Full Reveal of My Modern Bathroom Renovation + 4 Tips For Where To Splurge and When To Save

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Well, the new bidet works. 

I definitely just laughed out loud and may even have snorted a little as I sit here writing out what happened the other day at Easter. 

My eldest sister, Erin, (who, mind you, has a genius IQ) was in the middle of her tour of our new master bathroom when she apparently didn’t know what the little knob on the side of the toilet was for. So of course, she bent over to look at it and twisted the knob. All.The.Way.

Helloooooooo old faithful. And a toilet-water soaked sister.

And then there were three of us on the sidelines. Pretty much dying of laughter. And definitely not helping her. 

That said, our bathroom is finally done. It was one of my top spaces to renovate when we bought this fixer-upper. The peach, gold, beige, and brown 90’s decor vomit just wasn’t doing it for me. Shocking, I know.

So here was the reno plan: replace floor tile, get new countertops, paint walls and cabinets, tear out existing shower insert and tile it, tile the entire back wall, and few new finishes and smaller items like mirrors, lighting, toilet, and shower door. Now, if I lived a perfect world, this bathroom would also have had a new freestanding bathtub, custom vanities with a boatload of more storage, and we would have expanded the footprint of the shower (Lord knows I love a LOOONNNGG shower where I pretty much just plop myself on the floor and sit right under the shower head).

A “before” picture from one of the real estate listings.

A “before” picture from one of the real estate listings.

But alas, my world is far from perfect (and I quite prefer it that way - perfect is boring). In this case, our budget was way lower than I would have liked since our timeline for completing this project was bumped up by about a year. We weren’t planning on tackling the bathroom update until next summer, but our foundation decided to give out last fall and caused a ton of leaks upstairs in our bathroom … leaking all kinds of gooey brown disgustingness and smelly water all over my kitchen and dining room. From there, it was just a slippery slope of one “small” fix to doing a complete renovation. It started with our shower pan that was cracked and leaking, but the shower was a cheap ‘ole 90’s insert, so the whole shower had to be torn out. Other than that, there were no other “real problems” in the bathroom that we knew about. But OF COURSE you’re thinking, why do all that work to redo the shower and not fancy up the rest of the place?

Me and you, we’re on the same page.

And so we redid the whole bathroom. I wanted it to feel bright, light, slick, and modern with just a hint of whimsy and fun. The rest of my house has been updated to a modern eclectic aesthetic, and the bathroom needed to be cohesive. But, it also had to be good for resell, so no super polarizing choices.

Here is all the shiny white and matte black goodness…

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I decided to take the wall tile all the way up to the ceiling and expand it across the back wall. The bathroom has unique angles and a tall ceiling so I wanted to show off its assets. To bring your eye up and make the room feel more grand, I had the tile laid in a vertical brick rather than your standard horizontal brick pattern. So that the grand wall of tile wasn’t jarringly white, I used a contrasting black grout, and carried it throughout the floor and shower floor tile as well. Though, to be honest, I also did black grout because I have a thing with white grout. The thing is that I hate it. White grout is so impractical in an area with soap, scum, and moisture — making it impossible to keep it looking clean. It’s like the equivalent of wearing white pants when you’re the mom of a toddler. STOOO.PID.

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I removed the door on the linen closet, painted the inset black and gave it some wooden shelves to give it a more modern, edgy look (and there were just too many doors in this small of a space). The oversized mirrors had to go, and were replaced with simple 38” black framed round mirrors. We added a few white lacquer uppers to the middle of the vanity for additional storage, and I specifically chose lacquer to mirror the polished white on the wall tiles.

Overall, I love how it turned out and I’m not sure I would have done anything differently.

And since we were on a tighter budget, there had to be places we splurged and places we needed to save. Here were my top four:

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  1. SAVE: Sink faucets. We were planning on salvaging our current faucets, but they got cracked when they were removed. So, I got these cute little vintage-looking ones for ONLY $32/each! While I wanted to go matte black to match my new shower head, the bathtub hardware had to stay put (and is ugly chrome and gold), so I needed to find faucets that married the tub fixture with the shower fixture.

    SPLURGE: Shower head and knob. This 8” square matte black fixture was a pretty penny at a little over $300 and worth every cent. It shoots out water at just the right pressure, looks gorgeous, and makes the shower “experience’ feel lux. Seriously. Makes me feel like I’m in one of those weird tropical Herbal Essences commercials (and don’t pretend you don’t know exactly what I’m talking about). Who wants to completely update your bathroom and then have your cheapo shower head spit on you like a dainty southern woman. No way jose.

  2. SAVE: Wall tile. I tiled the shower walls, plus the entire wall next to the shower. And while my contractor pretty much hated me for it, it turned out spectacularly gorgeous and is definitely a “WOW” factor. That said, it was a lot of square footage to cover and would have completely broke the budget if I picked a pricey item. The tile I chose was only about $1.75/sq ft! It’s a high polished white ceramic 12x24.

    SPLURGE: Shower floor tile. There’s only a tiny amount of square footage to cover here, so splurge away! Adding a super fun pattern or splash of color to your shower floor and niche is a really great and affordable way to give your bathroom a unique and custom look. The plaid slate mosaic I chose was about $10/sq. ft.

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3. SAVE: Keeping existing cabinetry and painting them instead. I don’t love the look of my cabinets but it was just not in the budget to get new ones. So I painted them black to minimize the dated curve that the cabinet has, and it definitely gave them new life.

SPLURGE: New countertops, ESPECIALLY if you can’t get new cabinets — they will completely and immediately update the space. I opted for a clean white quartz with a slight grey speckle. I love veining in quartz, but it would have been too busy with my floor tiles. Quartz is a killer option for bathroom countertops and is nearly indestructible. Quartz pricing is all over the place, based on thickness, veining, etc. My slab cost about $1,000 which, while a splurge for this bathroom and budget, is actually quite low for new counters.

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4. SAVE: Labor for low-skill projects. We opted to DIY the wall painting and demo-ing the previous tile floor and baseboards. Both these projects saved well over $1500 - $2000 worth of labor and took us two days to complete. The skill level needed for these was very low which is why we felt like we could just tackle it ourselves.

SPLURGE: Labor for drywall, properly waterproofing the shower, laying tile and grouting. The numero uno cost in a renovation is labor, NOT materials. And honestly, it should be. Let the professionals do the things that need to be professionally done aka DON’T CUT CORNERS. (If you’re in the DFW area, I highly recommend Agape Home Services!)

All in all, the renovation took about one month from start to finish, cost a total of $17,000, and, in my opinion, totally transformed the space from peach and dated to bright, modern, and fresh. Comment below on your thoughts!

Next week I’ll be sharing with you the one item that is often forgotten in a bathroom design that is a MUST HAVE. Hint, it debuts a few times in the pics above as a sneak peek, but you’ll get the full scoop next week!

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