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. Ashlee says

    Are you guys painting the tile? I am about to start a kitchen redo (inspired by you guys!) and it’s full of salmon colored square tile, I’m determined to repaint it but nervous, have you guys ever painted tile?

    • says

      We haven’t but we hear that professional reglazing is the best way to go for something that doesn’t flake and peel off. We had it done on our first house’s tub and it looked great!


    • Mahal says

      there was painted tile in our bathroom. It had started to chip and peel, and I HAD to take paint remover to it – it was coming off every time I cleaned the bathroom.

      If it’s high-traffic tile,I wouldn’t risk painting it.

  2. Ericka says

    That’s so funny that you mention your Kohler toilet vs. the American Standard one. We have the same ones and the Kohler toilet has given us nothing but problems (running forever after having been flushed and getting clogged by my kids with their overabundant use of TP:) but the American Standard one has been problem free since day one. I’m pretty sure our Kohler one was more expensive too. The American Standard one we bought first. WHY didn’t we buy that one again for our other bathroom?! Live and learn:)

  3. says

    We have a master bathroom so untouched that it still has plywood floors and sheet-rocked walls. At least it has that! We did buy a toilet this weekend, but the tile is what’s delaying progress. With so many cool options, we just can’t decide! We also have the sink nook off the bedroom, so at least we have that in working order. Good luck! I’m excited to see the progress!

  4. Casey Cope says

    What about adding a wall + door to the current opening and then removing the door/wall to the toilet and closet. You can have one super bathroom, you won’t have to see the sink from the bed, and then you’ll have a bigger stretch of blank wall in your room (maybe for the old, smaller TV)? you still have a window in your room so it won’t steal too much light.

    • says

      Yes, we’ve thought about that but it’s just such an awkward layout that we really think it works best as is! If we knocked down some walls we’d be left with a space that’s 5′ wide and 18′ long- which is definitely still very skinnnnnny and oddly long (our closet, sink, and bathroom stuff would just look lined up in a bowling alley- haha). We actually love the open doorway to the sink with the mirror that reflects our chandelier over it!


    • Casey says

      Haha true – I was trying to appeal to your love of “openness” by breaking up the three pieces into one but didn’t think of the width as being so skinny it would probably do the reverse and make it feel more cramped. Luckily you’re clean/clutter-free people so the sink area actually just looks like a bright shelf from the bedroom!

      I have a theory on why people ignore bathrooms. A) They’re always way expensive per square foot when compared to the rest of your home. B) They’re intimidating to DIY because of plumbing. C) It’s an investment you can’t take with you. It’s much nicer to spend money on furniture you can keep in case you move!

  5. Monika says

    Since you have found that moving lights is not that big of a deal, maybe you can relocate the light for in front of the window? The blue light would look so pretty there with the sun shining behind it. :)

  6. Amy says

    We are about to renovate our bathroom, and we managed to score a dual flush toilet at Lowes for $98! That might be something you want to check out…I don’t know if they still have it on sale, but we were really excited about it. Good luck! :)

  7. Lauren says

    Seeing your in-progress shot already makes your tile look different! It looked really tan in the before pics but already is more toned down/grey-ish in the progress pic! Nice work!!

    Our master bath is also currrently untouched… it makes me sad lol. It has a 1970s counter and grody old sink, weird futuristic light over the mirror, and carpet (blegh)… we’ve been working on a game plan for years but I hope we can get started soon. The major obstacle is the giant wall between the toilet and sink that houses the fireplace flue and plumbing lines… I wish we could demolish it!!! Oh well :-)

  8. Amber V. says

    love love love. We have purchased all of the pieces for our bathroom reno and the tiling commences in a few weeks.

    We went to the tile shop to look at the very same 2″ hex tile but we ended up buying it from Lowes for more than half of the price. We are planning on using a gray grout with the white tile so that we dont have to worry about the grout looking dirty after a few years.

    I’m excited that our projects are taking place around the same time. I’ve never been able to play along befrore =0).

    Good luck!

  9. Erin says

    Love love love that wall/ceiling color! it is going to freshen up that beige tile like crazy. I’m excited to see your progress with this latest challenge.

    Ou bathrooms were remodeled maybe 10 years ago, and they each have beige faux-travertine tile. I’d love to change it, but like yours it’s all still in perfectly fine condition, so we’re sticking with it for now.

  10. Katie Rose says

    My dad made it my job to remove an old & ugly wallpaper border that had sat above the tile in our upstairs bathroom. I did this maybe a year and a half ago. To this day, he has done nothing further! We have marble floor tile (very light grey with darker grey veins) with white tile about halfway up all the walls. I think a light grey or a purpley grey would be ideal for the walls/ceiling. The man is just too lazy to get to it! It is such a small room too, something that could probably be knocked out in a day. Maybe I should offer?

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