Help me with ideas to renovate my bathroom?
December 26, 2017 10:29 AM   Subscribe

My bathroom is looking kind of old. I'm looking for ways to freshen it up as inexpensively as possible. Here are some photos.

Here's what I'm thinking:
- Replace the wall cabinet with something round to keep everything from looking so blocky. Also, the birch look matches nothing
- Replace the vanity top and faucet; keep the cabinet, maybe repaint
- Paint the walls
- Replace the bathroom mirror cabinet and lights
- Keep the tile and bathtub and toilet, because they still look ok and doing otherwise would be expensive.

- What would you do?
- The vanity top is 29.5". That's a hard size to find a cabinet top for. Any suggestions?
- Are there other places I can go to solicit suggestions?
- Are there good sources to get handymen to do something like replace a vanity top?
- I'm thinking about a light gray for the walls and a black cabinet/mirror over the toilet. Or do you have another idea?
- One friend suggested I might want to replace the toilet. It looks ok to me, what about you?

As much or as little detail would be great. If you want to link to design pages or Amazon product listings, all the better.

I was thinking of around $2000, but can be convinced to go to $10,000. The contractors I've seen have wanted $25,000 for a complete remodel. I can afford it but a fresher looking bathroom is not worth that much to me -- I can live with it as is at the moment. I'm willing to try to do some of the work myself.

posted by Borborygmus to Home & Garden (28 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Forgive me if you’ve already done this, but getting ideas for renovations is what Pinterest excels at. Houzz is good too but will steer you to expensive products. I’m also fond of Apartment Therapy.
posted by matildaben at 10:40 AM on December 26, 2017 [5 favorites]

You can replace the whole vanity unit with something that’s a standard size from Home Depot. Choose a sink that fits in the new vanity top. That will probably cost you less money than getting a custom top made and installed. I like a faucet handle that’s one lever that does not and cold depending on the angle. That was I don’t have to drop a knob with gross hands to turn water on. Also, having to adjust two knobs annoys me. Be aware of what’s under the vanity before you buy the new one. If you’re choosing something smaller you want the floor underneath to match what’s currently exposed.

If you’re going to replace the toilet (I think I would, and I’d get a fancy Japanese bidet seat that magically warms) make sure it fits the footprint of your current toilet/tile situation. If the new base is smaller you’ll be looking at replacing the tile floor. If you’ve done plumbing things before this might be a place to save money. But if it goes badly it can go...badly.

For the floor and walls, get a package of grout refresher. It cleans things up and makes the grout white again. Some have a sealant. Paint the wall over the toilet a color. It looks like the wall is trying to be blue, but I’m not convinced. Get a light colored shower curtain. Get bath mats that are all cotton/can be out through the washer and dryer.

Change the light figures over the sink. To what, I don’t know. Maybe frosted shades so the light isn’t as harsh.

Changing the tile would be nice but probably expensive. You want someone really good to do your tile because bad tile looks really awful. If you’re ok with the tile and not planning to move anytime soon, you could leave it. I would probably leave the tile.
posted by bilabial at 10:46 AM on December 26, 2017 [5 favorites]

Definitely use a grout refresh product, like bilabial mentions (the grout needs to be in decent condition, though, not crumbly or falling apart.) Bright and clean grout lines will make your tile look a lot better. Recaulk over any areas where caulk is dried out/discolored.

Light grey would be nice on the walls as you said, but make sure it skews a little warm (more of a taupe, perhaps) or else anyone looking in the mirror will look sort of corpse-y.

I would knock out the whole sink area and do a freestanding vanity with a more modern faucet.

Get a really nice shower curtain (I like the heavy-weight waffle weave hotel-style curtains) and plush floor mats to match. Maybe white edged in grey, if you do greyish walls.

I would put floating shelves over the toilet instead of the rectangular cabinet.
posted by rachaelfaith at 10:57 AM on December 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hm. I'm up for spending someone else's money!

> Pick a metal finish that you like (currently I'm an antique bronze fan) and replace the sink fixtures, the vanity knobs, the shower fixtures, the toilet flush handle, the ceiling light, the bathroom doorknob, and even the toilet brush holder so that they're all the same finish.

> Replace the birch wall cabinet with open shelving. Extra points if you can match the brackets to the fixture color you've chosen.

> I love light gray walls!

> Replace your toilet seat - it looks like it's not evenly sitting on your toilet anymore, which happens as years go by.

> How feasible would it be to get a glass door above/around your tub? If not, I'd splash out on a heavier shower curtain.
posted by kimberussell at 11:02 AM on December 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

I like the idea of refreshing the grout even if you don't redo the tiles. That could be a DIY project and would probably go a long way toward making the bathroom look brighter. Same for replacing the caulking around the edges of the tub/sink/etc.

Replace the shower curtain with something brighter. (Perhaps something that looks good with the paint color you choose. IKEA's got a great variety of pretty and waterproof ones for cheap.) If the hooks and bar are showing rust (doesn't look it from the photos), you could replace those, too.

I second the awesomeness of the heated bidet toilet seat, except that it looks like there's no reasonable way to get power to it. If you do have an electrician in for any of this, it would be worth asking about getting a GFCI electrical outlet installed near the toilet. Probably not on the close-to-the-shower side.

You could replace the tub and shower hardware without replacing the tub, and probably the same for whatever's going on with that shower fan.

After several years of living with similar shelves to your current ones over the toilet, I would suggest going with something that doesn't allow things to fall off the shelf and into the toilet so easily. I mean, yeah, it should be closed when not in use, but somehow things fall in there anyway.

You could save space by replacing towel bars with wall hooks.
posted by asperity at 11:03 AM on December 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

Nthing brightening the grout with some kind of cleaner or even paint (grout paint is a thing), and refreshing the caulk where the tile meets the wall or tub - this will make a HUGE difference with minimal money (though a lot of effort).
posted by raspberrE at 11:29 AM on December 26, 2017

My suggestions, from cheap/DIY to more/pay someone else:

* Clean the grout, as mentioned above.

* Repaint - be bold! It's a small space, so I'd say go bright, and DIY! Ask the folks in the paint section about how to deal with the existing paint and what to get for your size of bathroom. Worst case scenario: you hate the paint, then just do it again! Relatively speaking, paint is cheap, and it's a pretty easy process, usually.

* Regrout - there are various methods I've seen to DIY, from using a custom grout-removal tool, an abrasive grout saw, or a fine tooth blade, some of which you can probably rent from a Home Products/Repair shop, and as suggested by Popular Mechanics, don't go cheap on the grout, because the more expensive options will last longer. This will take longer, because it's a more detail-oriented task, but it can be very fulfilling to DIY. We laid our own (laminate) flooring, and now it's something that We Did Ourselves.

* Get a new toilet, if you want to. Again, it's a pretty straight-forward DIY project. One step that is missing - if you're doing anything on the floor, or are generally removing the toilet for any extended period of time, block up the waste pipe with a big wad of plastic bags to keep sewer gasses out of your bathroom.

* Replace the wall shelf with whatever strikes your fancy. You could DIY with some tools, or it should be a cheap and easy job for a local handy person.

* Replace the light and mirror. Middle-level DIY, relatively easy and cheap to hire a handy person. If you replace the lights or mirror with something that has a smaller footprint, be sure to remove those items first, then paint the wall, and then put in the new fixtures.

* Replace all the fixtures. Some of this is as easy as turning off the water, unscrewing the right parts and screwing the new things on, other items will be better (or required) to be installed with some thread seal tape for water fixtures. Other might take more work, depending on if you're getting a fixture that doesn't match the alignment of the current thing. And the cost can range greatly. Some lower end models look and work pretty well, but you might enjoy splurging a bit for something you'll use and see daily.

* Replace the vanity. Easier: get a whole unit at a local shop. Harder: get someone to build you custom structure.

* Replace all the things! Expensive, timely, etc.

My personal suggestions would be to clean or regrout, repaint, get a new shelf, new lights (above the room and above the mirror), and updated fixtures. Oh, and once you've repainted, you can get a new, matching shower curtain and fun shower rings/hooks!

If want a new sink, look for something that's built into a counter top that is bigger and can be cut down. I like our built-in sinks, for ease of wiping down the counter top (and no under-sink edge to have to try and clean).
posted by filthy light thief at 11:38 AM on December 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

For something drastic - take out the tub, and tile that whole back section past the vanity wall to be a shower toilet with floor drain.

Better yet - install a sunken bathtub!
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:11 PM on December 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think light grey walls are super wrong. The current mint color is depressing AF, another grey tone is more of the same. Definitely go with something lighter colored, but try to find a color with emotional levity that will not clash with the tile color. Grab tons of paint chips and tape them next to the tile to find your new jam! Have fun with this process, choose something cheery.

- Yes grout refresher, super clean the tiles beforehand.

- Yes replace every fixture possible, keeping everything in a uniform style. Get a fancy new toilet seat if you don't want to replace the entire toilet.

- Upgrade the quality of your lightbulbs to something warmer than you have now, anything full spectrum that mimics sunlight. 90% of the problem in that bathroom is the tone created by the light bulbs.

Pinterest for style ideas for sure! You can make that bathroom look great for a little over a thousand, including plumbers fees for installation of new plumbing fixtures. $100 to $200 new lighting, $200 shelving, $150 to $300 new vanity, $100 new rods & curtains, $300 to $400 for fixtures and plumbing. $200 for paint and grout. This is an easy poject and you can do it.

I have a teak wood bath mat, it's OUTSTANDING to use + it instantly makes my bathroom look 10x more fancy than it really is.

Some art might help the walls, but if this is not your aesthetic, skip it.
posted by jbenben at 12:40 PM on December 26, 2017 [5 favorites]

If the tile is continuous around the vanity, I would replace the vanity, and the cabinet above the toilet with a matching pair. Something simple, updated, yet looks vintage to add some identity to the bathroom. Get new towel racks that match the character of the replacement cabinets. Don't be shy about the size of the cabinet over the toilet, make a plan to get one that will hold 36 rolls of toilet paper, at least.
posted by Oyéah at 1:21 PM on December 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Lots of good suggestions here. I will add that having a plant in your bathroom really brightens it up. It seems like there is no window. Here are some suggestions: Yahoo Answers Link.
posted by mai at 2:37 PM on December 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Definitely some color that will brighten up that pale pink tile—maybe rose? lavender? chocolate? You need to get some light into the tub area—maybe glass doors, the kind with no seams so it looks very modern. I'd replace that overhead light over the toilet with a small chandelier to get some light bouncing around. The sink does need updating. You could mirror that whole cubby instead of painting it, and get one of those Spanish/Mexican style sinks that's painted in vibrant florals which would reflect in the mirror for some color. Use stick-on bar lights w/batteries. That way you could get the lights down to face level.
posted by MovableBookLady at 2:40 PM on December 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Regarding paint, I'd try something that has more tonal contrast with the tile (ie darker). I lived in a place (rental) that had off-white walls and off-white tile, and it was just blah. I hated the tile. The landlord got a nice new tile floor in so I asked if I could paint. I picked a light-ish blue (but a bit darker than your current wall color), and all of a sudden the tile looked a lot better. The contrast difference wasn't huge, but it helped the tile feel like it had more distinction.

The other minor upgrades I made were to stain the cabinet a warmer color and put some stylish handles on the cabinet doors, replace the mirror with a framed mirror, and replace the over-mirror light fixture. It wasn't much, but it really felt like a big upgrade. I don't recommend stripping and staining cabinets, it's a pain in the butt and it's hard to get good results unless you're skilled and experienced. I'd paint if I had to do it over again.

I second the idea of open shelving over the toilet. Possibly rounded off at the left end where the tile begins, then running all the way over to the opposite wall. Make it look like built-ins.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 3:16 PM on December 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

I would:
    Paint the walls either light gray (sleek) or warm blue or light olive green (warm), ($100-200)
    Paint the vanity white or light gray, more to make it look super new and fresh than because the current color is bad ($50-100)
    Get a piece of marble cut for the vanity top (less than $1,000?)
    Put a white undermount sink with your new marble top (about $400?)
    Get a new single handle sink faucet, matching shower body, and towel racks in brushed nickel or brass depending if you're going for sleek or warm (I just did the delta trinsic line in champagne bronze and it is gorgeous and relatively inexpensive) ($1,000 or less for all of it, I had a good experience with but you could buy from anywhere, don't pay MSRP)
    Get some kind of cool new knobs for the vanity that match or contrast with the new fixtures ($5-$20 each)
    Put a track on the ceiling for the shower curtain and hang from ball chain like this. You can use ball chain the same metal as your new fixtures or something contrasting. ($60-$300 depending how much chain you need)
    Take the cabinet over toilet down and replace with shelving over the tile on the wall to the side of it. If possible, get inset shelves put in there. ($100-$1,000 depending on shelving and if it's inset)
    Have mirror cabinet inset in wall if possible (no idea how much this would be in labor)
    Replace lighting above mirror cabinet with lighting that matches or contrasts with the new fixtures, like this ($100-300)
    New towels and bathmat in neutral white/gray or warm color that goes with walls, depending which route you chose ($100-500)
Obviously those prices are rough estimates and don't include labor. Enjoy your new bathroom!
posted by (Over) Thinking at 3:31 PM on December 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

I really don't think you need to do much. I agree that darker paint like gray/black will make it look intentionally retro rather than dated. Your toilet seems fine, the wall and floor tile are good. I think paint/shower curtain/rug/updated sink & vanity will go a long way toward making it a stylish bathroom. The birch cabinet could be painted maybe? Though personally I'd want to replace it just to avoid having stuff fall into the toilet.
posted by mrmurbles at 4:06 PM on December 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

What about replacing the top half of the wall between the shower and the sink with glass? Could open the space up a little bit and help with lighting.
posted by eviemath at 4:52 PM on December 26, 2017

I recently replaced a dim, depressing ceiling light fixture in my bedroom with one of these, and it's great! Low-profile, very bright, works with a dimmer switch. It makes a big difference in the room and it only cost $25 at Costco.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 5:02 PM on December 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

New toilet, sleeker design.
Sink and cabinet - all-in-one sink and counter, as suggested above. Check out Ikea, they have lots of ideas for tiny bathrooms. A couple of drawers would be great.
If you hate the floor, we have done just stick-down tiles in a couple of bathrooms - very economical, and never a problem. They come in lots of colours and for a small area like that you might even find some at Habitat ReStore.
Go for a warm colour on the walls. Then bring that colour or variations of it in again in the shower curtain, towels and bathmats.
New lighting and proper towel racks, maybe a couple of hooks on the back of the door.
Good luck.
posted by Enid Lareg at 5:02 PM on December 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Definitely try to get more eye-level lighting above the vanity; it lights your face so much better... your smiling face in your dolled-up swanky renovated bathroom :) Since space around the vanity looks tight, maybe go with a mirror with built-in lighting.
posted by Drosera at 8:40 PM on December 26, 2017

I think the floor tiles are by far the most dated looking part of the room -- and also the grungiest. And probably hard to clean! I'd at least get an estimate on having that replaced with nice big tiles (this size sort of thing). I had my bathroom floor done and it wasn't nearly as expensive as I thought; those nice big tiles don't take a whole tone of labor laying and grouting.

Modernize the sink fixtures; improve the lighting (half the trouble is that room is darrrrrrk and has a lot of shadows); add a stylish outer shower curtain that matches whatever color scheme you end up going with.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:44 PM on December 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

You can do a lot of work in that bathroom but, unless you clean all that grout, it will still look bad.

1. Before you do anything, get that grout clean.

2. Replacing yellowed and cracked caulking will also help your bathroom look fresh. I can't see any permanent stains on the counter, replace that caulk and you might be satisfied on the cheap. If you can't knock down the rust on that faucet, however, it might be time to ditch it. Talk to someone who does laminate counters to make you something after you acquire the sink you want.

3. I would replace the main light fixture with something closer to the ceiling and something that will spread the light out. Make sure you get something that can take a damp environment. Harsh shadows and dark spots can make a room look shabby and cold.

4. If the cabinet can come clean and the particle board is sturdy enough, paint it. It fits perfectly into the space. Speaking from experience, you probably aren't going to be that lucky with an off-the-shelf item and installing IKEA bathroom sinks can be a bit tricky. You must sand and prime with a primer intended for melamine/foil finishes.

5. That shelving over the toilet is totally empty. Why is it even there? If you actually need the storage, I would paint it with the same paint you do the cabinet with or, better yet, get something classier.

6. Art in the bathroom, please. Get two cheap black frames with wide white mats and put two images that go together in them. Bam! done.

Your bathroom doesn't look tired, it looks dirty. As someone who also owns an old bathroom, I know that doesn't mean that it is, no judgement. These are all very cheap solutions that I think you will find make huge changes in your bathroom without costing much money. BTW, if you get a plumber in to do any work, make sure you take that moment to replace any old compression water shut off valves. Those things have a shorter life than people realize. Signed, Socks Damp with Regret.
posted by Foam Pants at 8:48 PM on December 26, 2017 [6 favorites]

My big pet peeve is things being dim and dark in the shower and tub, so I'd spend a chunk of money on getting a ceiling fixture that shines a lot of light in there. Depending on your style and budget some multibulb track lighting with a couple bulbs pointing across the ceiling to a reflective surface (like lightly colored glazed tiles or a glossy white paint) on the inside wall of the shower might do, or you could see about working with an electrician to get lighting installed in the ceiling of the shower.

Think about putting in a long single shelf at shoulder height that goes from the back of the toilet around the corner and above the towel bar. Then you can use the space above that for art and maybe another mirror. That will pull your eyes up and around, giving the room a loftier feel, and of course, give you something to look at when using the toilet. The shelving could support wire baskets for rolled up towels, acrylic organizers for small often-used things, and maybe a lamp for some lighting that's lower (and thus flattering) near a mirror for makeup.

Once you get the tile super clean, I'd get a ton of paint samples in different hues that have a very similar saturation and brightness to the tile and try them out with a lightbulb that matches the kind of bulbs you'll have in your new fixtures. I'd opt for getting close to the same kind of pale tone as the tile, if not outright matching it, because that will make it so the areas of tiling don't break up the walls as much and that will make the room feel airier.
posted by Mizu at 9:46 PM on December 26, 2017

I had a similar problem with the vanity. My solution was to buy the next size up granite vanity top and a $4 4" diamond blade for my skil-saw (Harbor Freigh Tools probably has the cheapest). In your case it would be a 31" vanity and cut 3/4" from each side. These tops can be found at Home Depot/Lowes, etc for about $200 for granite and $100 for synthetic stone. The same top custom ordered to 29.5" will cost you about $600+, so even if you have to buy a cheap skil-saw you will come out ahead. You will want to check the depth and thickness of the top as well to make sure it will not leave a gap in your tile. If you will keep the tile, you probably want to keep the existing vanity and replace just the top. Most of these come with a back splash and one side splash, but you can probably order a second side piece to cover up and gaps, or put a small spacer under the top top raise it. I would paint the existing vanity.
A replacement cabinet for above the toilet can be found pretty cheaply at any home improvement store or Ikea. The tub and toilet look decent. Agree you should at least replace the toilet seat. I would normally recommend a newer chair height toilet, but it looks like you are a squatty potty believer, so as long as it is working normally and does not clog I would stick with what you have.
The tile is what it is. It is not sexy but is functional. The grout needs a good cleaning as others have suggested, but you may want to look into a professional steam cleaning if it will not cost too much. Replacing the tile will greatly increase your budget. There are also epoxy paints such as Homax's Tough as Tile you can use to freshen the color, but a cleaning will probably do wonders.
You can probably find metallic paint to match whatever finish you choose for the fixtures and paint the vent in the shower.
To find someone to help you with the work, there are a lot of websites and apps like Takl, but if you have a real hardware store in your area, they probably have a list of names they can recommend. Even the big box stores may know of people as the handymen types you are probably looking for often moonlight at those stores in the evenings.
posted by Short End Of A Wishbone at 10:14 PM on December 26, 2017

I would bleach the tile/grout, really scrub it clean, then seal the grout. Then I'd check out wallpaper. Really fabulous wallpaper is pricey, but the bathroom doesn't use a lot, so big bang for the bucks. Paint the cabinet and vanity in a snazzy color that goes with the wallpaper. Get a new countertop and new faucet fixture. Maybe a framed print on the wall.
More wallpapers
posted by theora55 at 7:06 AM on December 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

I agree with (Over)Thinking. As budget allows: nice shower curtain, knobs on the vanity, bath mat/rug, light fixtures, toilet handle, faucet, paint/wall paper. Theres also new vinyl removable wall paper that would look cool without commitment.
posted by PJMoore at 10:17 AM on December 27, 2017

Thanks all! I'm overwhelmed, I didn't expect to get so much feedback. I need to take a step back and let it all sink in.
posted by Borborygmus at 5:54 PM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Just wanted to thank everyone for your help! I spend the past several days poring over the info, and I have a game plan. I wanted to freshen things up as cheaply as possible, so here's what I'm thinking:

1. Settle on retro black-and-white and chrome color scheme
2. Change the faucet to chrome widespread faucet -- the current one is crumbling; keep the sink to save on cash
3. Keep the vanity top, but use a painting kit to refresh it to black soapstone or granite appearance. (It was this or have a new laminate one cut, which would be pricier. Right now it's 25.5", which is larger than most vanities at 22".)
4. Refresh the white paint on the cabinet, or get new doors, change the knobs to black metal ones
5. Regrout the floor to black; walls white, with the trim outlined in black
Paint the walls white (it's only about 50 sq ft total.), maybe with a black trim about the width of the tiles above it to break up the space
6. Replace over-toilet vanity
7. Accessorize -- plants, bath curtain, rug.

Just out the gate and now another hurdle! It looked pretty easy to replace my sink hardware, but then I reached for the shutoff valves, and they're stuck. I'm afraid I'm going to have to call in the pros for that one, since I live in a co-op and I'll have to ask for the main to be shut off for a few hours.
posted by Borborygmus at 4:51 PM on December 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

Don't lose hope, Borborygmus! Bum shutoff valves are so common. It's a very good idea to spend the money on a pro in this case and don't try to force it. I'd get them replaced with ball valves instead of compression, especially as they are hidden away inside the cabinet.
posted by Foam Pants at 7:34 PM on December 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

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