Before & After: A Couple’s Bright $500 Bathroom Renovation Roots Existing Features in a Sentimental Design

published Mar 27, 2023
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Photo of bathroom before renovation/makeover. Green and white walls, not much decor

Sometimes, despite our best intentions, our bathrooms become boring afterthoughts. Between the rush to get out the door in the morning and the tired slog just to make it into bed at night, a bathroom that hasn’t been touched in years can simply stay that way for a few more. After all, a spa-like ambiance might be the ideal, but it’s often tough to make that happen. 

And yet, Sinéad Slabine couldn’t afford to waste any more time neglecting the bathroom in her 1940s home.

“This bathroom is the first room guests see when walking into our front hallway,” she says. “Because of its location, the bathroom became a high-traffic area. My husband’s home office shares a wall with the bathroom, too.” 

As it stood, the bathroom wasn’t exactly deserving of so much attention. Its dark paint job, black tiles, and wood-framed vanity mirror made the space anything but bright and airy, despite the fact that there’s actually ample natural light. 

A full-blown renovation wasn’t in the cards, Sinéad says, but she still wanted to make changes with a short timeline and small budget in mind. “So, we considered what our constants would be — the black tile, pedestal sink, and plastic shower insert — and worked around that,” she notes. 

Sinéad’s goal was to give the bathroom a special feel, given its prominent position in her home. She poured over more than a dozen different wallpaper options during the project’s initial research phase, and eventually landed on a pattern that the couple felt represented them: birds reminiscent of her parents’ property on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.

“The most time-consuming but gratifying part of the process was the peel-and-stick wallpaper,” she remembers. The couple also swapped out a very typical builder-grade chrome light fixture for an Art Deco industrial one that’s similar to the decor in Sinéad’s favorite restaurant.

When it came time for the finishing touches, the couple added a funky bath mat, a few wicker baskets for textural storage, and some sentimental art. “The top photo is a map of Hilton Head,” she says. “Below that is a picture of my husband’s grandmother’s home on Cape Cod, which is a special childhood place for him.” 

The project culminated in a luxurious design that really speaks to the couple’s personalities and values, which is exactly what should constitute a focal point in a home — even if it is a bathroom. 

“I am most proud of the way we incorporated the elements that we couldn’t change, and played off them well enough to create a visually interesting space,” Sinéad says. “The bathroom reflects who we are and how we want people to feel when they come into our home.”