An Outdated 1920s Bathroom Just Got a Major Facelift

When Brooklyn-based attorney Allyson found into her 1920s Flatbush home in 2017, she knew it was the perfect space to showcase all the pieces she’d collected over the years. But it was also in need of some major love, so she moved in with every intention of renovating it and making the space her own. Knowing where to start, on the other hand, wasn’t as obvious, until she found Sweeten, a free service matching renovators with vetted general contractors that makes remodels big and small easier than ever. One area in particular need of help: the outdated, dark second-floor master bathroom.

To kick off the process, Allyson matched with a general contractor and then got an electrical inspection for the kitchen, bathroom, and powder remodels to understand the scope of work ahead of her. And she learned that it was about to get more complicated, as the bathroom needed a full electrical update (previous occupants had used stereo wire to establish connections, so it was a matter of when, not if, the house would catch fire!). While that major work was underway, her contractor also started the full bathroom renovation to get it all done at once and make her life a little easier. The bathroom, in particular, desperately needed a few contemporary fixes.

Both she and her contractor worked together closely to make sure the materials she found were the right size and configuration for the space. It was really a combination of Allyson communicating her vision for the bathroom to her contractor, so he could help her understand mechanisms it’d need to come to life.

“My contractor was patient and never dismissed my ideas as ridiculous or impossible,” she says. For example, her contractor turned a vintage credenza Allyson found online into a vanity, installing brass sinks she sourced all the way from Australia.

“Because a lot of the items I wanted to use came from outside of the country, he worked around my undependable delivery schedule. He took a potentially stressful situation and provided steady guidance and expertise,” Allyson says.

Another important step in the renovation was coming up with a layout. Allyson knew she wanted a separate shower and bathtub—this was a nonnegotiable—and it meant removing the 1950s wall hamper and claiming a closet in the adjacent bedroom to make room for a shower.

As with any major remodeling project, one of the most difficult and time-consuming parts of process was sourcing all the materials.

Allyson’s go-to places for inspiration were Etsy, Instagram, Anthropologie, and, since she loves collecting decor and inspiration while traveling, international sites. During her personal research, she was so inspired that she launched her own business called Cultivate Self, where she curates items inspired by global design and travel. See! A major remodel doesn’t have to be all stress and mishaps—it can also be a creative outlet.

In terms of personal style, “I really wanted my bathroom to combine and reflect my love of vintage, mid-century modern, Afrocentrism, brass, and natural wood elements,” says Allyson. All of which definitely shine through.

While she’s still very much in the weeds of the rest of her renovation, Allyson has already learned a ton about what goes into a renovation, and how much less intimidating it can be when work with the right contractor. Her advice? “Don’t be afraid to take risks. I read that if you’re not doing something in your renovation that scares you, you’re not doing it right,” she said.