From horrible to habitable!
You guys really need to know – when we got to the mini-farm, the bathrooms were rough. The second one didn’t even have a floor as you saw in my first blog post. Renan and I are in an atypical situation since we’re renting at a discount because it was mid-renovation. Basically, we’re allowed to do whatever we want to the space, and I’m thankful! But like many renters out there, we had to make it work on a budget. And while this bathroom may not be the stuff of your “dream house” Pinterest board, the improvement is visible. So this is my magical tale of how we completed our rental bathroom makeover for under $300. I’m sharing EVERYTHING in hopes that it inspires others to make the most of their space, at any budget!
In a few senses, I’m lucky because we now have two working bathrooms. One for “boys” and the other for “girls” – which Renan and I totally love. We found a lot of supplies on property like vinyl flooring for the house, new sheets of drywall, etc. I’m also lucky to have such a handyman, “Chip Gaines” of a partner. And hey, I get a good amount of counter space to myself! The get-ready surface space is priceless, no matter how expensive your bathroom is, am I right?
So let’s take a virtual walk through the bathroom and chat about the changes made in this DIY makeover.
Change #1: Paint it All ONE Color
With my interior design work, I always stress the importance of how a space makes someone feel. Since I’m the client in this scenario, I wanted to attack the the thing that drove me the craziest first. And that was paint! Who in the heck can even live with all these crazy paint colors and water-damaged walls?
I picked up a gallon of Behr Marquee One-Coat Cameo White Semi-Gloss and went to town in one weekend. Spoiler: it took more than one coat to cover the bathroom, but it covered the sins.
Two learning lessons from the painting process:
Say no to semi-gloss. I’ve never liked semi-gloss paint, so I’m not sure why I went with the Home Depot recommendation. I think a satin finish would’ve worked just fine for the bathroom. Semi-gloss has a bit of a latex texture and is sometimes harder to get even coverage, in my opinion.
Prep in one day, paint in one day. Between painting my bathroom and my office, I’ve learned this lesson officially. Use the first day to prep the room to high heaven! Carefully fill holes with a putty kit and use painter’s tape on trim pieces, fixtures, etc. Start with the putty work so you can sand it down later in the day. If you have textured drywall, you may also need a texture spray to help camouflage the repair prior to painting. On painting day, start early so you can run to a Home Depot or Lowe’s if you need more paint. This way you’ll complete the project faster and only have to clean the paint brushes, rollers, and trays once!
Change #2: Paint the Cabinets
This is where I’ll admit I’m a little braver than most people in the “GSD” department. I literally just took the same house paint to the cabinets. While I wouldn’t do the same for a client, this got the job done for me! The coverage was not great, and it may have taken three coats. It was worth it to save money and work from the same gallon of paint! Frankly anything is better than peeling, fake wood cabinets, so this was a win in my book. If you try this, take your time in prepping.
Change #3: Install Privacy Film
This blog is making me realize how much I did in just one or two weekends before I moved here! Ah, memories.
So when we bought the paint, I also had privacy film on my list for the bathroom. I liked the natural light, but having a transparent window in a bathroom was a hard no for me. Renan said “You don’t need this, we live far from neighbors.” But let me tell you, the privacy film was a savior!
Change #4: Apply Contact Paper to Countertops
This is the idea I most welcome you to steal! I stole it from Sharrah Stevens who put marble contact paper in her rental kitchen. Though I prefer the gray marble contact paper, I thought the pink/beige went well with the 80s vibe windows.
Look for contact paper that is wide enough to to cover the surface + sides without a seam if you can. Purchase a wallpaper kit to help measure, cut, and smooth out. Be SUPER patient with it and take your time with the cuts. Especially around the sink. When you’re done, use clear or white silicone caulking around the edges to seal down. Props to Renan for his excellent sealing work!
Change #5: Dollar Tree Linen Closet DIY
I saw this video and was instantly inspired to cover my wire shelves in the bathroom linen closet. And Do it On a Dime shared my photo on her story, which makes her extra cool in my book!
There was originally just one shelf in the linen closet, so Renan was awesome and added two more for us. Then, I used approximately one roll of contact paper and one foam core board from the Dollar Tree per shelf. I chose the light wood grain option, as you can see above. Although not totally perfect, they make me happier to look at my linen closet with no door. And they’re easier to use! Watch her tutorial video for all the steps. This is a solid half day project, NOT including time to organize your stuff.
Change #6: Purchases for Functionality
Believe it or not, my apartment bathroom was one of the projects I completed the Marie Kondo method on. (Read: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.) Even so, my hair, skincare, and makeup products bring me a lot of joy apparently! The important thing for someone like me is to have an organization system in place that works in real life. Otherwise, it’s a total clutter mess.
When we moved here, the bathroom storage situation was different, so my system from my apartment didn’t all translate. The bathroom had no drawers and minimal closed storage. This bathroom works extra hard for us since it needs to act as a storage extension for our laundry room. It was a bit of a jigsaw puzzle and I may continue to move some things around. But ultimately for me it takes living life in the space to decide on storage solutions.
I share this because, for me, it’s important to be mindful about how a space is used. By thinking through the functionality and organization, I didn’t need to splurge on all new things for every corner.
What I did buy was this trendy pink rolling drawer cart from Home Goods because I deeply missed having drawers! (Similar one in white on Amazon.) I also bought the oval mirror and placed in a well-lit spot for putting in my contacts and doing makeup. (Similar mirror on Amazon.) I brought in the teak-style IKEA shelf that was from my apartment closet. And basically everything else was brought over from my apartment or repurposed.
Change #7: Accessories & Styling
For whatever reason, maybe with the new, all-white canvas I created, I went pretty hard with accessories in the bathroom. It’s all a mix of stuff I had, thrift store finds, Target Opalhouse collection, and my DIY Anthropologie vase knock-off. I can see myself changing this up in the fall, but for now, the color and pattern makes me happy! And that’s the whole point right?
But Wait…There’s More!
Bathrooms are never simple, right? So the last piece is the second closet that had the water damaged wall. Thankfully, Renan has some construction background so he was capable of removing the bad drywall and replacing. We still need to paint it and put shelving in. So I decided we’re going to do a video tour on my Instagram stories in the next week or so. Be sure to follow me to see even more of this bathroom!
What a whirlwind! I hope you enjoyed this Under $300 Rental Bathroom Makeover (in my relentlessly honest style.) Are you planning to try any of these ideas in your home? Let me know in the comments below!
You can also subscribe to my blog here to see more of our rental makeover projects and watch me grow! I absolutely can’t wait until I’m writing about my own bathroom with custom tile, stone surfaces, and built-in everything. I hope you’ll be here for that day, too. ❤️
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All of my DIY blog content is for informational and entertainment purposes only. I share what works for me in my home, but you should consult with professionals/landlords before taking on any construction projects. My blog does not constitute interior design advice for readers. I am not liable or responsible for any damages resulting from or related to your use of this information.