Adding Color And Trim To A Bathroom Ceiling

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day, guys. We’re back with a fully finished bathroom paint & trim project (we mentioned our plan here last week, and you saw a sneak half-done peek of it in the house tour video on Friday). So here’s what it’s looking like now:


Which is a pretty stark contrast to what we started with. You might remember that we removed the glass shower doors pretty early on, but then we didn’t touch the room again until recently waging war on the wallpaper.

It’s a tough room to photograph due to all the doorways and nooks – especially when trying to get the ceiling and the floor in one shot. So forgive all of the super vertical crops and choppy shots. We hope they at least give you a sense of what the room looks like now.

As we mentioned in last week’s post, the thought behind the blue ceiling was to balance the floor. We’re actually charmed by the blue hex flooring, but we thought some up-high interest would be a nice counterpart. Heather’s bathroom below (and this similarly blue-floored inspiration image) helped to guide our vision – especially the part about adding some simple architecture to create a transition between the colors.

The first step was taping a horizontal border around the room where we wanted our blue color to start. We landed on about 8″ down from the ceiling, since it meant the border wouldn’t be interrupted by door or window trim but would still be substantial enough to look purposeful. I just held up my level and drew a pencil line along the wall… which then acted as my guide to apply painters tape. I wasn’t super meticulous at keeping my tape lines perfectly level since ultimately the paint edge would be hidden under the trim (so as long as it wasn’t majorly crooked, the trim would hide any small wavers or dips).

The next challenge was picking a paint color. We started off by doing some test swatches of colors we had on hand, like Nelson Blue (from our kitchen), Sylvan Mist (leftover from book projects), and Spirit In The Sky (a losing test pot from when we picked a front door color). Normally we’d go for subdued blues with a good amount of gray in them for the walls (like the two on the left) but with the low bathroom lighting and the primary blue tiles on the floor, the grayed-out tones actually looked more gray than blue in here. Spirit In The Sky was exciting in a small swatch because it was bold and very obviously blue, but we worried that once it went around the whole room – and covered the entire ceiling – it would be too intense for us (paint tends to magnify itself from a small test swatch and looks a lot bolder when it’s all over the walls or ceiling). So you see how Sherry’s holding up another swatch?

That’s Spring Mint (in an eggshell finish). Since nothing we had on hand was working, we decided to spring for a quart of a new color that was further from the blue-gray category, and more in the “pure blue” arena. Something like Spirit In The Sky, but a bit lighter and more subdued in intensity.

It took us two coats, but by that evening we had the blue border and ceiling that we were going for. As we peeled off the tape, we both wondered if we should leave it as is (i.e. forget adding molding). We decided it was definitely an option (especially if you’re someone who doesn’t have the time/money/tools to add it) but we wanted to take ours a step further. Mostly because we’re a little too in love with our nail-gun, and lattice strips are nice and inexpensive.

Speaking of lattice, we used the same pre-primed strips that we used for our last hallway’s board & batten. They’re super thin, light weight, and just 77¢ per foot from Home Depot. Sherry measured and cut the strips using our miter saw, and we taped them into place as she brought them up, just to keep track of how it looked and what walls were still incomplete. Despite all of the nooks and crannies in this bathroom, it took us under an hour to get everything cut and taped up… though it did involve about two dozen trips up and down the stairs between the two of us. Go quads!

As we took them down to paint them, we labeled each one on the back so we knew exactly where they went when it was time to nail them into place. Many of the walls are similar in size, so we figured it would save us the frustration of putting the puzzle back together by trial-and-error.

In addition to putting a coat of white (Simply White by Benjamin Moore) on the pre-primed slats, we also painted the walls the same color. Once that dried, we could finally attach the trim. This is one of those easier-with-two-people projects, so Sherry was with me holding things (the nail gun, the other end of the lattice strip, the level, etc) which made it go faster. We started with me nailing one end of our first strip with the nail gun (it was loaded with 1.25″ brad nails). Note the ear plugs, since in such a small space the sound of the gun was crazy loud.


Then I held my level across it to make sure it was straight before handing the nail gun to Sherry so she could nail in the other end. This is a rigged photo since Sherry had to hop down to take this picture, but in real life it was a lot easier for her to hold the other end of the lattice up, and I’d check things with the level, say “good!”, and she’d fire a nail into her end. Then we could just continue around the room, making sure each piece lined up with the one before it.


Once we had all of the lattice hung, I went around the whole bottom edge with a bit of caulk, since our walls weren’t flat enough for them to looks seamless. I also used caulk to fill the tiny nail holes that we fired into the lattice on each end as we hung it. When the caulk dried, Sherry went over the trim with one more coat of paint – just on the front and under the bottom edge – to make sure it looked as crisp as the freshly painted wall.


There are still lots of little tweaks that we’d like to do to this room for Phase 1 (see that light fixture above?) but so far we’re really happy with this slice of personality that we brought back into the space (you know, after ridding it of its wild wallpapered persona).

And I don’t want to ignore the power of the white paint in all of this too. Here’s the difference between our post-wallpaper-removal “gas station bathroom” look, and the post-paint after that we have going on now.

We also hung some art on the wall behind the toilet. These are prints we had from our last house (the top one is a page ripped from Real Simple magazine that hung in our guest bathroom, and the bottom one is a print by Sally at that was given to us during one of our book tour stops last year and used to hang in our sunroom).

When we held them up together we initially worried they were a little too similar to be so close to each other, but decided just to work with what we have for now. The gradient of blues (the top print is a little lighter) actually seem to connect the lighter blue ceiling to the deeper blue floor in a nice subtle way.

At the end of the day, our entire master bathroom update so far clocks in at a little over 50 bucks. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Removing the glass shower doors (more on that here): $0
  • Peeling the wallpaper (more on that here): $0
  • Lattice trim from Home Depot: $25
  • A quart of blue paint for the ceiling in “Spring Mint”: $30
  • Shower curtain, white paint for the walls & trim, and art: $0 (we already had them)
  • TOTAL: $55*

* If you don’t have a shower curtain, wall & trim paint, and art on hand, you might spend around $100 grabbing those.


We still have a few more inexpensive updates in mind for this room, but it’s already a lot nicer to walk into than the dark blue wallpapered space that we started with. What did you guys do this weekend? Any bathroom or trim projects in the works?

Psst- Last week we woke up to some surprise snow, and Clara really got into it.


  1. lizaanne says

    So crisp and clean and pretty!!! Even the blue tile seems to be smiling now! What a great inexpensive make over that could be done in so many bathrooms to just spiff things up.

    Great job!!

  2. says

    We sledgehammered a concrete greenhouse floor yesterday. It’s something we thought we might have to pay to br done, so doing it before dinner was hugely rewarding.

    Now we just have to level the sand and dig out 50 cinder blocks. I’m hoping we can get a bunch done this week on that.

  3. Ellen says

    Looks beautiful! Can you tell us how tall your ceilings are? I love the look but am not sure if my 8′ ceilings could pull it off. Thanks :)

  4. Meadowlark says

    Tore out 1950s recessed can lights over the fireplace and ran cat6 Ethernet cable. Believe me, it took the entire weekend and a month’s worth of my mantra “measure twice, cut once”. Although in our house it’s “measure once, drive to Home Depot twice”. Oy!

  5. says

    I simply love this update! And I’m so glad you decided to go with the lattice in the end; it really makes everything come together and look finished. And I like how similar the two prints are, but hey, that’s just me!

    We hung some Ikea Lack floating shelves this weekend. I know you guys have floating shelf experience; any tips on getting them to stay level? We’re stumped over here!

    • says

      So sorry they won’t stay level! Are you going into studs with them? Any shifting sounds like the walls aren’t gripping them well, but if you go into at least two studs (using a level to make sure it’s level to start) it shouldn’t shimmy at all! Hope that helps.


    • Marissa says

      I had the same problem hanging our Lack shelf. I solved it by drilling additional holes directly into the metal brace– I had to buy a special drill bit from Home Depot for drilling into metal (it was only a few dollars), but it enabled me to hit two studs and get a perfectly level shelf!

      BTW, you need a good drill to get through the metal brace. We have two– a cheap Black and Decker plug-in (which couldn’t get through the metal), and a Dewalt cordless (which drilled a hole in the metal in less than 30 seconds), so if you don’t have a good drill, borrow one from a friend!

    • Jenny M says

      Not the original poster, but a sympathetic old-house person…I like this idea but I couldn’t pull it off because I haven’t found a reliable way to find studs through our plaster walls. Even the super-magneto-stud-finder can’t find them. I’ve heard of a method where you make small nail holes every inch or two, just at the molding line, until you find one and then patch all the holes…I guess that would work but I haven’t wanted to hang anything quite enough to go there.

  6. says

    Wow, what an amazing difference. And I have to say that the paint color surprised me a bit, but in a good way. :) I actually just painted my 11 yr old bonus son’s room a blue (Dewdrop) from the previous pink, purple, blue and yellow his sister had it. Oh yes, 4 colors! It looks great and I love how blue really reflect light.

    And I am currently putting up some boards in the entry for a more functional coat rack and forgot all about the lattice strips…so perfect timing with this post! I didn’t want to deal with the batten look since all I have is a circular saw and a miter box. Lattice will cut super easy in a miter box though!

  7. Rachel Laree says

    Looks Blue-tiful!! I’m just now realizing that blue is your go to color. I don’t know why I’m just now seeing this. I would never think to put a lighter blue next to the deep blue, but it looks really good and that’s what your space needed!!

  8. Phoebe K says

    The update looks great! I love the blue tiles and I like how you’re working with them. Bringing the ceiling color down onto the walls is a nice effect! World of difference from the before.

  9. Tracey Bradshaw says

    Love love love it – so clean and fresh – it’s a bathroom that you can actually feel clean in now! Color choice is perfect. Enjoy your ‘new’ space.

  10. says

    We tackled removing the concrete floor of the desert greenhouse yesterday. It was sledgehammered before dinner.

    Now we just have to level the sand and dig out 50 cinder blocks.

    When we get that done it will mean the end of half of the huge structure removal from our yard. I just might dip my toes in the ocean to celebrate.

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