Hey, it’s the smallest room of the house. Armed with a few fresh ideas you really can spruce it up in a weekend. Here’s how.
It’s a fact of life: all weekend remodeling jobs sound simple enough, but not all bathroom makeovers involve extensive renovation. Maybe you need more storage, or maybe you just can’t stand to look at that avocado-green tile for another minute. There are lots of techniques for sprucing up a bathroom in no time at all. The biggest challenge is to stop procrastinating and get down to work.
Ridding the room of clutter may be the single most dramatic, no-cost method for putting a brighter face on your bathroom. “Get rid of stuff that you don’t really need,” says Katie Hamilton, who, together with her husband, Gene, have written several books on home improvement, including Bathroom Remodeling for Dummies. “We all have stuff on the counters or the top of the toilet or on shelves that we use but don’t need all the time. A room can be made to look 10 times better if you put stuff in drawers or cabinets or put it in a basket.”
Decluttering may require coming up with new ways to store supplies. Take a fresh look at this familiar room: is potential storage space hiding in plain sight? Seek and you shall find, design experts insist.
Consider the vacant wall over the toilet, “One of the most overlooked areas in a bathroom,” says Stephanie Witt, a certified master kitchen and bath designer based in Grand Rapids, Mich. “You can actually put a full-depth, full-wide cabinet there, which gives you a huge amount of storage.” A 12-inch-deep wall cabinet, like the kind you’d use in your kitchen, available at home stores everywhere, will end up protruding from the wall just about as far as the toilet tank below it.
Since the average height of wall cabinets is 30 inches, adding up to a 36-inch-wide cabinet will provide lots of storage in a space that usually goes unused. Witt suggests extending the sides of the cabinet even further with cabinet components purchased a la carte, rather than buying pre-fabricated.
Wincing at the thought of tearing out hideous old tile and starting from scratch? Ignore it. That’s right. If your tile floor or tile wall is sound but unbearably ugly, consider tiling right over the old surface. “You can apply ceramic tile over old ceramic tile, if it’s in good condition,” says Witt. “Many of the older houses that go back 40 or 50 years have those little tiny, square tiles that have gotten grungy but they’re absolutely in excellent condition. There’s no reason to take a jackhammer in there and tear the whole thing out to put new tile down.” Just be sure to tell the experts at the tile store what you’re up to, so you purchase the correct adhesive for that application.
Never tile over tile that flexes or gives: if there’s a spongy feel to the wall behind any tile in your bathroom, water has seeped behind the tile over time.
If your walls are sound and you want an even simpler solution, you’re in luck. “One of the things that people don’t know that they can do is paint tile that they don’t like,” says Hamilton. For walls outside the shower or bath area, “prime with a shellac-based primer and then use two coats of oil-based paint. Professionals know about using shellac-based primer, but a lot of homeowners don’t, and it’s certainly an inexpensive solution.”
Details really do make the difference. Buy a fun shower curtain and then find some new hardware for your vanity to carry the theme through. Splurge on good-quality towels in a color you love. Add some artwork that catches your fancy. Hate the light fixture? Change it. Yes, you can handle this job. “That’s not rewiring, that’s reconnecting,” says Witt.
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