Our kind of quickie: a bathroom makeover

When we tackled the renovation of our first bathroom, I was a DIY virgin.

Sure, I’d fooled around some. In my previous house I’d done a lot of painting. Cane helped me put in some new flooring, and we’d overhauled one of the bathrooms there by swapping out a boxy cabinet for a pedestal sink and on-the-wall shelving.

This (sorta) Old Life: Quickie bathroom makeover

I don’t have a “before” shot of the kids’ bathroom, but if I did, you’d see a boxy oak vanity, white walls, and dog-pee-stained green carpet. Yuk!

But that was nothing compared to the day I started swinging a hammer in the master bathroom of this house and the walls came tumbling down.

This (sorta) Old Life: Quickie bathroom makeover

That was the first time I really went all the way.

When the hammer cracked the first tile, I knew we were crossing a point of no return. I didn’t know if the story was going to end in heartbreak or ecstasy, but I knew it was going to be big, whichever way it played itself out. (If you want to know how we went from two leaky tiles to demolition in about 15 minutes, click here.)

This (sorta) Old Life: Quickie bathroom makeover

In the months that followed, Cane and I obsessed/fantasized/agonized over every part of the room, sweating, groaning, moaning, and breathing heavily as we wrestled a tub in and a vanity out, as we built storage and rebuilt walls, as we laid a new floor and new (to us) tile.

This (sorta) Old Life: Quickie bathroom reno

If we were smokers, I’m pretty sure both of us would have inhaled an entire pack of cigarettes in the afterglow we felt when the project was finished. (You can see why if you click here.)

So why has our other bathroom–the one that guests use–languished in the months (OK, it’s now been years) that we’ve lived here?

Why, if we know the crescendo of satisfaction that cascades through our beings at the conclusion of a total DIY renovation, have we not jumped in and loved on this other bathroom the way we did the first? (Especially when we consider how much it’s been in need of some love?)

This (sorta) Old Life: Quickie bathroom makeover

From our first house tour pics, taken exactly two years ago. This is what it looked like at its best.

Because we’re not innocent anymore.

We know in ways we never could have then that making love is making a commitment. It’s not all shiny faucets and new fixtures, people!

Loving a house long-term (just like loving a person) isn’t for the faint of heart. Sure, there are moments of dizzy exhilaration, but it’s just like you always hear at least one old (long-married) person muttering at a wedding:  It’s a lot of hard work.

The reward–the true mad deep real love–comes from sticking it out through the tough times, the moments when you aren’t sure if you’re ever going to get to a wondrous, glowing end.

This (sorta) Old Life: Quickie bathroom makeover

Here’s the thing: What we’ve got going on with our home is bigger than any one room in it. We’re married to the whole house, and we’ve learned that sometimes, to keep that marriage going, we just need the simple, easy, feel-good of a quickie renovation.

While many might think the start of a new year is the perfect time to dive deep into the heart of a rock-your-world DIY affair, we’re here with a how-to for those of us who might instead need a quick little kick-start to get our DIY motors revving again after idling through the holidays. We pulled this off in two weekends, but it could easily be done in one.

We are here to celebrate the joys of a one-night (or weekend) stand, a little bathroom pick-us-up that hasn’t moved the earth but that has put a small, satisfied smile on our faces.

This (sorta) Old Life: Quickie bathroom makeover

Same old vanity, tub/toilet/sink, tile, and flooring.

Step One: Paint the walls

When we finally removed the last of the wallpaper from our kitchen and painted the walls last fall, we kicked ourselves for letting the wallpaper we really hate linger for so long on the bathroom walls—because it really didn’t take much time at all to remove the paper and paint, and because just changing the paint can make such a big difference in how the room feels.

This (sorta) Old Life: Quickie bathroom makeover

While I generally avoid use of the word “hate,” I really don’t think it’s too strong for how I felt about this wallpaper.

Because we weren’t going to change anything major, we needed to choose a color that would work with the existing khaki/orange tile, white cabinet, pinky-peachy-fleshy sink/tub/toilet, and dingy, used-to-be-white flooring. No easy task!

This (sorta) Old Life: Quickie bathroom makeover

Since our master bathroom had dark brown walls, I would have preferred something lighter in this room. It gets wonderful afternoon light, and I’d like a bright, airy bathroom for guests.

However, there is the matter of the pinky/peachy toilet and tub, and the white cabinet, and the rather grungy-looking floor. We were afraid that white walls with the cabinet would be too much white and make the floor look even more dingy, and we had a hard time finding lighter peach/brown shades that would work with the fixtures/tile and not look like a color one of my favorite bloggers refers to as swine beige. (Yes, I totally stole that from her for the photo above.)

So, we went with a chocolatey brown. (Do we know the color/brand? Is there a left-over can labeled “bathroom walls” that would tell us? Says Cane:  “I don’t really know.” Yes, this is how we continue to roll, even though our shed is knee-deep in various shades of brown paint.)

This (sorta) Old Life: Quickie bathroom makeover

Is it my all-time favorite wall color? Not really. But it’s a huge improvement over the wallpaper with a prominent seashell that looked like a private body part to me and a taco to Cane. (If you really must, you can scroll back up to the photo above and find it. But I’m warning you:  Once seen, it cannot be unseen.)

Step Two: Swap out the brass fixtures

We had a discolored brassy faucet in the sink and a brass light bar and  brass towel bars and such. We already owned a simple chrome faucet we bought (and didn’t use) for the other bathroom, so we put it in here.

This (sorta) Old Life: Quickie bathroom makeover

We like chrome for bathrooms because, while it’s never super-stylish, it’s also never really out of style. It’s classic. You just know that in 10 years, everyone will be groaning about their oil-rubbed bronze faucets the way they now groan about their brass ones. We’re not big fans of trendy choices for things that last far longer than any trend.

Bonus:  The chrome faucet (with its kitschy crystal knobs) went with the original tub plumbing fixtures that we’ve always really liked.

This (sorta) Old Life: Quickie bathroom makeover

We also replaced the towels bars and toilet-paper holder with simple chrome ones. In an earlier attempt at sprucing up this room, I spray-painted the brass ones that came with the house with antique bronze spray paint.

This (sorta) Old Life: Quickie bathroom makeover

I also tried to embrace the wallpaper and lighten the room up with these seafoam towels. It kinda worked, kinda didn’t.

Antique bronze was a common (and trendy) choice in the 70s, when this house was built, and as we’ve written many times, we’d like to restore as many original elements to the house as we can. But we’ve realized that the rest of this bathroom isn’t going to be restored to any kind of 70s glory any time soon (if ever). Antique brass with chrome plumbing fixtures and our very 90s plastic-covered vanity weren’t adding up to anything that made sense.

So we decided to go with chrome throughout the room (which also would have been common when the house was built.) We thought about trying to find some towel bars at one of our favorite salvage places or getting the most basic economy ones we could find new, but we decided to spend a little more than we usually do and get some that we think we’ll like no matter what we might decide to do with this room down the road.

This (sorta) Old Life: Quickie bathroom makeover

In addition to swapping out the bars, we also swapped out the knobs on the vanity. The knobs were made of discolored white enamel with  brass trim, and they looked as dingy as the floor. We still don’t love the vanity, but we dislike it less.

This (sorta) Old Life: Quickie bathroom makeover

Finally, we got rid of the brass Hollywood lights above the sink and put in a simple bar light with a vintage glass cover that we also bought but didn’t use in the master bathroom renovation.

This (sorta) Old Life: Quickie bathroom makeover

Step 3: New towels and shower curtain

Yes, this is a project that required more money than sweat or creativity. Originally, I thought we’d keep the white shower curtain we had and put already-owned white towels in the room, but the contrast with the brown walls was too stark.

I brought home some wheat-colored towels and shower curtains, which seemed to take a lot of the pink out of the toilet/sink/tub, and it softened the whole room. It came in fairly far to the left on the splurge continuum.

This (sorta) Old Life: Quickie bathroom makeover

Towels and shower curtains found at Bed-Bath-and Beyond.

Step 4: Shop the house for art

Because we are thrift-store art addicts, we already had some pieces to choose from. We moved the large embroidered floral you can see in the photo above from our bedroom, and then we decided to go with vintage, floral embroidery art as the theme for this room.

This (sorta) Old Life: Quickie bathroom makeover

This (sorta) Old Life: Quickie bathroom makeover

Easy and inexpensive, and it brings both cohesion and a bit of our style to a space that previously had none of either.

And that’s it!

Are we over-the-moon in love with this room? Nope. But does it feel better than it did before? Absolutely.

We’re thinking about replacing the floor with cork in the near future, which would be another quick, inexpensive, weekend-scope job. But other than that, this bathroom is going to be like this for quite a while. Maybe for as long as we live in this house. (Though I’m not ruling out another paint job, especially if we replace the floor. I’m not totally sold on the dark brown.)

The cabinet and toilet/sink/tub aren’t really doing it for us aesthetically, but unlike the original ones in our master bathroom, they function just fine. It’s just not worth it to us to tear out these perfectly good pieces because we’re not totally into their looks. Sexy can be over-rated and way more trouble than it’s worth, you know?

This (sorta) Old Life: Quickie bathroom makeover

But if you have to tear out a sink, might as well replace it with something you like looking at. We still love the one we put in the master bathroom.

As with any long-term relationship, our love affair with this house waxes and wanes. If we tried to burn red-hot all the time, the whole thing would flame out–and we’re in this for the long haul. That means that while we’ve got some DIY projects on our list that might get us all hot and sweaty again, we know we also need the other kind that provide just enough breeze to fan the embers of our affection during the times we don’t have the resources for full-on seduction.

Speaking of hot and sweaty, our bedroom is next on our list of rooms to get down and dirty with. It’s been so awful and depressing that we’ve rarely mentioned it in the time we’ve been blogging, and you’ve seen it even less. But last week, while I was visiting my parents, I got these intriguing texts from Cane!

This (sorta) Old Life: Quickie bathroom makeover

He wouldn’t even give me one hint while I was away, but I will tell you that it did rhyme with “tearing up carpet” and it made me fall in permanent love with the awesomely awful lamps we picked up back in 2012. And I’m now ready to dive deep into reclaiming the bedroom.

This (sorta) Old Life: Quickie bathroom makeover

I am hoping that by writing this teaser, I can put pressure on Cane to get the post about the project written soon. Please feel free to join me in persuading him!

Hope that you all had good holidays and are enjoying the return to normal. Whether you are happy, sad, or a little of both to see 2013 leave us, we hope you’re looking forward to a new year and all the opportunities that fresh starts bring.

We sure are. Would love to know what projects you’ve got planned for this month.

This (sorta) Old Life: Quickie bathroom makeover