Before and After: Look How Far $220 Can Go to Transform this Blah Bathroom

published Jun 8, 2020
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One of the most difficult spaces to redo in a rental is the bathroom. It’s small, often dark, and you’re stuck with the big fixtures since it’s not like you can get away with replacing the tile, shower, or tub. But renter Sarah R.M. Smith decided she wasn’t going to settle for the blah bathroom she had been putting up with for a year. “It was by no means the worst apartment bathroom I’ve had, but it wasn’t the best, either,” says Sarah. “Everything was functional, but that was it. There was absolutely no ambiance, and all the varying shades of brown on the floors, walls, and cabinets made it very gloomy.”

“The rest of our home feels very light, happy, and airy, so I needed to make our bathroom feel the same,” Sarah says. So she decided to make as many little changes as she could to transform the space from dark and dull to light and bright.

Sarah got clever in her redo: She knew she couldn’t replace the vanity’s countertop, so instead, she covered the pinkish surface with faux-marble contact paper. She also taught herself how to replace the blah silver faucet with a more striking gold one. Its sleek style and high neck make it look way more expensive than its $55 price tag. “Having never done that before, I turned to YouTube for some help. It is actually such a straightforward process and I understood exactly what to do!” Sarah says. “However, fitting myself under a very small space in a small cabinet was probably the least fun thing about this bathroom makeover. But after some fighting with the mounting nuts, using some makeshift tools, and getting some bruises over my ribs from squeezing myself under the sink, the old faucet came out and the new one went in.”

Sarah painted the vanity deep green (Behr’s North Woods) and swapped out the old hardware for chic gold bar pulls from Target. She also covered up the glum beige walls with white paint, adding a graphic accent wall to boot. But out of all the changes Sarah made, one of the most clever swaps was the lighting. While she was limited in what she could do, instead of trying to install a new form of lighting, she made slight tweaks to what she already had by swapping the fluted shades out for more conical ones, and flipping the direction of the lights. It’s so simple, but made a huge difference.

The entire project came together over the course of several weeks for just under $220, and once everything was finished, Sarah hardly remembered what the original bathroom even looked like. “When I went back through my pictures I was shocked. How did I let us live like that for almost a whole year? I think even if I had just painted the walls white and left it at that, it would have improved the space ten-fold. It opened up the whole room so much more, and it makes the walls look longer, which is absolutely vital to a small space,” she says. “I’m really happy with the outcome, and proud that every detail is totally unique to our style.”

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