Our $50 Bathroom Refresh

When we were apartment searching almost 2 years ago, I swear we looked at nearly every apartment in the area that fit out price range. After what felt like weeks and months of endless searching we finally settled on the apartment that we currently call our home sweet temporary home. Emphasis on temporary. When we toured the model floor plan of what would soon be our floor plan of choice, what I remember seeing ended up being very different than what we moved into. We toured a spacious, light, bright, and beautifully staged apartment model that hit most of the items on our checklist. It made choosing this complex and floor plan and easy decision after such a hard search.
The 2 things I remember most about that tour was all the beautiful natural light and the large master bathroom with dual sinks. The master bathroom was bigger than any we had seen…it was a long room with high ceilings and no doorways – think open concept. It was spacious and equipped with dual sinks – perfect for the 2 of us who would be utilizing this space at the same time every morning. Sadly though, what we moved into was quite the opposite. Our apartment windows are literally facing the exact opposite direction as those in the model apartment, making all that beautiful natural light that I remembered nearly non-existent. And the master bathroom? Bad. Real bad. Nowhere near the example of the model apartment. The trickery!
I remember moving in and grabbing a box to deposit in the master bathroom and stopping dead in my tracks. I swear we were given the wrong apartment. Our master bathroom is literally half in length of the model we had seen. A doorway separates the carpeted (gag) sink area from where the toilet and shower/tub are located and the door to the toilet/shower area opens inward and barely clears the toilet by about an inch…if that. The high ceilings are non-existent too. In fact, there’s a huge bulkhead above our sink area making it feel cramped and dungeon-like…a far cry from the large master bathroom I was expecting to get. I almost cried. I was so confused that I called the leasing office and was informed that the model apartment we were shown had been retrofitted to be handicap accessible, thus meaning that all 1st floor, handicap accessible apartments had higher ceilings, wider doorways, or no doorways at all, making our 2nd floor apartment master bathroom layout entirely different, considerably smaller…and here’s the kicker…being that we were on the 2nd floor, our ceilings, particularly in the bathrooms and hallways were indeed considerably lower that those of the apartments on the 1st and 3rd floors. Ugh.
Here’s what I’ve been working with over the last year:
Not good, not bad. But knowing what I saw in the beginning, the bathroom situation could be way better. Especially if I lived on the 1st or 3rd floor. But I digress.
Unfortunately, being in a rental, there isn’t anything you can do structurally. Recently, not having a place of our own that’s ours has been weighing heavily on me. It’s hard living in a space that isn’t yours, your taste, your style, or one you can freely make changes to without the fear of paying for them later. But…this bathroom has bothered me so much over the last year, that I couldn’t let that derail me. Even though I cant build the bathroom that dreams are made of, I have to make do with what we have. Just because I hate our current bathroom situation, doesn’t mean I can’t pretty it up to make it just a tad bit more bearable in the meantime.
I’ve been wanting to “decorate” this bathroom for some time as a way to make it a little easier to deal with its shortcomings. Over the weekend, I did just that. It only took a few hours (most of that time was dry time) and it only cost me about $50. That’s about all the time and $$ this cruddy bathroom deserves anyways. #kidding #sorta
Without a whole lot of bathroom are that could be addressed, or much that I could actually change, I figured that zhusing up the boring apartment standard mirror would bring the most visual impact and give me the most bang for my buck. I thought about making a simple frame for the large mirror but decided to take it a step further and do something a bit different. I’d been on the hunt for some over sized frames to bring this vision to life but…I’m el-cheapo here, so it took forever to find a pair of frames that matched, were light weight, had visual interest, and didn’t cost 8 million dollars. I know! A lot of must haves to contend with.
After several weeks of searching, and nearly scrapping this idea all together…I received this picture from my Mom:
She found these gaudy gold, plastic, oval mirrors at the Swap Meet for $15 a piece. Minus the mirror part, they were perfect for the bathroom project I had in mind! Aren’t Moms the best? Yes…they totally are! Love, ya Mom! (We’ll see if she really reads my blog after all – ha ha)
With mirrors in hand, I removed the paper backing, the mirrors, and painted the frames white. Don’t forget to paint the underside of the frames too. The underside of the frame will reflect against the mirror if it’s not painted too. Once dried, I used every renters best friend, 3M Command Strips for picture hanging. I positioned the strips all around the frame, and then attached each frame to the large bathroom mirror making sure each frame was centered over each sink. I didn’t bother trying to measure exact placement, I just eyeballed it.
Ah, instant upgrade!

The only other items I added were 2 new clear glass soap dispensers ($12) and 2 new white hand towels ($8). We had everything else already. I decided to go with an all white color scheme because the space was so dark to begin with that it just really needed something to lighten it up and when I think of all white bathrooms, I think of spas and who doesn’t love spas? Now walking into this dungeon every morning puts a little pep in my step.
The apothecary jars are dual purpose and I just love them. They house every day essentials like Q-Tips, cotton balls, an bath salts that just so happen to match the all white, spa-like feeling I was going for. They’re pretty to look at and the clear glass doesn’t obstruct or take away from the overall space. I love using pretty vessels to house ordinary items.
I brought in a little blue and white bud vase that I found at the thrift store a while ago and popped in some pink flowers for a punch of color. I’ve never had flowers in the bathroom before, but now…I’m a fan! It’s impossible to be grumpy and crabby in the morning when flowers are around!
The last little detail of this bathroom refresh is this oval wooden tray. It was a last minute addition that didn’t get photographed during my first round of shots but I found it in my stash and thought it was the perfect size to corral my bobby pins (in a cute dish of course) or small jewelry such as earrings or bracelets. The wood adds a much needed warmth and texture to the space and really rounds it off beautifully.

Not bad for $50, eh? A few thrifty finds and shopping your house can go a long way to amp up any space. Not being able to change much else, I think this is exactly what our bathroom needed. I’m now wondering why I didn’t do something sooner in here and scheming up ideas for our much larger guest bathroom. Adding frames, whether they’re over sized, chunky picture frames or from a mirror to a boring apartment standard mirror is an easy and temporary way to update your apartment rental bathroom without having to pay for the damage later! Using the 3M Command Strips makes it easy to remove with no evidence that it was ever there. Love those things! My only suggestion is to find a frame with a semi-flat back so that the Command Strips have a flat surface to adhere to. Also, use caution when removing the frames. Don’t get all Hercules on them. Slow and steady wind the race.
Down the line, I may change out these oval frames for something more…dare I say…gender neutral? The filigree frames did go a bit girly-glam real fast and being that my boyfriend uses this bathroom too, I ought to find some chunky, over sized, rectangular frames that would put this bathroom back in the neutral zone. But…he’s a trooper and gives me free reign, so until then, I’m hating on this bathroom a little less these days 🙂

7 responses to “Our $50 Bathroom Refresh”

  1. That is pretty impressive. That is not much money at all. I recently went to home goods and was really surprised by what good prices they have. I might try and do something similar with a few rooms in our home. Our children just left home and so I think we want to start fresh with a new life lease

  2. I love how you have used accessories to freshen up the look of your bathroom. We recently had a new bathroom suite installed by a local plumbing company. Once the new suite was in I new that we needed to refresh the room with a new mirror and other matching accessories that complimented the new suite. Yours looks wonderful.

  3. Accessories are the best aren't they?! They really can make the room come to life for not much money at all! A few thrifty finds mixed in with some new purchases is my most favorite combination 🙂

  4. Wow! I think I need you to come re-do my old bathroom I think it looks amazing. It's most definitely something I would love for my daughter's bathroom. Mirrors create an illusion of more space, which is why I love them so much in my home and bathroom. But really, it looks like something a person could buy at the mall, yet so cost effective by creating it yourself.

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