Before and After: The Tile Is the Star of This 1970s Bathroom Renovation

published Sep 3, 2023
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There are, as the saying goes, two types of people in this world: bath people and shower people. Bath people want a luxurious soaking experience in a giant tub; shower people want a walk-in experience that feels like a spa.

Homeowner Carla Elliman (@carlaelliman) found in her previous home that she was more of a shower person. “Having previously had a shower over bath setup but rarely using the bath, I had always dreamed of having a large walk-in shower,” she says.

The 1970s bathroom in the current U.K. home she shares with partner, Fraser Edwards-Cleaves — which she says was in a “bad state of repair” when she first saw it — gave her the perfect opportunity to create the shower of her dreams. “Before moving into the house we knew we wanted to tackle it the minute we got the keys,” Carla says.

Not only was the setup not ideal, but the bathroom also featured beige carpet that was not a good fit for such a humid environment. The shower tiles added yet more beige to the mix, while the fixtures were all a bright plum — great for a 1970s house, but not quite Carla’s style. “We wanted a more modern bathroom that was both more functional as well as to our taste design-wise,” she says.

DIYing the demo saved some money on the cost of the remodel.

Carla and Fraser are “keen DIYers” as Carla says, but they chose to use a professional for all the plumbing, fitting, and tiling in the interest of timing. “With this being the only bathroom in the house, we knew we would spend twice as long doing it if we had DIYed,” she says.
However, there were plenty of things they did DIY, including their own demolition. “We ripped everything out ourselves to save a day’s labor from our bathroom fitter,” Carla says. “I thought this would be really difficult, but actually found it really satisfying and a great workout!”

The most high-impact change was to the bathroom’s layout.

Planning was key to the renovation of this space, Carla says. She came up with the new layout on her own, although a pro executed her vision. In the new bathroom, the vanity is on the outer wall — where the tub used to be — and a walk-in shower takes the place of the old toilet and pedestal sink. “I really enjoyed the process of starting from scratch, mood boarding all my ideas and playing with different schemes before settling on a final design,” Carla says.

Bold design choices make a big impression.

In place of all that beige, Carla went bold. New graphic black-and-white tiles on the floor have a retro flair, and the deep blue-green tiles on the wall bring a little color.
Carla and Fraser DIYed their own vanity, which they upcycled from a dresser they scored secondhand for £30 (about $38). All it needed was some sanding, new varnish, and new pulls; then, the couple cut holes in the top and back to accommodate the plumbing from a new vessel sink. “The vanity unit I am super proud of,” Carla says. “It’s great to breathe fresh life into something old.”

Custom details make the space more functional.

As part of the tiling, Carla had a ledge added above the toilet and a built-in niche installed in the shower. Both offer a little bit of storage space. She also chose a different texture of tile for the space above the toilet, which she says “breaks up the space really well.” The large towel bar across from the shower entrance is another ingenious idea.

The space is now more beautiful — and practical — than ever.

With the improved layout, a dreamy shower, and bold new design features, the bathroom is completely unrecognizable. The total cost came to about £8,000, or $10,136.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever planned a full room renovation from scratch,” Carla says. “My previous projects have all been either cosmetic, such as a redecoration, or smaller projects, such as an upcycle.” But the process was worth it, she says. “There are so many details I love!”

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