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Two Great, DIY, Small Bathroom Renovations

Updated on April 25, 2016
renoelle profile image

Renoelle, published author, and is a long-time fan of classic TV and movie monsters of all persuasions.

Small, narrow bathrooms can be cramped and uncomfortable, and sometimes we just don't have enough extra space to enlarge them. If the bathroom is upstairs, simply increasing the footprint of the house may not be possible. There are DIY solutions to this home renovation dilemma, though, such as a clever re-purposing of some space borrowed from another room, or from the attic eaves.

Both of the older homes in these two renovations feature small, awkwardly located bathrooms, each in desperate need of an update. Though the homeowners actually hired both a plumber to reroute the pipes, and an electrician to make the proper and necessary changes, all the rest of the renovations were definitely do-it-yourself.

Sleek, streamlined fixtures

Kichler pedestal sink and light from
Kichler pedestal sink and light from

1. The Attic Extension

The first bath was rather awkwardly placed in a dormer, right next to the attic access. It featured a great view from "the throne", but had little else to recommend it.

The bathroom was long and cramped, about 5' wide by 11' long, with the window facing out over the back of the house. The entrance was at the other end of the narrow room. The tub sat lengthwise in the center of one wall, a floor-to-ceiling sidewall at each end of it, and the attic access opposite. The toilet and sink sat almost facing each other in the window end of the room.

There was very little space to start with, and the layout of the appliances didn't help much. The narrow walkway past the tub, followed by squeezing past the sink to get to the toilet made the room feel claustrophobically small.

The attic access proved to be the solution for this room. It was just deep enough to accept a full-size fiberglass tub, and just tall enough for an average-sized person to stand up in the tub. The attic wall was removed just the length of the new tub, and an operable skylight was let into the roof, adding a bit more height, as well as some much needed light and ventilation.

The new alcove's walls were waterproofed, and then all three were tiled from the tub right up to the skylight, with a small niche built into one end to hold shampoo bottles.The tiles were one inch in size and mainly cream in color, with some water-glass green and blue glass tiles at random intervals to add a splash of color and help diffuse the light that streamed in from the skylight.

There was enough room in front of the tub to attach a cedar bench, and add two shelves under it for towel storage. The bench was a perfect addition. The cedar bench with its built-in shelves was stained to match the old, but still-beautiful, original wood flooring,

The toilet remained where it was, but on the wall where the tub had been, some major changes were made.

Vessel Sink

Simple elegance
Simple elegance | Source
Cream and white beauty
Cream and white beauty | Source

The floor to ceiling sidewall closest to the door was removed, and the one by the toilet was turned into a three foot stub-wall. This way it still afforded some privacy for the toilet, but didn't block the light from the window.

The sink was moved onto a new corner-shelf vanity that was attached to the other side of the stub wall, where the end of the tub had once sat.

The angled, corner shelf had plenty of room for a new-style vessel sink, and with no vanity cupboard underneath, lent an airy, fresh feel to the room.

The old medicine chest was left up on the wall opposite the toilet.

The old mirror was re-silvered and the old, original hardware refurbished, and the floor was touched up and buffed to remove any signs of wear or damage form the remodeling.

Pale creamy yellow paint on the walls and fresh white trim completed the makeover, turning what was once a cramped, awkward space into a beautiful and stylish, totally successful, small bathroom renovation.

Tiled Shower Enclosure

Inlaid tile shower enclosure from
Inlaid tile shower enclosure from

2. The Re-Purposed Closet

The second make-over took place in the upstairs guest-bedroom of another older house. The bedroom itself was quite lovely but not over-large, and it featured a large lovely window at one end of the room, in the center of one wall. On the side wall that stood at right angles to the window wall were two doors almost side by side. The door closest to the widow end of the room opened into a small closet-like room with a window on the end wall, and a sink installed under it. The second door opened into a closet.

There seemed to be little point in having only a sink in the room, so first, the wall between the two small rooms was removed, and the doorway to the closet was walled over. The door into what had been the "sink room" was changed for a pocket door and the sink was removed.

Then a plumber was called in to work his magic. A toilet was installed under the window. Then the other end was fitted with a custom shower pan, and plumbed for a shower. Then the three walls and ceiling of the enclosure were tiled with lovely, light-reflecting glass tiles.

A patterned, decorative band of small, one inch, contrasting tiles was let into the new shower enclosure, and continued around the rest of the new bathroom's walls to make a wainscoting border, with larger tile below the decorative border, and painted walls above.

A long narrow sink with an end mounted faucet was attached to the wall towards the shower enclosure, and narrow glass shelves were mounted on the wall above it in place of a traditional vanity or medicine chest.

The slightly marbled, creamy ceramic floor tiles were a perfect compliment to the pale, multi-tonal, sage and blue-green glass tiles of the shower enclosure. The Celadon green tiles below the decorative band blended beautifully with the overall color scheme of cream and pale greens and soft blues.

The glass door for the shower enclosure swings back flat to the wall for easy access in or out of the shower stall, and the brushed nickel hardware perfectly matches the finish of the taps. The new toilet is an low-profile water-saver, so it is not only a beautiful and useful guest-bath addition, it is very eco-friendly as well, using less than half the water of a standard toilet..

Helpful Tips for Tiling a Shower

The problem of closet space in the guest-bedroom was solved by installing a large cabinet on either side of the window. Purchased at a big-box store, the cabinets fit nicely one either side, filling in the space as if they had been especially built for the room.

One of the cabinets was fitted with shelves, and in the other, a bar for hanging clothes was installed, with a shoe rack on the cupboard floor. Each cabinet had a large, bottom drawer that proved to be perfect for storing extra bedding and pillows.

The cabinets were connected to each other by a shelf over the window. The built-in look was completed with the addition of a window seat that joined the two cupboards across their bottoms. A drawer was added under the window seat to match the drawers in each of the now-connected chests, and quarter-round was added as trim around each of the three drawers. Then the whole piece was re-finished in a lovely light oak color.

With the exception of consulting an architect and having the designs drawn up professionally, the only other trades people called in were the plumber, the electrician, and a framing carpenter. All the other work, including tiling, painting, hanging wallboard, and refinishing furnishings was done by the homeowners - two impressive and successful DIY home renovation projects.

Help from The Home Depot

© 2010 renoelle


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    • renoelle profile image

      renoelle 2 years ago from Second star on the right, straight on 'til morning

      Yikes - what did you eventually do about that?

    • profile image

      Alya 4 years ago

      LMAO there is vintage chic, and then there is ^^^^ that haha. Actually a lot of our house smkcas of bad taste, its going to take us ages to get it all done, I only just noticed the kitchen roof has embossed paper on the roof the other day, I have been here 3 weeks lol.Vxxx

    • renoelle profile image

      renoelle 6 years ago from Second star on the right, straight on 'til morning

      Thanks for stopping by to comment, Nic - and I must say Nick that I quite agree with you. I know my current bath is just large enough for me to change my mind :D I have posted your remarks below without the link:

      Nic @ Towel Radiators 12 days ago

      This is great. There are not enough posts about decorating small and cramped bathrooms. Not all of us have bathrooms the size of football pitches! Thank you!

    • renoelle profile image

      renoelle 6 years ago from Second star on the right, straight on 'til morning

      Thanks so much, whitton! Always nice to find that an improvement actually adds value :D:D

    • whitton profile image

      whitton 6 years ago

      Great Hub. These are all great ideas for redoing your bathroom. I agree that kitchen redos are key to adding value to your home and bathroom comes in 2nd place.

    • renoelle profile image

      renoelle 6 years ago from Second star on the right, straight on 'til morning

      Thanks so much, 'Bonds. I have been told renovating a bathroom is second only to kitchen renos for adding value to your home.

    • AllSuretyBonds profile image

      AllSuretyBonds 6 years ago

      Great Hub. These are all very neat ideas for bathroom renovations. Renovated a bathroom is a great way to update and increase the value of the home.

    • renoelle profile image

      renoelle 7 years ago from Second star on the right, straight on 'til morning

      Thanks, Jim Dee - it helps to break it down into small steps ;)

    • profile image

      Jim Dee 7 years ago

      Great article! Remodeling a small bathroom seems to be a tough task for many home owners...thanks for your post

    • renoelle profile image

      renoelle 7 years ago from Second star on the right, straight on 'til morning

      Most welcome! Glad you enjoyed it - wish the builder had, too!

    • pdxremodeling profile image

      pdxremodeling 7 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      I found the re-purposed closet section very entertaining! Nice hub.

    • renoelle profile image

      renoelle 7 years ago from Second star on the right, straight on 'til morning

      Thanks, Pamela99! Must come from dealing with renovators ;)

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

      What a great informative hub with good ideas. You explain things very well.

    • renoelle profile image

      renoelle 7 years ago from Second star on the right, straight on 'til morning

      Thanks so much, Money Glitch! I am so excited to be nominated! It might take me a few extra whacks with the hammer, but I can usually get the nails in straight ;)

      Thank you, shazwellan. It was fun to research.

    • shazwellyn profile image

      shazwellyn 7 years ago from Great Britain

      This is such an informative, well written aricle. Thank you :)

    • Money Glitch profile image

      Money Glitch 7 years ago from Texas

      DIY always makes things look so easy, however when you are all thumbs and not mechanically inclined like me, it's best to leave it to a professional. LOL! Thanks for sharing and congrats on being selected to this week's HubNuggets Wannabe nomination. :)

    • renoelle profile image

      renoelle 7 years ago from Second star on the right, straight on 'til morning

      Wow! Thanks ripplemaker! I'll hop over right away and see what's happening - thanks so much for the heads up!

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      I am continually amazed with do it yourself renovations. Great and valuable tips. Thank you for sharing :) Congratulations to your Hubnugget nomination. Do join the Hubnugget fun by voting and promoting. To view the Hubnuggets, this way please:

    • renoelle profile image

      renoelle 7 years ago from Second star on the right, straight on 'til morning

      Thanks so much, gtea. I thought it looked really classy, too.

    • green tea-cher profile image

      green tea-cher 7 years ago

      Great ideas with the bathroom. What a great way to improve an older home.

      Also like the idea of joining the two cabinets with a window seat. Great work!