When we moved into this house five years ago, I always knew I wanted to remodel the main floor bathroom. Not only is it the bathroom that gets the most use by us, but it also serves as our guest bathroom whenever we have anyone to stay.
I had learned to live with the powder blue walls and ugly gold fixings, and most of the time I didn’t even go in there, preferring to just go up to my own master bathroom if I wanted to make use of the facilities. And with four young boys in the house, not going in there meant that I didn’t notice just how bad it had gotten.
The final straw was when I went in one day and noticed that there were (and I cringe writing this!) poop smears on the wall next to the toilet! Some little finger had smeared their poop. When I asked which kid was to blame, I was horrified to find out that all of them were guilty.
I guess “potty-trained” may need some redefining in our house.
Anyway, after this disaster, I grabbed the bleach spray to clean it up, and I noticed the stained sink, the toothpaste covering the cabinets, the towel rack pulled nearly out of the wall, and a ton of other issues that felt overwhelming. I knew the time had come to finally get this bathroom tackled.
Lucky for me (ha!), we were in the middle of a pandemic, so I had time on my hands. I set about gathering my supplies, which were blessedly few, and I ended up with an amazing new bathroom that I’d have never thought possible.
I am so amazed by what a bit of cleaning, a little paint, and some repurposed decor can do to a space. Seriously, I spent so little on this room because I already had nearly everything I needed in order to make it happen. Of course, not everyone does as much DIY as I do, so if you wanted to tackle something similar, you might have to invest in a few things, so I’ll leave links to the products I used. But I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
I hope you won’t judge me too harshly by these “before” photos. I tried to keep things as real as possible for you guys. I cleaned up the poop smears because no one needs to see that. But I didn’t really clean the rest of the room because it’s important to see things for what they really are.
Clearly this room needed help.
I emptied the room of everything not bolted down, including the shelf behind the toilet. I didn’t want or need it in there, so I moved it to a different bathroom where it would be of more use. I also removed all the ugly gold fixtures that were on the walls and door. This included the door knob.
I added some spackle to all the holes that were left, as well as the areas of the wall where paint had been pulled off (thanks, kids!) or drywall had come out. I wanted time for it to dry while I worked on other things.
I knew I’d need to deep clean like my life depended on it. I stuck with a bleach cleaner, and I wore some latex-free gloves because I am allergic to both latex AND bleach. I used sponges, clothes, hard-bristled scrub brushes and anything else I thought I needed to really get things clean.
The sink was the hardest part. It may not come across in photos, but it had a layer of grease on it that didn’t want to come out. I knew it was from a few years ago when my son accidently dumped some of my used oil paint/turpentine down the sink. He was trying to be helpful and didn’t realize that we have to take special precautions with chemicals. The sink has been a mess ever since.
I also found the grout to be quite mildewy, so I made sure to really get that clean, too.
While I cleaned I was waiting for the spackle to dry. So when I was satisfied that the room, including the toilet bowl, seat and outer part were totally disinfected, I moved on to the walls. I first sanded down all the spackle so that it was even with the rest of the wall. I wanted the holes filled in and everything looking as solid as possible. I went through and washed the walls down with a quick rag and some soapy water.
I had to sweep the floors about thirty times during the course of this because everything I did kept creating more mess. I just wanted to mention that.
While I waited for the walls to dry, I removed the doors from the cabinet and took them to another room to paint them. I had this Heirloom Traditions paint on hand, and I’d been wanting to try it for a while. I had it in this blue color (polo) and a white, and I wasn’t sure which to go with. But since the walls were going to be a light gray, I thought the contrast with the blue would look nicer. So I went with it.
I’ll be honest – I’m not totally sold on this paint. I had heard great things about it, and I heard it was a one-coat finish that was great for cabinets because you didn’t have to sand them down or anything. That wasn’t really the case for me. I did need a couple of coats – especially on the cabinet itself. The doors were somewhat okay with one coat plus a few touchups, but the cabinet base took two full coats all over, three in some places and touchups throughout. YMMV.
I also had all of the door hardware, as well as the hardware from the bathroom door and the light fixture over the sink, and I used some Rust-Oleum metallic spray paint in Oil Rubbed Bronze to paint them. I love this color, and it worked well to take away that awful shiny gold that I hated so much.
Finally, I was ready to paint the walls. I actually ended up ordering my paint off of Amazon, purely because I wasn’t confident going into stores at the time. I found this Kilz Tribute paint in an eggshell finish that looked like it would work. The color is “Cool Fog.” When I first put it on the wall, I was terrified because it looked SO white. I can’t even tell you how stark it looked. Next to the blue, it looked whiter than white.
Thankfully once it was all on – especially once I saw it next to the door and the toilet and tiles (which are ACTUALLY white) – I could see the gray. The room was mostly straightforward to paint. It was interesting doing certain areas, like behind the toilet, above the shower tiles, and around the mirror. But it wasn’t difficult work at all.
I ended up doing two full coats on the walls, which is what I expected.
The biggest decision I had to make was if I wanted to take the chance and paint the shower surround and the faucet on the sink. Both were still that glaring gold, and I REALLY can’t stress enough how much they bothered me. I wasn’t sure how I would even go about painting them. I thought I’d take the chance to head out and ask the pros at the hardware store.
When I got to Home Depot, I asked the manager of the paint section about it. He told me that the same Rust-Oleum spray paint I’d used on the other fixtures was what I should use on the shower and sink. I was a bit shocked. I asked if it was safe to use them inside the house – especially in a small bathroom that has no windows. He assured me it was fine, but suggested I keep the door open and keep the children out.
Well, friends. Let me tell you something. I trusted that man. I bought a few cans of my favorite Oil Rubbed Bronze, and I headed home. I did my best to tape off my shower so I wouldn’t paint the glass. I even had to get my oldest son involved since no one else could reach into the very small gap between the shower and sink cabinet.
I also taped up the area around the faucet and used plastic bags to protect the areas surrounding it.
And then I painted.
Let. Me. Tell. You. What.
I literally thought I might die. The air in that room was so thick with paint when I was done, and I was lightheaded and dizzy. I wore a respirator and everything, but my whole entire house was full of the fumes. Every time I blew my nose, it came out with black paint.
We had to take the kids outside for the whole day, and that night we all had headaches and couldn’t sleep. The floor of the bathroom had a thin layer of paint on it, which I then had to clean up.
It was not a good time.
But the gold was gone! Which I guess is a big plus! Haha.
The next thing that I wanted to do was to add some wallpaper behind the toilet. That tiny little wall just didn’t look right to me, and I wanted to break it up. So I found this roll of peel and stick wallpaper on Amazon. It has a gray brick motif, and I knew it would work perfectly. I put it up, and I loved how it added a little feature to that area.
Finally, there was one last thing I really wanted to do, and that was the mirror. The builder’s grade mirror just didn’t seem very special, so I wanted something a little nicer. But I wasn’t about to try and pull it off the wall and risk breaking it. So instead, I grabbed a couple of pieces of 1 x 2 wood from my scrap pile and cut it to size to make a little frame for the mirror. I didn’t try to miter the edges or anything – just straight cuts.
To make them look a little more interesting, I took the wood and banged it up on one side with a hammer, adding some dents and dings all along each piece. Then I used the same Oil Rubbed Bronze spray paint to painted the wood on both sides. It’s important to paint both sides because the mirror will reflect the back side of the wood, and if it’s not painted, you’ll see the raw wood looking back at you.
Anyway, once it was dry, I used construction adhesive and hot glue to adhere the sides and bottom onto the mirror itself. The construction adhesive makes sure it stays put a long time, and the hot glue gives it the instant hold so that it has time to dry without slipping.
The top part of the frame is not glued on. This is because the light fixture is directly above it, and if the top board is glued, you wouldn’t be able to get to the screws to remove the light. I didn’t want to be in that position in case we decided to replace the light fixture later. But that top piece of wood sits perfect on top of the mirror and you can’t tell that it’s not fixed on there.
The last piece of the puzzle was just adding decor around the room. I used what I already had for this. Two small white Ikea wall shelves were hung on the large wall. I got these from a thrift store, and I thought they were perfect to hold little knickknacks and some room spray.
I installed a toilet roll holder which I also found at a thrift store, and it was too cool to pass up. It’s very industrial, but I love the way it looks.
I dug out two art prints that I’ve had for 15 years. I bought them when I lived in the UK many moons ago, and I put them up behind the toilet on the brick wall, and I think they look awesome.
All in all, I think the room came out looking absolutely incredible. It blows my mind seeing the before and after photos. It’s crazy how much you can do with mostly just paint.
I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing the process and the change that took place. Let me know if you have any questions, and tell me your favorite part!
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