Budget Bathroom Makeover + Linky

January 5, 2011

You know those oak vanities picked out by builders and installed in bathrooms across America over the last two decades?  I am not a fan, and I imagine you are not either.  Unfortunately, I happen to have one of those very same bathrooms in my own home awaiting a remodel.  Patience icky bathroom, patience, you’re next!

Meanwhile, my friend Mia and I got to talking over the Christmas break.  We were discussing her master bathroom.   Mia said “It needs help.”  I said, “I’ll bring my paintbrush.”  So I set to work to bring this bathroom into the modern age and add a few more upgrades as well.

Mia’s has an affection for warm earth tones and rich dark wood ~ her style is the yin to my ‘paint it all pale gray or white’ yang.  With all the dark wood and light bedding in the adjoining master bedroom, painting the vanity a rich espresso color made perfect sense.

Some of the pros of the existing master bath:  good paint on the walls and clean white tile countertops.  The cons: oak cabinets, those bathroom vanity light fixtures that should be outlawed, a very plain mirror, gold accents on the faucets, and no hardware on the cabinets.

Here it is Before:

mias before


And After:

budget bathroom after


The most time consuming part is the refinishing of the vanity cabinet.  Here are the six simple steps I followed.

1)  Remove all hardware and cabinet doors.  Usually I remove the drawer fronts too, but this time I taped off the edges and refinished them in place.

2) Tape off your walls, countertops, and flooring with painter’s tape.

3) Clean all parts of the cabinetry and lightly sand with medium grit sanding wedge (80 – 120) to remove any debris.  Wipe clean.

valspar kitchen and bath4) Prime cabinet door fronts, drawers, and frame with oil based primer.  Sand away any brush strokes or drips.  If painting a dark color, like brown or black, use a layer of dark primer before your dark paint.

5) Paint with two coats of either a) oil based paint in semi-gloss, or b) latex paint specialty designed for bathrooms.   Use a paint conditioner and high quality brush like I mentioned here to minimize brush stokes.

6) Reattach doors, drawer fronts and hardware.


bathroom lower cabinet before


lower cabinets after


A few other details we fixed:

I was not in love with the gold detail on the chrome faucet fixtures, so I simply unscrewed the gold parts and spray painted them in a nickel shade.

bathroom fixture before and after


Don’t forget new pulls and knobs!  These are so modern like jewelry for cabinetry.  I love the contrast of the cool chrome against the warm brown tones.


new cabinet hardware


Freshen with a few bright silver accessories . . .

chrome accessories


Add a new towel bar to the left, a new chrome light fixture above, and a mirror frame from MirrorMate.

mirrormate frame


Another new detail were the addition of these simple lattice patterned window panels and a new curtain rod.  I found those Waverley panels at Lowes, can you believe it?  I love that fabric!  I hemmed them to the length of the window above the bathtub.

new lattice panels


This ordinary bathroom vanity area was refinished in about eight hours and on a budget.  The vanity is so much fresher and more modern!

 bathroom vanity after


Have you remodeled a bathroom in your home?  Refinished cabinets and added new hardware?  Perhaps you’ve added new wainscoting, wallpaper, or a new sink.  Or you’ve designed a major overhaul of your bathroom space !   Link it up so we can all see the magical before and afters!


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184 Responses to “Budget Bathroom Makeover + Linky”

  1. ches says:

    Amazing transformation and I am sure that it added value to thier home. It looks like a totally different space. Please share the paint color used on the cabinet and the wall color if you know it. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Oh, nicely done, nicely done! I had no idea what you meant by the description… scrolled a bit… “oh yea, THAT bathroom.” As featured in every middle-market hotel or vacation condo in all of North America… can you & your paintbrush visit the other 50,000 on a humanitarian mission?

    I’ve just posted my ugly bathroom today… well, Canada’s ugliest bathroom. Check it OOT!

  3. Michelle says:

    I am borrowing some of these ideas — the bathroom turned out lovely! Love the idea of the curtain panels in the bathroom (totally going to do this). I want to add some hardware to cabinets/drawers and get some new towels and rugs. So excited!
    The thing I can’t stand about our bathroom: glass sliding shower doors — ugggh, can’t stand them! I need to think of a re-do for that part!

  4. Oona says:

    It looks so great, Kate! Mia is super lucky to have a wonderful friend like you.

  5. Teresa says:

    You did a great job on this bathroom! Love it! I, too, am curious about the durability of spray painting the faucet?? Would love to do that if it is durable! Thank you for sharing!

  6. Joanne says:

    Gorgeous! I don’t have any photos, but gel stain can be used to change the wood tone of those inexpensive vanities too. I needed to buy my stain color online, but I was able to locate a very dark shade, similar to wenge and it is divine.

  7. I don’t have a bathroom to link up, but I just have to say you are so talented, Kate! What an incredible transformation. I wouldn’t have had the guts to paint an oak vanity, but you have shown me that it can be done!! Must remember that when I finally buy a place–not to get turned off by those ubiquitous oak bathroom vanities.

  8. Amanda says:

    What color is the cabnet painted?? Love, love it!

  9. […] see more Before & After photos? Check out what Kate and her friend Mia […]

  10. CentsationalGirl says:

    Answering all questions in a post later today!!!

  11. Wow, what a great makeover you all did! And even better that it was all done in eight hours. I’m going to have a tough time when I have my own home to decorate because I am like you and love me some light gray and white but also like Mia and love dark wood too. I’m sure there will be room for both, though. :)

  12. Ali says:

    I LOVE this! We just had our masterbath flood and had to rip up the floors and everything else. I am seriously going to paint my vanity exactly like this! I was looking for an inspiration picture and this is it! Thanks so much for posting!

  13. Janell Beals says:

    You are amazing…the difference if quite something. Okay, that hardware? It is seriously gorgeous and works perfectly with the paint color choice for the vanity. Now go pat yourself on the back…a few times.

  14. Laura says:

    What color or stain did you use on the vanity??

  15. Katherine says:

    Gorgeous! It looks completely different. Very spa like.

  16. This post could not have come at a better time for me! Along with an extra linky bonus for me to search through.

    We just moved into our house last October and I currently have three builder grade bathrooms that are in desperate need of face-lifts. The rule is kids rooms first, but I’m not big on patience. I will book mark this post and absolutely link back once I post my completed projects.

    Thank you again!!!

  17. diane says:

    Great job…dont you just love mirror mate. I have used them in several clients homes with great success. I have the same fixtures you have and I never knew the gold parts unscrewed. Learn something new every day!

  18. Great make-over! Makes me want to get started today!

  19. Jen says:

    Looking forward to seeing what your grey bath with teal/grey rug turned out like :)

  20. evelania says:

    LOVE!!! Can you please be for hire in Texas???

  21. Great post — and great makeover Kate!!! You are a seriously good friend! :)

    Thanks for the linky — I put my striped bath in.

  22. Beautiful before and after! I have light maple cabinets all over my home and am in the process of repainting everything. I am sure it will take years. I am about to start on my kitchen. Thanks for the inspiration and tips!!!


  23. Those oak builders’ cabinets that used to be standard are my least favorite look ever. And what you’ve done to your bathroom – well, there’s no way I’d ever have guessed it was previously so bland! That combo of fun hardware and dark stain looks perfect.

  24. kathysue says:

    Kate what a difference a can of paint and some good design can make. Valspar is a great product isn’t it. The black is stunning and the knobs you chose is perfect!! I linked my 1970s small 6×10 bathroom up. I don’t have any before only afters, please let me know if that is Okay, if not please feel free to take down my link. This is a fun linky party, bathrooms are my favorite to decorate!!! and believe it or not I like to clean them too, I know crazy,huh? Kathysue

  25. Jenny B says:

    MirrorMate, where have you been all my life??? :) I clicked over from The Lettered Cottage. I love the bathroom, but your link to MirrorMate alone was SO worth stopping by!! Thanks for sharing! P.S. My bathroom looks very similar to the “before.” :)

  26. I love the idea of the different lighting. I am so going to take the lighting I have, which is the same, down and replace it with something new.

  27. sonja says:

    Can you tell me what color you paint the cabinet? Thank you!! It is beautiful!!!

  28. Annie says:

    Unbelievable transformation. Elegant! I love the Canadian Walnut Mirrormate. It would look great on the half finished handicap bathroom we are doing over for my husband.

  29. Deb Toland says:

    Absolutely love this article, and it couldn’t have been posted at a better time! I have four UgLy mirrors that would really benefit from this idea! Hmmm, which one first??!!??

  30. Janet says:

    I love the mirror mate! I have a 70’s bathroom with the original big boring mirror and the Cherokee frame in the dark walnut that you used will be perfect! It’s now on my DIY wish list!

  31. Vicki says:

    You did a fantastic job! I cannot believe what a smooth finish you got on that vanity! Did you really use a brush?

  32. Teresa says:

    Kate, thank you for answering our questions! One more: did you prime before you painted the faucets? I cannot wait to try this in my bathroom! YAY!

  33. Kristin says:

    Beautiful job! It looks pretty simple to do but the end-result is really rich-looking. Thanks for sharing this one!

  34. alisha says:

    How fun…thanks for hosting! Your new vanity looks wonderful–right out of a pottery barn catalog!

  35. alisha says:

    Re-reading your post…I guess I should have said your friend Mia’s new vanity looks wonderful…right out of a pottery barn catalog!

  36. Jessica says:

    AMAZING! You should be so proud of yourself! I would love to know the cabinet paint brand/color, the wall color and where you found your rug. Thank you!!

  37. Irene says:

    That is an amazing transformation!

  38. Rita E says:

    It is CENSATIONAL! I cannot believe the amazing transformation! I have the EXACT same before bathroom … actually I have 3 … in my home that I bought new 14 years ago. And it’s time for a change. I have been thinking of doing something after reading so many before/after blog posts but was intimidated to take the plunge. But I am now encouraged by your wonderful post and blog with so many helpful hints and resources. Please, where did you get the knobs? Thank you!

  39. Adrienne says:

    Beautiful!! You do such an amazing job!! Where is the rug from? Would go great in my bathroom!! Thanks!

  40. Traci says:

    I love this re-do! It looks amazing. :)
    I especially love how you painted the gold on the faucets. I wouldn’t have thought of that! Wish I had the boys’ bathroom re-do completed. Oh yeah…I haven’t even started! It’s on my 2011 to-do list though. :)
    See you soon!

  41. michelle says:

    I’ve been wanting to try this.. I have the same ugly vanity.

    What paint colour did you use?

  42. Shelley says:

    I, too, would love to know what paint color (and brand) you used on the vanity. I looked hard but didn’t see if you’d answered that question. ;) Thank you!

  43. Katy M says:

    Hi Kate,
    Do you think that this paint and technique would work on a kitchen table and chairs? I have been wanting a dark, rich brown for my old round oak kitchen table and this looks so smooth.
    Thanks, Katy

  44. Kerri says:

    Beautiful transformation! Can you tell me the paint color, finish, manufacturer that you used for the cabinets? Thank you!

  45. D.Baker says:

    Hi Kate,

    I discovered your blog yesterday, first off thank you for sharing your talent and vision through this wonderful space.

    My bathroom’s vanity is made of this plastic-resin looking material,is there any way to paint it or will the water/steam in the bathroom damage the paint?

    Thanks for the feedback!

  46. Lynette says:

    Did I miss the color for bath cabinets? Also, wall color would be appreciated.

  47. Jaime DiSalvo says:

    I absolutely love how the bathroom turned out…it is exactly what I am looking for! I would love to know the color please…you gave me the motivation to start remodeling right away!

  48. I’ll immediately grab your rss as I can’t find your e-mail subscription hyperlink or newsletter service. Do you have any? Kindly allow me recognise in order that I may just subscribe. Thanks.

  49. Shana says:

    Did you ever give the name of the paint color that you used??? I am getting ready to do mine and I love that color. Thanks.

  50. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Shana, it’s in the follow up post I published the next day, Betsy Ross House Brown !

  51. CentsationalGirl says:

    Thank you Molly, it really is fun to have a creative outlet outside the law, ay?

  52. Andria says:

    This looks great! Would you mind sharing the name of the paint you used? It’s exactly what I’m looking for.

  53. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hey Andria, I shared it in the next day’s post you can click over to find it there, it’s Betsy Ross House Brown by Valspar!

  54. gailg says:

    How did you update the mirror?

  55. CentsationalGirl says:

    That’s a Mirrormate frame Gailg, I wrote more about it in the next day’s post!

  56. Emily says:

    Love your blog. I wanted to let you know that a company is using your before and after photos to market their cabinet painting services.
    Here is the link if you’d like to ask them to give credit where credit is due.

  57. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Emily, thank you! I will ask them to remove the images from their website, thanks so much!

  58. Judy says:

    Hi. It looks great! Where did you get your cabinet hardware?

  59. Nikki says:

    What kind of spray paint did you use for the faucet? I have some brass drawer pulls on our bedroom furniture that I was silver (I’d actually prefer a brushed nickel look to match our light fixtures). I had used Rust-oleum Universal spray paint in Metallic Brushed Nickel and I hate the way it looks. (It has flecks of sparkles in it.) Would another paint, or Rub n Buff, be better for this?

  60. DBC says:

    Great transformation! The cabinet paint color is PERFECT!

  61. franky says:

    Beautiful transformation! Question about the cabinet…did you have to sand off all the cabinets first before applying the paint or you just applied the paint right over the cabinets?

  62. franky says:

    thanks for the tips kate! really appreciate it. I’m going to definitely try this method out. what about countertop….can I apply the same method on bathroom countertops? or is there another method?

  63. Laura says:

    I am in the middle of doing this with my bathroom vanity. I have a lot of wood grain showing. Yours looks very smooth. Any suggestions as to how to make them less visible? I am going bonkers!

  64. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Laura, it’s tough to hide wood grain with just paint. Primer helps and two coats of paint will minimize, but if you have grainy oak cabinets, it will still show somewhat. These cabinets were not oak, I believe they were stained maple which is less grainy than oak.

  65. Gladys says:

    Hi Kate!
    Quick question,
    What kind of paint did you use on the faucet? Did you have to sand it or anything? I’m going to start this project next week and I can’t wait! Thanks for all of your helpful tips!!

  66. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Gladys, that was an indoor/outdoor spray paint and after a year, it still looks great!

  67. Alex says:

    Hi there! I was googling information about how to paint bathroom vanities when I found your website. Your work is stunning! I wanted to see if you happen to remember the name of the color you used? We’re looking for an similar espresso color and would really appreciate it! THanks!

  68. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Alex, click over to the next day’s post, it’s there – pretty sure it’s ‘Betsy Ross Brown’ by Valspar.

  69. Lee Ann says:

    When I decided to take on a soft remodel of our master bath I did an image search of painted bathroom cabinets and this bathroom photo was one of the first ones that came up. I thought the color looked great so I decided to give it a try. Three or four months later I’m FINALLY finished (after stripping the wall paint, stripping the cabinets, repainting the walls and cabinets as well as the inside of the medicine cabinets, replacing the fixtures, etc.) and I’m very pleased with the results. Betsy Ross House Brown was the cabinet color inspiration and the wall/ceiling color fell into place after I picked up a Benjamin Moore bathroom idea card at Orchard Supply Hardware. I had to tweak the ceiling color but after a few different tries I got it as close to the photo as I wanted it to look. Here’s a photo of the before/after: http://i.imgur.com/dRXOz.jpg And a close-up of the cabinet color: http://i.imgur.com/Xgf2T.png

    Thanks for the inspiration! I saw the photo, bought the paint and saved myself a lot of handwringing over the cabinet color.

  70. I really like the make-over. It turned out really good. I have also got some tips that I can apply for my furniture and room.

  71. Meg says:

    Hi Kate – I stumbled upon this post while browsing bathroom renos. GREAT GREAT job. I haven’t bothered to ask any experts on the web about my dilemma but when I saw that you respond to your comments and questions, I was pleasantly surprised and hopeful, so please let me thank you, and in advance for your commitment to you blog and readers! Not much has inspired me b/c my master bath situation makes my deco options a little limiting. Could you tell me a little about your thoughts on decorating (for less) a bathroom with outdated gold fixtures INCLUDING shower door trim? So far I think I am going dark with the cabinets which are currently the same stain of wood in your before pics and your mirror frame is genius so I believe I will take your advice there too. I’ve pondered Kristi’s fixture painting project which I’m sure you are familiar with at blog Addicted to Decorating (http://www.addicted2decorating.com/d-i-y-project-how-to-paint-a-bathroom-faucet-shower-enclosure.html). BUT – it seems like she is the ONLY person in the history of DIY to ever take on this task. AND she tells us in her tutorial that on top of how incredibly time consuming the reno was, she also has no idea how the results held up over time as it was not her bathroom. Now, being that her tutorial has gotten soooo much attention, you would think, being an expert decorator AND blogger, that she would go ahead and check up on the current status of that project and update the post. Makes me think the the reno may not have taken well to time. I’ve read so many warnings against bath fixture painting and particularly against painting shower trim that I’m don’t think it is the answer for me. Have you any design intel on replacing or refurbishing the gold fixtures and shower door trim? Do you have any tips on how to decorate AROUND the outdated fixtures so they are complimented but not highlighted. You know, as soon as you walk into my bathroom it’s like, “Hello 1990!” Forget the Ralph Lauren paint and beautiful white tile, the fixtures are such an eyesore. Even if I wait around for shiny gold to come back into bath style, as what is “new” in bath design seems to change so often, I’m fairly certain this style will not come full circle. Excuse the long-winded comment. I’ve just been racking my brain for so long about this and I’m really ready to execute on a design decision. Thank you Kate. LOVE LOVE LOVE your work!
    Meg (The Golden Years)

  72. CentsationalGirl says:

    HI Meg, the fixtures at Mia’s house look great, but I have no experience spray painting shower doors or fixtures that come in direct contact with daily water. I’m not sure if that would stand the test of time, but there is outdoor spray paint that is weather resistant, it might work, but again, I have no information on the longevity. Bathroom faucets and handle? Spray paint away! Just make sure you use a super durable indoor/outdoor formula, RustOleum’s are great.

  73. […] recently posted this bathroom makeover of her friend Mia’s that really rocked and was cheap! Then there was the Laundry room […]

  74. Alyssa says:

    Great post! I’ve been looking at ways to paint a very similar vanity in one of our bathrooms and this has been so helpful! One question- did you paint the inside of the vanity as well? I’ve been thinking about how to handle this for my own project and was just wondering what you did in this example. I’d love to avoid doing so as it would double the work but am afraid that it will look silly to have the outside painted such a dark color and the inside a lighter oaky color. Thanks!

  75. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Alyssa, I didn’t paint the inside of the cabinetes (they were white melamine), but I did paint the inside of the drawers and doors!

  76. Betsey says:

    What a huge difference. I can’t believe how good that bathroom looks. With clients always wanting less expensive DIY upgrades, I’ll send them to your site.

  77. Kristy Swain says:

    What a difference! Great vision and work! I linked to your post in a post on my blog via your image of the faucet. http://www.hypheninteriors.com/2012/09/20-things-you-can-paint.html

  78. What a transformation. Great job! Your bathroom looks terrific. This gives me inspiration for my project.

  79. Beth says:

    Thank you for posting this! I have been wanting to reprint my old bath cabinets, but thought it’d be too daunting of a process and it wouldnt look professional. Ifigured the only colors that would turn out decent would be white or black. NOW, thanks to you I can have brown cabinetry, just like I initially wanted! You are my home makeover hero!!

  80. google says:

    gan izin kopi artikelnya boleh?…thanks

  81. Katya MMM says:

    Hi – I just want to know how the spraypainted faucet is holding up after 2 years of use? Has any of the spraypaint worn off?

  82. CentsationalGirl says:

    My friend Mia says it’s still looking good Katya!

  83. Mayra says:

    I am so so so so so grateful that i found this. I have the EXACT same layout in my master bath and had no idea how to fix it and make it nice, modern and up to my standards without having to put us in the hole. I also dont have much of a creative gene and so I will use this to help out in my attempt at giving my bathroom a small facelift. Thank you!

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