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Small But Sweet Bathroom Renovation

We have fixed, upgraded, and redecorated our little old bathroom just in time for another pandemic winter! Now that the kitchen and main bathroom are both functional and personalized for our family, we are ready to hunker down in comfort. I had hoped I wouldn't have to spend quite as much time at home heading into 2022, but here we are. At home. What a difference it makes to have a beautiful bathroom, though!

For a tall person, it is such a relief to my back to have a higher bathroom vanity that allows me to wash my hands without bending over, and a shower that rains down from well above the top of my head! We put up a taller mirror (an inexpensive antique) than the one that was there before and installed the new light fixture ("rescued" from our local Habitat ReStore) up close to the ceiling, making the room seem taller and bigger even though there is actually less space between the vanity top and ceiling.

We saved loads of money by doing as much work ourselves as we could. We hauled the plumbing fixtures, including the toilet and a whole bathtub and shower surround, from the plumbing supply company in our ancient pickup truck and warehoused them in the garage while we demolished most of the old bathroom. We hired good plumbers to install the tub, shower surround, and vanity, which we purchased separately from a local lumber company. We didn't go with the cheapest materials and labor we could find, but we did get a great value for high quality materials, craftsmanship, and work meant to last.

We bought a new toilet that flushes better and wastes less water, but we installed it ourselves. We salvaged the existing bead board and trim, scrubbed clean all the dirty white pieces and pulled out the rusty nails, painted them dark green, and reinstalled them. Instead of hanging curtains, I gave the lower window pane a privacy coat of washable white tempera paint, which my 10-year-old daughter is going to decorate with a leaf pattern. We will be able to wash off and repaint the window whenever we feel like changing it up.

We left the upper window clear to let in more natural light and to let us have a peek out into the front garden.

My husband and I and the plumbers we hired all managed to successfully protect the 1960s stone tile floor through demolition and installation of the tub and cabinetry so that we only had to do a couple of minor repairs and scrub the grout clean to get the old floor shining like new.

I divided my biggest Christmas cactus (a humidity-loving plant) and hung a piece of it up beside the window for a touch of that spa-like feel that live plants impart to a bathroom, without taking up much space.

I spent about three weeks installing drywall in a portion of the room that was stripped down to the studs and applying two-plus coats of Sherwin-Williams Emerald paint (in Angelic and Courtyard), which has stain-resisting and anti-microbial properties to help us keep the room clean and fresh for years to come. I stocked it with quick-drying, yet plush and luxurious towels that make everyday hygiene habits feel like a spa retreat.

I had my daughter pick out a shower curtain from Target's website, and she chose a vine pattern that looks just lovely in our little pink and green bathroom. We hung a double, curved shower curtain rod that keeps the liner and curtain separated for quicker drying and makes the shower feel like "a fancy hotel" inside, as my husband put it.

We splurged on "champagne brass" fixtures for the shower, tub, and sink sourced through a supplier that works with our plumber and sells lines of products a step above what you can buy at a big box store.

There are still a few last details to complete (did you spot the missing outlet cover? whoops!), but our new bathroom is now functional and in use! It feels (and looks and smells) so good to take a shower in here compared to the musty, moldering room that it used to be until the end of this summer. 

I am very happy with how it has all turned out, especially the warm and colorful yet serene palette, the mix of old and new pretty things, and the easy-to-clean, durable functionality of it all. 

My daughter said, "When you live in a nice house, it makes you want to take better care of yourself." No joke, she has started eating more vegetables, doing more chores, and brushing her hair more often, and she says the house makes her feel like cleaning up and nurturing herself.

I love it! 

You can see more best-value-minded home renovation adventures and other snapshots of my family trying to squeeze the best values out of life in general on Instagram.


Jean Michelle Miernik is the author of Leirah and the Wild Man: A Tale of Obsession and Survival at the Edges of the Byzantine World,which makes great floral bath witch bathtub reading.

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