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If you only have a small budget for a bathroom makeover

I’ve been dreaming for some time about redoing our master bathroom. I laid out all my far-fetched ideas on this post, just because I needed to get them out of my imagination.

This is what I would do if we were going to redo the bathroom:

Master Bathroom Inspiration board / jones design companyBut we’re not.

At some point we’ll sell our house and even though updated bathrooms tend to increase resale value, that probably isn’t the case with our situation. We might be able to sell for a little bit more with a gorgeous bathroom, but not enough to make it truly worth the investment.

But, ugh, the bathroom is just so boring. See it in it’s blah state towards the end of this video (5:35 mark).

While the dream bathroom remodel was just not going to happen, we did decided to make a few small changes to see if it would at least look a little bit better.

Builder Grade bathroom painted / jonesdesigncompanyA fresh coat of white paint went up on the walls (Sherwin Williams White Heron) and cabinets (custom color matched to the trim throughout the house) and suddenly it feels one thousand times brighter, cleaner and less-depressing.

Freshly painted walls and cabinets in builder grade bathroom / jones design company Freshly painted walls and cabinets in builder grade bathroom / jones design companyThis isn’t the finished product, yet. But I really wanted to show the in-process photos and also the stages of makeovers. Because, really, if all we did in here was spend money on paint, the bathroom already looks vastly better. We could leave it just like this and be fine.

That’s the thing about real-life house fixing-up. It takes time. And money. And energy.

We’ve been living in the same house for almost 10 years and have hated this bathroom from day one. But it just hasn’t been a big priority. We’ve slowly made upgrades to other rooms of the house and skipped over our bathroom thinking someday we would gut the whole thing. That was probably a bad choice on our part. We should have painted the walls and cabinets and replaced those terrible lights long, long ago. Sure, it wouldn’t look exactly like my pinterest board of fabulous, luxurious, dreamy bathrooms (seriously. You should look through my bathroom pinterest board), but it would be a big improvement and a prettier place to start and finish each day.
Freshly painted walls and cabinets in builder grade bathroom / jones design companySo PHASE ONE is now complete: walls and cabinets freshly painted.

The total cost was a few hundred dollars. We hired our favorite professional painters to finish up the woodwork throughout the downstairs (a rollover project from 18 months ago) and decided to just lump in our bathroom painting projects in the bid. I don’t actually mind painting and it would have been much less expensive, but it takes me forever and I just don’t have forever to offer my bathroom right now. It was absolutely worth the cost of hiring a team who knows what they’re doing and can do it quickly.

I really think we could leave the bathroom just as it is now and I no longer hate it.

Yesterday I pulled a few accessories in to dress up the counters:

Bathroom Accessories / jones design companyand used some of my leftover self-adhesive wallpaper to line the inside of the drawers:

Lined Bathroom Drawer / jones design companyIt’s the little things, I tell you. I smiled approximately six times today when I opened a drawer and saw that happy pattern. If I were more ambitious, I would line the sides, too. Maybe someday.

Now that the cabinets are fresh, we’d love to make additional upgrades. We’ll call it PHASE TWO. This will include replacing the lights, adding hardware to the drawers and cabinets and changing out the bathtub faucet (it’s one of those cheapy plastic crystal knob things). I haven’t decided what any of those items will be, yet, but you can bet I’ll share it all with you as we make the changes.

PHASE THREE is still up for debate. The tile countertop is not our fave. Never has been. Now that the cabinets are white, we’d love to modernize the counters, backsplash and tub surround. A solid surface maybe? We haven’t decided. I’ll do a little bit of research and see what the cost will be. We’re a little bit afraid that if we redo the counters, we’ll want to redo the floors which will make us think about adding a free-standing tub instead of the current one … and it just doesn’t end. Phase Three might never be. But we’ll explore our options.

So the moral of the story is:

Do the projects (however big or small) that make your house feel more like you in a timeline that works for your real life and real budget.

Even if it takes 10 years and multiple phases.

36 thoughts on “If you only have a small budget for a bathroom makeover”

  1. We just added a stained wood frame to our builder- grade mirror in our master bathroom because we’re getting ready to sell. I wish we would have done it ages ago! Total cost was under $50 and it really didn’t take very long (and we have three kids under the age of two, so that’s saying a lot!) That would add so much to this space!

  2. So funny – we are prepping our house to get on the market and our master bath was our last left alone room too! As much as I don’t like the plain white linoleum, we were like you guys and knew the return on investment to tile wouldn’t pay off. Just finished painting a nice clean white, got a jute runner from target, and my fav was getting an adapter pendent from Home Depot for over the soaker tub. It was SO easy to install, just screws into the can light that was above the tub and ta-da! A sleek glass globe pendant instantly improved the look (and hopefully will cause everyone to look up instead of at the floors! ;-)

  3. Yes! After 15 years we just painted our cheap ugly brown wood kitchen cabinets a pale butter yellow. It is now one of the most happy, cheerful rooms in the house. Just wish we’d done it sooner!

  4. You always seem to do a post with a moral I need to hear right then! Thank you, thank you. We have been in our home for 4 years now and we’ll be here for a while. But we’re STILL on phase one of furnishing/decorating. We decided to fill all the rooms and make them pretty and then slowly start the real detailed (more expensive) projects, like bathroom remodels and new flooring. Not sure if we’re doing things backward but it is the way we’re doing it. And it seems to be taking forever! Some days I’m so patient with it, others I’m not. I love seeing your home transformations and especially love how you are honest about your timeline and realistic budget. So needed to hear this :) And your bathroom is beautiful!

  5. What a big change a little paint can do. Check with granite fabricators to see if the have any remnants from a job that might work. Usually its a lot less to buy a remnant because someone else had to pay for the whole slab. Then make a beautiful shower curtain to hide the tub and tile. They are really easy to make.

  6. Do you have resources from your Pinterest board inspiration items? I love the gold arched mirrors and the rug! We are demoing our master bath right now. It is so much work, at least for my poor hubby(;

      1. Oh good, thank you for the link!! I found almost everything except that cute striped towel do you remember where you pinned it from?

    1. Emily,
      We are looking for mirrors for our bathroom…where did you find those gold mirrors? You usually post sources for everything.

    2. I love what you’ve done! So much more cheery! This post resonated with me (as so many of yours do) as we have been in our fixer upper for 20 years now and the years just melted away. Since I have champagne taste on a “good quality artisanal beer” budget, I have to save and save for the renos and do quite a bit myself. You should SEE the master bathroom/hideous closet like disaster we’ve lived with for 20 years now. My house and yard look fabulous from the street and the downstairs is starting to look pretty awesome, but oh girl, the master/disaster is somethin. I getcha.

    3. Emily, one thing we did which is fairly easy and can be done cheaply is to frame the large mirror on
      the wall. It makes it look built in and you will be happily surprise what a hugh difference it will make. It can be done with standard base moulding, nothing fancy. If I knew how to post a picture
      I would, but I’m not that tech….I always need a grandchild to help me… :)

    4. You think like I think! We are in a similar situation. Been in this house 10 years, updated some of the big stuff, like painting everywhere, floors. But the master bath, blah! Many a times I sit and stare and dream (and Pin!) but with those dreams you hear the money being spent! We ended up upgrading the standard sinks from the builder and the faucets, too. Not much money spent but the bathroom looks better! And there’s always looking for those odd clearance granite pieces at home improvement stores. I actually bought new globes to replace on the standard light fixture. A few dollars made it look expensive. I love to remodel. Just wish my wallet liked it! ?

    5. Painting your walls and cabinets has made a huge difference – it looks great! It’s true that once you start updating, it’s like If You Give a Mouse a Cookie:

      If you paint your cabinets white, you’re going to need to update the counters with stone. If you update your counters with stone, you’re going to want to update your floor tile. And if you update your floor tile, you’re going to ask to update the lighting…..

      Fortunately, you can do it in phases. And fyi – quartz is pretty expensive – it’s priced at the level of a top grade granite.

      You may want to think about waiting to replace your counters until you can do the floors as well. That way, you can get the look you want, rather than having to compromise and getting a counter that goes with floors you don’t like.

    6. Thank you for sharing this! This week I started painting our powder room because I was tired of talking with my husband about all of the big projects that we need to do for the house. We have been in the house for almost 3 years, and changing the powder room has made it feel more “ours”. Funny how that is.

    7. I really apptecite this post. My house needs A LOT of work and we are always doing a diy project on something but some of the big stuff like the bathroom and the kitchen I push aside because I figure I will just do it all at once eventually, but realistically when will eventually be? I should just break it down into small managable pieces so I can enjoy the rooms more now then waiting a year or 10 until we get around to it.

    8. I couldn’t agree more! We did a small-ish renovation on our kitchen last year and I am so thrilled with it. I couldn’t stand some elements of the kitchen before, and now it’s one of my favorite places in the house. We waited until the time was right, did it our way, and we are so pleased with the result. I don’t know how long we will be in our home, but as long as we are here we have a kitchen we love.

    9. The paint made such a difference! I agree with the person who said to skip the floors – your rug looks great and that’s the focus. The countertop is another story…I would have to change that. :) Floor & Decor has prefabricated lengths that you can buy for under $20/foot. You have great style – I can’t wait to see what you do!!

    10. Great post! I have watched wayyyyyy too many bathroom remodels on HGTV and pinned too many beautiful bathrooms that realistically just aren’t gonna happen on our budget!!! But I have done the same mini remodels through phase 2 and they really make a difference. I don’t see the counters being done any time soon….they are quite long…so that will be a big expense….then the old tile floors would really stand out! Some fluffy white towels and a pretty rug are my next simple to do’s. Thanks for keeping it real.

    11. I’m pretty sure one of God’s greatest gifts to us is white paint :) It suddenly makes everything new again. I’d second the recommendation to bump the counters up on your reno list. Since it’s such a small area it would qualify for “remnant pricing” at your local countertop supplier. This is typically half the cost of regular slab pricing per sq ft. You could save a little extra by buying your own sinks too. The countertop places always tried to sell us their rectangular undermount sinks with the slab and were charging $150/piece. I found a similar one at our local Lowe’s for $60. I just go buy them separately and then drop them off with the granite folks to mount. Just my two cents :) Looks so much better already!

    12. I love your ideas! I think I will steal the idea of lining my bathroom drawers. I’m curious about the products in your drawer..,,are they from beauty counter? The packaging and make up bag look familiar to theirs? I just went to a home party last night to try some of the products. I love the body butter and blush and am going to start investing in beauty products that are non toxic. Cleaning out my make up bag and toiletry bag. A process for sure! Fresh start to spring.

      1. Yes! I received the most generous package of Beautycounter gifts from a reader – I’ll post about it next week. I’m seriously IN LOVE with everything.

        1. Awesome! Can’t wait to read your post! I absolutely love what this company is doing. It’s a bit pricy, but safe! I will stand behind this company.

      2. Thank you for posting! This is so encouraging! Your bathroom is very similar to my bathroom. I can’t wait to see what you do next. May I ask what kind of paint you used on your cabinets?

      3. Phase two is so possible, especially if you buy those items when you see them on sale! Doesn’t amazon or someone have a deal tracker?
        Anyway, a tip on those countertops….check with your granite/stone dealers. Lots of times they have remnants you can buy pretty cheap. Doesn’t look like you need much either.
        We just finished our MB remodel and splurged on nice carrara marble floors and dang if we didn’t have to put rugs down because they’re cold! So I’d skip the floors, unless you really splurge on heated ones.
        Do I get feeling you guys are thinking of selling?

      4. Yes! I so agree! I waited ten years to start making our house our home because I knew we couldn’t do the dream renovations. I so wish I wouldn’t have waited so long. Now each room is more us, and less basic, even if it’s not perfect. No project was finished overnight, but over time it has evolved into ours! And you are right about paint – even if that’s the only thing you do, that alone is a huge improvement!!

      5. The white walls and vanity really transformed the space so much already! We are in the middle of a bathroom reno and I literally want to just hand your dream moodboard to our contractor now ;) Do you have a source for those gold mirrors or the hex tile?

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