A Tiny Bathroom Gets a Big Makeover for Less Than $500

Nicole Christopher jokes that she was the perfect person to renovate her tiny Hardwick, Vermont, bathroom because she’s a double Virgo. “We’re known for paying extreme attention to detail,” she says with a laugh. There were many days when her boyfriend, Sam, would come in to find her spray-painting the window crank or measuring wallpaper to fit over the air vent. “He was like, this is a job only you could do,” she adds. In a lot of ways, the super-budget-friendly remodel was more of an art project: Christopher spent weeks painting (yes, really!) every nook and cranny, from the standard silver-y toilet-flush lever to the shower walls. 

When the first-time homeowners bought the place last August, they quickly realized why the home’s one-and-only full bath was never featured in the listing photos. The crusty, chrome-clad space was like something out of a scary movie (or more realistically, a frat house). Christopher knew they couldn’t live there long without tackling it, but there was the matter of money. “We knew the bathroom really deserved a full gut, but we didn’t have the time or budget just yet,” says Christopher. Given the space is only a mere 42 square feet, the project had to be a one-person job (there’s not enough room for two to move around, let alone with paint buckets and ladders in the way). For less than $500, here’s how she gave the teeny room a major facelift.

Fake Matte Black Fixtures

The bathroom, before.
tiny green bathrom

Instead of finding pricey replacements for the window crank, shower-temperature knobs, light switch plate, and toilet handle, Christopher bought durable enamel spray paint and painted what was there. “It’s not a permanent fix,” she notes. But it is holding up well so far. For the smaller metal bits, she transferred the liquid to a bag so she could dip a small brush into it, allowing her to be more precise with the coverage. The only new matte black piece is the showerhead from Amazon. 

Apply Waterproof Paint

scary purple bathroom

The bathroom, before.
tiny green bathrom

Christopher isn’t exactly sure what the existing shower walls are made of, but she describes the surface as a solid composite, faux tile, and paperboard. “You knock on it and it feels hollow,” she says. But the walls were all watertight, so they technically didn’t need to be torn out. Once again, she painted right over everything, this time using Benjamin Moore’s Atrium White inside the wet zone in the brand’s Bath and Spa finish, which is designed specifically for high-humidity environments. “I love this white because it’s creamy without being yellow,” she says. She used Benjamin Moore’s Vintage Vogue green for the paneling and built-ins surrounding the shower, channeling her inner double Virgo when she needed to get into the nooks and crannies. 

Scrape Away a Sad Tub

The tub had previously been painted a dingy almond hue, but most of it had worn off from heavy use by the time the couple bought the place, so Christopher decided to finish it off. With a blade in hand, she chipped away at the bath, revealing the white enamel underneath. “It was an extremely tedious job,” she shares. She has plans to eventually re-enamel the tub, but it’s in good enough condition for now. 

Jazz Up the Sink

ugly wood sink vanty

The bathroom, before
tiny green bathrom

The vanity cabinet also got a fresh coat of Vintage Vogue, along with a new sink faucet from Amazon. The new wall sconce (the only thing she hired a pro to come in and install) and the towel hooks are Amazon scores as well, but the DIYer navigated the site with caution before committing to the pieces. “I wouldn’t buy anything unless I could see that a picture had been submitted in the reviews,” she notes. She almost made the mistake of purchasing a different faucet before realizing there were unsightly hot and cold symbols on it. 

Christopher got lucky and found a mirror at a Home Goods in Connecticut for a mere $40. When a set of floating shelves from the retailer turned out to be a flop, she paired some light wood boards with simple black brackets from Target for extra storage. 

Add Some Interest to the Ceiling

storage cubbies aroundshower

The ceiling only looks like it’s now covered in tongue-and-groove panels—the surface is actually peel-and-stick faux shiplap wallpaper Christopher scooped up at Target. She meticulously cut out the parts that needed to fit around the ceiling fan and air vent, all while balancing on a ladder. “It was comical to watch,” she says. 

tiny green bathrom

The not-so-funny part about renovating the only bathroom in your house is having to readjust your showering schedule around the construction. “Sam and I would coordinate both showering at night and being like, ‘Okay, for the next three days, we have to get by without using it.’” Their dog, though, didn’t get the memo when the space was mid-paint, and he went out in the yard and got sprayed by a skunk. “It was a fiasco,” she says with a laugh. But none of the chaos compares to what the room looked like before.

About the author