Before and After: Just $500 Made This Dated Bathroom Lighter, Brighter, and So Much Better

published May 19, 2021
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Before: bathroom with yellowy walls and wood vanity with white countertop
Credit: Ireland Bateman

Bathrooms can be complicated to renovate. There’s the issue of plumbing, plus you have to factor in that finishes should be able to stand up to plenty of wear (and moisture) — and you have to think about that all in a small space, to boot. But there are plenty of ways to give your bathroom a budget-friendly redo — and if you don’t believe it, take this project from homeowner Ireland Bateman as proof.

Credit: Ireland Bateman

Ireland’s bathroom was built in the 1980s and had the looks to match. While the home’s previous owners painted the shower tile, changing it from blue to white, “that was their only effort of updating the space,” Ireland says. The bathroom was functional enough for her family’s lifestyle, but it didn’t invoke any personality or inspire them to start the day. The dull yellow lighting didn’t pair well with the various wood tones and created a dark, lackluster ambiance, and the cabinets (while rich in storage) totally overpowered the space.

This bathroom was the only space in the house Ireland left untouched in the two years she and her family have been living there. “We spend every night in this bathroom getting our son, Henry, ready for bed, so I knew it needed a whimsical vibe for a child while also flowing with the rest of the house,” she says. 

Credit: Ireland Bateman

Since Ireland’s husband is a contractor, they usually tackle their house projects together. But this time, Ireland wanted to do the bulk of this space herself. “I knew with some paint and creativity — and a little help from my husband — I could transform the space visually without having to knock out any walls,” she says. The goal: something brighter and more welcoming.

Credit: Ireland Bateman

Ireland loves wallpaper in bathrooms, but was intimidated by hanging it herself — so she turned to paint to fake the look. She started by painting two coats of white on the walls; once that dried, she painted on brush strokes in a soft gray-green (Sherwin-Williams’s Sea Salt). “I used Sea Salt because our entire downstairs living space and upstairs hallway is Sea Salt, so this tied the color in nicely,” Ireland says. 

To bring more color to the space, Ireland decided to use Sea Salt for the vanity, too, and left the white countertop as it was. Lucite-and-nickel pulls from Amazon add a modern touch.

Behind the mirror, Ireland installed white beveled subway tile. The shiny tile reflects light, making the room feel larger and brighter, and it’s also easy to keep clean. “That’s very important with a little boy!” Ireland says.

Credit: Ireland Bateman

Ireland and her husband kept the lighting simple and sleek, with a new vanity light that’s way brighter than what was there before.

For finishing touches, Ireland added a few framed photos of her son, some of her photography, and a watercolor sailboat painting to complete the space. In total, this transformation cost around $500, including materials for paint, tile, hardware and decor.

This room is now officially Ireland’s favorite room in the house. “It always amazes me what a few coats of paint and some creativity can do to a space,” she says. “I think this is a perfect space that our son can grow with and guests will love it too!”