Powder Room Makeover – on a Beer Budget

Our powder room makeover was a long time coming. It is the first room you see as you come into our front entry and it was an eyesore. Dated oak cabinets, builder beige walls, old toilet and an ugly light fixture made for a poor first impression.

It HAD to change, but having just gotten married, we had champagne taste on a beer budget! We salvaged everything that was usable and upcycled some second hand finds (one found in our very own basement). That makes this a budget friendly makeover – and a fairly sustainable one too!

Before powder room makeover: tiny bathroom with vanity and beige fixtures

Powder Room Makeover Demo

Our powder room makeover starts by stripping away the things that we would either replace or update. As it turns out, that’s everything except the cabinet doors! Those are going to be upcycled! In fact, you could probably say that this bathroom is an exercise in upcycling cabinet doors! As you’ll see later, we also upcycled a door to create an unusual medicine cabinet.

Powder room makeover before - cabinet with exposed plumbing

After taking down the sheet of mirror over the old vanity, we patch the walls. Wanting to add a hanging mirror there instead, I couldn’t find anything that really caught my fancy. Until one day we found something fantastic in a pile of old junk in our very own basement! You’ll see that a bit later.

After exposing the plumbing, we took the opportunity to thoroughly seal all holes. The previous homeowners had mice problems and sealing openings makes entry into the home less likely if they do get in again.

Patching the walls before priming for powder room makeover

Prime the walls and then paint the entire room. We chose a dark charcoal grey. The colour is actually Kendall Charcoal – HC-166 from Benjamin Moore. You might think that a dark colour will make the room look smaller, but it doesn’t. I think it’s because there’s a lot of contrast by way of artwork, fixtures and trim paint, which are all light.

Powder Room Makeover Vanity

Hubs rebuilt the vanity cabinet because it wasn’t very sturdy, but kept the doors so I could add a special feature: iridescent grey water glass.

We cut the centre panel out of each door, then spray painted the frames with charcoal grey car paint. Car paint is durable so great to use in the bathroom without fear of splashes!

After the paint is dry, I insert the glass into the doors and hang them on the cabinet.

Then I add new hardware. Because this particular glass isn’t tempered, I don’t recommend putting water glass in the lower part of any cabinet if you have young children.  Because we don’t have kids, that’s not a problem. The ripples in the glass are fun and it adds an amazing sparkle!


Water glass is beautiful, but it isn’t tempered so beware!

Powder Room Makeover Backsplash

Before we cut the hole for the sink, I install a glass tile backsplash. The counter gives me somewhere to work and rest my tools, adhesive and bucket of grout during the install. Because it’s such a tiny area (and we’re trying to save money), I use a dollar store rubber kitchen spatula instead of a more expensive float to apply the grout! It works great.

Now we’re ready for a new ceramic sink. When you’re on a budget, be sure to ask if there’s a clearance centre when you’re shopping (assuming you’re not in lockdown). That’s how we saved on ours!

Before installing, we use putty to seal around the hole cut for the sink. Just roll it into a rope and apply around the edge. The putty adds an extra measure of water proofing that I think is better than caulking for sealing. It also provides a cushion to bed the sink into.

Putty is rolled into ropes before applying to sink area of powder room makeover

Our budget makeover is starting to shape up! The counter was actually the inspiration for the colour scheme of the bathroom. It happens to be a left over piece from the renovation of my previous fixer-upper. I just knew I’d have a use for it one day, so held onto it. It was the perfect size – and essentially free!

We also installed a new matching toilet paper and towel holder in a chrome finish to add more sparkle.

Medicine Cabinet Storage

Hubs is using the powder room in the morning to shave and brush his teeth so he doesn’t wake me up. In any case, extra storage is always a good idea. We found an old wooden medicine cabinet door at the Habitat for Humanity Re Store – I think it cost a mere $2 – and built a box for it with some shelves!

We measured the perimeter of the cabinet, then cut a hole in the drywall between the studs so we could recess it into the wall.  2 x 4’s along the top and bottom, in between the studs, reinforce the structure to accept the cabinet.

Spray painting the cabinet frame and door the same colour as the walls blends it seamlessly.

But then, for a pop of colour, I decide to do THIS to the door.

Adjusting spacing of medicine cabinet for powder room makeover

Decoupage Medicine Cabinet

Again, another freebie, the decoupage is prints from an old calendar. There’s also a decorative venetian plaster effect troweled right on top through a variety of botanical and nautical stencils. Crackling right over the plaster and decoupage, then rubbing in a bit of stain to age it, highlights the texture. Thin strips of wood separate each image. Finally, I add a high gloss Varathane to protect it all from splashes.

A plain wooden cabinet get a fun decoupage finish to add a POP of colour to the powder room makeover

The decoupaged door is a welcome pop of colour in the monochromtic space? But we needed a mirror that would counterbalance it and also reflect the burst of colour coming from the ‘artwork’.

Here is what we found in the aforementioned junk pile in our basement. This mirror used to belong to Hubs’ great grandmother. It’s not a thing of beauty – yet, but it has potential! You can read more about our vintage mirror update.

I love the authentic antique quality of the mirror glass itself. It’s see-through in spots. And to me, the fact that the silver backing isn’t perfect enhances its charm!

Once the mirror is in place, it does just the trick to balance and reflect the medicine cabinet:

Finishing Touches

You’d think we might have stopped there, but we really wanted to go all out with the finishes. It really isn’t a big splurge to add crown moulding at the ceiling in such a small space.

First, we installed wooden corner blocks to help us position the moulding. Then we pin-nailed it in place. Caulk any gaps at the ceiling and walls with paintable caulk and it will look flawless!

Blocks on wall/ceiling for crown moulding for powder room makeover

As you can see above, we still don’t have a new light fixture in place at this point. This is actually what we started with.

Bathroom fixture before powder room makeover; glass flowers on light strip

Since I was taking a stained glass fusing course at the time, I made my own glass light fixture.

It’s difficult to get a great picture, but there are starfish in the glass that play off the ceramic ones on the wall below. The white crown moulding, light fixture and star fish contrast the deep colour of the walls.

One Splurge

Our one big splurge in the bathroom is the Toto low flow toilet to replace the old beige water guzzler. Toto is a brand we swear by.

After of powder room makeover showing star fish wall decor, mirror, vanity and toilet

I had my heart set on a one piece Toto, but a sleeker look is hundreds more $$’s.  A two piece is just as functional and we’ll reap the benefits in water savings too.

Close up of star fish wall decor for powder room makeover

The makeover was a big improvement and now Hubs has a nice place to get ready in the morning. At first, he thought it was too nice and thought we should reserve it for guests only. However, I truly believe that the real secret to a long and a happy marriage is never having to share a bathroom, so I didn’t see any reason to start 🙂

I know styles change, but we’ve been married for 17 years now and this bathroom still make me happy! So far, we haven’t changed a thing.

More Bathroom Makeover Ideas

Need some ideas for an upcoming bathroom reno? Have a look at some of our other bathroom DIYs:

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12 thoughts on “Powder Room Makeover – on a Beer Budget

    • Thanks Anita! There isn’t much you can do with a tiny space but we’re loving the cosmetic changes.

  1. What a great room makeover! I love how you made some DIY wall art from calendar pages too, it looks so pretty!

    • It’s surprising sometimes where art can come from; it’s was too pretty not to repurpose!

    • Thanks Karin! Can’t go wrong with neutrals and a pop of colour 🙂

  2. Sara I’m in the middle of re tiling my bathroom so I know just how much work it is. I have a question for you. I really like the look of the tiles and how at the edges they are simple no curved tiles to finish them off. Do you have any tips on how to protect the edges when the tiles come out half an inch from the wall? Do I add grout on the edges all around? Thanks in advance. I’m at my wits end

    • Good to hear from you Mary! We didn’t protect ours because it’s in a powder room, but for a professional looking tile job where you want to protect the edges, you can buy metal tile edge trim protectors. This is what they look like – https://amzn.to/3JiUwdO. BTW, this one shows 10 pieces; they’ll definitely be able to help you with something similar in the tile store. By the way, you can also get them in plastic, but I find they tend to crack and even yellow if you get white. Good luck with your reno. Please let me know how it turns out!

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