Before & After: Two Makeovers, One Month

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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

These “before” shots above were snapped during the final tour we took of our house before buying it last year. The upstairs bath (left) was highlighted as a selling point. I thought it had potential. The basement bathroom, on the other hand, was composed entirely of bargain tile and fixtures and didn’t seem to have any potential at all. This past month, I gave them both makeovers on a mini budget.

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Before: Dreary paint colors defined both of these bathrooms when we bought our house. It took me nearly a year to get around to these, because other rooms were even more depressing. (Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Before I get into the details, I should mention that you readers provided all the encouragement I needed to undertake these two projects in a month. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about how stuck I felt midway through painting, and you guys gave me stellar advice. The first bathroom was a learning experience. The second went much smoother, once I followed your helpful tips (start from the ceiling and work your way down!).

I labored, with occasional beer breaks, pretty hard on these two rooms through a few weekends and into many late nights over this past month (while working simultaneously on a few other home improvement projects). Oh, one last thing: I did both makeovers while my boyfriend was away on a research expedition. He was very excited to return to his newly bright bathroom.

Upstairs bath: There was nothing wrong with this bathroom, except that the previous owners had chosen a barely-there powder blue for the walls, which did little to show off the cool black-and-white hex tile. This green does the trick, though. The bead board is made of PVC, which stands up well to damp bath conditions, but looked sort of shiny and fake. I primed and painted it so that it looks matte and a lot more “vintage.” I also painted the tub’s flaking gold claw feet white. (I plan to eventually paint the entire exterior of the tub, but that’s a project for another day).

I moved some art from our bedroom into the bathroom, and bought a new bath mat and a towel rack for behind the door. I also splurged on a modern hanging planter for a little contrast with the old stuff.

Paint: Benjamin Moore’s Aventurine for walls, Chantilly Lace for bead board, Decorator’s White for trim.

Downstairs bath: Oh, downstairs bath, I wish I had a photo that shows how truly dreadful you were, from the stock white cabinet to the triangular toilet in the corner. And what’s with that crazy tile!? On the bright side, this basement room — which serves as my boyfriend’s man bath except when guests are in town — gets tons of light, though you wouldn’t have known it, because the dirty beige walls seemed to suppress every speck of it.

To accentuate the great natural light, I decided to paint the bath a beautiful, bright white. That includes the vinyl baseboard, which before was a dark gray and made the ceiling feel even lower. I also managed to use the last bit of leftover paint from my interior door project to paint the boring white cabinet a pretty blue after priming it. It really picks up the slate blue color in the Munch print my boyfriend brought home from Oslo.

We have wood trim and doors throughout the basement, so I decided not to replace the inexpensive oak towel ring and rack. I love wood against white. (By the way, you can get the entire oak set at Home Depot for $10. It looks a lot nicer than the low cost would lead you to believe! I use a little mineral oil on any exposed spots.)

I lined the cabinet with light wood-grain contact paper, which also went around a small floating shelf I got at Target for $6. The sailboat picture was a recent thrift score; the plant and cushy bathmat (not shown) were small splurges. I also bought an inexpensive straw wastebasket, which I placed strategically with a couple of other items to hide the bulky triangular shape of the toilet. The tray table (until I can find something better) holds mags and provides an extra place for guests to put their stuff.

Here’s a quick tip before I wrap up: Give your light fixtures an easy makeover with heat-resistant spray paint. In the downstairs bath, I cleaned the dingy metal fixture and painted it bright white, which was a welcome change from the stained yellow hue it had before. I also painted the ceiling fans and floor vents, which now look brand-new.

Paint: Benjamin Moore’s Chantilly Lace and Labrador Blue

Total cost for both bathrooms: Around $350, when factoring in paint, supplies and accessories.

Images: AnnaMaria Stephens