We took a stuck-in-the-seventies bathroom and gave it an affordable update with better flooring, pretty cottage patterns, new paint finishes, and beach-hued tiles.



This dark and dizzying wallpaper (brown and silver mylar—not appealing in the middle of the night or when feeling ill) and the outdated floors (what was it with carpeted bathrooms in the 70s?) had definitely overstayed their welcome. All the dark finishes made the room feel even smaller than it was.



We gave the room a much-needed refresh with color. The fabric we chose for a custom shower curtain inspired our selections for other changes in the room. In such a small space, just one or two hues were enough to draw the eye about the room.

Now, light-wood DIY laminate flooring ($75 total cost) and soft green and ivory paint ($40) on walls, cabinets, and mirror frame partner with the shower’s shimmering new glass tiles and the pretty patterned shower curtain to give the lavatory a refreshing lift.



Not only were the colors and finishes dated but the stark contrast between finishes put the focus on the utilitarian fixtures in the room. Countertop-to-false-ceiling mirrors created an infinite reflection of the dark and hard-edged pattern.



Keeping the existing cabinet, vanity top, sink, tub, and toilet, which were all still in great shape, allowed the homeowner to spend her cash on stylish shower fittings, hardware, flooring, mirror framing, lighting, fabric, and tile.

Painting the vanity a soft green toned down the contrast between cabinet, Formica countertops, and sink. To transform a vanity with paint, follow the steps outlined in our Painting Cabinets post.

The whites, creams, tans, and pale green create a light, airy, and shipshape mood, which makes the space feel orderly, inviting, and sanitized.



Bronze and brass do have their place in formal bathrooms but they tend to add visual weight to a space. Instead, we chose lighter fittings and hardware in brushed chrome to brighten the look ($15 for knobs and hinges). The silvery-grays link to similar hues seen on monogrammed guest towels, the chandelier, and shower walls.



A frame fashioned from decorative molding was adhered to the existing mirror with epoxy glue ($50 for wood trim and glue). The frame adds architectural substance while hiding mirror edges flawed by the loss of silvering.

Try these three easy steps for accessorizing your vanity:

  1. First, determine how much surface you actually have available for display. Think about how much space you’ll need for setting out daily necessities and what you can stash behind closed doors.
  2. Next, opt for attractive containers. Put lotions and soft soaps in colorful or metallic pump bottles. Pile wrapped soaps in a metallic basket. Tuck cotton swabs into a glass canister. Corral earrings in lidded, hand-painted trinket jars.
  3. Finally, add purely decorative touches that enhance your style and color palette. Place flower-filled loving cups, soap-holding silver vessels, and textural objects so they’ll be reflected in the mirror, which will double their impact.



Even more depressing than the dark color scheme was the dropped ceiling that hid a constantly buzzing fluorescent light fixture reminiscent of a childhood aquarium. The low overhead grid added a claustrophobic element to the small space and the light was unflattering (and who needs that getting out of the shower?).



Removal of the ceiling grid and panels gave us an extra 14 inches in height. By replacing the fluorescent light with an inexpensive crystal-draped chandelier (under $50 from a home improvement store) we gained much-needed sparkle that complements the bath’s new, more feminine and flirty decor.



Another excuse to get rid of the bad-bling wallpaper: it was impossible to convert the tub to a shower without removing it. Check out the curved carpet installation that avoided the tub and toilet area. Although the Moroccan-style floor tiles are a timeless shape, the unrelenting brown-ness of it all was depressing. Not to mention that two different floor surfaces in one small room make it seem even tinier.



We turned the ho-hum tub into a spa-like experience with a new upscale shower and tub fixtures, glass mosaic-tiled walls, and a roomy curved shower rod hung high on the wall.

The shower fittings and plumbing supplies were the most expensive elements of the entire room redo but tiling the walls and adding diverter plumbing enhanced the bath’s utility.



We found mesh-backed tiles in sand and sea hues on sale at a home improvement store for $5 for a 12 x 12 inch square. The neutral backdrop supplies texture and sheen, but ensures the overall look stays streamlined.
When converting tub walls to a shower enclosure, keep these things in mind:
Walls and ceilings should be water resistant before you add tile so consider protecting the surfaces by installing green backer board or waterproof underlayment.

Use the right mastic to adhere tile to wall board. Follow manufacturer’s directions for application and drying time. Apply unsanded grout to spaces between tiles under ¼ inch; sanded grout for larger spacing between tiles. Seal grout when it has cured.



The custom shower curtains, stitched from curtains stitched from medium-weight cotton fabric ($10/yard), play off the tiles’ cream and green hues while introducing a livelier pink. A curved curtain rod provides a roomier shower experience.

Our curtains were measured to reach from rod to floor. A pair of waterproof shower curtain liners hang behind the fabric panels. If you plan to raise the height of your shower curtain rod as we did, opt for 80-inch liners rather than the standard 72 inches to ensure that your liners will fall inside the top of the bathtub when hung.

Here’s how to make your own shower curtain.

First, gather these materials:

  • Decorator fabric
  • Measuring tape, scissors, and straight pins
  • Matching thread
  • Sewing machine
  • Grommet kit
  • Hammer
  • Shower rings

Measure the area from shower rod to floor and the width of rod. Multiply the width by 1.5 so there’s enough fullness in the curtains and add 7 inches to length measurement to accommodate hems and grommet placement.

Divide width measurement in half to determine the width of each shower curtain. Cut two fabric panels to desired size. (Or, if you want just one shower curtain, stitch fabric lengths together to get the necessary width. Remember, however, that you will need to match patterns when stitching lengths together.)
For side hems: Fold side edges back ½ inch; press; fold over again for double-fold hems. Pin hems and stitch in place.

For top and bottom hems: Fold edges over ½ inch; press; fold over again for double-fold hems. Pin and stitch in place. Turn top and bottom edges over to create 3-inch hems. Pin and stitch in place.

Iron panels. Add grommets to top of each curtain panel, following grommet manufacturer’s instructions.

Attach shower hooks through grommets and hang panels. Hang shower curtain liners on inside of hooks to protect the fabric.


Photos by Chris Hennessey


© Caruth Studio

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