Before and After: An “Everything Was Brown” Bathroom Is Now a “Jewelry Box”

published Aug 29, 2023
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
About this before & after
Home Type
Project Type

One silver lining of something breaking in your house? Sometimes, it’s a kickstarter for a much-needed (or wanted) larger project. A dishwasher breaking might prompt an entire kitchen refresh, for example, or a cabinet scratching might prompt you to buff the scratch right out and replace the hardware while you’re at it. 

In skilled Courtney Equall’s (@girlandgrey) family’s upstairs bathroom, it was a fiberglass shower surround leak that prompted an entire overhaul. “We have a million other projects happening around here, so a bathroom remodel wasn’t on our radar for this year until we discovered that crack in the fiberglass shower surround and were worried about water leaking into the walls,” she explains. “We decided we better move this remodel up on the to-do list and get started sooner rather than later.”

Before, the 1984 bathroom was overwhelmingly brown.

Courtney says “everything was brown” in the 1984 bathroom; it had dark oatmeal walls, wood laminate floors, and wood cabinetry. “There was also a streak of rust that stained the fiberglass that originated from the shower head and extended all the way to the floor,” Courtney says. “It was such a depressing space.”

This was a mostly DIY project with some pro plumbing and tile assistance. Courtney, her husband, Nate, her dad, Jeff, and her sister, Collin, all worked together to make this bathroom work better for Courtney and her whole family.

“In an effort to save money, we decided early on that the footprint of the original bathroom would stay the same,” Courtney explains. They started with demo — picture Nate and Jeff throwing all the material out of the upstairs window down into a dumpster situated in the driveway — to clear everything out.

“Do your own demo!” Courtney recommends. “Even after the cost of a dumpster rental to dispose of materials, it will save you thousands.”

Pros installed tile in the shower and on the floors. 

After the demo, it was time for tile. “We hired out the tile work for this space, and I’m so glad we did because it’s really the star of the entire space,” Courtney says. The main floor tile is black and rectangular in a herringbone pattern, the shower floor tile is smaller-scale black mosaic in a herringbone pattern, and the shower wall tile is a plus-shaped mosaic called “Swiss Cross.” All are by Anne Sacks.

Tongue-and-groove paneling gives the walls texture, too. 

Courtney’s family installed the wallpaper, the tongue-and-groove walls and ceiling, and the shower door on their own to save money. 

“The hardest part was installing the tongue-and-groove on the walls and ceilings,” she says. “We used cedar on the ceiling to give it that spa-like vibe. My daughter and I sealed each board with a clear matte top coat before they were installed.” 

They used pine for the walls and painted it Sherwin-Williams’ Extra White. “It was a time- consuming project, but I love the way it came out, and it adds so much charm to the bathroom,” Courtney says, adding that it’s “like you’re in a little jewelry box up there!”

Garden-inspired wallpaper gives the space a jewel-box feel.

The garden wallpaper from Schoolhouse, cute squiggly outlet covers, brushed gold faucets, and new sconce are other special touches that make this space feel like a box of gems. The larger statement pieces, the vanity, the mirror, and the runner, are from Rejuvenation, IKEA, and World Market, respectively. 

The wallpaper is Courtney’s favorite new addition to the space. Her first DIY tip is to make sure to replace your utility knife blade before you install new wallpaper “so you get those perfect clean cuts!” she says. And second, she recommends turning to old magazines to see if there’s anything cool to frame for artwork. That’s where she got her Mona Lisa print!

All in, the transformation cost $15,000.

If she could change anything about the “after,” it would be “just a few small details in the shower,” Courtney says. “I think I would add another niche for additional storage for all those shampoo bottles. I sort of wished I would have added a shaving niche as well. They seem so practical and wouldn’t have added much additional cost.”

Her final bit of advice is also cost-related, and it’s great for those who have lots of projects on their list to tackle at home. “We have always made a point to put a little money aside every month for renovations,” Courtney explains. “We consider this just a normal part of our monthly budget and part of the responsibilities that go with owning a fixer upper. This monthly amount could be as little as $25 or $50 per month, but over time, that nest egg will grow and soon will be enough to tackle a space!”

Courtney and Nate’s reno cost about $15,000, and it paid off big-time. “It feels fun and whimsical and not too serious,” Courtney says of the finished project. “I love how the wood- paneled walls and ceiling fit the overall style of our home, a chalet style home here in the Pacific Northwest … I love this bathroom so much! I think it’s my most favorite space that I’ve ever designed.”

Inspired? Submit your own project here.