The Long Ignored Master Bathroom…

Well, I guess we did rehang the shower curtain at ceiling height right after we moved in – but other than that we haven’t really touched this room. In fact, pretty much all three of our bathrooms are uncharted territory for us when it comes to updates. But you’ve gotta start somewhere, so we decided to start in the one we use the most – and probably find the quirkiest. See, it doesn’t have a sink (that’s in our bedroom, actually) so it’s a really small room. We’re talking around 5′ x 6′ total (including a regular sized tub). So yes, the door practically hits the toilet (it just barely misses it). And John can stand in the center of the room and touch all four walls (my husband has quite the wingspan, but this room really is tiny).

The room’s a total beige box. Beige tile with gray veining on the floor, the same tile in the shower and even on the walls around the toilet and door, an accent row of tiles with gray trees on them, beige paint on the walls, off-white-trim, even a beige futuristic toilet (check out the curve in this video).

Oh yes, and there’s a glass shelf and towel bar right next to the toilet – neither of which we’ve ever really used for anything functional. Why? Well, hanging a towel that would literally brush against us on the way to the toilet felt weird so we use the towel hooks on the back of the door instead. And we just plopped some wood printing blocks on the glass shelf (intending to hang art to fill in that wall) but it always felt like the shelf – and towel bar for that matter – invaded our personal space in such a small room.

We jokingly call our bathroom The Travertine Palace although it’s not actual travertine tile and it’s anything but palatial when it comes to size. The funny thing is that a few folks have come over and said “wow, you don’t have to do anything to this room!” which never fails to make us laugh because it probably feels the most not-like-us of all of the rooms in our house. We’re just suckers for crisp white trim, a white toilet, a not-beige color on the walls, and not all the same tile on the walls and the floor and the shower. But we can completely appreciate that some folks would love this room as is. I think the main thing we’re craving is some contrast. It feels like such a monochromatic box to us. And when we added the crisp white shower curtain way back when, it just planted the seed that the room might feel more crisp and less all-beige if we did things like:

  • paint the cream trim white
  • paint the walls so they have some contrast
  • craigslist the toilet and replace it with a classic white one
  • replace the boob light (seen here)
  • hang some bathroom-friendly art
  • do something to add privacy to the window
  • replace the border tile around the room (maybe in phase 2?)
  • replace the floor tile down the road (just to break things up since there’s so much of it)
  • I’m sure I’m forgetting something – let’s just say the room has room for improvement

So that’s the plan. I even whipped up this mood board to help us envision things. Of course we’re sure the plan will change ten times since we just figure things out as we go, but so far here’s what’s on our mind:

1. When it comes to the color scheme, since we’re working with beige tile with gray veining, we want to bring in some richer gray tones (to keep everything from looking so monochromatic and add some contrast). We’d also love to introduce some pretty blue tones (to tie into the blue wall color in our adjoining bedroom).

2. We have been in love with this light fixture for a while now, and we’re hoping it pops up at our favorite local lighting outlet (The Decorating Outlet) since it would be a pretty amazing upgrade from the boob light situation that we have going on. We’re not sure if the placement will look weird though (centered in front of the window would be so much cuter) so we’ll have to see where we end up. You know we’ll keep you posted!

3. This tile. Ahhhh, this tile. We want it. Hex tile has always allured us (sort of like penny tile, except it’s even more bee-ish, and you know we love bees). So we can totally picture it in our master bedroom someday. But it’s definitely going to be down the road (we want to work with the existing tile, but do dream about replacing the floor tiles to break things up since there’s so much of that tile all over the small room).

4. I painted this little ditty a while back, and have always thought it would look really cool in the bathroom (oversized art in a small room with a dramatic high-hung shower curtain could be fun, right?). Of course we have to see if it really works in there, but especially with the blue glass pendant we think it could be nice.

5. We’re loving the muted moody look of frosted glass subway tile, so we’d love to use a light gray glass tile as an accent around the room (something like this, but not exactly) to replace the tree tiles. Although we’re not sure if it’s a phase two project (depending how hard it is to track down and how challenging it is to extract the tree tiles without hurting the tile around ’em).

6. A good old fashioned white toilet! We can’t wait to replace the beige futuristic one that we have in there (we’ll craigslist it and then grab an American Standard from Home Depot, which we got for our first house for under $100 and loved more than the fancy Kohler one we inherited).

7.  This represents our existing extra-long white waffle shower curtain, which will stay to add some crisp-yet-soft texture to the tile-riddled space (we got ours from by searching 95″ shower curtain, but this image is from Target).

8. This represents our existing tile, which is beige with gray veins running through it.

9. This frosted window (found here) is one of the ways we’ve been debating adding some privacy to the room without blocking the light. You know we love frosting film (more on that here and here).

But enough planning. How about some action? Well, we’ve removed that oddly placed shelf and towel bar, spackled and sanded the holes they left, and applied one coat out of two on the walls in a rich putty color. In a bathroom (where you’re dealing with semi-gloss paint) the first coat always looks especially horrifying so we can’t wait to get the smoother second coat up there.

Oh and this picture is a really bad sell on this color (since it’s spotty and half-done and just shows a corner of the room) but you can check it out in the kitchen here. It looks great with our tiles (ties into the gray veining), will really make white items like the shower curtain and the future glossy white trim pop, adds contrast, and obviously will look a lot better once a second coat is on there and it’s dry. And you can see that we’re painting the ceiling too (which we also did in our first house’s bathrooms since we find it makes small rooms actually look less chopped-up and busy).

Of course we’ll be back with tons of finished photos for you. We just have to tackle coat number two, wait impatiently for it to dry, and then hang the shower curtain back up to snap after pics. So those will be up tomorrow! In the meantime, did you guys tackle any bathroom upgrades over the weekend? Do you have nearly done living spaces but completely untouched bathrooms? What is it about these tiny rooms that’s so intimidating?


  1. Lenore says

    I never understood the 90’s obsession with ALL BEIGE ALL THE TIME look. I guess it’s not offensive, but it’s so *boring*. It’s great that you’re working with some of the current tile and fixtures, you hate to tear out things that are still in good shape. Good luck with the remodel! I can’t wait to see what you do with it!

  2. says

    Loving the bathroom ideas! Just a recommendation, we purchased hexagon tiles for our bathroom from Lowes:

    Looks the same, but is less expensive (maybe, I’m not sure what your relationship is with the tile shop :D )

    Our bathroom, a complete gut job, is going to have the white hex tiles and also gray walls! I can’t wait to see it all come together. We just put up the drywall and installed the radiant heat flooring–so we are getting there! I’m looking forward to your finished product pictures!

    • says

      Thanks for the tip! We pay normal retail price for everything that we buy for our house (we like to keep it real, so we don’t accept perks or freebies) so we just linked over to the stuff we found on The Tile Shop since it’s where we found our cheap penny tile and we love that stuff! But it’s a great reminder to check around with the big box stores to see what’s out there too! Thanks! Wow, and heated flooring in a bathroom sounds amazing.


  3. says

    Love the moodboard – my favorite parts are the hex tile and the blue light fixture. I hope those two elements end up in the bathroom :-) Our master bath is one of those infamous pink bathrooms right out of the 50s – down to the pink toilet, pink bathtub and pink tiles. I can’t bring myself to make even little updates because it really needs a gut job. One of these days….

  4. says

    I repainted our bathroom cabinets when we moved in five years ago and haven’t touched it since. In the past month or so I have started brainstorming and working on a color scheme for it. Maybe your renovation will motivate me to get to work on ours!
    I think the frosted glass tile will look amazing as a border/trim.

  5. says

    We have that same toilet. And our bathroom is like yours in that people LOVE it and it is easily my least-favorite room in our completely un-renovated house. I was so glad when a plumbing emergency forced us to knock a huge hole in the ugly wall so we could move the bathroom WAY up the list.

  6. Peggy says

    We’re in the midst of a master bath remodel, and I just found out from our tile people that it’s ok to tile OVER tile! I don’t know if ya’all already knew that, but it might help your schedule for retiling the floor. Can’t wait to see your finished work!

    • says

      Oh yes, the only thing is that it raises the floor (so there might be a small step up into the space) and sometimes the toilet flange thing in the floor can be affected if there’s a new floor height (you don’t want to bump up the height of the toilet on the new floor without connecting it properly or it’s leak city!). But we hear it can be done, so good luck!


  7. Courtney says

    Do you use a special type of paint for a bathroom ceiling? We have had trouble with the paint peeling over our shower and are preparing to repaint…also, where do you get an extra long shower curtain? My fiance’ is 6’5″ and water shoots everywhere when he is in the shower!!!

    • says

      Sounds like your bathroom might need a fan! That can happen with any paint if it’s not well ventilated. Or you can sand it down, repaint, and crack the window when you shower to try to keep it from happening. We just use regular semi-gloss paint in the bathroom and it seems to work! We got our extra long shower curtain on (by searching 95″ shower curtain I think).


  8. says

    Just wondering, but why don’t you close in the vanity area and open up with wall space so that the toilet doesn’t sit so close to the door. Is it because you like the light that comes in from over the sink? Just wondering.

    • says

      The floor plan just wouldn’t really accommodate that. To get to the sink you have to walk through a doorway, so closing that off to gain more space would keep us from being able to access anything. Haha. We have thought a bunch about reconfiguring the layout but actually don’t mind the sink now since it’s centered with a mirror over it (which reflects our pretty chandelier when we wake up in the morning) but it’s definitely not a traditional layout!


  9. Renee says

    Love the color scheme… redoing a bath under our staircase right now. I don’t understand though… the kitchen isn’t finished, is it? What about the woodwork around the island/bar area? Was that the last thing?

    • says

      Haha, yes, we just needed a break from that! We usually skip around all over the house (inside and outside) and just do things that are most urgent (like replacing an old appliance that burned everything) and then move on to the purely cosmetic stuff by bouncing all over (it keeps morale up when you’re less regimented and give yourself some freedom to skip around- otherwise you can burn out and hate the new kitchen, haha).


  10. Rachel says

    I used contact paper to create a hexagon tile pattern (for privacy) on our front door’s windows. I just cut out tons of little hexagons and placed them in the same pattern as the hex tile picture from your moodboard. Maybe you could do that until you have the budget for your hex tiles…same idea but it’s cheap and removable!

  11. says

    I’m chuckling at anyone who thinks THIS is the room that’s already “done.” I’d take your black & white 2nd bath long before a totally beige “updated” bath. The tiles reminds me of people on House Hunters who talk about needing “upgrades” in their prospective home. I’m excited to see what you guys come up with to make this space work with the rest of your home.

    Our only bathroom has original 1947 peach & black tile up the wall and basket weave floors. I didn’t know what else to do so I painted the walls black and now it’s awesome.

    • braelin says

      Ha- totally. Those House Hunter couples can drive me batty. Also, fun (drinking?) game when watching HH: count how many times they talk about space that would be useful for “entertaining”… I mean really, no one entertains THAT much!

  12. says

    Our tiny bathroom is one of the only rooms in our house we haven’t painted. Sometimes I think about doing it, but for some very strange reason I keep holding off. About to buy some art for it (from here:, so I’m hoping that’ll help.
    Sometimes the smallest rooms are the hardest for me to decide on.

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