Need help with this long, narrow, small, ugly bathroom

teapot100February 25, 2013

We are in the middle of trying to make some very superficial cosmetic changes to our bathroom. This is the original bathroom in our split-level 1970s ranch and not much has changed since it was built.

This is how it looked this morning as we continued to tear down the wallpaper (a pox on mankind!):

Our original plan was to just paint the walls white, but since we're going through all this trouble right now, we thought we could do some almost-no-budget plastic surgery. Fake board-and-batten or bead board wallpaper are possibilities, but what you see here basically has to stay (tub, sink, vanity) because changing them is not in our budget!

Here's a view of the sink/vanity area so you can appreciate the mustard yellow sink (matching tub with sliding glass doors)

If anyone can please give us ideas on what we can do here, I'd much appreciate it. The board-and-batten/bead board look seemed very doable, but I'm wondering if it'll make the fugly vanity/sink/tub/floor look even worse.


This post was edited by teapot100 on Tue, Feb 26, 13 at 8:15

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new vanity and sink, larger mirror over vanity, and lighting

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 9:30PM
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I wish! Like I said in my original post, those changes are not in our budget. Maybe lighting, but that's it.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 9:45PM
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There is a product that Zinsser makes called Gardz, it is a primer. It is supposed to cover wallpaper residue, etc to seal off the wall from the new paint finish. It is a clear product. Then you could paint.

I wouldn't but up any paneling with the tile. I'd just paint. If you wanted to add some detail maybe a painted wood crown molding at the top of the tile. There is a product that Rustolium makes that refinishes countertops to look like stone or something. You could use that product to help get the sink to look better in the room. The marble formica is not working with the mustard.

I might keep the bathroom simple and bold to tie in the bold colors of the cast iron sink and tub. Yellow is popular with gray. Costco has, or had, a Hansgrohe single handle faucet for $65 or so and it has an escutcheon to cover up the 3 hole area of the sink. I think you could make the bathroom cute and bold for not much more than fabric and paint.

I just looked up on Houzz and what did I find but a tiled wall mixed with paneling :) I have linked at the bottom the search I did for mustard sink. Look on page 3 for the paneling above tiled wainscot.

Here is an article about "mustard" on Houzz and here is the link:

Here is a link that might be useful: Houzz search for mustard sink

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 10:13PM
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I'm not a design person by any stretch if the imagination. But I think a grey/gold/white color scheme might work nice. I'd paint the cabinets a slightly darker grey than what's in the counter. Then paint the walls a lighter shade similar to or lighter than the counter. Get white curtains. Get a grey close to the cabinet color rug for in front of the sink and/or toilet. Can you remove the shower doors? Replacing with a coordinated curtain will be easier to clean and look updated. Try Target or similar for a new mirror. A new faucet will also look updated, you can find them pretty reasonable at a mass market store. Same for new light fixture. Check sales and clearance.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 11:44PM
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If you'd really like to replace the vanity etc. Keep an eye open when garage sales start up. Also check out your local Restore and craigs list. You'd be surprised what you can find for very cheap and some times free. You won't be able to do it immediately but it could happen with very little investment in $$.

good luck.


    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 12:00AM
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You can buy a replacement sink/vanity at any box store for around $200. Keep your eyes open for specials. Or on Craigslist. Just saw a really nice one on my Craigslist for $75 with the top. I wouldn't waste a whole lot of time on the existing one other than maybe some "oops" paint if I found the right color. Nor would I put up wallpaper on walls that I just struggled so hard to remove it! Sand the walls smooth and prime with a shellac based primer. Sand again, and prime again. You should be ready for a coat of paint now.

For the tub, a fabric shower curtain can help to conceal it until the budget recovers enough to fully tackle this project like it deserves.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 7:53AM
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Thank you all for the wonderful ideas! I was so stuck on the mustard yellow, that I couldn't think beyond that. Found some great inspiration from the houzz link too. Someday soon we'll be able to replace the tub and sink/vanity, but these temporary fixes will help in the meantime.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 8:30AM
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@GreenDesigns - do you mean to cover up the sliding doors with a shower curtain or remove the doors and replace with a shower curtain? My husband wants to keep the doors because it's easier to bathe the dog (keep her in the tub), but I'm trying to convince him that we need to lose them (the sliding doors)

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 9:44AM
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Loose the sliding doors and get a pretty fabric curtain. You can even make one from a twin flat sheet. I have a sewing machine and put in button holes for the shower curtain rings. Could match fabric to window, or not. Or a coordinating fabric. If DH still insists on keeping the doors, cover with shower curtain anyway. Is this used often, or just for dogs? Either way, I'd cover the doors.

I wouldn't do the wallpaper either, if you're not replacing the vanity. As other said, grey will look great with the yellow. Have a small touch of yellow in any fabric you bring into the room, but not much - small touch.

Paint the vanity a shade or two darker than the walls. Replace the knobs with handles to get closer in scale with the large doors. If you could swing a new light and faucet that would be great. If not, both, light fixture first.

The floor can be covered some with a rug.

What's in the niche just past the door (right wall)?

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 10:55AM
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We were in the same situation several years ago. We replaced the ugly medicine cabinet above the sink with a huge mirror ($30 at Big Lots) and sconces (under $60 Home Depot). We were stuck with the pink tub, toilet, and pink/white faux marble vanity top and sink. We took took down the shower doors and hung a curtain - dark red/gold. We painted a neutral cream color. New dark red towels, new sink faucet, and towel bars. Total was under $300. We eventually replaced the toilet and flooring for another $200.

It looked MUCH better and we were happy with it until we could save enough to replace vanity, sink, and tub.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 12:07PM
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Do you have a Habitat for Humanity Restore near you? I purchased a perfectly acceptable sink for an apartment for, I think, $15.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 4:29PM
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It looks better already!

The floor and the sink match, and look good with the white walls. I would spend my money on a big mirror from Big Lots or Ross or craigslist; a new light above the mirror, white paint, and a shower curtain to tie in the gold sink and floor. Bright white rugs on the floor. Accessories add up though, so you might want to save that money and replace the vanity top and sink instead.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 12:51AM
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Thanks again! This is our sole bathroom of the house so the dog, kids and grown-ups all use it for various reasons.

I'm looking for new mirrors - perhaps one a little taller, but similar in width so that my kids can see themselves in it at last. We can lose the medicine cabinet.

Flooring - yes, the floor and the sink match, but so does the tub so that's a lot of mustard/gold yellow going on in that little room!

I like the mustard and grey suggestions, but it was this bathroom that really jumped out at me from those among the ones on houzz that enduring linked to:

On another website, a poster showed her bathroom redo and she had used hex sheet vinyl!;sk=t&sd=a&sid=d3adc35a2146fd605bee34fca1d81896&start=30

This might be doable in our budget currently as a real tile floor is years away. After seeing this floor, I'm sure any other sheet vinyl floor will be a huge disappointment if we decide to replace the mustard/gold/yellow.

We are puttng Gardz on our walls right now and for some reason I thought that stuff was low-odour, but after 10 minutes, the kids and I are taking a long break from it.

I'm liking this challenge of a partial makeover in a very tight budget. Makes the hunt for things more fun.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 12:20PM
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That gold and turquoise looks great together. It's amazing what nice clean white paint and good color choices can do.
I'm partial to that Danze faucet in the second photo since I just installed it in my bathroom :)

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 1:35PM
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That Houzz picture is NICE! That mustard tile must have a more sophisticated name. How about "Opaque Gold" ;)

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 6:59PM
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Just wanted to second the idea of getting a cheap mirror. I've seen really nice ones at DD's Discounts, Marshall's, and Ross.

Also I second the suggestion about looking at Habitat for Humanity's ReStore (if there's one in your area). I visited the local one and they had TONS of sinks dirt cheap!

You can paint your vanity if you want. At least it seems like it's in okay shape.

Painting the walls also is a really cheap fix that will work wonders!

I envy you the window in your bathroom! My crappy little bathroom doesn't even have that! Wanna trade bathrooms? :-)

I sympathize with you as I'm also trying to re-do a too-small and boring bathroom on a budget.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 9:15PM
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@allison0704 - I'm sorry I missed your question earlier. There's just wall on the right side beyond the door and then the tub/shower. It's a cramped space!

@Jodokus - yes! I am so thankful for the window! The vanity just doesn't work for us (it's too big for the room, lots of awkward storage space going unused), but we have to live with it for the time being. And you're right - at least it's in OK shape!

    Bookmark   March 1, 2013 at 12:49AM
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Ah, I see the baseboard peeking out now. Thought maybe it was a niche of some sort.

Here's a few color suggestions:

    Bookmark   March 1, 2013 at 7:33AM
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@allison0704 - thank you for the inspiration! The mustard yellow/gold and turquoise combo is a fave. We're trying to decide on paint color (white, white, white or white?)

    Bookmark   March 1, 2013 at 8:32AM
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As you may already know, when you look at whites be mindful of the undertones and choose accordingly. I think of whites as color, just very pale color. When you get the right combo it sings.

Currently I have a very cool white in my gray bathroom. When my cabinet maker was using the color to paint up the cabinets he thought it was just "white", until he compared it to a white he had, then he could really see the coolness of it compared to his (warm) white. A warmer white might have looked ok but with my color scheme I think this one looks better. OTOH in my kitchen where I have cherry cabinets my ceiling color is a warm white and looks nice, where as the cool white not so good.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2013 at 10:34AM
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That's my favorite too. I just love the turquoise. I think you need to go big or go home. Turquoise paint (like the yellow walls with grey tile picture). Turquoise main color for the rug. Turquoise with yellow and white for the shower curtain. Since you're keeping the sink and faucets, you need to work some grey in the room.

I would be tempted to find the shower curtain first, and pull the colors from it. Here are a few examples.

Bed Bath and Beyond:

More aquamarine, than turquoise:

Just ran across this bathroom:


Amy Butler designs/makes some great fabrics you could make into shower curtain:

Waverly at Joann's

Fabric Guru is a great source for inexpensive yardage:

Here is a link that might be useful: Fabric Guru

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 11:32AM
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Thank you again for the visual inspiration!

What are other's thoughts on a curtain for a bathroom closet? The door to the bathroom and the bathroom closet door are practically perpendicular to each other on adjoining walls and so they are constantly being bashed into each other if one is left open. We took down the doors for painting and we're quite liking the extra space right now.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2013 at 9:32PM
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Do you even need a curtain? can you paint the inside to look like it was an intentional "nook". Maybe add some plug in LED light to add some zing. Or a battery LED puck light.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2013 at 9:52PM
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I agree. Can you paint it out and store things in wicker baskets. Maybe skirt the bottom half, if needed to hide excess storage.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2013 at 10:48PM
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