Color Month

Before and After: An Old ’90s Vanity Is Completely Transformed in a $536 Bathroom Redo

published Jul 10, 2022
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Some decades are defined by their color palettes. The 1950s were all about pastels, the 1960s had avocado green, and the 1970s were all about harvest gold. The official color scheme, interiors-wise, of the 1990s and early aughts? Beige and brown, probably.

Architect and homeowner Preethi’s ( 1990s bathroom was covered in beige, from the tub tile and the floors, to the counters and the oak cabinetry. The fact that the bathroom had no windows wasn’t helping it look any more lively, either.

Preethi was looking for a way to brighten things up on a budget, and she did so during the Spring 2022 One Room Challenge. “I wanted to do the makeover under $500, but without compromising on quality and style,” she says. “Basically, I wanted this space to be bright and cute, so I prepared a mood board with colors and fixtures that would provide a modern and refreshing look.”

To brighten things up in the space, she went with a coat of crisp white paint (Behr’s Whisper White) on the walls, and she went bold with the cabinet color (PPG’s Pehr Cactus).

The vanity, if you can believe it, is the same one as before — just with a budget-friendly makeover. Preethi removed the doors, hinges, and knobs from her oak fixture, then cleaned each part with a wood degreaser. Next, she sanded the surfaces using 180-grit sandpaper.

After everything was cleaned and dusted, she primed and painted. “If you have recessed panel doors like this, then first apply paint with an angled brush on all corners/edges, and then cover the remaining flat areas with a lint-free roller,” Preethi recommends on her blog. “Remember to do thin coats. If you take too much paint on your brush or roller, you will get an uneven finish.”

To make her cabinet look a little more high-end, she bought one-inch fluted trim moulding pieces and cut them to the sized of the recessed door areas, primed and painted them to match, and adhered them to the cabinet fronts using Gorilla glue. “I had some gaps on either sides of the door, so I used round 1/4-inch dowels fill the space … it ended up being flawless,” Preethi says. She finished the cabinet with new brushed gold knobs from IKEA.

Preethi originally planned to keep her same countertops, too, but after her attempt to paint over the existing beige ones with a tub and tile refinisher was a flop, she decided to pivot and install a new countertop. “I did not have a plan nor a budget for [this],” Preethi says. “Luckily, I found a beautiful marble counter from the clearance section in the local store. Now, I am glad that the mishap happened. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have ended up with a gorgeous vanity!” She added a watertight sealant over top of the marble find and caulked it for a smooth finish atop her revived cabinetry.

Preethi also swapped out the mirror, faucet, and light fixture in the vanity corner of the bathroom to modernize things. She says she loves the mixed metal finishes. Her advice? “If you are looking for a budget-friendly makeover, then start with the vanity and replace the hardware and fixtures into something you like.” Preethi says keeping her existing cabinetry “was a game changer and a cost-effective way to update a bathroom.”

Preethi finished things up by trading the existing clunky towel bar for cute green hooks, and she also added a new shower curtain and a new DIY art piece over the toilet to finalize her bathroom spruce-up — an all-in $536 project due to the slight change of plans with the countertop.

Now, instead of all-beige everything, a cheery green takes center stage. Preethi says her end result is “refreshing” and “spa-like” — the perfect combo for a bathroom.

This project was completed for the Spring 2022 One Room Challenge, in partnership with Apartment Therapy. See even more of the One Room Challenge before and afters here.

This piece is part of Color Month, where we’re showing you the best ways to inject more color into your home and life. From paint color combos to vibrant house tours, head over here to see it all.