Before & After: A Rental Bathroom Upgrade with a Vintage Portrait Gallery


Megan’s rental bath makeover is low key awe inducing. Without making any major upgrades, it’s like she helped her bathroom leap forward into modern styling, while also time traveling back to the time of glam powder rooms.

From Megan: The walls of our bathroom were decked in a puzzling color scheme with one brown wall and the rest purple. It was flat paint so it felt pretty dingy and not very practical in a bathroom. The overall arrangement wasn’t bad, but neither the sink, medicine cabinet, light fixture or vent were centered above each other. And most of the smaller fixture choices, like faucets and lights, were very cheap and dated. On one side of the room was a built-in vanity/storage situation, cheaply made with warped cabinetry and askew doors and drawers. It was topped with a formica countertop that didn’t really fit in with the era of the house, but I found it rather charming with its small flecks of pink throughout. Plus the idea of a built-in vanity was pretty great. Above the vanity was an off-centered light fixture (probably placed so it would’t be hit by the cabinet door), but it bugged me nonetheless. But the worst offender in my option was the beige floor. The color just made everything feel dirty and generally unappealing.

Since it’s a home we rent I didn’t have permission to make any permanent alterations, plus couldn’t justify investing a lot of our money. Even replacing the light fixtures and cheap faucet were out of the scope of our means, but I wanted to see how far some new paint, accessories, and other attempts at minimizing some of the eyesores could get us. I just wanted to make the space feel more fresh and clean. It’s the main bathroom my husband and I use, so I wanted it to be as aesthetically appealing as possible.

The project was actually spread out over several years. It was the first room I tried to tackle when we moved in four years ago, but after painting I still felt really bummed about the floors. I spent a lot of time trying to come up with affordable and temporary solutions to alter them, but never landed on anything based on the cost and materials readily available locally. It wasn’t until recently I got the itch to just try and make it more bearable and give up on achieving any “ideal” end-result. I found the grey striped shower curtain at Target and it sparked the motivation to keep trying.

Installing the vintage portrait gallery wall was an impromptu idea. I wouldn’t normally think to have a gallery wall in the bathroom, but it seemed like the easiest way to minimize the off-centered light fixture above the vanity. I had recently found a vintage instructional magazine explaining how to draw portraits at an estate sale and decided to use those images to fill the wall. I picked up several frames at thrift stores, scanned some of the images and had them resized and reprinted to fit the frames, then had everything installed within a few days of initially coming up with the idea. I feel like that short of a timespan from idea to execution rarely happens for me, so I’m grateful! Also, I totally get that it’s probably weird to have a wall full of strangers looking at you while you’re exiting the shower, but we’re ok with it. To each their own.

I love that it now feels like it fits with the rest of the house. I’ve tried to tackle most of the other rooms in our house with a penchant for bold color, layered patterns and vintage charm. Though it may not be as colorful as some of the other rooms, I think the color-blocked black and white walls and vintage accessories still feel cohesive with that overall aesthetic.

If I could do anything differently, it would be to rip out the floor and install a tile more appropriate for the age of the house as well as switch out the faucet and light fixtures.

Megan’s words of wisdom: Paint can do wonders. And don’t let the desire for perfection keep you from doing little things to make your home inspiring now (even if it is only temporary).

Thank you, Megan! You can see more on Megan’s blog!

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