How to Renovate Your Bathroom in Stages— No Matter Your Budget!!

May 4, 2020

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Befores, afters, mood boards, plans, failures, wins. We’ve done a lot of projects, and they’re all here. 

We have a long-standing relationship with DIY, and love rolling our sleeves up and making it happen. 

Even when you don’t want to rip down a wall, you can make that space in your home better. Right now.

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When we moved into our last house, the first room we made over was the first floor bathroom. It was a half bath and would be the bathroom that everyone would use when they came over. That bathroom went from weird lime green to a fresh white-and-navy retreat on our first floor. We added planking to the walls, and the project still didn’t take forever or cost an arm and a leg. We had one room “done,” and we were so motivated to (A.) have people over and (B.) tackle the rest of the house. What I’m saying is: If you’ve just moved into a new space or you’re itching for a weekend DIY — it’s the bathroom.

It’s like reading a book in one sitting: Apply some paint, freshen up the towels, light a candle, and voila! — new room. You can even mood board it if you want to, and I promise you can still tackle this in a weekend (and probably catch up on your podcasts while you’re at it). And the best part about it, is it kind of flushes (no pun intended) out your style in a small space that you can try on and then carry throughout the rest of the house.

Today, we’re building a (full) bathroom on a budget. We’re starting with $550, but honestly — you could start with less. (There’s a $39 bath mat that will make you feel like you just checked into a boutique hotel.) We’re building on this budget, designing in stages. So when you have a little more cash to invest in your space, maybe you upgrade the hardware. Phase three? A new vanity and tile. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, a look at all the bathrooms that taught me how to budget…

I give you: The most DIY friendly bathroom renovation we have ever done. We did this one for friends of ours and made videos on how to tile a floor, how to install a tub insert and surround, how to swap out a vanity, and how to hang a mirror and lighting. Whew!

Remember when Greta’s bathroom wasn’t working — and then it totally did? Going dark in a windowless bathroom paid off! I love this bathroom because it’s so moody and tweeny, and I got to play with color and hang a sweet gallery wall for my girl. Greta’s got the best bathroom in our house.


The loft bathroom: The last project we finished at the cabin. Do I wish we would have spent that last weekend at the cabin just taking in the view? Yeah. But am I glad we got to show the cabin some love in the form of penny tile, new paint, and hardware. She deserved it.

Last fall, we did a two-day bedroom + bathroom makeover for Clayton Homes. It was so fun! In the bathroom, we swapped out the big mirror for two chic oval mirrors. Then we applied tile backsplash sheets that we’re still dreaming of using again. (They look amazing!). Sometimes, you just need to swap out the mirror–seriously!


Our master bathroom in our last home still makes my heart go pitter patter. —And by that I mean, when I get up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, I’m still dreamily tip-toeing toward that green tile…


The girls’ bathroom in our last home: This little sweetie had a lot of stops and starts and took seven whole months to complete, but most of that was back orders and having a baby. I bet you could do it in six :)


Okay, ready? Are you feeling motivated? Do you have a little cash, and a bathroom that could use a little love? Here’s what I recommend for Phase 1:

Start with…

Soap Set: $52 – Wow. You could stop right here. Is there anything that makes you feel fancier than a pretty soap and lotion set?
Hand Towel: $6 (on sale for $3 right now!)
Bath Brushes: $33 for both – Hang these in the shower for spa vibes.
Art: $15 – This print is so fresh! If you’ve got the space, go big.
Basket: $50 – Use this to collect discarded tissues or bath towels on their way to the wash.
Mirror: $259 – This shape? Definitely the fairest of them all. An intentional mirror will upgrade your whole space.
Bath Mat: $39 – Okay. I’m blushing. This bath mat gets my final rose.
Capri Copper Shower Curtain: $39 – Once, a friend asked me what large-scale “picture” he should get on his shower curtain. I just… blinked.
Carved Wood Accent Stool: $56 – This is the perfect spot for your bath-side book :)

If you have $500 to spend, you’re probably adding paint to this list (paint your vanity! paint your walls!), but you can get a high end makeover on the cheap is what we’re saying.


Looking good? Ready for more? For another $409, you can make these upgrades:

Add in…

Leaning Edge Wall Hook: $9 – “The little black dress” of wall hooks, perfect for a towel or two.
Glass Shelf: $26 – Can you imagine your makeup and cotton balls and Q-tips on this little shelf?
Sconce: $37 – Swap out your lights for these! So easy to install! These work great as one over the mirror or two on either side.
Faucet: $131 – Some fresh chrome will make everything look clean.
Shower Head and Tub Faucet: $206 – If you change out the hardware in your shower, you’ll feel like you just checked into a hotel. And no need to hire anyone. YOU can do it.


I bet those changes feel like a million bucks! They’ll also hold you over while you save up for the finishing touches:

Add in…

Rice Motif Tile: $8.99/ sq. ft. | $239 (accounted for an 8′ x 5′ bathroom with a 32″ x 60″ tub) – You’re going to love walking barefoot on this handsome tile that’s a completely game changer.
36″ Vanity: $750 – It’s neutral, timeless, and elegant. And now, so is your whole bathroom.


Want more build-a-room looks? Check out this budget outdoor space and this bedroom! Any recommendations for what you’d like to see next?


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What do you think?

  1. Monica says:

    Love this build-a-room post! Soaking up so much inspiration from your blog as my fiance and I shop for our first semi-fixer home. More of these please!

  2. Jessica says:

    Love this post!! Question-if you had a separate sink area from the toilet/tub area, would you ever put a Parisian rug in front of the sink and if so does it need to be washable?

  3. Irene Brand says:

    Love it! What do you recommend for a tub and wall tile?

  4. Abby says:

    I’m dying for you to order these for me (the ultimate DIY no-contractor question):

    Trim install
    Carpet replacement
    New windows

    Which goes first? I can see the argument for any!

  5. Julie S says:

    I loved the Metrie/Lowes diy weekend remodel! Totally inspired me.
    I can see how a newer builder basic bathroom would get a big lift from these moodboard items, maybe not a bathroom like mine from the 80’s with an old almond toilet and yellowing shower surround. I did do a level 1 lipstick on a pig refresh to it for our first two years here – removed country wallpaper and did fresh light paint, toned down the orange vanity wood with a light layer of med. brown gel stain (a fantastic hack by the way!), new vanity light and towel hooks and a shower curtain hiding the nasty shower, removed an old shelf and medicine cabinet for a pretty mirror. But now we are doing a full gut DIY reno and I am sooooo happy <3

    • Alima says:

      I have the same issue. A 60’s bathroom with a yell tub, yellow 4×4 tiles all over the walls and wallpaper that’s been painted over! I’ve been trying to figure out what i can do to upgrade now while we save for a full gut, but the yellow tub and tile really make that difficult!

  6. Your cabin tile is technically hexagon tile not penny tile. :-)
    But it still looks great.

  7. Lauren says:

    I can’t find the AMAZON glass shelf in the under $2000 category in the gold, just brushed nickel. Any ideas?

  8. I could not love this blog post more!!!! Would love for all rooms haha Thank you!!!

  9. Carrie says:

    The tile would be for the floor? What about when you need to retile the actual bath area?

  10. Chelsea says:

    What are your fav mirrors for a double vanity roughly 60” wide? Don’t want 2 smaller mirrors because the room is small, I fear it would make the room look way too busy

  11. Maura says:

    There are some great sources on here! Thanks!

    One idea for something I’d love to see next is a sectional sofa roundup. We are looking for one right now but struggling to find good options.


  12. Rachel says:

    I love this budget/stages posts! They are so helpful. I’d love to see one for a kitchen in the future. I know kitchens can be so expensive to do them entirely, but you’ve demonstrated that a stage one option doesn’t have to be expensive. Would love more about that!

  13. JL says:

    This post begs the question: Are you planning on a phase 1 DIY renovation of your master bath; until such time that you feel comfortable opening up your home again to tradesmen?

  14. Amanda says:

    Have you ever covered a bathroom countertop with (say, marble looking) contact paper? I’d love to cover up our yellow color, but I don’t know how well the paper would work. I’d take any other budget-friendly ideas, too!

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We believe we should all love where we live.

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