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My Bathroom Looks Less Terrible Now According To Me

Posted May 26 2014 11:10pm

IMG_1060 People often ask us if the house “just grabbed us” when we walked into it. If we knew right away if it was “the one.” The answer? Not even a little bit. We were looking at homes in Los Angeles county which means homes in our price range located in a neighborhood that wouldn’t kill us, were all fixers. This type of fixer is actually sneaky - because all the major issues were internal (plumbing and electric for the most part, not to mention the yard has been neglected for what looks like 30 years), and the sellers were able to pull us in with shiny stainless steel appliances. While that isn’t entirely true - we knew there was work to do – being brand new home owners made us a little delusional about how surmountable the expense and labor of the impending projects were.

I really shouldn’t complain. The bathroom and the kitchen were renovated by the last owners.  And by “renovated” I mean they took the cheapest shortcuts possible when it came to materials and labor. I think they meant to flip the house as soon as they could which means they left the original plumbing and wiring alone (thanks much) and updated everything aesthetic with cheap materials and labor. I’m pretty sure my bottom kitchen cabinets should not be sagging and the VCT tile should not be cracking. I know the grass is always greener, but for any future homes we may buy, I prefer no renovation to shoddy renovation.

I haven’t written about the house in a while because my god I needed a break. Steve travels quite a bit for work, and he’s much more okay psychologically living in an undone space than I am (because my childhood folks, it’s always about the childhood – story for another time?). And so most of the aesthetic upgrades have been left to me and I am pooped. I’ve taken several weeks off from the project list and decided not to mention the house at all as if it didn’t exist.  Hard to do when it’s the box I live in.  I’m well-adjusted.

We only have one bathroom in our house and the previous owners replaced the floor, toilet, and the vanity, leaving everything else in tact. It’s not a horrific bathroom per se – sure it’s small and a weird hodge-podge of old and new but it’s perfectly fine for now. I’m not planning on redoing the bathroom for quite a while because it’s expensive and we’d have to contend with living without a bathroom during the reno.  Also, I’m sort of terrified of what might be going on behind that old tile that I’m just not ready financially and emotionally to deal with.

If I had a little more room in my budget I think I would replace the floor and have the bathtub and tile re-glazed to a bright and clean white but there are much more pressing projects in the house – like ALL OF THE PLUMBING and the fact that our landscaping motif amounts to “dirt.” Any attempt to convince myself that our situation is “minimalist” and “eco-friendly” has been a colossal failure.

Here was the listing photo. Does it make me want to cry? No. But not all that nice either


That being said, the light fixture was ugly, the paint job had seen better days, the floor was terrible and cracking, and the inside of the medicine cabinet looked like a vacuum cleaner threw up.  A minor face lift was certainly in order. Here were my goals:

  1. fix the dire situation in the medicine cabinet with paint, shelving paper, and new hardware
  2. paint the walls and ceiling a dark (almost black) color that makes the tile look brighter and whiter
  3. replace the light fixture
  4. add a clean white shower curtain to cover the old shower tile. I’ll deal with you later
  5. add a cool bath mat to pretend the ugly gray VCT tile doesn’t exist
  6. clean and spray paint any salvageable hardware, replace the any that were beyond repair
  7. possibly change the tile grout to dark – the grout is in good shape but it always looks dirty

For the record, I think black VCT tile can look pretty great – however the light gray variety shows dirt and cracks, plus they are impossible to clean. Also I am puzzled by VCT as a choice for the bathroom – I’m guessing they probably had some extra lying around from the kitchen floor (a sad sad story for another time). I feel like bathroom floors are pretty small and it’s not expensive to invest in flooring that’s a little nicer given how especially small the floor in this bathroom is. But I digress.  Here is the bathroom today!

my apologies for the dark photos – this room was especially difficult to photograph

bathroom before & after 1

I chose a super dark color ( Benjamin Moore Raccoon Fur  in Aura Bath & Spa Formula) that looks black, navy, or dark gray depending on the light. I painted the doors and trim in Simply White in a satin finish that I had left over from some previous projects.  I really love how much cleaner it looks. For the new cabinet hardware I was coveting/stalking  these guys from Anthropologie – but I couldn’t rationalize spending $14 on a single piece of hardware when I saw these at Target on clearance for about 95 cents each. Not exactly the same but similar enough to work.  Plus it went perfectly with the faucet.

The mirror was glued on to the wall (sigh) and I decided to make it work instead of trying to pry it off and possibly create more problems.  I found this amazing and lovely shop on Etsy called Hurd & Honey  that makes beautiful mirrors and furniture out of reclaimed wood. The owners were incredibly nice and worked with me to create a custom frame for the mirror I already had. It was on the pricier side given my face lift was on an extreme budget (the framing was $95 including tax and shipping), but the difference is fantastic, very noticeable, and completely worth it. I attached it with liquid nails for mirrors which was very simple,  although my mirror looked like this for a while.

mirror in progress

The medicine cabinet is deep and holds a ton of stuff (plus has an outlet inside – major bonus for my electric toothbrush!) – but it was beyond gross when we first moved in. Stuff was flaking and peeling everywhere with what seemed like years/inches of dust.  A serious cleaning, a couple of coats of paint plus some shelving paper (Isaac Mizrahi – good on you for awesome shelving paper), and it looked beautiful – and more importantly, CLEAN.

bathroom before & after 2

cabinet before cabinet after The lighting fixture was just so sad. It was old and dirty – and not to mention really poor quality.  We chose the Vanadin fixture from IKEA  which I WOULD NOT RECOMMEND TO ANYONE EVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. It doesn’t fit a standard electrical box and we ended up having to attach it with drywall screws – that’s safe, right? Despite its major installation issues, I think it looks really pretty. The frosted glass looks vintage and it gives off soft light, and the price was oh so right.

lighting before and after

The towel racks had seen better days. I would have loved to replace them, but given that the holes were already drilled into the tiles, I decided to remove the racks, spray paint them with Rustoleum metallic spray paint in satin nickel to match the other fixtures in the bathroom, and put them back into place. It was a small project that made a huge difference. Well, to me anyway.

towel rack before & after I am loving the plus sign trend throw pillows and blankets I’m seeing in the internet design world and I was so thrilled to find it in bath mat form at Target  for only $20. bathroom 17

New towel hooks from IKEA for $6

bathroom 1

Since the bathroom is so small, I like using the top of the toilet as counter space. The (utterly ridiculous according to Steve) casa tissue box holder was $5 on sale,  the bamboo tray was $17 from Crate & Barrel, the match stick holder I already had, and the vase and other things I bought from an estate sale for $5.

bathroom 4 The art below I had previously, and the larger piece was a really beautiful piece of decorative paper in a ribba frame .

bathroom 2

bathroom 10 bathroom 6 bathroom 5

Here’s the final cost breakdown (note that some current prices vary from what I paid):

2 Quarts of Benjamin Moore Raccoon Fur in Aura Bath & Spa Formula: $44
Rustoleum Spray Paint in Satin Nickel : $6.76
Plus Sign Bath Mat : Target, $19.99
Art & Frame : $23.94
Trash Can : $14.99
Light Fixture : $39.99
Geo Ikat Shelving Paper  $9.99
Tissue Box Cover : $5.76
Vase, Metal Coaster, & Reeds : $5
Bamboo Tray : $16.95
Reclaimed Wood Mirror Frame : Hurd & Honey, $95
Towel Hooks :  $5.99
White Bamboo Shower Curtain  $31.99
New Hardware : 5.78
Liquid Nails for Mirrors : $4.65
Grout Renew : $11.97
Total Cost: $342.75

The one thing I didn’t get to was coloring the grout dark for a square subway tile type look . I’m not sure I’m going to do it – I did buy this product though that seems to be a good bet. Either way, I feel good about the condition and look of the bathroom right now – whether we end up remodeling it or not.

And now I will ignore my house for the next month.

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