Before and After: A 40-Square-Foot Bathroom Keeps Its Footprint But Gets a Bigger, Brighter Look

published Nov 20, 2022
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Before: a bathroom sink with white cabinets below the sink and a brown shower curtain
Credit: Patti Karnes

You have to make some sacrifices when you live in a small space. One of the most common complaints is that there simply isn’t enough square footage for an adequately-sized bathroom. Thankfully, a few smart design moves — especially those that add functional storage — can help ensure that even the smallest bathroom feels adequate enough for daily use.

If you’re toying with the idea of rehabbing your own small bathroom, get inspired by homeowner Patti Karnes’ project. For just $1,500, she gave her very tiny — just 40 square feet! — bathroom a major makeover that makes it more attractive and introduces the functionality it was missing in the first place.

Credit: Patti Karnes

“When we bought our house, my husband and I both knew that the bathroom would have to be remodeled,” says Patti. “There was not one single thing we liked about it.” The two things they hated most: the forest green vinyl flooring and the giant particle board “linen closet” that blocked the bathtub.

Making the small bathroom livable required some major changes. “We did not have the budget to hire someone, so opted to try our hand at DIY,” says Patti. “Neither of us had a ton of experience with plumbing or tiling, but after watching countless videos, decided to give it a try.”

The pair started by taking everything out — closet, vanity, medicine cabinet, and toilet — on day one. Then, knowing they were disrupting their only bathroom, the couple set a deadline of two days to lay the tile and install a new toilet. “We are campers, so we planned to use our camping toilet during this time,” Patti says.

Credit: Patti Karnes

But, she adds, “as the saying goes, ‘the best laid plans often go awry.'” After laying and grouting the penny floor tile, Patti says they noticed that they had placed the tile sheets all wrong. “There were big gaps in some places, none in others,” she explains. “The only solution was to take it up and start over.” Unfortunately, the tile was backordered and they were told they had to wait two weeks for replacements.

After the tile arrived, everything went pretty quickly — and smoothly, too. Patti’s hard-earned advice? “Measure twice — no, three times — before cutting anything!”

In addition to the floors, the couple also wanted to bring a new look to the walls. For the bottom half of the walls, they installed board and batten wainscoting painted white; above that, they chose a minty green paint color with vintage flair. The combo opened up the look of the bathroom — and so did scrapping the old linen cabinet.

Credit: Patti Karnes

The couple also installed a sleek new vanity, which takes up less room than the old one, and replaced the clunky medicine cabinet with a wall mirror that gives the appearance of a more spacious bathroom.

“I love how much brighter and bigger the bathroom looks now,” says Patti, who says she feels accomplished knowing that she and her husband did the whole renovation themselves. “Not only did it save us a ton of money, but it gave us the courage to renovate our entire house on our own.”