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Q. I have a horrible bathroom in Ottawa that I’d like to redo. It has a pink tub, bowl and sink, black ceramic tiles on the wall (half way up) and the other half is black wallpaper with pink flowers on it. The vanity is also black and there is carpeting on the floor. Any improvement ideas would be great! I don’t want to remove the tub, since it might be too expensive and time consuming (since we are planning to do the work ourselves). I will be getting rid of the pink toilet bowl and sink as well as the carpeting and black ceramic tiles on the wall.

A. It does sound as if your bathroom is ready for a facelift! You’re off to a great start with replacing the carpet, wallpaper, black tiles and pink fixtures. If you don’t want to replace the bathtub, think about having it resurfaced. There are several companies that will re-glaze your existing tub, erasing all traces of the original colour.

Install floor tiles in either stone or stone-look porcelain or ceramic, and if you want to save money, think about installing a simple chair rail and wainscotting where the wall tiles were. Paint the wall above the wainscotting a shade darker than the creamy wainscotting for a neutral bath, or a brighter colour for more impact. Sheets of beadboard wainscotting are available at home centres for easy installation, or create wainscotting by simply installing trim and chair rail onto the wall, then finish off with paint.

Chair rail tip: Chair rails at least 1-1/2” deep will allow for leaning framed pictures or mirrors right on the wall.

Renting a steamer will help make the job of removing the wallpaper easier, and remember to use semi-gloss paint as it is the best finish for bathrooms. It is easy to wipe clean, and will withstand the effects of steam. Choose a colour scheme that you enjoy; neutrals for a tranquil bath, or bolder colour to suit your style. If you go neutral, think about clean, earth tones paired with black or dark brown for sharp contrast. Paint your vanity white (leaving it black might actually add rich contrast too), and the wainscotting the same warm white. Benjamin Moore’s Timid White (OC-39) is a good choice.

Choose either antiqued bronze-finished hardware for towel rods and faucets for a more traditional feel, or brushed nickel to add a spark of modern to your new spa-like bath.

If storage is lacking, shelves over the toilet will provide space for a grouping of wicker baskets, perfect for housing necessities. A basket on the floor can hold toilet paper, hooks in the same finish as the towel rods for hanging towels and robes, and plenty of fresh, white towels will stylishly wrap up the look of your new bathroom.


Make a splash in an old Ottawa bathroom with new tiles, towels and wall colours.

Q. We have an old bathroom in an old Ottawa neighbourhood. We are on a budget and just want to freshen up the space. Since it is a bathroom off a kitchen, we will most likely be putting down white tile flooring in the bathroom, like we have in the kitchen. We want to paint out the wood wainscotting because we feel it is too dated, and are wondering what to do on the window. We are thinking about glass block, but do you have any other ideas? What colour should we paint the baseboard and crown moulding? Also, we have a vanity area with a large rectangular mirror. Should we change it? What about towels and lighting?

A. Your bathroom sounds like it has great potential. Unifying the flooring with that of the kitchen instead of creating another transition is a good idea. White tiles do offer a plethora of colour options for the rest of the space. We also agree with painting out the wainscotting, especially if you want to create a bright room. If you are trying to keep the bathroom style more traditional, paint the wainscotting a warm white, like Benjamin Moore’s Cloud White (OC-130). To keep the room bright and current, paint your baseboards and crown moulding a brighter white, like Benjamin Moore’s Snow White (OC-66), which will contrast handsomely with the Cloud White wainscotting. Paint the ceiling the same colour as the wainscotting.

To add warmth without sacrificing brightness, think about painting the walls a creamy pale sage colour, like Benjamin Moore’s Overcast (OC-43). White and chrome or brushed nickel accessories and accents will look stunning paired with this colour.

For your window, since your bathroom is on the ground floor you will need privacy as well as a decorative treatment. Glass block is a consideration, but it may be the wrong choice for the style this room is taking on. Think about replacing the existing glass with fluted, textured or frosted glass, so you have the option of leaving the shades open if you like. A roman shade in a pale green toile would give a feminine look to the room, or opt for a striped cotton fabric in pale green, grey or black and off-white to tie into the colour scheme of the room. If you want to add a little colour but want to keep the room somewhat neutral, install a tortoise-shell roman blind. The orangey tone of the bamboo will be complimentary to the pale grey/green walls, and will update the room even more.

Replace the rectangular mirror with a large frameless or white-framed oval mirror (make sure the mirror is bevelled for a more finished look). Flank the mirror with satin or brushed chrome wall sconces.

A couple of bamboo baskets for towel storage will tie in with the tortoise blind, and add a little interest as well. Faucets, towel rods and toilet paper holder in brushed nickel or chrome will prove to be stylish finishing touches, and white towels are always classic.


Hey, have you heard the one about the 36-inch pro-style range that ripped the molding off the back door on its way into the house? Or the poured-on-site concrete countertop that cracked three months after installation? Or maybe it was the contractor who was paid in advance, promptly skipped town, and was never heard from again.

Yep, we’ve heard those stories, too. Let’s face it, in a nation where home renovation long ago surpassed baseball as the Great American Pastime, kitchen nightmares are a dime a dozen — and anyone who’s ever traded Formica countertops and a Harvest Gold fridge for soapstone and a stainless steel side-by-side knows exactly what we’re talking about.

Well, misery may love company, but what we all crave is a happy ending—a smart-looking, functional workspace that is a source of comfort, efficiency, and maybe a little neighborly envy (not to mention an excellent Porterhouse). To help you get there, we’ve compiled this handy guide to some common kitchen-remodeling disasters and offer expert strategies for steering clear of them. For each major phase of the job — hiring, planning, budgeting, and living through it — we’ve got an easy 10-point plan to follow. And don’t let our cautionary tales scare you: Take our advice, and your biggest regret when your dream kitchen is complete will be that you didn’t do it sooner.