See a “Way Dated” Guest Bath Become a Dreamy Blue Oasis for Just $2,100

published Feb 17, 2024
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off white/beige bathroom during renovation--tiles have been demo'd
Credit: Yelena Moroz Alpert

When Yelena Moroz Alpert moved into her 1938 French Normandy-inspired house in the Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights, she immediately wanted to upgrade the guest bathroom. Alpert, an avid DIYer and editor/content producer in the design space, describes the original state of the bathroom as “way dated” (think: laminate flooring, plastic wall tiles, and all beige everything, including a sad wallpaper). “It wasn’t even shown in the photos on the house listing,” she says. 

Rather than enlisting pros for the trickier parts of the bathroom makeover, Alpert instead enrolled in a local home repairs class to skill up for the work. “We needed a guest bathroom to look nice for visitors, and [this] seemed like a project we could tackle,” she says. “The floors were laminate, so I knew that I could tile over them easily, and the tiles on the wall were actually plastic, so they popped right off,” she adds. The existing white tub and tile surround were in decent shape and stylistically inoffensive, so she decided to keep them intact. Next, she demoed the things she couldn’t cover up or remove instantly — drywall, trim, and the old vanity setup— before plotting how to put the bath back together piece by piece.

Credit: Yelena Moroz Alpert

Alpert decided to keep the design scheme loose by making her decisions as they came up, hoping they’d all level up into her home’s French eclectic-meets-contemporary style inspiration. “The goal was to create something fresh, fun, and colorful,” she says. She chose to address the floors first and selected Floor & Decor’s luxe-looking but budget-friendly Villa Beaumont Shadow Ceramic Mixed Penny Mosaic tile. She didn’t want anything “too basic” and appreciated that while the design reminded her of a patchwork quilt and had a historic feel for her 1930’s house, the matte blue and beige striations also felt modern. “Because this was my first time laying tile, I wanted to get something that was inexpensive and easy to work with,” Alpert says. “That’s where penny tile came in — even if I messed up laying it straight, it would probably be OK. From that point, I knew that I wanted to bring in a bold color and warm tones like wood and brass.” 

Credit: Yelena Moroz Alpert

Installing that trim was one of the biggest design statements she made in the space; not only does it add movement and a whimsical touch to the entire room, but it also visually bisects the walls, creating a wainscoting-like feature that was begging for a bit of color to ground it. Naturally, blue paint was on the brain, as it would make the floor tile pop. Alpert went with Behr’s Night Blooming Jasmine white paint above the trim and Clark + Kensington’s Jet Setter for the lower portion of the walls. “Although I think I am inherently drawn to deep colors, I love the violet tint of it,” she says of her chosen blue. “I actually painted a fireplace mantel in something very similar a few years back. I didn’t even realize that they were almost the same until it was done.”

Well-versed in the importance of layering textures and mixing materials within a space, Alpert knew she could create balance with contrasting design elements and finishes. “I was very aware of not going too deep into one theme,” she says. “For instance, I wanted to counteract the [round] penny tile with horizontal stripes, so I added the wide trim and lined vanity — even the new toilet has a bit of a running edge,” she says. 

Credit: Yelena Moroz Alpert

Above the sink, she swapped the bathroom’s existing medicine cabinet for a flat mirror from Target. “I love the playfulness of the mirror,” Alpert says. “It gives the bathroom extra personality.” She hired a pro to install a new light from Visual Comfort and finished off the room with new textiles, including an Opalhouse for Target graphic shower curtain and striped bath mat underfoot. Finally, she replaced the old silver towel holders with a sleek, black and gold bar design from Amazon that echoes the mixed metals in the vanity faucet, which is also from Amazon. 

According to Alpert, the most rewarding aspect of the project was learning how to cut tile and grout. “It made a huge difference and set the tone for everything else,” she says. Learning how to install drywall was also a valuable experience. “Drywall is surprisingly easy to put up; you just have to be meticulous about feathering and sanding,” she says.

Credit: Yelena Moroz Alpert

Between material costs and labor, Alpert estimates that she spent just over $2,000 on the bathroom. Because she was able to rent from her course’s library of tools, she likely shaved a cool $1,000 off of the bottom line. “I got everything from a tile cutting saw, to the miter saw, to little things like a level and rubber hammer,” Alpert says. “I borrowed their nail gun and air compressor. It would have cost me at least $1,000 more if I had to buy all these tools myself.” 

With this makeover under her belt, Alpert has since decided to offer design consulting “to help spruce up small spaces without going into full demo mode.” She’s also loving the finished bath in her home. “Now that it is done, I almost don’t want to use it; I just want to keep it pristine,” she says. “Good thing it is a guest bathroom, so it doesn’t get too much use or become overly messy!”