Before and After: You’ll Swoon Over This $125 (!) Rental-Friendly (!!) Bathroom Makeover

published Feb 28, 2022
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It’s totally understandable if you think living in a rental apartment means you’re pretty much stuck with the bathroom and kitchen you’ve got. After all, even if you’re able to paint with permission from your landlord, cabinets, tiles, and flooring are all permanent items.

However, if you’re willing to get creative, you can absolutely give these spaces reversible, renter-friendly makeovers. And as proof, look no further than renter Madeline Scalzi’s stunning green bathroom upgrade.

“I loved so many things about this prewar apartment when [my husband and I] moved into it, but the bathroom was not one of them!” says Madeline of the “Before.” “While the tile in itself was a nice, neutral palette, the all-over tile in combination with the bubblegum pink trim made the bathroom feel a bit cold and outdated.”

Madeline (@tulipsforthetable on Instagram) thought out the changes she hoped to introduce: “I wanted to bring more warmth into our bathroom and make it a tranquil space for relaxing after a hard day, or getting ready in the morning,” she explains. But she had a big caveat: “It had to be rental-friendly!”

To start, Madeline painted the ceiling and upper half of the room white “just to brighten up the space and see what I had to work with,” she says.

Next, she got extra creative, covering up a lot of the aforementioned tile and introducing reversible architectural interest with prepasted foam beadboard. After cutting the foam down to size with an X-Acto knife, she filled the bathtub with room-temperature water, dipped in the beadboard, and stuck each piece to its spot on the wall. (“Cut the beadboard to shape before submerging it in water,” she advises. “If you try to cut after it will just rip.”) She ensured that she matched up the beadboard pieces as tightly as she could since she planned to paint the beadboard and needed to avoid getting paint on the tiles behind it.

“Because the glue is water soluble, I was worried at first that the beadboard might begin to peel after a few too many hot showers. (I literally had a nightmare about all of my hard work just slipping off the wall into a sticky mess on the floor, lol),” says Madeline. “But it has been nearly a year without any peeling. (I did test one corner by intentionally peeling it back, to make sure there was no glue residue staining the tiles underneath, but the tiles still look perfect.)”

About two days after hanging the beadboard, Madeline applied that fantastically luxe satin wall paint — BEHR ULTRA’s Vine Leaf — to the foam, the chair rail trim, and the door trim. “I’m so in love with the deep green I chose for the space!” she says. “As a new designer, I tend to lean into more neutral colors, so diving feet first into this rich dark green color was a little bit intimidating to me.”

Another big change: the lighting. Madeline hung matching bronze sconces on either side of the mirror. “Because this is a rental and I couldn’t hardwire the sconces, I used battery-powered lightbulbs instead,” she says, pointing out that “one could also use puck lights with a remote control.”

The whole project took about two weekends and — get this — just $125. It was so totally worth it: “When people walk into the bathroom and say, ‘This is gorgeous, I can’t believe it’s temporary,’ it always makes me so proud of my work and our home,” Madeline says.