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My primary bath is anything but luxurious. Quite frankly, I find it to be pretty intimidating when it comes to trying to plan for its remodel.

One of the challenges is simply that it is SO small. When I first began looking for houses, having a large, luxurious bath was right at the top of my list of criteria for the “perfect” house. That, along with a fenced (or fence-able) back yard, large kitchen, walk-in primary closet, and half bath downstairs. And, if that wasn’t enough, I wanted a house that I didn’t have to rely on contractors to fix up (no plumbing problems, roof issues, etc).

Unfortunately, I had Manolo Blahnik tastes on a Famous Footwear budget.

When I came across the house I live in now, I immediately hated the size of the bathrooms. In fact, I chose to not even put an offer in and instead spent two more months searching for the house I just knew had to be out there. It’s not that I didn’t find houses that fit everything I wanted; it’s that someone else found it first. After several months of searching, I realized that my price range was prime for investors looking to snatch up cheap income properties. These investors had cash, which banks found über appealing over my financing requirements. I can’t blame them, I would want the cash offer too! But of course, that meant that my search took many more months than I anticipated.

I don’t want to make it sound like I begrudgingly chose this house because it was the best of the rejects… but that’s kind of what happened. This house had all but one of the things on my list, and I could truly imagine turning this dusty and dated home into a much more contemporary space. It just felt right. It would be a great investment and adventure, and the owner was desperate to sell – even after the appraisal came in nearly $30k lower than what she wanted to sell it for (the only time I think I’ll ever be grateful for a foreclosure in my neighborhood)! The only place I couldn’t imagine were the bathrooms.

So, this is where I’m stuck. I’ve managed to make only one real improvement in here, which was spray painting the ugly frame around the medicine cabinet mirror. One day, I just got frustrated with the ugly wallpaper and broken towel bar and simply ripped it out. I’ve yet to take it past here:

I don’t doubt that this space has plenty of potential (that’s just about all it’s got right now), but I’m having a designer’s version of writer’s block. So, why not make this more interactive and let YOU give your own opinions? Have any of you had a similar dilemma? What have you done to your bathrooms that you are most proud of? Or have you simply let this room be, like I have? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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  1. Oh my goodness, Im pretty sure you just described our house hunting ordeal to a tee. And we have the teensiest master bathroom on Earth. Our solution is going to be “Make it bggier”. We're going to rob about 2.5 feet across the entrie length of master bedroom and expand out :0) Good luck, can't wait to see what you come up with!!

  2. When you can't go bigger, maybe you can go jewel-box pretty and play up its tiny dimensions with luxurious surfaces? For instance, swap out the plain Jane tile around the bathtub/shower for tiny mirrored tiles or real-glass tiles. Change the blah sink cabinet to a gorgeous pedestal sink, or a luminous, glass-bowl-type sink–the kind that stands above its counter top–and install a light that makes the bowl glow from below. Change the boring wallpaper to that uber-expensive wallpaper that you love because, after all, you need so little of it. Or spend the money on a professional painter to do a gorgeous, lacquer-style treatment on the walls so they seem to shimmer and glow. Splurge on the softest, fluffiest towels you can find, apply real gold leaf or silver leaf to the mirror's frame, put some sort of wall-mounted, doesn't-touch-the-ground shelving opposite the sink that goes sky-high, and fill it with beautiful, functional baskets and jars to hold your necessities. Buy a really lovely shower curtain, or even have one made up for you, or treat yourself to that expensive fabric you love and make your own. In my little master bath, I bought the second-most-expensive granite in the stone yard and put plenty of those little hockey-puck, recessed ceiling lights above it to show off how gorgeous it is. I also use sterling silver accessories on the counter, and I always try to have a fresh-cut flower in a bud vase next to my sink. The effect is small-but-super!

  3. Juli, thank you SO much for taking the time to come up with so many great ideas. And Michelle, I am envious that you are expanding your space!

    The neighborhood values are going to direct how far we can go with this reno, so adding things like granite won't necessarily increase the home's value enough to recoup the cost. I think the idea of adding some small luxurious items is definitely the way to go, so I will certainly be putting your suggestions to good use! Since it's a small space, I think I can add some spa quality without it getting too costly. Fantastic ideas, and thank you again!

  4. To be simple and affordable. First rip off that wallpaper and paint the room a lighter color to make it seem bigger. Maybe a light blue or gray, then paint the cabinets a complimenting shade of white. Get a pretty shower curtain and nice picture for the back of the wall behind the toilet, some cute accesories and you're all set.

  5. I would do a low-budget reno. First to go is the wallpaper, and slap some new paint in a hot-now color on those walls. Replacing the toilet lid would be the next thing (we replaced ours for a simple and cheap $5), and next would be the vanity. I would either replace the one you have or refinish it, and you could even tile the top yourself for a sweet look on the cheap. You could also replace the faucet, I know Lowe's sells more modern ones for just 20-30$, and it would make a huge difference. You lucked out with the shower tiles, at least they're a neutral white – like ours. I am sooo thankful we don't have pink ones or anything! White goes with everything. I can't see your flooring, but new tile would probably freshen it up. On top of that, if you installed white beadboard around the bathroom you could really up the style factor and finish it off, but I'm not sure if that's really the modern style you're after.

    You'll get there! ;)


  6. I completely get where you’re coming from! Our house living room would be perfect, except for the stupid fireplace with a mantle that *can’t hold a tv*. Who thought that was a good idea? The room would be perfect for an open concept (it’s already mostly there) but that stupid fireplace that we never use ruins it. Taking out a fireplace would be obnoxiously expensive though, so we work around.