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A DIY Tiny Bathroom Renovation: Before, "Almost-After" & Tips

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When I bought my house almost three years ago, here is what our tiny master bathroom looked like:

Don't run away yet!
Don't run away yet! Photo by Liz Johnson

I hope I never meet the person who thought a bulky built-in sink vanity and chunky faux-terracotta tiles (on every. single. surface.) was a good idea in such a small space. I was laughing manically through most of the demolition. And now I get to enjoy this instead:

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Photo by Liz Johnson

We renovated this bathroom ourselves, and here’s what I learned along the way:

You don't have to special-order anything!

I mean, you can if you want. There are some super-sexy tile and fixture options out there. But you can still achieve a stylish look without going custom or spending a ton. Our tile, sink, and fixtures were all in-store stock from Lowe's and Home Depot. We kept everything black and white, and paired a small hex pattern floor tile with large matte square wall tiles—I love how it feels classic and modern at the same time. Plus, the busy floor tile adds interest, while the larger simpler shower tile keeps the space feeling open.

Black grout is the worst to handle during installation, but the graphic crispness it adds is so worth it.

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Structural flaws are just design opportunities

We discovered along the way that the sink plumbing is not actually centered on its wall. I didn’t want to go through the trouble of moving the pipes, so I got creative with accessories. A single mirror would have highlighted the off-centered-ness, so instead I clustered five round mirrors to offset it.

Photo by Liz Johnson

You don't have to do it all (at once)

I call this an “almost-after” because while we have completed the bulk of the renovation, there are still things to do, like re-paint the walls and trim (again, black grout is a beast) and smooth over a few rough spots from tearing out the vanity (cleverly hidden behind that snake plant right now).

We also had to de-prioritize some things, so we could afford to finish the big ticket items. For example, the shower fixtures and plumbing were just out-of-date enough that we couldn’t easily find new black or oil-rubbed bronze replacement fixtures to match the rest of the room’s hardware. So we removed all the existing fixtures, carefully cleaned them—and then used some heavy-duty industrial spray paint to update them for now. (You’ll notice we couldn’t remove the overflow fixture, so it’s still silver. You do what you can.) They’ve held up amazingly.

Similarly, that hanging cabinet came with the house, and while I don’t love it, we haven’t been able to replace it yet. So I painted it the same color as the walls, styled it up, and called it a day… for now.

Photo by Liz Johnson

Plants make everything look better

We’re lucky to have a window in our bathroom, so I’ve filled it with low-light, moisture-loving plants (two snake plants and two fern varieties, though air plants would work well too). The green brings some vibrance to all the black and white, and the regular shower-steamings they get make them pretty low maintenance. Plants (or cut flowers) always make a space feel more finished, more grown-up, more polished—and I’ve definitely used that to my advantage in this almost-but-never-quite-finished room.

When in doubt, add plants.


Sources:

  • Sink and fixtures: Lowe’s
  • Floor tile: Lowe’s
  • Shower tile: Home Depot
  • Corner shelves: IKEA
  • Shower rod shelving: Amazon
  • Towel rods & hangers: Target
  • Round mirrors: Target
  • Trash can: Target

Have you ever renovated a tiny space on a budget? Share your tips in the comments.

Tags: before and after, bathroom design