See How This Makeover Rescues a ’90s Bathroom’s “Old and Dingy” Oak Cabinets

published May 31, 2024
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
About this before & after
Home Type
Project Type
Skill Level
Rental Friendly

Renovating a dated part of your home poses a difficult question: How do you strike the right balance between making some much-needed changes and preserving the original character of the room? 

As DIYer Ericka Gularte (@oakandmarsh) found, giving some elements of the room a modern makeover and redoing others entirely made a world of difference when it came to updating her kids’ 1991 standard-build bathroom.

Before taking on her before-and-after project, the bathroom featured “old and dingy” oak cabinets. However, the tub and countertop were still in good shape, so a full renovation wasn’t needed. “We knew we weren’t ready for a gut-job remodel, so we decided to give the space a no-demo glow-up, just so it looked and felt fresh and new for our kids and ourselves,” Ericka says.

After giving the room paneling behind the vanity, a coat of bright white paint (Dunn Edwards’ Cool December) on the walls, and the trim a gray (Dunn Edwards’ Whisper Gray) paint job, here are three simple ways the bathroom got a much-needed refresher.

The mirrors add a modern touch — plus storage.

One of the first “surprisingly easy” changes that Ericka made to the bathroom was replacing the original long sheet mirror (“It was surprisingly very easy to remove with no breaking,” she notes).

In its place, she installed a set of sleek, modern mirrors with a rounded edge from Amazon. Better yet, they’re actually mirror-fronted medicine cabinets for extra storage! Ericka also added new sconces (which cost $36 for the pair) above the mirrors.

The oak vanity got a paint job.

While Ericka chose to get rid of the original bathroom mirror, she opted to keep the “dated oak” cabinetry in the bathroom and freshened it up instead with some gray-brown paint (Farrow & Ball’s Mouse’s Back).

However, switching out the cabinet hardware ultimately made the biggest difference, Ericka says. She chose to go with Amazon hardware that resembles antique brass, noting that “the quality was great for the price point.” Just a couple of swaps made the whole vanity look new.

“We are very proud that we made the countertops look new with proper paint choice of cabinets and walls,” Ericka says. “People kept asking if we replaced them.”

Goodbye, brown flooring! Hello, checkerboard.

Lastly, Ericka covered the bathroom’s dark brown “cheap faux wood floor planks” with black and white peel-and-stick flooring.“I was a little nervous about placing the [flooring], but it was way easier than expected, and it’s holding up very well,” she says. 

(She and her husband took the extra steps and installed new baseboards all over and sealed the edges by tub and shower to make the flooring look polished.)

Overall, Ericka and her family are delighted with the bathroom project and walked away with renewed confidence in their ability to make a big impact with a modest budget — theirs was just under $1,000.

“I hope this project inspires anyone who wants to freshen up an outdated bathroom but doesn’t have a large budget to do so,” she says. “This was such a low-cost update, and it made a huge difference to our kids’ spaces.”