Before and After: An Old Bathroom’s DIY-Packed Makeover Adds Drama for $2,000

published Nov 22, 2023
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If you’re on a house hunt (or if you’re watching an episode of House Hunters or dreamscrolling on Zillow), you might come across some layout or design choices that make your face look a lot like the raised eyebrow, perplexed emoji. Decisions like an Edna Mode mural on the wall, a full 1950s-style ice cream parlor, or a beach feature with real sand might just make you think “huh.

For Erika Conner (@oliveandjunehome), that head-scratching, hand-me-down design decision in her own home was a swirl texture on the wall of a half bathroom. “It looked like someone had swirled their finger in joint compound,” Erika says. 

On top of that, “The vanity was oddly short, had a very outdated seashell sink, and had been painted one too many times,” Erika says. “[And] the sconce on the wall was actually an exterior lantern (on a dimmer!)” Needless to say, it was time for an update, and Erika’s cost about $2,000.

Credit: Erika Conner
Credit: Erika Conner

The bathroom makeover started with a (near) complete demo.

Erika started by tearing out almost everything — the old vanity, the old light fixture, the old wallpaper, and more. The drywall, surprisingly, mostly stayed in place.

“I initially thought I was going to have to tear out all the drywall, but the weird texture that was on the walls actually came up pretty easily because it was covering up two layers of wallpaper,” Erika says. “However, the wallpaper was TRICKY to remove and took longer than I expected.”

Credit: Erika Conner
Credit: Erika Conner

Beadboard and molding up the “swanky” vibes.

Once the wallpaper was off, Erika made some repairs to the drywall and added beadboard and crown molding for a more sophisticated look. “Now this room makes me feel like I’m in a swanky restaurant bathroom,” Erika says. 

Both projects were DIY firsts for her. “I had to learn how to build a jig to get my cuts right,” Erika says of the angled cuts required for where the crown molding meets in the corners of the room.

Credit: Erika Conner

Paint, wallpaper, and tile bring the drama. 

“It’s hard to say what changes made the biggest difference because this whole room is completely changed,” Erika says. “Where before it felt overly bright and cold, now it’s cozy, warm, and sophisticated. I think that feeling can be attributed to the dark color scheme mixed with classic elements like the black and white penny tile, combined with more modern design choices — hello, wallpaper.”

Erika used Pittsburgh Paints’ Onyx for the beadboard and trim, and her bird and leaf wallpaper choice is from Lionheart Wallpaper. She writes on her blog that she likes the brown undertones in the paint because they match well with the pasted-on wallpaper. Erika adds that using beadboard for half of the walls is a great budget-friendly option if your wallpaper is a bit more splurge-y, like hers was.

As for the penny tile, Erika says it adds a classic feel to the room, and it was one of her favorite parts of the DIY projects. “I’d laid floor tile before, but penny tile was a different animal,” Erika says. “I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed installing the penny tile. My back, on the other hand, wasn’t so pleased.”

Credit: Erika Conner

The vanity is a budget-friendly upcycle.

The tour de force in the room is the new vanity, which technically isn’t new, and technically was a console table — a Facebook Marketplace find that Erika converted into a dresser. She cut holes for the sink and faucet, modified the drawers so there was room for plumbing, and sanded and painted the thing. It’s painted Sherwin-Williams’ Rustic Red

“From the beginning, I was certain I wanted the vanity to be green,” Erika writes on her blog. “But once I started testing colors, I was shocked that green no longer felt right. Instead, I was drawn to the warm red tones of the birds in the wallpaper.” The design lesson to be learned here? Don’t be afraid to pivot from your initial vision!

“The only thing I would do differently has to do with the vanity,” Erika adds. “There are three drawers in the middle of the vanity that I turned into a door that looks like drawers. However, that door is pretty heavy, and doesn’t close as nicely as I’d like it to.” Erika says if she were to do it again, she’d leave them as drawers — just make them more shallow. 

“Now I know better for next time!” Erika says. And she’s otherwise incredibly pleased with the DIY-packed bathroom. “You can create a room you love on a budget,” Erika says. “It just takes a little work and creativity.”