A Beige Rental Bathroom Gets a Major Boost on a Budget

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

My friend Joseph has a beige bathroom and asked me to come over and help him do something — anything — to make it better and I jumped at the chance. Because one less beige bathroom in the world is no bad thing. He’s a renter, so it couldn’t cost a lot, and everything needed to be 100% temporary. (You know those pesky security deposits and how they don’t get returned when you make permanent changes.) We did ask the landlord, to be on the safe side, and then I got to work.

Here’s how things looked when we started, and my plan for pulling off a low-budget and fully reversible remodel.

(Image credit: Dabney Frake)

Lighting: Hello generic hardware store vanity fixture! I believe we’ve seen you in every other bathroom across the country, from Poughkeepsie to San Diego. You are fairly basic and inoffensive, but do you know what is? All that rust you’ve accumulated since you were installed ages ago.

Verdict: Since lighting is one of the quickest things to change, a new fixture is on its way. We’ll keep the old one just in case it needs to be reinstalled at the end of Joseph’s lease. Easily done.

(Image credit: Dabney Frake)

Walls: How do you like that wall color? I lovingly call it “Dirty Ace Bandage” and can tell you it won’t be Pantone’s color of the year anytime soon, or ever.

Verdict: The walls will all get a fresh coat of spackle and paint, in a fun new shade. The only question is what color?

(Image credit: Dabney Frake)

Mirror: While we’re focused on the wall, let’s take a moment to evaluate the mirror. It’s a cool heavy vintage piece, painted gold, but it seems out of place in this bathroom.

Verdict: Let’s see if we can find something a little larger and more interesting, that works with the bathroom as a whole. The only issue with removing the vanity cabinet is losing all the storage inside.

(Image credit: Dabney Frake)

Bathroom Fixtures: I kind of dig the overall vintage vibe that the tub, sink and toilet are throwing out there. And when you squint you can’t really tell that they are slightly different colors.

Verdict: Very few renters I know are willing to pay to replace toilets and sinks, especially when they work fine and aren’t pea green. These guys will stay put. And it will be completely fine.

(Image credit: Dabney Frake)

Tile: See anything here that you’d change if you could? No? Then we will move on.

Verdict: Just kidding. You might have noticed the tub has a little “grout situation” going on, with a brown-ish substance that is troubling at best, and the plague at the very worst. I don’t know what the final solution will be yet, but I *think* underneath all that gook is some basic white tile that won’t look bad once it’s cleaned up.

(Image credit: Dabney Frake)

Weird Compartment: I’m not really sure why someone decided to install a dry storage cubby inside a damp tiled shower, but someone certainly did. Joseph refuses to open it, let alone use it.

Verdict: Removing the cabinet is more trouble than it’s worth, requiring patching and more tile. Joseph is going to have to keep ignoring it in the future.

(Image credit: Dabney Frake)

Flooring: The current floor tile isn’t horrendous, but it definitely doesn’t add anything positive to the bathroom, least of all warmth.

Verdict: I’d love to find a floor covering that doesn’t require demo-ing the existing tile, and can be removed when Joseph moves. Since this requires some research, the jury’s still out as to what’s to come. At the very least, I’ll cover some of the floor with a new rug to distract you.

Here’s the very first thing we did, and just that one project made a HUGE difference to the bathroom:

But if you want to jump right to the after pictures? Here you go!