It was beautiful and soft, just what I have been searching for to give our home a bit of a colonial refresh this summer without having to paint the walls something other than white, a look I will forever love.
Later that afternoon I took that crumbly piece to Home Depot and had it matched and then made into a gallon of paint. When I got home I opened it up and decided that our new (to us) medicine cabinet would be the perfect tester for this paint to see if it was really one we wanted to use throughout the house. I ended up getting a semi-gloss to echo the existing glossy features throughout this old home, as you can see on the door up there that is in need of touching up. That’s going to be a big job, indeed! And I know matte paint is all the rage right now, but if you live in an old home glossy paint just works. Before painting, I sanded, scraped, and peeled off the old ivory and bright yellow paint on both the outside and inside of this cabinet and then painted it two coats of what I am calling, “Colonial White”. I quite happy with how the color turned out and am really excited about all of our extra space in this bathroom of ours! Here is a VERY similar paint color if you are looking for a lovely neutral that is not white, but darn close to it:
Behr Marquee | Base: 3450 Semi-Gloss Enamel | Closest to Ancient Marble
So that’s my rather long paint and small bathroom story! I am going to do the trim in the upstairs rooms fairly soon and will show y’all how that turns out too. Do you have any painting plans this summer? We also need to give our white fence another coat, and touch up the cream cabinets in the kitchen. They are originals too, and when I get that matched I’ll be sure to let ya know because they are such a dreamy ivory hue. Painting takes forever but it really does make all the difference, especially if you pick colors that make you happy!
jackie - What a great find! It looks like that cabinet was made for that bathroom.
Question about lead paint removal: did you wet sand to keep the lead particles down? Or seal it in first before sanding? My old house has tons of lead paint but I’ve always read that the best way to deal with it is to seal it in with a heavy primer and cover it up. I would love to be able to get rid of it though.
admin - Jackie, we had painters take care of it and they did sealing in some parts and sanding in others. It was weird in this house, because some places there was none and others a lot! The boy’s room had lead paint under FOUR layers of wallpaper. We ended up sealing the walls but had them get off what they could in certain areas. I am afraid all our closets still have it which is kinda gross. Such a big job to get rid of it though! x Amanda
Amber - Oh my gosh I feel you on the lead paint! I had a total freak out about it when we bought our 1951 home a couple years ago. For us it was on a number of the doors and doorframes and all the exterior windowpanes. We hired a removal company to come in and cut out the entire doors (including the frames) and replace them with new ones. And for the windows they wet-sanded what they could (in full hazmat suits!) and then sealed them with a special primer. The paranoid mama bear in me wanted to chop all the windows out, too, but unfortunately we didn’t have extra gajillion dollars, haha. Now that we’re in I’m more relaxed about it all. I’m also with you on the weird storage. Our closets are the kind with a big step-up (drawers on the bottom) and are about two-closet lengths deep. But I make do and just hide my off-season stuff in the Narnia-esque depths at the back. Do you have the ones with drawers on the bottom? If you do, try pulling them out and seeing if there’s anything behind! We found some super old baseball cards and a book of raffle ticket stubs with all the names of people who used to live in our neighborhood in the 50’s! So cool!
Kelsi - I was looking at the pictures on your post and I saw the metal plate at the top of your new cabinet that says “nappanee” and thought I’d chime in with a little history! I live ten minutes from Nappanee, Indiana where that was made – at the Coppes Furniture Factory. They were the largest producers of Hoosier Cabinets and they also made other high quality kitchen cabinet and furniture, starting around World War 1. Nappanee is an Amish Community and they take immense pride in their carpentry and furniture, and it was eventually shipped to stores all over the US starting around WW2 – and it looks like you got one! Your house is so charming and I thought you might like to know where your piece came from, to add to your home story!
admin - Kelsi, oh my goodness thank you for taking the time to share this with me. The seller told me it has a neat history but I had no clue! It was painted horribly when we got it with drips everywhere and now that it’s cleaned up you can really appreciate it even more. Those Amish know how to make furniture don’t they!? x Amanda
Eliza - Kelsi – the medicine cabinet says “Napanee” with one p so I don’t think there’s any connection to Nappanee Indiana. I’m from Ontario where there’s a town called Napanee – maybe a connection there or maybe not.