Real Life Rental Challenge: A Genius Update For A Bad ’80s Bathroom Light

published Nov 9, 2017
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(Image credit: Diana Paulson)

There’s nothing worse than those builder grade vanity strips in bathrooms, the ones that absolutely scream “HI, I’M CHROME AND WAS SENT FROM THE ’80s TO DATE YOU!!” As a renter your options are limited, but I came up with a smart way to deal with these common eyesores.

(Image credit: Diana Paulson)

Instead of swapping it out with a new light fixture, I decided to instead embrace the challenge and work with what I had. I couldn’t paint it, because that was permanent. And I didn’t want to spend a lot on just a new light fixture.

(Image credit: Spoonflower)

Enter removable wallpaper, specifically this Isobar pattern from Spoonflower, which I loved and thought would look great in the space. According to the website, it’s a PVC-free, FSC Certified wallpaper that’s mold, mildew and water resistant —all of which is great for bathrooms.

Here’s what my small bathroom looks like now:

(Image credit: Diana Paulson)

Not only does the light fixture recede into the background, but I now have a much more fun, personal bathroom that looks less like a boring rental. My eye goes to the patterned wall first, and I no longer cringe at the chrome. While I was at it, I removed and stored the former medicine cabinet, which was really too small for the space. The hole was covered first by wallpaper and then a larger, more modern mirror. When I move out, I’ll simply take it all down, and slide the old cabinet back into place. Easy peasy.


First, I removed the strip of lights and the mirrored medicine cabinet, then wiped the walls. I recruited my husband to help me peel the back of the wallpaper, a.k.a the giant sticker, which was a big help.

For a second after I installed the first roll of paper I thought: “Have I lost my mind? How in the world am I ever going to align the second roll so the pattern matches???” But, there was no going back, so I did my best and installed the second roll. This wallpaper project turned out to be a lot easier than I expected, and there’s a lot of forgiveness in matching up the pattern exactly. Lastly, I took an excess piece of wallpaper and covered the strip completely, then reinstalled the light fixture.

To be honest, my eyes are still trying to adjust to the pattern, but I think it makes the powder room a happier place and the focal point is no longer the chrome vanity strip. Also, since this is a rental, I can easily go back to the ’80s whenever I want to!