There’s one type of home renovation that intimidates the heck out of me, and that’s bathrooms. We managed a fairly extensive renovation in one of the bathrooms at our old house, and I don’t ever want to go through that again! All we did was hire someone to update the tiny shower stall in that space with new tile, new plumbing, and a new glass surround, but the process was such a mess and took forever. I work from home, so managing contractors isn’t all that much of a scheduling hassle, but there’s just something about being in the house working around contractors that elevates my anxiety. Am I going to be in their way? Are they going to find something sinister behind the walls or under the floor? Will I bother them if I have to go make a cup of tea? It’s all just generally very stressful.
So, before we even bought our new house, I wanted to make sure that the bathrooms were usable as-is for as long as possible. I love the idea of designing a bathroom from the ground up, but it’s not something I really want to tackle any time soon—not that my meager home budget would allow for one anyway! Happily, the two bathrooms in our new-to-us ranch home seem to be working great, and I have been able to make cosmetic changes over the past year so that the rooms look and feel more like “us” without digging too deeply behind the walls and under the floors (if at all).
Those photos above show the bathroom in our main bedroom suite before we had moved in. The busy vintage wallpaper from the bedroom carried into the bathroom, making it feel even smaller than it really was, and the bulky upper cabinet, dated light, and ornate mirrored medicine cabinet just didn’t fit in with our modern, clean style. You may remember the hall bathroom makeover we completed about four months into living here? Well, that process taught me that paint and new fixtures can really transform a bathroom without having to hire contractors, so I decided to put my head down and give our main bathroom the same treatment.
I ultimately did things a little bit backwards with this makeover because my motivation for tearing down yet another room’s worth of wallpaper was practically non-existent by this point. Instead, I asked my dad to come help me install a new light fixture and faucet. I figured making those two key changes would help jump-start my energy for tackling the wallpaper—and it worked! We hung a gorgeous 3-bulb light fixture over the existing vanity (it matches the 4-bulb light fixture that we put in the hall bathroom), and then I hung a gold-framed mirror below that.
Once those items were checked off the list, Dad and I installed a new gold faucet, which also matches the pair we put in the hall bath. Consistency was key with these bathrooms since they’re so close to one another. I also love rebuying the same fixtures for room projects within one home because it takes some of the guess work out of picking items to buy. I knew the fixtures and plumbing accents in our hall bathroom worked great and were fairly easy to install, so that made buying for our main bathroom super quick and painless.
The new light and faucet made such a difference in this tiny bathroom, and gave me the push I needed to tackle the wallpaper once and for all. It feels like I have spent nearly the entire past 10 months removing wallpaper from the rooms in our new home. The kitchen, my home office/studio, and our hall bathroom really gave me a run for my money in terms of wallpaper removal. The walls had not been properly prepped, so the wallpaper took many, many days to remove in each space, and then I spent many more days fixing the walls in each room to then suffer through painting.
All in all, it was an arduous process that I wasn’t looking forward to with our main bathroom. But the good (unexpected) news is that the main bathroom wallpaper actually came off really easily, what I assume, is thanks to proper professional installation way back when. Maybe it went up in the ’70s? By the way, I love that “1972” signature we found behind the old medicine cabinet, don’t you?!
The photo you see above of the room sans wallpaper is a pretty good indication of what the space looked like for about two months after I finished wallpaper removal. It was a straightforward process, yes, but still exhausting, and I knew that wall repair was going to be just as unappealing. But I finally mustered the energy for one more big push to the finish line two months later, and got to work prepping the walls for paint.
First, I sprayed the walls liberally with this wallpaper paste remover concentrate liquid. I let that sit, and then I wiped the walls down with a Scrub Daddy sponge soaked in a bucket full of hot water and dish detergent. I scrubbed and scrubbed to remove all final traces of wallpaper glue, and then I sprayed the walls one more time with all-purpose cleaner and wiped them down again, this time with a microfiber towel. Finally, I patched all of the left-over holes and dings using my go-to spackling compound. I let that dry, and then John helped by sanding everything smooth for me and vacuuming all of the dust and debris.
To finish, I primed the walls using Zinsser 1-2-3 primer, let that dry, and then painted on two coats of “Sea Salt” paint from Sherwin-Williams. I love how the light blue/green color complements the vintage wallpaper, which I did decide to leave up (at least for now) in our main bedroom just outside the door to this bathroom. After that, it was just a matter of bringing in all of the pretty things I had been hoarding to complete the room—things like a wall shelf, pretty art, and other little decorative bathroom accents. Keep scrolling to see the finished results, including a side-by-side before and after shot!
Resources: Faucet, Mirror, Vanity Light, Light Bulbs, Trash Can, Wall Shelf, Towel Hooks, Paint Color, Shower Curtain, Shower Head, Towels, Abstract Art, Black and White Art, Vintage Rug, Hanging Macrame Plant Holder
My favorite thing about this bathroom makeover is that we were able to salvage a good bit of the original elements. The vanity stayed in place (I don’t mind the clean white silhouette of that), the wall tile didn’t have to get ripped out (I actually love the speckled finish and square shape), and the toilet and shower work just fine. Because we were able to work with those main pieces, we kept costs way down. You can tally up all of the resources I linked to above if you want, but I don’t think this project cost much more than a couple hundred dollars, at most! A lot of the things I used that are linked above actually came over from our old house anyway, so I don’t count them as part of the final renovation total.
So, what do you think of our “new” retro bathroom? Do you like the fixtures and wall color we chose? What would you have done differently? I’d love to know if you would have gone all out with a full gut job bathroom renovation, so let me know in the comments below. It’s always fascinating for me to hear how people would tackle a room makeover differently, so never hesitate to weigh in with your own thoughts and opinions! Who knows…Maybe this is just “Phase One”…Stay tuned.
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