Powder Bath | DIY

Thursday, March 08, 2012

We bought a house last year, just north of New Orleans, and although the place has lovely bones the decor is stuck in the 80's. Fluffy carpeting and shell sinks. So while we want to add our own touch, we don't want to go in debt doing so nor do we want to trade in travel and dining on a whim. Therefore it's all being re-done slowly, and on a budget. If you're in a similar place, here's how we re-did our powder bathroom primarily by ourselves, and for 1/2 of our initial budget.

Below is a pretty sad picture of that little bathroom. We tackled this room first because it was the most gaudy and the smallest. Textured shiny gold walls, golden vessel sink, biscuit colored toilet with gold handles, and hand detailed fleur-de-lis outlet plates. Our initial thought was to scrap it to the studs and start all over, and we pursued that plan until the quote from our contractor came in at $4,000 + materials. At 2x our budget, we went straight to Plan B:

Work with the existing, and do the work ourselves.
The walls were the biggest issue, quite honestly. That textured wall that was popular years ago, I just wanted to replace it with new drywall but it was too expensive. So I imagined it with a coat of modern color, and thought it would work. I painted straight over the gold with a pale grey, and all kidding aside, that alone instantly updated the space. But I kept going. The next big problem to tackle was the vanity, and all the golden that came along with it - golden sink, golden faucet, golden cabinets. Again, I imagined the piece completely timeless and modernized, and bright white is a sure way to accomplish that. So we popped the golden sink off the black granite countertop, and in its place we put a white ceramic one. The bronzed faucet, though really nice, just didn't work with the look I was going for so it too was replaced with a new chrome one. Modernizing the sad brown wooden vanity cabinets was a larger chore.
Not going to lie here, it was the most tedious and time consuming piece to all of this. But if you take the time to do this right, you'll be impressed with the outcome. I removed the doors and hinges, then sanded the entire thing to get the glossy sheen off, which is a must, you can't skip this step otherwise the paint won't adhere to the wood. After properly sanding, I primed the doors & cabinets (inside & out), then applied 2 coats of bright white paint. New chrome knobs and hinges completed the piece. The last big thing to do was to deal with the toilet, and we were scared at first. But we bought a high-efficiency one and did it ourselves. This is also a meticulous process but can easily be done yourself, just be sure to follow the directions, that waxy seal is a big deal!
Then it was on to the fun part, my part - accessorizing & personalizing the space. The golden mirror & light fixture came down and were replaced with sleek modern pieces. Not wanting to muddy up the walls too much, the only items that went up were a chrome towel ring to hold a herringbone black & khaki hand towel, and a few pictures.

I found these old images in a junk shop in Prague last fall, paid $4 for each, yes, but you don't need to go to Prague to have the same feel. Just take your camera with you next time you're out doing something that you love to do, snap a few photos, convert them to black and white and frame them up. Or I'm sure you've got some photos hanging around that you love but just weren't sure what to do with them. Don't stick 'em in an album, frame them! A sure way to wow-up a space is by adding things that won't be seen in any other home. Personalized art and photos from travel are the way to go. There's a story there that you won't get from big-box artifacts. That picture on the opposite wall is of Amalfi, Italy at night, bought at a market in Boulder, Colorado the summer before getting to visit the exact same city with a friend.

And here's the finished deal! So different from where we started, right? I just love,
P r o d u c t s:
Kraus Chrome Faucet, $150 (overstock.com)
Kohler Toilet, $240 (Home Depot)
Mirror, $40 (Home Depot)
Light Fixture, $170 (Henkley Shelly, Lighting Inc. in New Orleans)
New switches, plugs, and faceplates, $50 (Lowes)
Electrician to install new switches, plugs, and light fixture, $100
Towel Ring, $16 (Lowes)
Hand Towels, $40 (Pied Nu, Magazine Street New Orleans)
Paint for vanity, $20 (Benjamin Moore White C235)
Paint for walls, $55 (Benjamin Moore Alaskan Skies)
2 Knobs for Vanity Doors, $8 (Lowes)
4 Hinges for Vanity Doors, $8 (Lowes)
Pictures w/Frames, $50

I sold the original sink, faucet and light fixture on Craigslist for $75. And at the end of it all, we spent just over $1,075 for everything, 1/4 of the original Contractor's fee. All it really takes is paint and pictures, in my opinion. But if you want to take it further, replace hardware and fixtures and then you're really going. And you can do this yourself, it's daunting at first but also very rewarding at the end.

I'll keep you posted on the progress of our other rooms. We're half-way through our kitchen at the moment, which will be a fun one share. Let me know what you're working on in your own home, and share any tips you've learned for making it easier and affordable,



  1. You go with that orbital sander! :) It's amazing how far a fresh coat of bright white paint will go for cabinets. Love the mirror too...so classic! Beautiful all around!

    1. that orbital is my friend, i also re-did a set of cabinets in our mudroom that turned out nice. getting our money's worth outta that machine! thanks for the compliments kayli, looking forward to following your renos as well!

  2. It looks SO good. I actually love the wall texture now, as it adds visual interest and texture to a very sleek and modern room.
    And that picture of you with the sander is hot-- I love when gals work power tools (even though I scarcely can myself).

    1. well thanks Ashe! i like the texture too, funny that i hated it when it was golden. paint is an amazingly cheap transformer! and let me tell you how sexy i felt with that sander, way, sexy.

  3. OMG, Lila! I'm totally in love *-* You definetely did a great job :) Congrats!

    1. me too Samye! i think it turned out perfectly modern & simple, while still being welcoming. ready to get after the next room!

  4. The biggest part of a kitchen remodelling project is the kitchen countertops. But there are ways to update your cabinets without spending a fortune.

  5. completely agree with you there, Suzie. choosing the countertops is daunting with so many choices, i don't know about you, but deciding upon a material is sometimes half the battle. with regard to cabinets, we're lucky to have real wood cabinets so to update them we're simply painting them. we have a fairly large kitchen, so this was a HUGE savings ($2,800) versus having to tear them out & replace them with new ($20k+). the money we're saving there has allowed us to splurge a little more in other parts of the kitchen ... and do another part of the house that we would have waited several more months to tackle. counting the days until it's done!

  6. Beautiful finished product! Bravo!!!

    1. thank you Giselle! we just began the kitchen, so I'll be posting all about that remodel here as well. so far, cabinet color is rocking!


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