Before and After: This Under $150 Rental Redo Features an Instant Way to Hide an Ugly Shower Door

updated Apr 14, 2020
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Before shot of ugly yellow and brown bath

I don’t mean to brag, but my current apartment is kind of legendary: 1,000-plus square feet, hardwood floors, lots of natural light, a dishwasher, and three normal-sized bedrooms. When my two roommates and I first saw it, we were waiting for the catch. Well, aside from the generic noise from our neighbors (we’ll survive), it had to be the small bathroom, which while functional, could best be described as a sight—different shades of brown and yellow tile from floor to ceiling (yes—ceiling!), an outdated textured glass shower door, and builder-grade lighting and fixtures.

A rental-friendly renovation requires some unconventional thinking, since there’s no real demolition allowed. But, after some sleepless nights (yes, I hated the tile that much), I workshopped a few solutions to make the room a better place to spend time in, and it cost me less than $150! You can see what it looked like before in all it’s glory up above, and this is what it looked like after my handiwork.

I’m a big believer in working with what you have, so for starters, I did a lot of Pinterest-ing on yellow bathrooms, and I found this photo that inspired my color choices going forward. Would yellow tile be my first choice for a bathroom? No, but this image gave me a sliver of hope that if I could cover up the brown on the floor and ceiling, I might just be able to make a cohesive space.

As with any design project, I made a mood board to insure the products I picked would fit in the space I was already working with. And the entire makeover basically boiled down to these four pretty easy, cheap changes I made that look fairly drastic but aren’t so involved—or irreversible—that we won’t get our security deposit back. Here’s what I did—and what you can do, too—to fix up your rental bathroom.

Cover Up Ceiling Tile

Short of ripping out the tile (and subsequently getting evicted), the two bathroom ceiling options were: Coat the tile in white epoxy paint, or go removable with contact paper. Since the former would require my landlord’s permission and days of drying time, I had to relinquish my painted tile dreams. Instead, I cut this matte white contact paper into squares the size of the ceiling tiles and applied them one by one. Yes, it was painstaking, but it holds up to bathroom humidity surprisingly well. I found the best application method was to stick the corner down first and peel the back off while you smooth it down. It’s fairly easy to peel pieces back off and reposition them, so I didn’t get too precious with it. Those tiny annoying bubbles that occur were pretty easy to stick with a pin and flatten back out. And obviously, I can take these off when we’re ready to move.

Lay Down Floor Tile

In order to address the atrocity that was the floor, I went with super inexpensive vinyl peel-and-stick tiles. Originally, I wanted to do some black-and-white geometric tiles, but I knew it would be near impossible to line them all up. These are not really intended to cover bumpy, grouted tile, but since I only need them to hold up for a few years, I went for it.

I used paper and painter’s tape to map out the hard-to-fit sections of the floor (like around the toilet), then traced them onto the tile and cut them out. While I needed a utility knife for some pieces, good scissors worked wonders on these cheapo tiles. Oh, and a huge lesson I re-learned during this project? Measure, and measure twice. I ended up having to lug two sets of tiles home on the subway from The Home Depot because I measured incorrectly. Again, it might be a pain to take these off at the end of our run here, but right now, it feels worth it not to have to look at all that brown tile.

Hang a Shower Curtain

Like any good millennial, I posted on Instagram asking for suggestions to improve my bath-tuation, and I had a few people suggest hanging a shower curtain in front of the glass door. At first, I thought it seemed redundant—double shower coverings? Don’t most people want shower doors and not curtains? But once my vision for the rest of the bathroom was mood-boarded, I knew that that sucker had to be hidden. This shower curtain adds some subtle texture and successfully hides the textured glass. Plus, it makes the color scheme more classic goldenrod plus black-and-white and less blah brown and butter yellow. All you need is a tension rod and some shower curtain clips, and you are good to go.

Paint the Door

Okay, on this one I probably should have consulted my landlord, but I’m an “ask for forgiveness, not permission” kind of gal. The door was a pretty standard issue wood veneer material, but years of use and a healthy dose of water damage rendered it, well, ugly. A quick sand with 220 grit paper and two coats of BEHR’s Eggshell White instantly made the bathroom more cohesive. If my landlord hates that the door looks better when it’s time to move out, I’ll buy a new one!

So what do you think? In an ideal world, yes, I’d do more. But now that the brown is gone, I’m feeling pretty good about what we did here.