Before and After: A Smelly, Rotted Bathroom’s Redo Looks Way More Expensive Than Its $700 Price Tag

published Nov 16, 2022
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Before: a bathroom sink with brown cabinets and a tan wall
Credit: Jessica Shea

Shoddy construction work can be a home renovator’s worst nightmare. What may have seemed like a quick fix or innovative DIY by a past resident at the time can result in expensive repairs down the line. Botched skim coating on walls, patchwork shingle repairs, and DIY electrical work are just a few examples.

Jessica Shea (@jess_shea84) learned that all firsthand. She knew that her whole bathroom needed a revamp. “The tan walls and 90’s tile countertop added little appeal to the space,” Jessica says. “When we purchased this home there were stains on the painted walls in the powder room and a horrible smell emanating from the space. Frankly, it was embarrassing asking guests to use this bathroom when they were over. The space smelled bad, looked disgusting, and was incredibly boring.”

Credit: Jessica Shea

In the process of giving the bathroom a much-needed redo, Jessica was horrified to discover that her vanity was attached to the wall with concrete, metal plates, and chicken wire. “It took a lot of effort to remove it from the space,” Jessica says.

Credit: Jessica Shea

Jessica’s goal was to give the space a non-smelly new look that also ditched the old boring vibes. “I set out to give it personality and play to the small space by making it cozy and bold,” she says. The star of the bold new look: the black, red, and green botanical wallpaper (a Rifle Paper Co. find) covering the walls.

But before the wallpaper was added, it took a lot of demo to get the bathroom in ship shape. The toilet didn’t need to be replaced, but pretty much everything else did.

Credit: Jessica Shea

Jessica ripped out the old vanity and counter, then carefully (and temporarily) removed the toilet to address the floors. “That’s when we discovered the flooring was completely rotted underneath the toilet, and that was the source of disgusting smell,” Jessica recalls. “So my husband rented a floor scraper from a local hardware store, and we spent hours removing the flooring from the concrete slab underneath. That process took hours despite the small size of the space.” The last step of demo was taking out the mirror and moving the electrical box so the new light fixture would be centered.

Then it was time to bring in the new finds, including the show-stopping wallpaper. “I absolutely love the bold wallpaper,” Jessica says, but it was a bit difficult to install solo. “It was a fairly straightforward process, but it would have been much easier with two people,” she adds.

Credit: Jessica Shea

Jessica’s husband laid the marble tiles, and Jessica sanded and stained an antique dresser she’d found for the vanity. “It was important to me to make sure its character remained intact,” Jessica says. “My husband then cut the drawers down and added the holes on the top for the new faucet and vessel sink. This process was so much easier than we expected and was a project I had always wanted to try out.” The last step for the vanity was adding the new gold ring hardware.

While the vanity and floors look luxe, they were actually budget-friendly secondhand finds. “The marble tile flooring and dresser were purchased from Facebook Marketplace,” Jessica says. “The flooring was only $75, and the gal we purchased it from gave us grout to match it. The dresser was $80.” Their project total was about $700.

“I am most proud of how little money we spent on this project,” Jessica says. Her light fixture, faucet, and sink are from Amazon, and the mirror is from Pottery Barn Warehouse. “Know that home renovations do not have to break the bank, Jessica advises. “If you’re patient and wait for the right materials — or a sale — or shop around, you are bound to find what you’re looking for.”

Credit: Jessica Shea

Jessica’s other renovation advice? Go big. “If you’re worried that your design choice is too bold, let that go,” she says. “Ultimately, your home is your space and it should be a reflection of you. It should make you feel happy, and at peace.”

And she certainly achieved that feeling for herself: “It’s a true reflection of my style,” she says of the renovated powder room.