80s Cream Bathroom Refresh; Before & After

My design assistant Kelly Parkinson and her husband Mike bought this house two years ago around the same time she started working for us.

They just bought a house that might become their forever home (pictures to come) and sold this house, so before they moved out, we styled it up and took some photos for the blog.

One of the good things about the 80s was that cream-on-cream, or beige-on-beige bathrooms were trendy. Yes there were a lot of bad pink teal and black bathrooms using trendy tiles, but the homeowners who chose the ‘safe’ option, chose cream.

And it’s easier to live with as a new homeowner, if you are waiting to renovate.

The bathrooms in my 80s house were in similar colours.

All Kelly did with their master ensuite was remove the wallpaper border and paint the room a pale blue grey.


After (photography by Barry Calhoun) Paint Colour PPG1001-2 ARIA 

She also covered the dated shower doors with a white waffle weave shower curtain, inspired by this post I wrote. A great way to update an 80s bathroom.

You can buy this waffle weave shower curtain at the Pottery Barn 

I loved the fun deer head she found to display her necklaces. If you can’t see them, it’s hard to remember what you have!

Similar here

For a nice hit of green, these palm leaves are available in most flower shops and all you need is one or two in a fat tear drop vase and they last for weeks and weeks.

This kind of vase (center above) is perfect for a single leaf (West Elm)

Or for a hit of colour with your greenery, these teardrop vases are perfect. (West Elm)

Hope you have a great week! I’ll be speaking at High Point in April, hope to see you there!

Related post:

The Best Way to Cover Dated Shower Doors

Does your Floor Tile Have to Match Your Countertop or Surround?

The Best Cream Bathrooms









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  1. Design Enthusiast

    The floor tiles and bathroom vanity/counter look more white in the ‘after’, compared to the yellow-y cream in the ‘before’. Is there some photoshop action happening beyond just changing the paint colour?

  2. Karine the Kitchen Lady (and Baths, too!)

    The color on the walls plus white shower curtain makes the before wall color look so wrong by comparison. The styling and photography are great, too. Well done!

  3. Maria, the floor in the ‘after’ picture looks white! Is that a trick of the photography or was something applied to the tiles?

  4. Love how simple changes can make such a big difference! The leaves are very pretty in the teardrop vase. But they’re not palm leaves, they’re monstera leaves.

  5. The upgraded bathroom looks so good! I just finished a client doing almost the same thing. Just painting the cabinets white makes a big difference. I see that you repeated the cream with the soap dispenser. l love the teardrop vases. They are fun and you can get them in so many different colors. Nice job!

    Happy to hear that you will be speaking at market again.

  6. My tub and tiolet are almond. I need to replace sinks and countertop. Would it be acceptable to install white sinks and countertops? It seems to work in this redo. Confused.

  7. Hi Maria and Kelly! When I saw the before in this post I was like OH! did she get that new floor and kitchen? Moving is tough and so are decisions on what to do to get ready to sell. This simple and lower cost update did make it better. I hope the head went with you – so fun! Good luck on the new place!

  8. This one perplexes me…why is blue gray a good choice for beige?
    I would have thought that a warmer gray would be better ?
    It looks good in the photos but from what I have read on your site I would have thought that blue gray and a white shower curtain would be a wrong choices because
    A) blue gray doesn’t relate to anything
    B) it’s a very modern cool color next to a dated muddy Beige
    C) a white clean shower curtain makes the beige look “dirtier” and “beiger “

    As I said this isn’t a critique of the actual bathroom because it looks good in the picture just me not comprehending and applying the things Maria says correctly? I am trying to understand where I am apparently going wrong in my understanding of things 🙂

    • That’s the reason I tell everyone to have a white or cream bathroom, because you can paint the room whatever you want. Could she have installed a shower curtain with blue grey in it? Sure, but I think it works this way as well.

      Nothing wrong with blue and cream together.

      Clean and dirty is a tricky one and something I spend a lot of time talking about in my workshops. This is not a clean and dirty problem in my system.

      Thanks for your thoughtful questions Gerley! Maria

  9. It’s too bad she didn’t paint & style her bathroom while she was living there so she could have enjoyed the new space longer. Instead of waiting till she was trying to sell it. It looks so much better!

  10. Great article!!! Love the deerhead and the vase examples. Amazing what a difference that are very
    affordable color and styling can make!!!

  11. Great post and photos. I love the idea of hanging necklaces from faux antlers on the wall–adds some sparkle! But I’m wondering if that’s just a staging idea or if jewelry really is safe in a bathroom. Would the daily doses of humidity cause a problem?

  12. I still think the countertop needed to be replaced. It looks half-finished. It doesn’t cost that much to replace a countertop and it’s not hard to have done. The floor is a lot of work to replace, so if you can get by without doing that, great!

  13. Very nice budget “redo!” Amazing what a little paint and a few well-chosen accessories can do!
    One unfortunate thing about those 80’s cream and almond/beige tile installations though–the builders usually tended to use very dark colored grout back then! Perhaps it was to “hide” the inevitable dirt? I think it is the dark grout lines that can really stand out and date the look of that kind tile–even if the tile itself is fine and “classic!” The grout lines shouldn’t be the focal point, imho!

    Have you ever had a client change the color of the grout with those colored grout-sealants that are readily available at home improvement stores? I recently used a white colored sealant to freshen up the dingy, dirty almond- colored grout in my 1980’s bathroom tile floor (a combination of almond, beige and white mosaic tile) -it worked great and made a huge difference. The tiles look like new– light and fresh –it is amazing. And the grout is actually easier to keep clean now–even though it is white–the sealant seems to repel dirt and grime somehow! Hope this helps someone else who needs to update an old tile floor!

    • Did they really use green grout or is it just dirty? I have chosen MANY wall colours in the 90s to coordinate with the dirty grout because it had turned kind of a sage green colour and that colour was big in the 90s. Thanks for your comment Phyllis! Maria

  14. In my post above, I should have clarified that I meant that the builders back in the 1980’s usually seemed to have used very dark colored grout with the then standard 8 x 8 or 12 x 12 FLOOR tiles! Most of us are aware that the wall tiles back then usually had either the standard white or almond/bone colored grout (along with the ubiquitous, standard builder 4 x 4 wall tiles!)

  15. Not fond of the tile added above the tile you added in the shower. Why didn’t they just remove the old tile or choose another color that looked better. You can clean the grout in the floor tile easily. Not fond of the grey pain color with the cream cabinets. I would have painted the wood trim by the ceiling by the shower. Sorry, just seems wrong to me…

    • Oh my gosh I didn’t even notice that you could see that tile in the after picture because of the angle of the photo. I assure you, nothing was done in this bathroom except new paint on the walls. THAT tile is very bad for sure! Maria

  16. Refreshing timeless classic approach to design. When a client insists on doing All Gray wood flooring Bc that’s the Trend, then what?

    • Ask them why they don’t want espresso brown??? They don’t want it because it’s the brown trend. And that’s how they will feel about grey floors SHORTLY. Fill a pinterest board full of trendy grey floors and then one with light oak or medium. . . HUGE DIFFERENCE.

  17. The paint color listed PPG 1001-2 Aria is an off white and looks like pink on their site. Is this possibly a wrong reference for the color used, as it is called a blue gray in the post? Thanks.

    • I didn’t know that their colours were not true to what’s on-line. Someone should tell them because their colours won’t get specified in the eDesign world if they don’t work on them.

      Always look at the paint chip for true accuracy.

      Thanks for your comment, Maria