Before and After: A Warm Minimalist Redo Pulls This Bathroom Out of the 1990s

updated Jul 7, 2023
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Before: the full view of a bathroom with two sinks, a tub, and a separate shower

Attention, home sellers: Sometimes an outdated bathroom can break a deal. In Jeisy Cespedes Litman’s home, the primary bathroom almost scared her away from closing on the house. “My reaction to the bathroom when we walked in was, ‘I do not picture myself using this bathroom. I don’t think I can do it,'” Jeisy says. “Although that was probably an exaggeration, the bathroom had truly seen better days.”

Their home was built in 1998, and the bathroom had not been renovated since that time. It “had a ’90s 4-by-4 white tile everywhere,” Jeisy notes. If you look at the before pictures, you’ll see it on the floors, shower walls, and tub surround. And to make matters worse, a lot of the tile was chipped or broken beyond repair.

“The shower tile was particularly in bad condition with a great deal of grout missing and mildew growing in the corners,” Jeisy says. “This mildew continued to grow despite all of the bleach, Ajax, or vinegar solutions we used.”

There was one detail Jeisy really liked about the before, though: the tub. “I actually made my husband use the tub before the demo started so he could experience this before just like I did,” Jeisy says. “While he agreed with how awesome it was, aesthetically and functionally, it did not meet our standards … The jetted tub took the majority of the space.”

Jeisy and her husband wanted to tweak the proportions of the space just a little bit to allow for a bigger shower — the old one always just felt too small, Jeisy adds — and they wanted an aesthetic upgrade from the chrome finishes, chipped white tile, and sheet mirror. “Another issue we had with the bathroom was the layout particularly regarding the two single vanities on opposite sides of the bathroom — in fact, we both ended up using the same vanity, and the other one hosted all of my skin care and hair products,” Jeisy says.

“We felt like there was a lot of wasted space that could be better utilized,” she adds. “We are glad we were able to use the bathroom before renovating as it gave us more clarity on how we wanted our future bathroom to function.” (In hindsight, it’s a good thing the ’90s bathroom only almost scared Jeisy away. Living in it allowed for her to critically think about her dream bathroom!)

To get that dream bathroom, Jeisy and her husband hired professionals for a four-week reno, but the actual planning and hiring and ordering process took about five months from start to finish. Jeisy’s best advice for anyone hiring professionals for a remodel is to get multiple quotes before starting (she consulted with about 10 companies before hiring the right fit). Jeisy especially recommends getting separate quotes for electric install if you’re planning to replace lighting. “That bill ended up being higher than we budgeted for because of rewiring of the light fixtures and outlets,” Jeisy says.

Other than budget, the biggest hurdles were shipping delays and stock issues; some of the pieces in Jeisy’s original design weren’t available. But, what she ended up with is gorgeous: a larger, more modern vanity for just one side of the room with crisp clean lines, mirrors with storage and more visual interest than the flat sheet before, a curvy new tub with a smaller profile to allow for the larger shower, champagne bronze plumbing fixtures, and matching lighting from Overstock and West Elm. (And the sheet mirrors didn’t go away completely; Jeisy ended up saving them for her home gym!)

The tile was toughest to decide on, Jeisy recalls. “I was set on the 24-inch-by-12-inch porcelain tile, and I wanted the Carrara marble-like look for a fraction of the cost of real marble and less maintenance,” she says. “I brought home 12 samples (yes, 12!) for the floor tile to see how they each looked in the space and compared them with one other. I narrowed down my choices and finally decided on the same tile for the floor and shower. This included a polished finish for the shower walls and a honed finish for the floor to avoid slipping hazards.”

In the end, all of the deliberation was worth it. “I am proud that my design vision became a reality,” she says. “This was my first big reno project, and going from creating a Pinterest folder with inspiration pictures, to sketching and creating design concepts, to looking for vendors, sourcing materials, to making every decision, to essentially also being a project manager, and finally to actually seeing the final result being more beautiful than I imagined it, made me really proud of accomplishing this.”