You guys. You’re varsity. Once again, I was blown away by the 500+ awesome and fun ideas that you shared – along with some pretty amazing photoshop skillz – for Jamie’s design roadblock last week. There’s nothing like a group brainstorming session, and Jamie’s so excited about all of the options she has to explore (and has promised us after pics when she’s done). So let’s dive right into Meghan’s dilemma, because I can’t wait to hear your take.
Say hello to my little friend! Yes, I have a giant Scar Face bathtub. My husband and I bought our 1987 home a little over a year ago. We have been up to our eyeballs in projects but are making steady headway in making this house our home! But this is the one place where I still scratch head and walk out of the room more confused then when I walked in – and this is our master bathroom, so that happens a lot! Note: for anyone who wants to play around in photoshop, just click this image to enlarge it – and you can share your creation in the comments by linking to it on a free photo-sharing site like Flickr or Pinterest.
This bathtub is. huge. And my husband hates it, but it’s not in our budget to tear it out. Should I tile or beadboard the front? Put shelves or bookcases on the side? And what do you put inside said bookcases? I need something to mask it and make the space more functional. Thank you! – Meghan
Once again, I just started off staring at that before photo, trying to picture things and work out what could go where. Then I dragged it into photoshop to test out a few ideas. Here was my first thought:
I love the idea of some white bookshelves (I don’t think I’ve ever met a built-in I didn’t like) so I brought two of those in to flank the tub. They add some nice height and draw the eye to the pretty stained glass window in the middle. I also beefed up the trim around the window a bit, just for some nice balance. The backs of the bookcases could even get a soft blue-gray paint job (like Aqua Smoke by Behr) to pick up on the tones in the stained glass window, and the walls could be painted a light sand color (like Hazelnut Cream by Behr) to tie into the existing tub and floor color. As for those shelves, bathroom-y stuff like this could be nice:
- fluffy extra towels
- textured baskets
- glass containers (like these) filled with sea sponges, loofas, or something decorative like sea glass
- pretty bottles of bubble bath or bath salts/oils
- a stack of mags to read (I can never manage to keep reading material dry in the tub, but hopefully Meghan’s more coordinated)
- some candles to burn while bathing (or those flickering battery operated ones if she’s skeered of fire on a bookshelf)
- beachy keepsakes, like jars of sand/rocks/shells – or even labeled little vacation jars like these all lined up
Oh and I really liked Meghan’s mention of redoing the front of those steps with something white to cut all of that tan tub tone. I think three fun options she could go with are:
- white subway tile
- white beadboard (they make bathroom friendly beadboard that stands up to moisture)
- white horizontal planks (they also make bathroom-safe boards to avoid rot)
Meghan could just attach the sheets of beadboard or thin horizontal planks under the lip of each step with some adhesive that’s meant to hold up in a bathroom (gotta make sure it can weather steam and moisture). Or she could tile it if she’d rather have something shinier (I think white grout would be a good choice since anything too high contrast might look busy with the pattern/movement on the surface of the tub).
Next I tried for something a little more dramatic but still soothing: a dark green tone (like Mermaid Net by Behr) on the backs of those bookcases, light blue on the walls (like Country Mist by Behr) and a new color (a soft putty tone) on the surface of that step and the entire tub. Once again the stained glass window served as my color inspiration, so I worked from there, and I beefed up the white trim around it, just to make it feel nice and proportionate.
It’s not clear if the tub can be professionally reglazed, but getting an estimate from a local reglazing expert (we used one for our first house’s tub and loved the results) would determine if that material could undergo a color change, which is always a nice way to affordably update a tub that you can’t afford to replace. Oh and replacing the tub’s hardware with something in a brushed nickel, chrome, or oil-rubbed bronze finish would update things even if the tub ends up not being reglaze-able.
Lastly, I thought built-ins in that entire nook could be another way to go.
This photo feels a little busier, but it could just be my photoshop shortcomings. I also tried to give Meghan more ideas for what could live on those shelves since I had more space to play with (although the shelves along the back might need to be narrower, so candles and bubble bath could go there and deeper items like towels could end up on the shelves on the side). I think if she’s worried about anything feeling cluttered or busy, just keeping the items on the shelves in a soft neutral palette would work well.
Oh and a few other options that came to mind were that Meghan could…
- add glass doors to the bookcases for a glammy upscale feeling (this could be helpful if she doesn’t want items getting steamy, but less convenient if she wants easier access)
- paint the frame around the window the same deep charcoal color that’s in the stained glass (it could make that window even more of a focal point)
- hunt down some subtle gleaming tile (perhaps some small glass mosaic ones in a soft celery tone) and tile the entire back wall around the window with them for added interest
- find a tiny bathrobe to put on the cat, just so he’s feeling the luxury too
So those are a few thoughts I had about Meghan’s little friend. Can’t wait to read all of the other ideas you guys have for her – and of course to hear what she thinks!
Psst – Got a particularly tricky spot or a dilemma in a certain area of your house? Please submit at least three photos of the space along with a quick sketch of the floor plan and a short description about what has you stumped to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Two weeks ago when John shared this post about the times that we’ve made bad painting decision, we received a bunch of requests for a follow up post in the comments:
Q: I guess I just have a hard time picking colors because I have a hard time telling which swatches have grey or brown undertones. Maybe you can show some swatches (of say the teal from the built ins). One that has a grey or brown undertone and one that is more saturated? It might be helpful to see them side by side! – Aubrey
Q: Thank you for this! I actually think tip #3 (pick a muddier color) surprised me the most because I’d never heard that or thought of that. But it rings so true in my experience! Although colors don’t show up perfectly on monitors, I would *LOVE* to see a post with color samples and explanations like, “We love this peacock blue, but we think it would be too garish on a wall. Instead, we’d try this color, and probably get the effect we’re looking for.” -Heyruthie
Sounded like a good time to us. Comparative swatches will probably demonstrate more than words ever could. So let’s just let the swatches do the talking. First we have the bold and fun color you might be going for on the left, so if you envision a deep teal tone, you might be tempted to use Classic Teal after seeing the swatch. But on the right, we put the swatch for Plumage, which is actually what we used in our guest room. See how grayed out the swatch looks?
Yet on the walls it’s every bit as bold as we hoped!
Colors in general – and especially dark ones – seem to amplify by a TON when they’re up on the walls, so we’ve had luck picking the ones that look a bit faded or grayed out, knowing that once they’re up on the walls they’ll look a lot more clear and bold. You can read more on the guest room here.
Next we have a swatch on the left that you might be tempted to pick if you want a bright and happy accent of pink – perhaps for the door of a kids room, like we used on Clara’s closet. But the swatch on the right is actually the one that we picked. A small square of it looks a lot more muted (sort of faded) compared to the bold and happy color on the left…
… but once it’s on a nice big area in the room (like the door), you can see how bright and clear that color reads. So even though the swatch on the left might be the pure and unfaded one you’re initially drawn to, in a nice large chunk it could almost read as neon. You can read more about Clara’s closet and those raindrops here.
Another coveted color seems to be a cheerful aqua tone, but in our re-painting-riddled experience it can be hard to get right. The color on the left is a peppy Tiffany Box blue… which is actually a color that seduced us when we moved into our first house… but once we had it on the walls of our dining room, well, it was a little overwhelming. Of course it depends on your room (someone with an amazing room full o’ light could make it look stunning) but in our experience, that color’s just not muddy enough not to get blindingly bright on the walls. So we’d be drawn to something like the swatch on the right, which should still clearly read as a pretty aqua tone in such a large quantity (here it is in a laundry room makeover).
So my general rule is that for painting smaller items (like a tray, side table, accent chair, or lamp base), those more clear/unfaded/unmuted colors can be great. But for larger expanses (doors, walls, ceilings), we tend to prefer muddier tones of the same color – like a softer aqua with more of a gray-green undertone – just so it doesn’t go from chic-tiffany-box blue to punch-you-in-the-face-when-you-walk-in blue.
The same thing seems to ring true for greens for us. Something bold and clear can work really well on a piece of furniture or a bathroom vanity (but not necessarily all of them, ha!). But when it comes to the walls, the color on the left would likely turn most rooms into Kermit Theee Frog (I love when he says his name that way). Meanwhile, the one on the right might look dull by comparison, but on the walls it could be really pretty. Sage is always gorgeous with wood trim or cabinetry, so that could be a nice choice for a kitchen with wood cabinets or a den with wood trim.
Here’s another way I thought I could attempt to illustrate the strange mystery of how a swatch with those muddy/muted undertones can almost look beige in your hand in some instances… but then when it’s on a bigger area, it’s very clearly a color. See how muted and almost wheat-toned the swatch on the left with the arrow next to it looks below? Yet when it’s in a bigger area (that’s the exact same color in a larger rectangle on the right) it definitely looks green and not tan or beige anymore.
Update: Someone asked if the muddy version of a color would typically be on the same swatch as the bright one (if you slide up or down) or if it’s on a different swatch. In our experience, it’s almost always on a different swatch, so there might be a whole range of clear tones on one swatch (from bright aqua to a light baby blue) but you’d want to go a few swatches over to the one that has a much grayer or muddier top color (like a deep blue-gray) and slide down to find those muddier counterparts.
One last example would be Dune Grass, which we used in our first house’s bathroom. It looks almost completely cream/beige/tan in a small swatch (with just a tiny hint of green) – especially when it’s arranged with other green tones that are a lot less muted…
… but in our bathroom it clearly reads as a soft green color. Once again, when it’s up on the walls, there’s just a lot more of it, and it’s definitely amplified from the neutral-looking swatch. So if you’re looking for a light or subtly colored wall (be it green, blue, pink, yellow, orange, purple, etc) you might want to consider those lighter wheat or gray toned swatches that almost look like there’s just a drop of that color in them. The result can be a room that’s clearly that color, but a soft and subtle version of it. You can read more about that big bathroom reno here.
As Heyruthie mentioned, colors aren’t always great on monitors, but hopefully just seeing these comparisons might help. And when making a final choice, the best method we’ve found has just been to bring some swatches home, check them out in our lighting situation throughout the day, and then grab a test pot (or three) of paint if we’re still nervous. Those small sample pots are only a few bucks and they can save you a whole lot of re-painting trouble.
It’s also amazing how different the same paint color can look in a variety of rooms/lighting situations, so I’m sure there are folks who’ve used those bolder colors in the left columns above with great results – so it really does depend on your room, how much light it gets, and how you layer stuff in. Like this could-have-been-blinding bright blue paint color, which looks awesome in a lofted and light-filled studio – especially when it’s tempered with lots of tan texture in those pin boards and that over-sized mirror.
Oh and since we’re on the subject of buying paint, here are a few tips we’ve learned over the years about scoring a discount:
- “Oops paint” can be awesome (it’s someone else’s already-mixed paint that has been returned for some reason, but it’s usually extremely marked down as low as $1 for a whole gallon, so you can even get a few cans and mix them in the hopes of creating a color you like for a serious discount).
- If you have a favorite paint shop (ours is a local place called Virginia Paint), you might want to pop over to their Facebook page and click the Like button or sign up for their mailing list. By doing that you’ll often be alerted if they’re running sales or specials, and sometimes you can save $10 or even score 40% off.
- If you get paint from a big box store like Home Depot, you can hit up their website and check out their Paint Promotions page.
- You can also get 5% off any purchase at Home Depot or Lowe’s if you use your store credit card there (Lowe’s does it automatically, and you just have to ask for Home Depot to match the 5% off that Lowe’s provides when you’re checking out and they will).
- Sherwin Williams tends to run some great specials. In fact right now they’re having their big 40% off sale. And I’ve heard you can buy untinted gallons (like a whole bunch of them) for 40% off and then bring them back later to get them tinted at no charge (I’d check with your individual store, but that’s the rumor). So even if you’re not sure what colors you want right now, if you have a bunch of rooms to paint it’s a great way to save serious loot.
- It never hurts to click around on any paint website for promotion info. Right now Behr is having a $5 off promotion and Benjamin Moore is offering a buy-one-get-one-free deal on a quart of paint.
Do you guys have any other paint undertone tips to share? Or just some stories about going for the wrong swatch? Any other tips for getting paint at a discount?