Meghan’s Dilemma: Ideas Anyone?

You guys. You’re varsity. Once again, I was blown away by the 500+ awesome and fun ideas that you shared – along with some pretty amazing photoshop skillz – for Jamie’s design roadblock last week. There’s nothing like a group brainstorming session, and Jamie’s so excited about all of the options she has to explore (and has promised us after pics when she’s done). So let’s dive right into Meghan’s dilemma, because I can’t wait to hear your take.

Say hello to my little friend! Yes, I have a giant Scar Face bathtub. My husband and I bought our 1987 home a little over a year ago. We have been up to our eyeballs in projects but are making steady headway in making this house our home! But this is the one place where I still scratch head and walk out of the room more confused then when I walked in – and this is our master bathroom, so that happens a lot! Note: for anyone who wants to play around in photoshop, just click this image to enlarge it – and you can share your creation in the comments by linking to it on a free photo-sharing site like Flickr or Pinterest.

This bathtub is. huge. And my husband hates it, but it’s not in our budget to tear it out. Should I tile or beadboard the front? Put shelves or bookcases on the side? And what do you put inside said bookcases? I need something to mask it and make the space more functional. Thank you! – Meghan

Once again, I just started off staring at that before photo, trying to picture things and work out what could go where. Then I dragged it into photoshop to test out a few ideas. Here was my first thought:

I love the idea of some white bookshelves (I don’t think I’ve ever met a built-in I didn’t like) so I brought two of those in to flank the tub. They add some nice height and draw the eye to the pretty stained glass window in the middle. I also beefed up the trim around the window a bit, just for some nice balance. The backs of the bookcases could even get a soft blue-gray paint job (like Aqua Smoke by Behr) to pick up on the tones in the stained glass window, and the walls could be painted a light sand color (like Hazelnut Cream by Behr) to tie into the existing tub and floor color. As for those shelves, bathroom-y stuff like this could be nice:

  • fluffy extra towels
  • textured baskets
  • glass containers (like these) filled with sea sponges, loofas, or something decorative like sea glass
  • pretty bottles of bubble bath or bath salts/oils
  • a stack of mags to read (I can never manage to keep reading material dry in the tub, but hopefully Meghan’s more coordinated)
  • some candles to burn while bathing (or those flickering battery operated ones if she’s skeered of fire on a bookshelf)
  • beachy keepsakes, like jars of sand/rocks/shells – or even labeled little vacation jars like these all lined up

Oh and I really liked Meghan’s mention of redoing the front of those steps with something white to cut all of that tan tub tone. I think three fun options she could go with are:

  • white subway tile
  • white beadboard (they make bathroom friendly beadboard that stands up to moisture)
  • white horizontal planks (they also make bathroom-safe boards to avoid rot)

Meghan could just attach the sheets of beadboard or thin horizontal planks under the lip of each step with some adhesive that’s meant to hold up in a bathroom (gotta make sure it can weather steam and moisture). Or she could tile it if she’d rather have something shinier (I think white grout would be a good choice since anything too high contrast might look busy with the pattern/movement on the surface of the tub).

Next I tried for something a little more dramatic but still soothing: a dark green tone (like Mermaid Net by Behr) on the backs of those bookcases, light blue on the walls (like Country Mist by Behr) and a new color (a soft putty tone) on the surface of that step and the entire tub. Once again the stained glass window served as my color inspiration, so I worked from there, and I beefed up the white trim around it, just to make it feel nice and proportionate.

It’s not clear if the tub can be professionally reglazed, but getting an estimate from a local reglazing expert (we used one for our first house’s tub and loved the results) would determine if that material could undergo a color change, which is always a nice way to affordably update a tub that you can’t afford to replace. Oh and replacing the tub’s hardware with something in a brushed nickel, chrome, or oil-rubbed bronze finish would update things even if the tub ends up not being reglaze-able.

Lastly, I thought built-ins in that entire nook could be another way to go.

This photo feels a little busier, but it could just be my photoshop shortcomings. I also tried to give Meghan more ideas for what could live on those shelves since I had more space to play with (although the shelves along the back might need to be narrower, so candles and bubble bath could go there and deeper items like towels could end up on the shelves on the side). I think if she’s worried about anything feeling cluttered or busy, just keeping the items on the shelves in a soft neutral palette would work well.

Oh and a few other options that came to mind were that Meghan could…

  • add glass doors to the bookcases for a glammy upscale feeling (this could be helpful if she doesn’t want items getting steamy, but less convenient if she wants easier access)
  • paint the frame around the window the same deep charcoal color that’s in the stained glass (it could make that window even more of a focal point)
  • hunt down some subtle gleaming tile (perhaps some small glass mosaic ones in a soft celery tone) and tile the entire back wall around the window with them for added interest
  • find a tiny bathrobe to put on the cat, just so he’s feeling the luxury too

So those are a few thoughts I had about Meghan’s little friend. Can’t wait to read all of the other ideas you guys have for her – and of course to hear what she thinks!

Psst – Got a particularly tricky spot or a dilemma in a certain area of your house? Please submit at least three photos of the space along with a quick sketch of the floor plan and a short description about what has you stumped to


  1. Gem says

    I love this tub! Not sure about the colour but the tub itself looks so luxurious. I would go for option 2 if possible but if not, option 1.

  2. Addie says

    Oh my, that’s quite a tub! I really liked the second photoshopped option, I think it looks classic and makes good use of the space. Good luck to Meghan!

  3. Allyn says

    I had the same thoughts as you . . . lots of nice shelving around the tub. But one thing I think would make it truly fabulous: a wall/shelf-mounted television! That’s one extra touch that would make me never want to leave the bathtub!!

  4. Sarah says

    I would see if you can get the tub re-glazed. That will give it an instant updated feel without breaking the bank.

    A dark grey tub and steps with white risers would be striking. Then do the built-in’s like Sherry offered above.

  5. Tara says

    Love the idea of built ins on the side only. I’ve seen medium to small pictures hung over these types of shelves which is a great way to break up all those lines. Maybe even add an outlet for a small tv? I would opt for horizontal planks bottom of the tub since its more budget friendly.

  6. Pbkmaine says

    I love the built ins, but if you’re not handy, what about looking for some ready made bookcases about the same size? Bright white woodwork and trims, sandy walls to match the tub, accent colors out of the window.

  7. Emily R says

    I would save my pennies for a future date when I could afford to tear it out. I’d be hesitant to do too much now that you’d have to tear out later. That is quite a tub.

    • Meg M says

      I completely agree with Emily. Save your money and just live with it until you can afford to tear it out.

    • mary says

      This was my first thought, too. I think you could spend $500-$1000 on a bandaid solution or $1500 on demo/re-do.

    • says

      I admit I kind of agree with this. If you can absolutely not live with it a second longer, totally go for a change. If you can though, I’d take the money you’d spend on materials and put it away towards tearing this out down the line. If your husband hates it now and it’s a space/shape issue than any changes won’t fix it (it might just be tolerable), since you won’ the fixing either the space it takes up or it’s shape. If it’s a hatred due to color, then a reglaze might help.

    • Peggy says

      I agree about waiting for a permanent fix.
      I feel your pain- we lived with our hideous beast of a tub for 5+ years. Just remodeled last year and have no tub in the master bath; just the shower. And I gained a walk in closet!

    • MLB says

      Usually I’m with John and Sherry on the in between step until you can afford a full reno, but this time, I think I agree with Emily. I think I’d almost rather do a very careful demo of just the tub (looks like all those pieces are separate for the sides and steps), and pick up a freestanding tub at a reuse center. If the walls are unfinished when removed, a couple pieces of drywall are cheaper than adding built-ins. The tile is the only hard part. Either way, I find most super ugly things are much better when you start from “subtract and see where we are.”

    • says

      Meghan dropped in with some more info in the comments for you guys if it helps. There’s just not a reno in the cards for her family and they truly want to work with this tub for the long haul (their kids love the size of it and the shower is also the same material – so simply gutting the tub isn’t going to solve their issues). I totally agree that if you’re not interested in keeping something around for the long run, there should definitely be a limit to how much money you sink into it, only to tear it out down the line.


    • says

      I COMPLETELY and whole-heartedly agree with Emily. I feel like any investment made into making this work (which to be blunt, I think is impossible) would be wasted money.

    • says

      We have a huge 1980’s tub in green, but we love it! It’s the only tub my 6’2″ tall hubby can stretch his legs out in! Wouldn’t trade it for the world! Ok, maybe we would trade out the color! Hahaha

  8. says

    Love the ideas Sherry came up with. If you didn’t want to commit too much (in case your still planning on tearing it out) you could hang some shelves on either side of the tub. Maybe paint the trim on the window as well. I would think painting the room a different color would help lighten things up. Wish I had photoshop cause I would love to draw something up for ya!!

    I would also want to know what the rest of your bathroom and master bedroom looked like – i.e. what is your style??

    • says

      For those who can’t (or don’t want to) afford Photoshop, GIMP is a good option. It has most of the features and is a little less user friendly, but gets the job done!

  9. Carla says

    Since the tub is going to get yanked out someday (and probably sooner than later), I wouldn’t spend money on anything other than some paint for the walls, several plants, a platter for a bunch of candles (that you actually use), some statuary like a large bronzed Buddha tucked in the back corner, and some canvases for word art.

    • Carla says

      It will cost several hundred dollars to reglaze the entire beast of a tub. Put a large colorful rug on the floor in front of the steps, and just focus on making the tub area earthy, calm and inviting.

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