Before & After: Lily’s Little Bathroom

kids bath-vanity and hanging candle lanterns cover 2

You already heard about my misadventures in bathroom tile (it was a “Decorating FAIL” in our master bath). Let’s just say I didn’t realize how it would look with black grout all around the edges of the room (think black mold). We used the same Sausalito octagonal tile in my daughter Lily’s bathroom but with white grout, so I thought I’d show you how that project turned out.

But let’s back up a minute and take a look at how the bathroom looked when we first moved in:

Lily's Bathroom Before

That was nearly 10 years ago, before I had a digital camera, which is why this scan of the old photo is so lousy. Gives you the idea, though.

For some unfathomable reason, the builder put in a long mirror that went not only over the sink but across the back of the toilet, too. Then, to add insult to injury, there was a long, bright brass light fixture centered over it–instead of over the vanity.

So one of the first things we did was take down the mirror and lights, patch the wall, and hang a new mirror and lights centered over the sink.

The bathroom was looking a lot happier, but the vinyl flooring was kind of a brownish color and just wasn’t helping the small space in any way.

So when we decided to get our master bath tiled, we had them do this one, too. We chose American Olean’s Sausalito white ceramic tile–same as in our master.

The morning before the tile went in, I woke up with a start, realizing that the black grout wouldn’t look right in the kids’ bath. It needed to be switched to white. Whew! Thank goodness I thought of that in the nick of time because after all the trouble I had with the black grout, I’m relieved I didn’t have to deal with it in here, too.

On the day of the install, I snapped a last pic of the sad old vinyl:

The room is so tiny it didn’t take Dave the Installer long to rip out the vinyl and put in the tile. Now it looks nice and fresh and white:

Better, right? It’s so hard for me to get decent pics of such a teeny room. You’ll have to use your imagination a little. But it’s a bright and cheery little space, especially now that it has the new tile.

Lily and I found the outdoor hanging lanterns at Michael’s and thought the colors were perfect for her bathroom:

The paint color is called Craftsman White. I actually bought it for another room and was shocked when it turned out a pale yellow. So we used it in here instead.

This room is so small and so short on storage that we added a little hanging cabinet for hand towels and washcloths:

Lily loves her bright and cheery bathroom.

I just realized that you can’t tell from the other photos, but we added crown molding to the room, too–here’s a shot where you can see it:

I got about 200 comments on my black-grout bathroom mess, and several of you mentioned how much more practical the black actually is than white. I heard stories from readers who used this tile or something similar with white grout and now regret it. Oh, boy. So now I’m worried about how this floor will look in a few years with the white grout. I’ll let you know if it’s still bright and white a year or two from now…

P.S. Visit “My House” to see more of it, including…

My Master Bath Reveal

Mount Baker Seattle Bungalow before reno
This house was built in 1912 in Mount Baker, an urban neighborhood of Seattle known for its Craftsman-style houses and popular biennial Home Tour. As…
Family Room decorated for Fall 2
F all is one of my favorite times of the year to decorate around. I love how all the orange, gold, and brown makes my…

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  1. Mark says

    Looks WONDERFUL!!! Great improvements!!! ( I saw your tile on a display last Thursday and thought..”aha! THAT”S Julia tile!!”
    Thanks for the blog!!!! Always makes my day!

    • says

      They used something called Grout Boost (Grout Booster?) and told us that it won’t need to be sealed because of that. Has anyone else tried that? I wonder if we should go ahead and seal it anyway. Anyone know?

      • Michael says

        We used Grout Boost in the tile we put into the bathroom and what was installed in the foyer. It self-seals. So far, no problems whatsoever. The installers Jamie works with prefer that, I believe. If you use the grout boost, you don’t need to use an additional sealant.

  2. says

    Lovely for Lily! I like the white grout’s freshness. And with such a small pattern, the white-white combo helps bring a cohesiveness to the small space. A grout sealer should help keep it clean. Such a cheery bathroom that she can call her own. Well done!

  3. Maryellen says

    Looks fabulous! I swear we were sisters in another life! We have such similar tastes. My mom used the same tile in her master bath & loves it. I can’t recall what color grout she used though. I’m going to have to stop over today to check it out. As a child, I also recall the same tiles in my grandmother’s house. I loved the geometric patterns. Another success story, Julia!

    • says

      I know, right? I spent so much time picking the tile that I didn’t put nearly enough thought into the grout choice. Lesson learned!

  4. says

    The bathroom looks great! Such an improvement over the “builder’s grade” stuff! The flooring looks perky and clean with the white grout. I’ve had more problems with black grout getting stained by water and household cleaners than white grout. But then again, I’m pretty sure the black grout wasn’t sealed.

  5. says

    You can always bleach white grout, unlike colored grout. Also, the tile company I worked for the owner actually painted his grout since sealer wears off. It would probably be a little difficult since your grout lines are small and numerous.
    Looks wonderful, I would be happy every morning getting ready in that bath. My SIL, bought accessories for her daughters’ bath at Hobby Lobby. Sounds like craft stores are the place to make cheery bathroom purchases! I enjoyed seeing such a cheery room on this gray, rainy day in cincinnati. : ) Congrats to you and Lily.

  6. says

    Love all the updates and the white grout. Julia, your blog is one of my absolute favorites. My little picture blog for the family is a lot of work, so I can just imagine how much time goes into yours. Thanks for offering this fun escape into beautiful homes!

  7. says

    Love it Julia!! I love the look of the white tile with white grout — it’s so fresh. Perfect for this bathroom. If it was sealed well then I don’t think you’ll have a problem at all — not like she’ll be drinking red Koolaid in there right? 😉

  8. Laura says

    I think the secret is to seal the grout….that helps to make cleanups easier. Looks fabulous….love your style and your blog….I read it everyday! Thanks!


  9. Bridget says

    Nice job Julia! Looks like a bathroom my little girl would be very envious over!! Lucky Lily!!!

  10. Mari-Lynn says

    I’ve used this tile in multiple homes and have always been VERY pleased with it. I typically use a warm gray grout for those exact reasons. One thing to keep in mind to help with the white grout is to ALWAYS vacuum the tile before you use anything wet to clean it. The grout is actually a little valley and collects dust and dirt…add water and you get? Mud! That is what usually discolors most grout, not actual stains. Vacuum, vacuum, vacuum and spot clean spills. I have kept white grout spotless using that technique for years. If you do get a stain, an oxidizing agent, like Bar Keeper’s friends works miracles! Enjoy, it’s adorable! :-)

    • says

      Two great tips – thanks you for posting them Mari-Lynn! (I LOVE Bar Keeper’s friend…but would never thought of this use.)

        • Maria says

          Bar Keeper’s Friend is next to the Comet type powdered cleaner in the cleaning aisle at the grocery store (it’s in a gold can). It is your best friend for cleaning ssteel pots/pans — it doesn’t scratch.

  11. Mari-Lynn says

    …and bahahaa, I just read your Decorating Fail blog, and am reminded of the huge kitchen island I decided to crackle paint sage green. I had seen it in major magazines and it always looked gorgeous. What I had FAILED to realize, is that none of the inspiration kitchens had old, builders grade beige countertops. When I was done, it just looked like someone had thrown up all over the island!!! YUCK!!! When I covered the countertops with black paper, it looked great, go figure…

  12. Margaret says

    You have great taste! I, too, selected this tile/grout for my kids bath over 5yrs ago. I loved it and it looked great for about a year. Then it just wouldn’t come clean no matter what I tried. I never resealed, but that would be my recommendation. Good luck!

  13. Anne C. says

    Love your update- adorable!!! Where did you get the sweet little hanging cabinet?

  14. Christina from Dallas says

    I was one of the ones who had white subway tile installed with the grey grout too. I had the same problem with the corners looking like muddobbers came by and made a nest . I fixed some of that with white caulk.
    Anyway I love your little girl’s bathroom. It is perfect and not too overdone. I love the tile with the white grout too and it makes it looks clean and tidy. I have a litlte boys bathroom to decorate and all I have it the blue paint up. I can’t decide what to use to decorate the walls for a preteen.

    • Lisa T. says

      My pre-teen son’s bath is the guest/hall bath,so I wanted something a little neutral that he would still like. I chose brown, beige and orange accents with bronze fixtures. I have a wooden giraffe figurine on a shelf behind the toilet and a giant bronze lizard on the wall that speaks to who’s bath it is.

  15. says

    It looks wonderful, but I’m a little bit biased. I had the exact same set-up – giant mirror that spanned the space, goofy light fixtures.

    I installed the same medicine cabinet? mirror? that you chose for over Lily’s sink, and an almost identical light fixture. It makes such a wonderful difference. Believe it or not, I’ve even got a pink & yellow flower over the toilet :)

  16. Shabby Chick says

    I love the colors, so bright and cheery! Fab job on that! And we’re all still waiting with baited breath to see Julia’s kitchen! 😉

  17. meredith says

    I love both of the bathrooms, especially the master with the black grout!! Gorgeous! A friend of mine has an older house (probably from the 20s) with these tiles and they aren’t sparkly white but it just adds to the charm. The vintage tiles “age” really well!

  18. Rebecca C. says

    The bathroom turned out so cute. Love those lanterns on the wall.

    The deal with the white grout is you just have to keep it clean. With a girl in there, hopefully that will be easy. I put it in the bathroom with two boys. Not easy to clean. Yes, you can bleach it, but it never looks the same as it did when you just tiled it. White is just more difficult to take care of. With it in a smaller bathroom though, it shouldn’t be as difficult for you. Also, I always thought you had to seal a tile floor.

  19. Michael says

    Love the change. The mirror makes such a big difference, doesn’t it? First thing we did when we bought our house 7 years ago was take out that builder full-wall mirror and replace it with individual framed mirrors above the dual sinks. It completely changes the bathroom.

  20. says

    I was JUST dreaming about how to do my own bathroom remodels last night! I love that you didnt have to do a complete overhaul for an entirely different look. Thanks for sharing!

  21. Ana says

    Beautiful redo – I’m sure your daughter loves it. Where did you find the cabinet for storage?

  22. Screendoorgirl3 says

    So pretty! I love the cheery. The tile makes such a difference. Nice job..

  23. kasey says

    Lovely transformation! Alas, I rent so my makeover opportunities are limited because I love the wall color. I dearly wish I could have a sink/vanity like you have. Mine is. . . servicable.

    I was about to pop down here & ask where you got the cute wall hangings over the toilet & then you told us. I’ll have to go check my local Michaels & see if they have any butterfly items. Right now I have pretty, but flimsy, stick on butterflies, from the butterfly zoo down in key west on the wall over my towel bar. But they’re a perfect touch to go with my favorite shower curtain.

  24. Julie B. [Holland] says

    So pretty Julia, I hope Lily loves her new bathroom. Its so fresh and fun looking. Loved those lanterns above the toliet.

  25. Lisa says

    Miss Julia,
    I just found your blog. What great fun…so if you’re good at locating houses from movies, my all time fave is the spanish/ranch style house in the new Parent Trap!!
    (new being relative, probably came out in the 90’s). It’s certainly one of those that makes an awesome impression. See what you can dig up…good luck!! p.s. btw I did white grout with same tile, hate to say it but never again. Food for thought, I did the 1 inch square just like this on a front porch with a mat border in sienna color of same tile. Turned out awesome!! good inside and out:)

  26. Nancy S says

    The floor looks great. I really do love the wall color. It’s like a gutsy neutral.

  27. Stephanie@geezees says

    So bright and cheery! Love the tile and the white grout. It has a classic look mixed with little girl fun….perfect!

  28. says

    That turned out perfect for your daughter! What a great improvement,and now such a happy room. I really love the bright towels showing through the cabinet on the wall.
    That mirror…how in the world builders get the bright ideas they do is beyond my imagination! But you did a good job of vastly improving the space.

  29. e. george says

    Hi Julia it’s a beautiful bathroom lovely colours very cheerful. Must tell you hubby has not had the time to put my new vanity mirror up as yet the way things look “not holding my breath”. Regards Esther from Sydney.

  30. Kim says

    I love how the simple things you did throughout Lily’s bathroom made such a big difference. It looks very nice. Great job!

  31. says

    Grey grout was probably the best choice overall, but honestly the white grout might “age” to a greyish color, and that wouldn’t be bad, would it?

    We have these tiles in our upstairs bathrooms and they have dark grey (not quite black, but close) grout. That gives you the impact of the black grout without the being too dark.

    Lily’s bathroom looks so cute and cheerful–and from what little I’ve seen of her on your blog, I’d guess that’s a good match for her personality. :)

    By the way, I was thinking the other day of your past autumn home tours. WIll you be doing one this fall?

    • says

      Thanks, Richella! You’re right–it definitely suits Lily’s cheerful personality. I always say she’s my ray of sunshine. :-)

      I won’t be doing any fall house tour linky parties this year. So many other blogs are hosting them now that I’ll leave it to them!

  32. says

    Tile. Always such a quandary with the grout. We did 2 inch square tiles on bathroom floors and shower pan. Kind of a gray tan color and matching grout. Immediately plumber came in to install fixtures and got dirt and oil in grout. Could not get it up. So tile guy came back and re-grouted. An ugly project but doable.

  33. carol miller says

    Fabulous job , Julia…’s so cheery, Lily’s a lucky girl!!

  34. Maria says

    Looks lovely!

    If it stains you likely could just wash it down with some Oxy-Clean, Comet, or the like, let it sit to bleach. I’ve used Oxy-clean on a really old stained sink and it turned pure white again.

    Also, not that you’d need to in your case, but one can completely paint over tile and grout.

  35. J. Elizabeth says

    Love both bathrooms–how lucky to have room for a bench in the master. Lily’s bathroom is charming–where did you find the shower curtain? So cute and I love that it will grow with her. Just outfitted my 7 y/o granddaughter’s bathroom for Christmas and had a terrible time finding things that were not too babyish.