A “Cave-Like” ’90s Bathroom’s Transformation Is Bright and Cheery

published Mar 26, 2024
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There are lots of small upgrades you can do to a dated-looking bathroom, but there are also times when a total renovation is in order, and totally worth the money. These 14 bathroom remodels prove it. 

Another complete gut job to add to the list is homeowner Jenny McRae’s 60-square-foot bathroom, which once felt way smaller due to its clunky fixtures. “During the ’90s upgrade, the owner had installed a huge garden tub/shower combo,” Jenny explains. “It made the bathroom feel smaller and [it was] difficult to shower. The light fixture above the vanity was also incredibly low and annoying. My husband and I are both tall. I can’t tell you the number of times I hit my head or hands on it trying to fix my hair.” 

Jenny’s home is a craftsman built in 1907, but she didn’t like the “very ’90s” cosmetic touches added about 25 years ago, which included “lots of brown and beige,” Jenny says. “Honestly, it felt a little cave-like.”

Credit: Jenny McRae
Credit: Jenny McRae

Major leaks meant a demo down to the studs. 

On top of looking rather bulky, the tub — and toilet! — had been leaking for several years. “Our contractor encountered even more damage than we already knew was there,” Jenny says. “Every time it rained, water was pouring into the shower wall, and we had no idea … Our contractor literally told us it was the worst she had ever seen!”

The bathroom reno and water damage repair cost about $35,000, but it gave Jenny and her husband, Will, the opportunity to customize some things, like the walk-in shower.

Credit: Jenny McRae
Credit: Jenny McRae

The vanity and tile were cost-conscious.

Originally, Jenny and Will wanted to add custom cabinetry and large-format porcelain tiles, but they chose a ready-made vanity and smaller tiles to save money after learning the extent of the water damage in the room. 

“The shower walls are larger white subway tiles, and the floor and shower niche are vintage-looking black and white hex tile,” Jenny says. “Subway and hex tiles are really affordable! Saved us money, looks appropriate for the home, and looks great!”

Credit: Jenny McRae
Credit: Jenny McRae

The design is cheery and vintage-inspired. 

Although Jenny didn’t do the actual demo or installation work herself, she did choose everything about the design for the bathroom.  “Even if there had been no damage, I would’ve wanted to change the style,” she says. “I love old homes and dream of being a designer. I really wanted to bring the bathroom back to a style more appropriate to the age and style of the house. And make it more colorful!”

She chose a light green (Sherwin-Williams’ Mint Condition) for the walls and based much of her design around bistro-style sconces from Anthropologie. Those were a bit of a splurge, but she saved money on other details like the floating shelves from Target. 

Overall, Jenny says the bathroom is a little bit vintage-inspired, a little bit Parisian, and very cheery. “Overall, it’s just such a happy space,” she says. I love the fresh mint green on the wall. I’m so proud that the bathroom looks like it could have always been in the house that way, but is still my style.”