Home Projects

Before and After: An Outdated Bathroom Becomes a Chic Sanctuary for Under $500

published Dec 29, 2021
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bathroom before renovation white tile floors
Credit: Liz Ferguson

Although a gut renovation is a surefire way to transform a room, it can be quite an undertaking. Many home renovations require professional help, which means factoring in both the amount of time it takes to complete the project and the final cost. But opting not to renovate doesn’t mean you can’t achieve a true makeover with some clever DIY refreshes.

Just ask Liz Ferguson of Hello From Liz, who gave her apartment’s outdated bathroom a contemporary revamp with some simple, cost-effective swaps.

Although Liz says her bathroom is “a great size and layout for a city apartment,” it clearly hadn’t been updated since the place was turned into a rental unit in the 1980s. She’d been planning a bathroom makeover since she and her husband, Grant, first moved there in 2019, but transitioning to a work-from-home lifestyle during the pandemic motivated them to finally tackle it. “The room had so much potential,” she says, “and I knew it could be transformed 90 percent of the way through a major cleanup and hardware swap.”

Credit: Liz Ferguson

The original room had a beige toilet and tan tiling with dark brown grout, which looked dirty and was a major pain point for Liz and Grant. “Who knew what color it had been originally, but it looked brown when we arrived,” Liz remembers. Both features felt drab against the dark brown wooden vanity and chrome light fixtures, and made the pink stone countertop, a detail Liz loved, look “super busy.”

While Liz would have loved to tackle a full-on renovation, she and Grant settled on doing everything in their power to update the existing space without ripping out any appliances. “Sustainably speaking,” she says, “not renovating is a way better choice anyway!” 

First, Liz and Grant breathed new life into the dark brown vanity and medicine cabinet frame with a fresh coat of rich, deep blue paint (General Finishes’ Milk Paint in Coastal Blue). They then swapped out some of the standard-issue hardware they’d inherited —including the drawer pulls, door hooks, towel rack, toilet paper holder, and overhead light fixture — for sleeker brass pieces. These simple switches were “very transformative,” says Liz.

Credit: Liz Ferguson

The next order of business? Nixing the tiling’s “sad, dirty brown” grout. Liz and Grant dyed the grout a clean, bright white by following a Chris Loves Julia tutorial. They had actually tried and failed to tackle this project before, so completing it was a huge victory.

Credit: Liz Ferguson

“I feel that getting this done was the number one reason the makeover feels like a success,” Liz says. “The formerly boring, beige tiles suddenly took on a new hue.” To complement the lightened grout and pink stone countertop, Liz found a perfectly sized runner rug with pink and blue accents on Etsy.

Credit: Liz Ferguson

Liz and Grant did all of the labor themselves, and the entire makeover cost less than $500. Liz’s biggest splurges were the new light fixture, a $169 purchase from CB2, and the aforementioned rug, which cost $75. She has no regrets. “I love walking in and thinking, ‘This feels like me!’”