bathroom_main photo
March 15, 2014

Skip to My Loo

Yippee! I totally feel like skipping because…I survived our bathroom renovation! My first reno experience EVER. If you recall, we were on the fence about actually going through with it. After a little more hemming and hawing, we decided to proceed. I’ll provide all the details later in this post but first, here are the amazing photos!

Before: our dark and dated 5′ x 8′ master bathroom was begging for a makeover.

After: Since we didn’t enlarge the size of the room, we wanted to make the existing space feel lighter, brighter, and more modern.

Same view as above but with our stuff added.

The door on the old vanity literally fell off the day before demolition began. (I think it knew its days were numbered.)

Our new vanity is sturdier and more streamlined. It’s also taller and not as wide, which fits the space much better. The medicine cabinet has a smudge-resistant mirror (gotta love that).

Here’s another shot of our old vanity.

We got rid of the glass shelf that used to sit below the mirror. (It no longer fit with the height of the new vanity.) We considered moving it above the toilet but ditched it altogether. We have ample storage and additional available shelving in an adjacent closet.

Good riddance to the ugly terracotta tiles, moldy grout, and ancient Jacuzzi tub.

Say hello to white subway tile all the way up to the ceiling, an inset shelf to hold shampoo bottles, a cast iron tub, and a curved shower curtain rod (instead of a rickety tension rod).

One of the best things we did was replace the loud, rattling exhaust fan and its grungy plastic grille cover with a recessed light/fan combo. Now, you can barely hear it when it’s on.

More info about the process and sources…

Three lessons learned:

1. You, your thorough planning, and your plastic tarp will be utterly futile against the relentless onslaught of drywall dust. It will settle into everything you own. Window sills? Check. The mantle located on the floor below? Check. The TV console in the basement where your contractors never set foot? Yes (unbelievably), check.

Sorry to burst your bubble but tarp and painter’s tape are no match for powdery drywall dust.

2. Try to make peace with the fact that your home will be in disarray for awhile. As a neurotic neat freak and queen of clean, I struggled with this and felt completely discombobulated. Somehow I hadn’t realized that every floor of our townhouse would be impacted by the renovation (e.g. you have to clear a path through your home so the contractors can carry debris, equipment, etc. back and forth, duh).

For four weeks, much of our house was tarped. You learn to live with it (sort of).

3. Whatever your contractor tells you about your project’s estimated timeline, double it. Ours was supposed to take two to three weeks. It ended up taking four. And our contractor is a highly-reputable and honest gentleman whose team does exceptional work. Random events will crop up and cause delays: snow days, the flu, etc. That’s life. However, for your part, make sure you have all the materials (e.g. tub, tile, towel bars) on hand when your contractor is ready to install them. Also, know that change orders will extend the timeline and add to your budget.

During demo, we were so thankful that our contractors didn’t find any mold or structural problems. Addressing those types of issues would have cost us extra time and money. Whew!


(Note: the only items we reused from the old bathroom were our Kohler toilet and two-light wall sconce.)

  • Subway tile: The Tile Shop
  • Marble 1-inch hex tile, baseboards, thresholds: The Tile Shop
  • Kohler Villager cast iron tub: Lowe’s
  • Chelsea by Simpli Home 31-inch white vanity with undermount sink and quartz marble countertop: Lowe’s
  • Crystallized white glass backsplash: Signature Hardware
  • Kohler medicine cabinet, towel bars, toilet paper holder: Lowe’s
  • Moen bathtub faucet, showerhead, sink faucet: Lowe’s
  • Oval pivot mirror: Restoration Hardware
  • Wall paint color: Valspar Seashell Gray (4003-1A) from Lowe’s
  • Artwork: Synchronized Swimmers Print from Rifle Paper Co.
  • Stitch Black + White shower curtain: Unison

Budget:  $10,000 all in

Contractor Info:

Although I did a lot of research and fielded more than three bids on my own (including contractor walk-throughs at our house), I ultimately used the services of HomeWise Referrals. If you live in the DC metro area, I highly recommend them. Owner Debbie Farson will provide you with several vetted contractors who would be appropriate for your project. And she follows your project until it’s done. It’s a free service, and on their website they explain how they stay objective.

My contractor was Jim Rydell of Rydell Homes. You know the shifty, negligent contractors that Adam Corolla ambushes on his new show? Jim is the exact opposite.

Jim Rydell

Office: 703.536.1906

Update on March 20, 2014: Check out the discussion about “Drywall Drama“—the often fraught relationship between homeowners and contractors—that the New York Times just published.

Join the conversation! 6 Comments

  1. […] on March 15, 2014: Well, we did it! Check out this post for the “after” […]

  2. So beautiful Jen! I especially love the floor and vanity. You did a great job and I loved your post complete with tips and where you purchased everything. Ps, miss ya we need to gather soon 😉

  3. Hey Steph! Thanks so much! I’m very relieved and happy that it’s over. I might never leave my house now :) Yes, we need to get together!

  4. Thanks for the shout-out, Jen! We were happy to help, and are so pleased to see these beautiful before and after photos! It is amazing how lightening things up made it seem both bigger and more up-to-date.

    -Debbie Farson
    HomeWise Referrals, Inc.

  5. […] you may have guessed, I’ve been ensconced in our gleaming new bathroom for the past month, pinching myself that the renovation is actually over. But a gal can’t […]

  6. […] I’ve become obsessed with nesting. While we’re thankfully not undertaking another renovation this year, we are assessing and replacing some […]


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