Before and After: A $1,500 Redo Rescues a Very 1979 Bathroom with a Rotting Vanity

published Aug 19, 2023
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The 1970s have some cool design trademarks that are worth replicating in 2023 spaces (hello, bold colors, macrame, long dangly plants, and cozy lounging areas), but a bathroom that hasn’t been updated since the ’70s? Well, that’s another story entirely. 

Homeowners Kandra and Mark Sobel’s (@half.finished.home) bathroom from 1979 was in major need of some help. It had dark beige walls that Kandra disliked, old brown and green tiles, and a clunky vanity that hadn’t been replaced in the home’s 44-year lifespan, “complete with a pink countertop and rotten wood!” Kandra adds.

Credit: Kandra Sobel
Credit: Kandra Sobel

“The vanity was falling apart,” Kandra says, but “the space had great potential.” In a $1,500 redo, she and Mark gave the bathroom a

They started by removing the rotten vanity, and then Mark built a floating vanity out of birch plywood, starting with a framework mounted to the wall and a vessel sink up top. “We then added a wood trim to the walls and subway tile underneath, which made the biggest difference,” Kandra says. “It added so much character.”

Credit: Kandra Sobel
Credit: Kandra Sobel

Installing the new white subway tile was the most labor-intensive part of the redo. “This was our first time tiling over tile instead of tearing it out completely,” Kandra explains. “It worked pretty well. If we were to do it again we would choose a smaller tile that was closer to the original size to avoid shifting.”

That said, Kandra says re-tiling was “well-worth all of the work and mess in the end.” The white tile certainly brightens up the room, and the subway silhouette is a classic that looks on-trend for 2023 but won’t become dated any time soon. Kandra adds that it’s easy on the wallet, too. 

After the tile and vanity were all set, the Sobels added new paint (Sherwin-Williams’ Expressive Plum) and wall decor. “I love the warm plum color,” Kandra says. “I used all thrifted art and prints on the walls, and I love how eclectic it feels. It’s always a pleasant surprise to open the door to a space full of color right off of a neutral room.”

Credit: Kandra Sobel
Credit: Kandra Sobel

The round gold mirror was also a thrift find, and the new vanity lighting was $150 from Amazon.

Kandra’s biggest home decor advice? “You don’t have to spend a fortune to make an impact.” Her subway tiles were a bargain, she says, as was the new vanity. “You don’t have to spend thousands on a low-quality vanity cabinet from a big-box store,” she adds.

Her favorite part of the redo was designing it all and seeing it all come together. For more budget-friendly bathroom inspo — especially solutions for a dated bathroom — check out this $350 1970s bathroom rescue.

Inspired? Submit your own project here.