$400 Patterned Bathroom Redo – Budget Bathroom Refresher

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Before the coronavirus pandemic, my bathroom was an afterthought. But nothing makes you appreciate every inch of your 430-square-foot home than being told to avoid leaving it.

Since I bought and moved into my tiny, pre-war Brooklyn apartment in November 2018, I have used home decorating as a therapeutic tool. There is something innately soothing about it; a productive way to channel underutilized creative energy and create something visible and physical. So my first thought when we went into indefinite social distancing/self-quarantine in New York City was: What home DIY project can I dive into? Answer: the bathroom.

The couple who lived in my apartment before me did a beautiful job updating the place. But they, too, seem to have decided that they could update a few of the finishes and leave the bathroom just fine. After living here for more than a year, though, I knew I needed to give the bathroom some updates. My initial dream was to gut it: take out the tub and replace it with a subway-tiled standing shower and then re-tile the whole floor. But, alas, my budget made that option nearly impossible. So instead, I went for an aesthetic refresh. 

My bathroom has its original marble floors and walls, which always looked a little dirty next to the white walls and trim. So my first order of business was to order some light gray paint from Home Depot for three of the walls: Behr Ultra in Silver Ash. I painted the vanity wall and the two side walls, somewhat inartfully—I am by no means a professional—but it felt good to do it by myself. I only dripped onto the floor despite my drop cloth and then had to panic clean a few times! (Progress!)

Luckily, I had already purchased a small can of Benjamin Moore Black Satin paint before non-essential businesses closed, so my next step after the three main walls was to tackle the trim. I painted the baseboard around the whole bathroom and the trim around the door. The door itself I left white. The bathroom mirror and vanity were both slightly different wood finishes, so I sanded them down and painted both that same Black Satin color to give the vanity wall a bit of a more dramatic look. Oddly, these smaller aesthetic changes were among the most satisfying parts of the project. Painting is soothing in its repetition, and there was something particularly comforting about watching these smaller details turn from brown to black, covering up the old and ushering in something new and refreshed while the good bones remain. 

The pièce de résistance was always going to be the back wall. I desperately had wanted to make the vanity wall the most eye-catching one in the space, but given its proximity to the open shower/bathtub, most wallpapers ran the risk of getting ruined or bubbling as a result of the steam. So instead I decided to go in a more unusual direction and create an accent wall that you would mostly appreciate by way of the bathroom mirror. I had scoured the internet pre-social distancing for affordable, dark floral wallpapers and settled on Samantha Santana California Native removable wallpaper. (I like the idea that I could easily peel it off and change it up if I get tired of it or want to sell the apartment.) The wallpaper is the one part of the project that I had help with—you really need to cut it exactly right, and it’s practically impossible to hang with just one person! 

I thought that I would be done once the accent wall was up but another week into quarantine and I still felt like the vanity wall was a little too “meh” for my liking. Or maybe I was just desperate for the project to continue because I need to fill my time while stuck in my home. Who can say! Again, I knew I didn’t want to deal with wallpaper by the shower, so I considered other options—a stencil, perhaps? And then I discovered wall decals, which you can purchase right off Amazon and can be placed on and peeled off easily. I ordered Modern Maxwell Irregular Dots, and they arrived a few days later. After leaving the package in my lobby for 24 hours as a precautionary germ-busting measure, I ripped it open and got to dot-placing. I was done within 20 minutes and it turned out adorably!

One project and two quarantine weeks down, another who-knows-how-many to go. Who else wants to quarantine DIY with me?

Inspired? Submit your own project here.


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