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shockingly effective bath updates you can do yourself

shockingly effective bath updates you can do yourself

whether you're planning your future remodel, intend on selling soon, or just like to daydream, we all have pinterest boards filled with dream spaces. "if only my space could be like that. if only." great news, all: it can!

I work with so many clients whose initial consultation goes something along the lines of, "I'm embarrassed to even show you this *reluctantly shows pictures of space*. it all needs to go, everything needs to go. where do we even start."

it's painful that almost everyone feels that it's necessary to rip their entire space down to get a space they're happy living in. these clients then get into the trap of "I can't afford an entire remodel," and just end up living with the space they hate forever. with a little bit of labor, there are so many small updates that can create such a huge impact on your space, costing not even a fraction of what a professional remodel would. read on!


scenario 1: you have a pink alcove tub from the 1920's. you don't need to demo the entire alcove and replace the bath when you can resurface it to a glossy white, leaving it looking like new.

next question - how much does this cost? well, you can outsource the labor to a general contractor, which will run variable amounts, or you can get the resurfacing materials and do it yourself. if you mess up, it's not a big deal because anything is better than that pink tub! generally, older alcove tubs are high-quality cast iron, and can really be brought up to a like-new appearance with a bit of work - despite that rusty and chipped enamel.

resurfacing takes a little work, including etching/priming the old tub, but it can certainly be done yourself if you're willing to put in a little labor. if this is a route you're interested in pursuing, rustoleum offers a fantastic diy kit.

toilet replacement

in my experience, with a pink tub also comes a pink toilet. at the low price of toilets, there's no need (or excuse) to hold onto that antique. check out our toilet guide for an easy-to-follow guide to picking a new toilet that's right for you. if you're willing to do a little learning and labor, a toilet can absolutely be replaced without the cost and assistance of a plumber as well. a clean toilet will shine in your bathroom, offsetting many of your pesky and dated dislikes!

panel systems

we're back to the 1920's bathroom; pink, rusty, leaky, cracked; it's all off. even the tile makes you cringe. lord, you hate tile. we've already covered the tub resurfacing, but what can you even do with the tile? it's not even pink, it's like a dark salmon, ugh.

stop! it's not hopeless - plumbing companies have got you covered. two words: shower panels! these panels are miracles for anyone looking to revamp their bath without a complete reno. with kohler at the forefront with a system called choreograph, large serica (crushed stone/fiber) panels that actually don't look too shabby, you can literally glue right over your tile. tile and grout be gone! these panels are large, so we suggest having a contractor assist if you want to go this route. consult your local showroom or distributor for more information.

as opposed to an acrylic/fiberglass, snap-together system, panel systems like choreograph significantly better looking, higher quality, customizable, and will make you resent your bathroom so much less.

the kohler choreograph system consists of large groutless wall panels with customizable accessories

the kohler choreograph system consists of large groutless wall panels with customizable accessories

shower panels are a great opportunity to cover up that unsightly tile whilst elevating your design and actually creating an opportunity for easier cleaning. yes, please.

shower trim

often times in older houses, you'll find weird antique plumbing you have no idea how to even operate. five taps just to turn on the filler? #k. a showerhead that puts out a cup of water/minute? naturally.

what can contribute most to your dislike of your space is the actual bathing experience. if you want a handshower or rainhead but believe you'd have to go behind your wall and do all sorts of expensive plumbing work, think again! almost all major brands offer products that are made for retrofitting new fixtures onto old plumbing setups, which offer you new designs, modernized controls, and the look you desire.


something that can absolutely make or break an entire space and is so often overlooked in any area is lighting. a pink bathroom from the 1920's with dingy, insufficient lighting is going to appear much more dated than an average-lit pink bathroom from the 1920's, which will appear just that; a pink bathroom from the 1920's; it's not hyped on design, but serves its purpose. update your recessed lighting with leds and add stylish sconces with 3000k lights, and you'll take 80 years off your bath.

best of all, lights (recessed included) are arguably the easiest fixtures to change out yourself; a few screws, springs, and BAM. you're done. also, you can find stunning, quality ones for pocket change.


if you can operate a screwdriver, you can replace the leaky, rusty faucet that's aging your entire space by decades. though I don't recommend "budget fixtures," there are so many on the market you can get for pennies, you can absolutely find one that will serve as a functioning bridge until you're ready for a quality fixture.


unbeknownst to many, one of the items that may be dating your bathroom the most is that tiny, dingy medicine cabinet. in older bathrooms, replacing and/or removing these will most likely be a much more involved and laborious process than replacing a just a faucet or sconce, since many old cabinets were atypical, nonstandard sizes.

if your bath has one of these old, small cabinets and you're looking to remove it, first remove the old cabinet, then plaster/drywall over the hole. instead of trying to fit a new cabinet (likely extending your construction work), install a new, larger mirror instead. this will make your space look much bigger and add a stylish, updated touch. add some freestanding/floating shelves along a wall with some baskets for your toiletries.

if you're handy and have the capability to do so (hats off to you!), install a new, larger medicine cabinet, lighted for an extra modern and functional touch. you and your visitors will be much too enamored with the mirror to even notice the dated surroundings.

odds and ends

if you need a bath remodel but don't have the time, money, or desire to do a complete overhaul, consider these smaller updates involving no contractor labor, expensive materials, skill, and don't require you dig too deeply into your pocket book.


nothing enhances a room like a fresh coat of paint. painting or refinishing your vanity/pedestal will create a glow equal to that of a completely new remodel.


something as little as an update to the hardware of a dated space can create a huge impact on the design of your room, as well as a unique touch. we love athropologie's notoriously gorgeous hardware. check out their selection for some inspiration.


in line with an update to knobs and pulls, an update to bath accessories like towel rings, towel racks, tp holders, shelves, hooks, and even toilet trip levers, can make it seem like your dated, pink fixtures and facade are an intentional part of the decor.

shower door

though many consider a shower curtain a chance to add a pop of color or design accent, we're a proponent of shower doors that allow you to show off the inside of your tub. a new shower door doesn't have to break the bank and is something that you can install yourself. this will make a huge impact on a tub or shower, making the space feel larger and much more to-date. for an alcove tub, consider a bath screen - a glass partition that covers only about half the shower.


many screens swing open, allowing for full tub-access, which are great and especially functional with the addition of a hand shower if you're looking for a setup in which adults can shower in and young ones can bathe.

have you tried or considered any of these updates to an outdated bathroom? if so, how'd they work?! for those with some experience, do you have any other tips or tricks? sound off below!

x - mk

making an alcove tub more than just a tub

making an alcove tub more than just a tub

concept board: geometric contemporary

concept board: geometric contemporary