Home Projects

Before and After: A Non-Functional Bathroom Gets a Practical Modern-Meets-Vintage Redo

published Oct 2, 2021
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.
Before: Bathroom with pale green walls and dated vanity and door

During the moving process, there’s so much to plan and account for. Because of the many to-do list items that are top of mind, it’s easy to overlook small but important details like poor water pressure, faulty outlets, and stuck windows when house hunting — whether that’s during the first tour or the final walkthrough.

On one of their first walkthroughs, DIYer Marcel Dagenais (of Brew City Builds) and his partner, Ben, didn’t notice that their main level bathroom was missing a shower — it only had a tub. “We couldn’t believe we missed that detail, but the overall dinginess and popping tiles distracted me from that, I suppose,” Marcel says of the very-’90s-looking pale-green space.

“Our home inspector let us know that the plaster walls were not waterproof, and we would need to tear all the tub surround out if we planned on plumbing in a shower,” he explains.

For the past year, the space has essentially served as a water closet —thankfully, there’s a full bathroom downstairs for the pair to use — but Marcel, with the help of his mom, recently restored the bathroom to be clean, modern, and functional. The first step was demo: ripping out the old floor tiles, the plaster tub surround, the sheet mirror, vanity, and toilet.

Marcel and Ben considered knocking out a closet that takes up about a foot of space at the end of the tub to create a larger shower, but that would mean losing the tub. “We decided to keep the layout the way it is in the case we want to have the occasional epsom salt relaxation moment,” Marcel says. “It’s also nice to have that extra bit of storage in the closet since we got rid of any kind of hidden space under the sink.”

Marcel hired trade specialists for the plumbing and tile work. After ripping up the old tiles, Marcel saw that a previous reno job had laid the tiles down on particle board, rather than a waterproof tileboard — hence the popping tile and grout. The walls were bowed, and the tub was installed on a major slant, so he had to enlist tile professionals to get the new 2×2 white mosaic tiles to lay flat. “Realizing I had to hire another trade to install the tile was a bit of a bummer since my mom was in town to teach me how to do that, but you have to know your limits, and I wanted the tile to look great, so I guess I’ll just have to learn tiling on a future project.”

One good thing about the tile, though, was how easy it was to drill into for adding the glass shelves to the shower. “I was very nervous about cracking those tiles, but it didn’t happen, and the glass shelves look so great — I love them,” Marcel says.

Everything besides the plumbing and tilework was DIY, including the pink (Valspar’s Coral Mist) color-blocked wall — inspired by pastel bathrooms of the ’50s and ’60s. “I wanted to add a bit of warmth to break up all that white,” Marcel says. “I was a little nervous about using this color since it’s not the first choice for me, but we’re both super happy with the results, and I think it really makes the space come together nicely.”

They opted for an open console Swiss Madison sink to make the whole room feel larger and more modern, and they installed a new toilet, which Marcel says was the hardest part. The couple also installed a new mirrored medicine cabinet. “When we took down the giant mirror that was in there we uncovered the old hole where the original medicine cabinet was … I was hoping there would be some kind of hidden treasure, or an old love letter behind there, but I only found dust,” Marcel says. “I could have patched and mudded that hole to make it disappear, but I decided that I should put my own treasure in there in the case someone redoes this bathroom down the road.”

That hidden treasure for a future DIYer? The cover of a vintage Seventeen magazine and a note that says “This bathroom was renovated with love in August 2021.” To see the behind-the-mirror surprise for yourself, visit the Brew City Builds YouTube channel, and to see the rest of Marcel and Ben’s cool home, check out their house tour here.