Small Spaces, Big Changes

Interior designer Mary Johnston makes over an outdated bathroom and a cluttered pantry — and adds to the charm of a Victorian home

Problem: The bathroom in this 1897 Victorian house was originally a bedroom, and though it was fairly spacious, it had no shower, was poorly lit, and needed a general update.

Solution: First, we moved the bathtub to make room for a shower in one corner. A new wall, built around a chimney breast that jutted into the room, created a nook for the vanity as well as a walk-in closet in the adjacent master bedroom — a big plus in an old house with little storage. A new skylight allows natural light into the room even when the blind on the long window is drawn for privacy. Recessed can lighting and sconces — all on dimmers — replaced inadequate candle lights. Hexagonal tiles on the floor, soft green walls, and white beadboard maintain the Victorian mood but look fresh and clean. Although we lost about a third of the space in the room to the closet, it’s much more efficient now.

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Crisp white paint on the woodwork and soft green walls (right) create a soothing effect

The formerly cramped, cluttered space (above right)
is now a charming butler’s pantry. Left: The glass doors and vintage-style hardware on the cupboard
add a period look


Problem: This open pantry (below) looked messy, and the small space was awkward with a chimney running through it, heating pipes in one corner, and a baseboard heater — none of which could be moved.

Solution: We built a new butler’s pantry out of the same unfinished pine beadboard that we used in the bathroom — it’s attractive and very affordable. Our custom cupboard is 10 inches deep (instead of the usual 12 inches) to avoid obscuring the window, which is original to the house. Rather than go to the expense and trouble of fitting the unit around the pipes, it’s simply centered in the space, like a piece of furniture. Reproduction vintage hardware in brushed bronze picks up the warm tones of the stained poplar counter. A matching counter and drawer opposite serve as a mini office, with phone jacks, space for a computer, and open shelving for cookbooks. White beadboard wainscot pulls the look together. Now the pantry not only looks streamlined, it’s much more functional, with a lot more storage space. â—

For more information on Mary Johnston Interiors, check or call 518-677-2385.

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