Cheap & Charming: Our $50 Bathroom Makeover

The guest bath = so much cuter. That sweet little space reminds me that even small seemingly “stuck” spaces can shine with a few easy upgrades, like fresh paint, a new window treatment, some art, and a few mixed and matched accessories. Sometimes it’s fun to embrace an old feature like vintage yellow tile (complete with a floor that looks like a scrabble board) instead of hammer-drilling it out of there. So stick a fork in this baby… for around $50, she’s a whole lot easier on the eyes.

The room has this casual Anthropologie-ish vibe now, which isn’t usually something I’m very good at pulling off – so all the credit goes to the items that were already there (like the original white sink and that sweet 60’s tile). And it definitely didn’t hurt to add some art and a few accessories to fill the voids. Here’s a before shot taken from the same doorway about a week after we moved into our house:

Thank goodness the I-can-see-my-full-body-while-I’m-on-the-toilet mirror is gone, eh?

It’s a tiny room, so please excuse my lack of diverse and all-encompassing shots. The print hanging over the toilet is just a page I tore out of the September issue of Real Simple last year (I keep a flat tupperware box under the bed in the guest room full of “someday art” – so I sifted through it and thought the colors – and the water/fishing thing – was cute for a bathroom). The frame is from Target and came with the mat for $22.

I like how the softer white frame and art works with the deeper mirror and light fixture. Instead of competing and feeling busy, the art falls back and the charcoal mirror over the sink (which I painted Silhouette by Benjamin Moore) says “look I’m the focal point.” Both of the P hand towels are from West Elm (from two different readers at book signings, which was such a fun surprise). And that lemon tea towel is also from someone at a signing. So glad we found a spot for them :)

Dag guest bathroom, why you gotta be so sweet? Here’s where I’ll insert John’s terrible third grade joke about how you have to have two monogrammed P towels in a bathroom because that’s where the pee pee goes. Please forgive him.

And for those requesting a shot of the shower opening, it’s a crazy-tight room, so this is the best I could muster. But you can see the art that hangs across from the mirror a little better. That’s just an old fabric remnant (from U-Fab last year) that I slapped in a frame.

I like that it relates to the brighter yellow tiles in the floor as well as the pops of yellow in the guest room. And here’s a shot of the bottom of the shower, so you can see how that tile lip keeps the curtain from encroaching on the sink. And because it’s polyester (just like a typical fabric shower curtain liner) we just wash it to keep it clean. So far, so good (it’s been in use for 6 months).

This is the view from the guest room, which is nice and tied in, thanks to everything from the blue window shade and the turkish towel on the door (don’t they look cute next to the polka dot curtains?).

It’s so funny how an old yellow bathroom that used to feel like “the weird room” in our house suddenly fits right in.

Here’s what we did in there to snap it into shape:

  • painted the walls, trim, and ceiling (we did that here)
  • frosted the window for privacy (we did that here)
  • made a window treatment with a bold fabric remnant (we did that here)
  • painted the frame of the mirror so it stands out more
  • hung some art over the toilet and across from the mirror
  • went accessory happy

How you like me now, list? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

And here’s our budget breakdown:

  • fresh white paint for the walls, ceiling, and trim (all Decorators White by Benjamin Moore): $25 (for a quart)
  • paint for the mirror (Silhouette by Benjamin Moore): $0 (already owned)
  • art for above the toilet: $22 (frame: Target, art: a free page torn from Real Simple)
  • coral fabric art that you see in the mirror: $0 (yellow coral fabric remnant + frame we already had)
  • fabric remnant for the window treatment: $4 (from U-Fab by Iman)
  • frosting film for the window: $0 (already owned from other projects like this)
  • hand towels, plant, bath towel, and soap: $0 (all already owned)
  • TOTAL SPENT: $51 (it would probably be around $70 total if you didn’t already have mirror paint, hand towels, & frosting film)

And that’s why I love accessorizing. The end.

Is anyone else framing pages from Real Simple, painting mirrors, or bringing some P’s into the bathroom? Don’t knock it until you try it…


  1. says

    NICE! It’s so funny how we forget sometimes…the little details and a bit of color really make ALL the difference. I love the update!! And it’s fun that you didn’t have to do anything huge to get such a great outcome!

    Made me think of fashion…ha, sorry to turn it back to ME (but I guess it’s what we bloggers DO). I started a fashion series (simple, fun outfits for real people). Love for you to SEEEEE:

    (details and pops of color) ;)

    Nice job as always guys!


  2. Sandra F says

    I LOVE how you worked with the tile instead of tearing it all out. My husband and I have some ugly tan/peach tile that I”m trying to figure out how to work with. Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. Clare says

    Wow – I love this update! and I am enjoying the continual inspiration for me not just frame what’s officially “art” but whatever pretty/cute/applicable/funny? image strikes my fancy. Looks great!!

  4. says

    Another victory for you guys! It all looks intentional and not like you were trying to work with what you had, if that makes sense. I have to admit in a weird flash I wondered what that awesome penny tile in your kitchen would look like on the floor. I’ve always liked yellow and gray together.

    I love using calendar pages as art. I love putting big ol’ calendars on my wishlist and have people buy them for me and then I can get it for free! WOO HOO!

    • says

      Oh man, I’ve thought about that too! The little scrabble-ish floor tile is my favorite of the vintage tile though (the walls are just subway, but the little squares on the floor make me smile).


  5. Nikki says

    I love the way the bathroom turned out with the old tile! The tile and shower set up look just like the showers in my college dorms at Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, IN.

  6. says

    It looks beautiful!

    P’s are special to us, as we has a game when I was in labor with Susanna. Each goal word had a P sound: proceed, respirate, push, etc. I don’t remember all of them, but it made us laugh.

    The words ended with our daughter whose middle name is Hope. I still stress the P sound to her and she laughs!

  7. Ainhoa says

    I was skeptical of the yellow tile but I have to say, you really pulled it off and made it work! The first shot especially is lovely.

  8. Jessica says

    I love that you embraced the vintage rather than tearing out all that adorable yellow tile. That striped hand towel is to die for and I never would have guessed that the art was torn from a magazine page. I can never find art worthy magazine pages. I just can’t believe you guys managed to make that kind of shower stall look cute. I had one once and it always felt very “locker room.” Have you had any guests over since finishing the bathroom?

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