Style updates for a 1980s windowless condo bathroom
July 17, 2019 7:43 PM   Subscribe

I'm planning an eventual bathroom renovation. In around five years, I'll be able to add a few little luxuries with lighting or tile or such. But the shower surround and shower plumbing should probably be attended to sooner. One should have the eventual plan set before embarking on a two-stage renovation, of course, so I've been looking at lots of photos of bathrooms and bathroom renovations online, eg. on Pinterest....

There are some lovely renovations with 1920s style elements, Japanese modern bathrooms with a touch of art deco, "rustic farmhouse" style, bathrooms with tons of plants... many beautiful ideas for lovely, bright, beautiful bathrooms that would be quite pleasant to spend time in each morning, due to their copious amounts of sunlight and their airy spaciousness.

There is no possible lighting design or tile choices that will turn my bathroom into a sunlight-filled, airy, spacious wonder of a room, however.

Question #1: So where do I find more realistic photos for inspiration?

What we have is an approximately 6-foot by 8-foot room. Two doors, to the main hallway and to the hallway leading to the master bedroom, are situated in one corner. The sink sits along the long wall in the corner nearest the doors. The toilet is beside the sink in the middle of the long wall. Then the bathtub/shower takes up the far, short wall. The short wall beside the sink is shared with a linen closet, with opportunity to build a medicine cabinet into the wall. But the layout of the room isn't going to change. The tub and toilet are your basic white porcelain, and will also remain as is (it's the only tub/shower in the condo, so for resale purposes and because tubs are occasionally useful, I'm not going to get rid of the tub and turn it into a walk-in shower, as is apparently the rage on design blogs currently). Everything else can change, however.

In particular, the cheap-ass fiberglass shower surround in the tub (that is cracked due to the poor job whoever-it-was did installing the plumbing for the shower) needs to be replaced. I like the look of tile versus fiberglass, but could do without the necessary grout cleaning and maintenance in the shower. There are some slightly more upscale solid surface shower surround options, though, I gather? Maybe something that's a little glossy rather than a matte finish?

Question #2: What keywords am I looking for here, or what's a good resource for learning more about such options?

For non-North American Mefites, since you folks likely have good style ideas too: the sort of bathroom I have looks like this: 1, 2. The white or beige fiberglass paneling above the tub at the far end of the bathroom in both photos is what I mean by the shower surround.
posted by eviemath to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
We had to design a bunch of bathrooms for our house and yeah Pinterest and Houzz are great at showing dream bathrooms but not as good at more modest ones. But given that your layout can't really change you're really just looking at finishes and components and both of those you can still get from the dream bathrooms. Just going to a bath store or even Home Depot can help you see what the options are too.

As far as shower surrounds go, I have seen ones that are a solid sheet but made to look like tiles. We ended up using tiles for our showers and baths and the installation cost was huge so factor that into the costs of either option.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 8:43 PM on July 17, 2019

This sounds like a bog-standard Polish apartment bathroom - if you don't mind the language and not being able to buy the actual items shown, I'd recommend the pages for apartment bathrooms and small bathrooms. Do mind that we're big on trends and currently that's grey tile with wood, but the further you go down the pages the more there's a chance for something else.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 9:52 PM on July 17, 2019 [4 favorites]

We just renovated our small bathroom that was set up similar. We choose a very small profile vanity to give more space in the room, replaced the floor with a light gray, also to make it seem bigger. We added wainscoting around the walls and painted it white. And the top 1/3 of the walls (above the wainscoting) we painted grey. The shower/bath is just your normal white tub and luckily it already had white subway tile. But keeping everything as light and small profile as possible really helped open up the space.

The thing that made the biggest difference though was we replaced the door that opens inward (and you would hit your knees on the door if you sat on the toilet with the door open) with a pocket door.
posted by katypickle at 6:56 AM on July 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

This bathroom makeover discusses some of the decisions made to brighten up a windowless bathroom, suggesting prioritising reflective materials and glass to make the most of what light there is, even if you ordinarily would love a more rustic, natural feel. I think it makes good points.

This before and after also does a really good job talking about the choices made to brighten up the windowless space. It also shows how sometimes biting the bullet and moving the plumbing for just one fixture (in this case, the toilet) can sometimes help you to find absolute reams of additional space for vanities and storage.

This renovation shows what a massive difference a skylight can make. If you're in a position to install one, or maybe even a transom window to the master bedroom, as here, you'll be able to stop worrying about the natural light issue entirely. If this is what's standing between you and your dream bathroom, maybe it's worth getting a quote.

The blogger at Manhattan Nest recently redid his bathroom. It's a bit larger than yours and has a window, but I wanted to specifically point out the large-format tile he used to redo the tub/shower surround. It's a bit different from the typical subway tile and you end up with miles less grout to scrub.

This is a short slideslow showing a few good examples of how leaning in to a small dark space and adding interest via pattern and color can sometimes make a room feel more intentional, rather than dingy.

Regarding your second question, where to go to find ongoing inspiration: if you don't have a Pinterest account, sign up, then use the search bar to look at different iterations of 'powder rooms'. These spaces tend to be windowless and people can get quite creative with them.

I'd add that it seems to me that decor trends are on the cusp of turning away from the very white and minimal place they've been for the past decade or so. Since it will be five years or so until you can complete your renovation, trends may have shifted significantly and availability of certain materials may be an issue when it comes to matching what's already been installed. Therefore, I would suggest that anything you choose to do now should be done in the most classic materials possible, like pale marble, white porcelain, or black or white tile. It should make matching later on much easier.
posted by DSime at 9:20 AM on July 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

I added a skylight over the shower of my windowless bathroom. It was only like $1500 a few years ago. It's the best renovation I have done so far.

You can also buy slabs of granite or some other solid surface stone if you don't like grout lines to cover your walls. If you have any renovated La Quinta hotels nearby (we travel with dogs so we stay in them a lot) , they are adding this to their bathrooms. In my opinion it looks pretty nice. Dark grout lines that don't show dirt would be another option. A strong venting fan added to the bathroom will keep your shower grout relatively clean as long as you remember to run it.
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:44 AM on July 18, 2019

Last year I remodeled a windowless condo bathroom very similar to yours and it was a lot brighter afterward. What I did:

1) old crap vinyl floor replaced with luxury vinyl plank that looks kind of like whitewashed wood, but it isn't white, it's light gray.
2) old dark wood veneer vanity painted gloss white.
3) walls painted light gray.
4) new, brighter light fixture.
5) new hardware (towel bar, etc) and fixtures (faucets)
6) replaced cracked and leaky fiberglass all-in-one unit with a tub and tile. We got a tub that curves out in the middle, so it fits in the old tub's space but is more roomy to bathe in. The tiles are 12x12 ceramic-that-looks-like-pale marble, with a stripe of accent black, marble, and silver mosaic tiles and that same tile in the back of the shampoo nooks.

The most expensive part is the tub and shower but the bathroom turned out SO NICE. It used to be a dreary cave with ugly wallpaper and now it looks all bright and fresh even without windows.
posted by oblique red at 12:19 PM on July 18, 2019

Response by poster: Thanks for the photo links, folks - that's what I'm looking for for Question #1 answers!

Since it's come up a couple times: adding windows of any sort - transom, skylight, etc. - is not an option in this bathroom.

The_Vegetables, what's involved in maintenance of the stone options you mentioned? Where can I find more info about this? Thanks.
posted by eviemath at 7:06 AM on July 19, 2019

The_Vegetables, what's involved in maintenance of the stone options you mentioned? Where can I find more info about this? Thanks.
Here's a link about solid stone walls.

Per a couple of links I've checked, the only thing you use to clean granite shower walls is soap and water, and it has to be sealed first (like kitchen granite countertops do). I'm sure the main downside is the cost for the large panels and maybe some extra wood to support its weight. Marble seems to be the same.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:30 AM on July 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

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