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Designer’s Bathroom Makeover Remodel: From Ugly to Spa

Bathoom Makeover From Ugly to SpaThe demolition and remodeling is done, we’ve taken a dated 1978 bathroom given it a complete makeover.  The best compliment I could get is when my husband said, “I love it, it is like a spa.”  SUCCESS!

This is the story of remodeling a bathroom on a budget.  I’ll take you through the decision making process and show you exactly how to transform an ugly bathroom into a fabulous modern room, increasing floorspace and storage all without moving a wall.

BATHROOM BEFORE Bathroom Before RemodelOur home was built n 1978, and this bathroom has not been changed since then, basically since I was in 8th grade, it was time.  However within a month of moving in, almost 10 years ago, I bathed those cabinets in turquoise paint in order preserve our sanity.  Old bathroom floor tileUnfortunately the poop brown tile, sinks and yucky ranch molding stayed, until now.  The window and trim was replaced in 2012 with the all the windows in the house.


  • Cold ugly brown tile floor
  • Brown sinks
  • Four door bathroom cabinet offered little storage
  • Acrylic shower/tub cracked
  • Leaky faucets
  • Bad lighting
  • Lots of moisture dripping on walls after a shower


  • Could not move walls
  • Could not change fixture locations
  • On a slab
  • Small budget

Even a designer has a budget and it this case it was a small one.  Budgets actually make interior projects easier because one knows what they are working with, as long as the budget is realistic.  Realistic means, based on real prices not an imaginary number one pulls from their head.

Bathroom demoIn our case the largest portion of the budget went to labor, though if you are the DIY type the cost of this easy makeover remodel could be cut by almost two-thirds.

Budgets are a dance between where to save and where to spend.

HOW TO SAVE Bathroom Remodel -IKEA CabinetThis is an IKEA bathroom.  All the cabinetry, medicine cabinets and solid surface sink/countertop unit came from IKEA totaling $1,009.00.   These could have easily been double the cost or more, but why?   The IKEA products fit the space,  more than tripled our storage space and were exactly the look we were after.  IKEA Sink and vanityAt IKEA, inexpensive does not mean lower quality.  These pieces are better engineered than many high price cabinets and countertops.  Yes, I put the cabinets together myself in less than two hours.  We’ve used IKEA cabinets a lot and with great success, no hesitation.

Another cost saving consideration was to install an acrylic tub/shower unit rather than a separate tub and tile three walls.  Even with a great fan, this bathroom gets moist.  Tiling the wall above the shower wall unit will let the walls shed moisture, somewhat of the same look as full tile walls but at a fraction of the cost.

White and chrome are the two most common colors for bathroom fixtures and plumbing items which I happily incorporated into the design.  Unusual colors can increase the cost.

WHERE TO SPEND Bathroom Makeover Hansgrohe FaucetNever skimp on daily use faucets.  The sink faucets are Hansgrohe and tub/shower is by Brizo.  Brizo H2O Kintetic showerFull disclosure, Brizo did provide me with the shower head, a $250.oo savings, but after seeing their showers in action we would have bought it anyhow.

The towel warmer is a necessity not a luxury.  It not only warms the towel, it drys them!  Though I did contact Mr. Steam to purchase a towel warmer after experiencing one and deciding last fall we had to have one, as one of my BlogTour Cologne sponsors they very kindly provided the towel warmer, an $817.00 value.

Yes, I saved almost $1,000 due to kindness of my sponsors, but this didn’t influence any decision, we budgeted to purchase these items.

Details which are worth the money: in-cabinet outlets, LED lighting, under cabinet night light and a flat ceiling.  None of these were costly but cutting any of them out would have been a mistake.  Imagine how nice it is just to pull your blow-dryer out of the door, push the button and it is on… because it is already plugged in.

When using a contractor, I can not stress enough – never ever go with the cheapest.  Always choose the contractor who is going to do the best job.

Demo bathroom soffit and new LED lightingDESIGN CONSIDERATIONS 

In a small space, simpler is better.  Clean and solid surfaces void of pattern would make the room easy on the eye and pleasurable to inhabit.  Simple is easy, easy is clean and clean is what helps to achieve the spa-like feel.  The goal for this bathroom was to replace old and ugly with clean and neat to arrive at environment which would be comfortable.   Bathroom makeover cork floorAs much as I tout a heated floor and would have loved to have one in this bathroom because of the cold slab, the odd configuration of our home made it cost prohibitive.   However the cork bathroom floor is significantly warmer underfoot than tile.

NEW BATHROOM AFTER Bathroom makeoverI apologize for the photos, the drawback of a small bathroom is it is difficult to photograph. Bathroom makeoverThe color scheme is inspired by the artwork, sand, water and my habit for collecting sea glass.  Lots of white is what makes the ideal peaceful backdrop for watery colors.  White looks clean and white bathrooms allow us to indulge our enjoyment of colorful towels.  

Design can be this simple.
In-cabinet outletNew Bathroom Benefits

  • The floating vanity is 3″ narrower and 11″ shorter than old cabinet which gives us more room to move a round.
  • Four deep drawers have more efficient storage than old cabinet.
  • Two huge medicine cabinets put cosmetics and toiletries within reach.
  • Handshower as part of the shower head is great for cleaning and the low-flow water usage does not feel whimpy.
  • Under cabinet nightlight is perfect lighting for late night potty breaks.
  • Overhead LED lighting on a dimmer offers ample light when needed.
  • In-cabinet charging station for toothbrush and hairdryer keep countertop clutter-free.

The uglies are gone!  No more textured ceiling, no dated soffits or poop brown sinks and tile.  Dark colored sinks are the absolute worst sinks for a bathroom, they require use by use cleaning.  After having them, I advise every client against colored bathroom sinks.  Replacing the brownish ranch molding with new white molding blurred the edges of the room which made the room feel larger.

While it is hard to imagine how a smaller cabinet gave us more storage, it did.  Rather than mostly unusable cavernous cabinets, four large drawers are 100% usable space.   Floating the cabinet allows a sense of space underneath and makes for easy cleaning.  Every decision we made was purposeful and improved the existing bathroom beyond mere aesthetics.   With careful thought, attention to details and materials anyone can complete a bathroom makeover on a budget.


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8 Responses to Designer’s Bathroom Makeover Remodel: From Ugly to Spa

  1. Looks fantastic Lisa! Thanks for the great tips 🙂 We’re putting a similar IKEA floating bathroom vanity (with drawers) in our boys’ bathroom at the new house. Glad to hear you love it!

  2. Thank you Janet. Those drawers are awesome – our problem is we can’t fill them! 🙂

  3. jb @BuildingMoxie

    I think you know how I feel about floating vanities, love the night light and nice to hear the ringing endorsement of IKEA’s box. Charging station sweet … and love how storage was foremost in your design. while not heavily featured in the pics like how you approached the shower surround, nice move on adding the tile above. and dang yo, who had any idea towel warmers were so expensive?… ha! great project and great explanation. cheers. ~jb

  4. I’ll get you another pic of the shower surround… gotta love a floating vanity especially when it does everything a standard larger cabinet does, with less footprint! As for towel warmers, I was aiming to purchase the biggest one – hoping it would add some warmth to a really cold bathroom. Thanks for stopping by JB!


  5. A rousing success! Love your use of high-low elements. Kudos on a clean, fresh design!

  6. Thank you Kathy! 🙂

  7. Heather

    This looks great! Thanks for sharing!

  8. Thank you Heather, we appreciate you stopping by! 🙂

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