Creating a Happy, Colorful, Handmade Home & life on the shores of lake superior

May 8, 2015

A Budget-Friendly Bathroom, Almost Two Years Laters - What Held Up, What Didn't

In preparation for our exciting reno, the bathroom has been largely dismantled and we're down to the studs on one side.  There's no going back!  Before we ripped apart the walls, I quickly snapped a few photos to show how the budget-friendly spruce held up.  Here's what the painted vanity, painted tile, painted hardware, and painted light fixture looked like when everything was freshly done:

Bathroom Makeover with Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations

And here's that same view, right before demolition commenced (which is why, if you look closely, it's not as clean - seemed like a waste of time to clean in the weeks days before we started to demo):

Review of Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations

As a quick reminder, here's what the bathroom looked like when we moved in:

I have to say that I really, really liked the makeover.  Of course, aqua cabinets would have been even better, but I wanted to work with what was there, like the linoleum floors, the mint counters, and the bisque toilet, sink, and shower, because the goal was to spend as little as possible.  When we bought the lakehouse and started tinkering with floor plans, sketching out mini makeovers, and spacing out/budgeting for major renovations, the original plan was to renovate the bathroom last year.  Unfortunately, the delay in selling our townhouse (plus the disappointing sale price), and the resultant delays moving in and tackling the kitchen meant that we just weren't prepared to renovate the bathroom last spring.  Having a spruced up space made delaying the renovation by a year so much easier.  Plus, it helped me figure out what I wanted for the bath renovation in the long run, and I'm grateful for that time to ponder.

So, how did everything hold up? 

The Painted Bathroom Vanity

It held up beautifully!  I am actually very surprised, because the Rust-Oleum Cabinet Transformations kit required no sanding or priming (click here to read my post about it).  It made me so nervous to skip those steps, but it adhered perfectly and held up to lots of scrubbing and cleaning.  In one teeny tiny area, where we forgot to put a cabinet bumper, the constant opening and slamming shut of the door rubbed off a tiny fleck of paint.  Cabinet bumpers are a must!  I was provided this product by Rustoleum, but would happily purchase it because it was far less labor intensive and messy than sanding, priming and painting (which we did for the kitchen cabinets), but it held up better than primer and paint.  I have had to touch up the kitchen cabinets in a few spots, but I haven't touched up the bathroom cabinetry (I ignored the little fleck because it was so wee).

How Did Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations Hold Up?
Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations - Castle Grey
Would I recommend it?  Yes!  Whole-heartedly - especially to someone who doesn't have ready access to a workshop or garage.  Sanding is so messy, but de-glossing can easily be done indoors without making a mess (as long as there is good ventilation).

Are there drawbacks?  The colour options are limited, but you get it tinted in-store, and I think that an adventurous person working the paint department could custom tint it.  They did that for me for the tile transformation kit because they didn't have the code for the exact white.  So custom colours could be a possibility.  As for other drawbacks, in can be a bit pricey if you're only refinishing a small set of cabinets - but there are kits in different sizes (small and large).  As I mentioned before, the only tricky part with application is the clear coat, which can end up streaky and is difficult to fix so you need to work quickly, in good light, and get an even application the first time.

The Painted Hardware

I am slightly disappointed with the painted hardware, but I think my sanding/prep work is to blame.  Overall, the hardware maintained its lovely matte black finish, but on two knobs the gold peeked through (see photo below).  It was such a bummer!  I didn't prime (the Rust-Oleum High Heat Enamel spray paint I used doesn't require it), so perhaps that would have helped.  I think that the real problem is that I didn't wipe off the residue well enough after sanding.  If I painted hardware again, I'd sand really well and then clean with TSP - that stuff works really well.  Using metal primer would also be a good idea.

Will Painted Hardware Hold Up?

Would I recommend it?  Sure!  It's just paint, and if you have hardware with a nice shape but unwelcome finish, it can be a really cost effective way to update it - especially if you're using leftover paint like I did.  If I was really bothered, it would have taken me two second to fix the gold patches.

The Painted Light Fixture

Gah!  That thing bothered me - not the paint makeover, but the fixture itself.  It's just so ugly.  I will admit, though, that it did provide nice light.  I always looked good in this bathroom, sort of airbrushed, which sometimes resulted in a botched makeup application - something I'd realize in horror when I looked in the truck vanity mirror, halfway to town.  I recently busted two bulbs cleaning it, so now I'm even less enamored with it.  I should admit that I am a hair spray fanatic, so everything in the bathroom gets coated in a light dusting of sticky mist.  The matte surface of the paint made it a bit trickier to wipe the spray residue off, but it also disguised it a bit.  I think a glossy finish would be better for something that requires regular cleaning, but there were no problems with the paint - no chips or loss of paint. 

Can I Spray Paint a Bathroom Light?

Would I recommend it?  Yes!  De-brassifying the light fixture made me much happier with the bathroom and it helped tide me over until the reno.  It definitely helped me save money because otherwise I might have been tempted to drop $20-50 on a new light fixture, which would have been a total waste.  I'm probably too worried, but because those bulbs do give off some heat I felt more comfortable using the Rust-Oleum High Heat Enamel spray paint (which has a really limited colour and finish selection).

The Painted Tile

Remember how I goofed that up?  If I'd followed the directions during the application, it would have been amazing!  Despite my rookie mistake, the Rust-Oleum Tile Transformation kit still held up - no damage or chipping, and it was easy to clean.  I have seen people cover tile using paint (like Jenny's bathroom makeover), but I can't speak to how well that holds up or cleans.  I can say that the Rustoleum tile paint ends up super smooth, just like ceramic - and not like paint at all.  I'm overly concerned with how well it cleaned, but sometimes I see a bathroom reno or makeover - with decorative crap littering the toilet tank, for example, and sigh, "that can't be easy to clean".  It's the hairspray thing - it clouds my vision.

Painted Bathroom Tile

Would I recommend it?  If you've got hideous tile and are in need of a temporary solution, I can't think of a better way to simply and cost-effectively update it.  I think of these Rust-Oleum products as band-aid solutions, though, and wouldn't recommend doing this and then investing in expensive new cabinets or something - this is for the budget-conscious, because once the grout lines are painted, close up it's evident that it's a faux finish.

After its budget-friendly makeover, the bathroom got a lot of love - especially from Apartment Therapy readers, many of whom deemed further renovation unnecessary.  Some even suggested taking the spruce a bit further and replacing the sink and counter, for a more permanent change.  But there are (were!) many things to dislike about the bathroom, despite my efforts at gussying it up:

The Portal to Nowhere

The shower portal is probably the #1 reason we want to renovate.

Ugly Shower Portal

I absolutely hate the shower portal, but I'm happy I lived with it for a year and a half, first.  Had we renovated immediately, I would have been tempted by a modern version, because the shower doors do contain the steam better than a shower curtain, which produces a cozier shower experience - until you step out into the frigid bathroom!  Ultimately, what has bothered me the most is how difficult it is to clean!  Okay, yes, I seem to be a bit preoccupied with how easy it is to clean things in the bathroom, but cleaning the glass doors was a nightmare!  Even after vigorous scrubbing, they never looked perfectly clean, plus they got covered in soap scum immediately anyway.  This is the day after I scrubbed them:

See that grime? Oh yeah, and the door didn't properly open and close anymore.  I can't believe I'm showcasing all of this grossness.  I even left my hand lotion and face wash on the vanity for photos - without putting them in pretty bottles.  They're going to revoke my blogger license!!

It is also awkward to clean inside the tub, because the glass panels prevent me from reaching inside easily.  I am SO excited to have a shower curtain again!  It will be easier to clean everything, and it won't produce such a dramatic temperature difference between the shower and the rest of the room.  Plus, I'm excited for new faucets because the existing ones have taken a beating and just look so sad (that's mostly wear - not all soap scum, but it's some soap scum, I'm not going to lie).

The Counter

The laminate counter, although I grew fond of the mint, chipped and began to peel (they were totally popping up in the kitchen when we moved in, but the bathroom was okay at the time).  Covering it with Rust-Oleum's Counter Top Transformations would have helped, but I didn't like any of the colour choices.  If we were living with the bathroom for longer, I would have probably tried it.  The concrete finish everyone is doing looks cute too, but that looks awfully dusty.

The Height

This vanity is SO low: only 30" (including the counter)!  I know we were accustomed to the taller, brand new vanity in the townhouse, which made this feel even shorter, but still - it's so short.  It seems like the silliest thing to complain about, but after you wash your hands and accidentally soak the crotch of your pants right before leaving the house - a dozen times - you start to pine for a taller vanity.  I'm very excited for our new walnut vanity, which will be between 36-37" tall - plus we'll have the bonus of double sinks!

So there you have it, some updates on our budget-friendly spruce (what held up and what didn't), and also a little tour of the grossness to better explain why we're renovating.  If you're curious about the makeover process, here are the other posts about making over the space:

Refinishing the Bathroom Cabinets
Refinishing the Bathroom Tile
The Before and After
Styling the Bathroom with Art & Accessories
Summary of Cabinet Refinishing Options

Now, forget you ever saw my grimey shower ;)


  1. can't wait to see the end result-- though I do love that cabinet paint color! I have painted tile in my bathroom too and it has held up amazing, I'm so surprised (and relieved!) because a gut job isn't in the books for us.

    1. Me too! It's a long road to the end result because we're taking things slowly and going very carefully. But we'll get there. Hopefully it looks exactly like what I envisioned.
      Isn't is exciting when a quick fix holds up so well? Happy to hear your tile makeover is still looking good!

  2. I have the opposite problem with my bathroom counter, it's too high. I'm only 5'4" and I have to stand on my tippy toes to lean over into the sink and wash my face lol.

    I can't wait to see the finished results.

    1. Oh gosh, I can see that being a total hassle, too!

  3. Very nice! Great job with the colors---I bet it was tough finding a suitable palette for that countertop!

    1. Thanks! Truth be told, the mint counter top didn't bother me. I think dusty rose or purple would be harder to work with because those aren't my colours, but mint + grey + black + white made me happy!

  4. That shower portal is hideously awesome! You should have painted it silver and turned it into a space ship.

    1. Isn't it brutal? If I could remove it in once piece, I could implement your idea and have a bitchin' lawn ornament. The neighbours have bath tubs and painted (non-functioning) fire hydrants littering their lawns - I could top them all with a space ship/flower bed!

  5. The Rustoleum Cabinet Transformation kit made a huge difference. Before it looked really outdated with the wood and colors about the room. Now it looks much more modern with the gray counters. The gray cabinet and mint counter look really good together. I am surprised on what a huge difference it made with the linoleum floor. Everything works together now.

    Essie Reed @ Valley Home Improvement


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