Bathroom renovation: From jungle to under-the-sea

November 6 2014 | Guest post by Lenna

bathroom makeover from jungle to sea

If you looked at my cozy Canadian apartment tour from earlier this year, you may have noticed that my bathroom was conspicuously absent. It's not that we don't have a bathroom… it's just that the bathroom was the room I really, really wanted to renovate first! Instead, I did our balcony to take advantage of the good weather, and plotted and schemed what to do with our bathroom for many months.

Monkey bathroom: before

monkey bathroom

Although I loved the monkey accessories that Matt had since we started dating, after five years of living with it, I wanted a change. The monkeys haven't left us… they're just hibernating until we have a second bathroom. I have difficulty with early mornings, especially in the dark Canadian winter, so I wanted the bathroom to be so incredibly fucking cheerful that I couldn't help but wake up and be alert in the morning! And despite the bathroom already being fairly organized, it still had a tendency to end up with tons of toiletries on the very small counter, so I also wanted to reorganize again, so everything had a home.

Under-the-sea bathroom: after

under the sea shower curtain

A small room seemed perfect to go all-out with theme decor. I let my husband decide: outerspace, monsters, or under-the-sea. He chose the latter. I started pinning ideas and (mostly) shower curtains. Matt chose the winning shower curtain, and I took it from there!

As summer came to an end, and as Labour Day long-weekend approached, I finally tackled deep cleaning and updating our bathroom into the happiest place in our apartment!

Before

Number one thing to deal with was our ceiling. Our bathroom is building-locked without a window, and our ceiling fan hasn't worked since we moved in. I was told by our super at the time that none of the fans worked in the building. Our ceiling was always kind of gross, with greasy looking yellow bumps on it, and they just kept getting worse and worse. Then I noticed there was mould growing under our sink. Okay… problem!

Before

Rather than alert the building, I decided to clean it up myself, so I could be sure it was cleaned really, really, really well! After doing some research online, I made my own mould-busting cleaner with household items like vinegar, baking soda, and a bit of essential oil, and scrubbed that ceiling down for about six hours (with protective face gear, of course!) After it dried, I gave it a second surface clean, then sanded it down, and repainted with a mould-proof paint that claims a 10-year warranty.

After

Before painting the ceiling, I took down the dysfunctional ceiling fan. It was ancient, and the grill was covered in thick rust covered in layers of white paint to hide the rust. My first thought was to replace the grill with a new one, while waiting for the building to fix the fan, but the hardware store told me that our fan was at least 30 years old and needed an entire new unit. Since they didn't sell replacement grills that would fit, I thought back to my grade school rust-busting science project, and soaked that rusty, painted grill in a litre of Coca Cola for a week or so.

In progress

Next up was my lighting fixture. I figured out how to take down the ancient light so I could replace it with something new! (We have access to our units breakers, so I was careful to turn off the power before attempting anything!) One thing I noticed afterwards was that the hole for the fixture actually wasn't centered above the sink, but… oh well. It is a rental, after all.

Shower curtain in place, clean, repainted ceiling, and light fixture on the wall, I felt a huge sense of progress!

painting the bathroom wall blue

To paint the walls, I picked a shade of blue that felt fresh and clean and coordinated with the shower curtain. I know some people think painting a rental is a waste of time, but I really wanted to try it, and since we're allowed to paint, I figured it would go a long way to making it feel like a brand new space. After a good sanding, the walls that were covered in years of rental abuse suddenly felt like they might look like almost-new… and totally did after two coats of paint!

After

I wasn't sure if our small mirror was glued to the wall or not — it wasn't — but decided to get a new, larger mirror. I found one that was the perfect size at the thrift store for $6. I gave it a fresh coat of paint (the same paint I had bought for the ceiling), and some texture detail by adding beaded necklaces to it (also a thrift store find). After putting it up, I decided it could use some funky colour, to coordinate with the bright colours in the shower curtain. I added bright pink and purple craft paint (like Psylocke! said Matt), and hot glue-gunned on some craft shells and blue-themed glass beads.

After

One thing I still had left at my parents' house were some white square shelves and all my beach vacation knick knacks, so I had my dad help me install those, as well as a towel rack I had bought a long time ago but never installed due to laziness and a lack of power tools.

sea bathroom accessories

Final touches involved repainting the white door and all the baseboards with the mould-proof paint, and some small things like removing the Hot and Cold covers on my faucet. I replaced the old bath mat, towel rack, plug covers, and counter accessories. I also replaced our toilet seat cover to a kitschy plastic shell to keep it in-theme.

So… what happened to the fan grill, you ask?

After a week of soaking in Coca Cola, it was almost perfectly stainless steel shiny clean! There's a small amount of paint still left of it, that I have yet to strip off as of writing this post (there's that laziness creeping in again…) Although I decided to fix my ceiling mould myself, I will be submitting a maintenance ticket to see if the building will fix the fans, and maybe do the building duct work while they're at it. (New fan will be pretty useless otherwise, since I also discovered the pipe was solidly filled with years of gross!) For anyone else in a similar situation, I highly recommend checking out what the situation is, because mould in your bathroom is so very, very bad for your health! I can't believe I waited four years to do something about it. Just a few months ago, after some allergy testing, I was told I was asthmatic and was given a puffer, and I have to wonder if maybe mould exposure from my bathroom has had something to do with me developing this later in life… hmm…

Overall, this took me two weekends, and I think was a GREAT learning experience

It was my first time painting a room on my own, and I'm really, really glad I did it to a rental. I feel like I learned so many small things to do differently next time! One thing I regret is buying my painting supplies at the dollar store, and next time I will definitely be buying good quality paint rollers (there are small flecks of roller stuck to my walls… but compared to the full bristles that used to be stuck there, I think it's minor!) And while I think I did a pretty good job of getting straight lines, I did get a bit of blue on the ceiling, and taped a little low in some spots, so I had to go back over it later with a detail brush. I read about getting crisp lines without painter's tape, so maybe I'll try that another time. All in all, I'm pretty impressed with how it all came together!

But most of all… I'm super happy when I get ready in the morning.

  1. After living in white boxes for so long, I was SO HAPPY to find a rental with colored walls. They make such a difference.

    Your new bathroom looks great!

    • Totally! I thought the colour would make a little difference, but it made a HUGE difference. I used to be okay with the creamy off-white walls of the rest of the place, and now all I notice is how drab they are, haha! But I'm definitely not about to paint the whole place.

      Thanks!

  2. It looks so good! I love how the white boxes on the walls keep the vanity clear.
    Second the mould warning! A friend of mine developed nasty, unexplained health issues that didn't resolve until they moved out of their mould infested apartment. Turns out it was infested by mould!

    • I lived in a place infested with 3/4 different strains of toxic mold, and yeah, health problems. All four of us who lived there were sick in different ways and I'm pretty sure it kickstarted problem with my lady bits that still hasn't gone away four years later.

      Now if I see mold, I freak the fuck out.

      • Ahhhh! Oh man, now I'm paranoid.

        At least I'm certain it's out of the ceiling and under the sink and anywhere else I can phycially see. And our walls are made of concrete blocks, so I'm hopeful there isn't any lurking in the walls or something.

        Since we're still sans working fan, new house rule is no one showers with the door closed. And we have a mirror in the shower, so rule #2 is, if it starts to fog up, your shower is over!

  3. Welp, now I have my weekend project.

    The ceiling in the bathroom of our rental house is kinda scummy. I'm positive that its due to the fan not doing its job. Time to get to scrubbing this weekend.

    • It's so easy to ignore!

      Now that it's been about 2 months, I am noticing a wee little bit of yellow in a few spots, mostly concentrated above the showerhead, but it wipes right off. I'm thinking the yellow could either be past smokers or rust? And it just congeals in the humidity?

      • The yellow is likely mildew coming right from your pipes. If everything else in the building is old, the pipes probably are too. I would guess that there is a leaky pipe that lets in some bacteria. The best fix is to wipe it with bleach or vinegar solution once a week, and ventilate!
        The size and dimensions of this bathroom is the same as the bathroom in my rental. Our exhaust fan works, but isn't enough for our humid basement apartment. The fix has been running an electric fan during showers, and leaving it on until the shower and shower curtain are bone dry. The location and scale of the bathroom means that there is no air circulation in the ONE spot that needs it!
        We use a desk-size fan because there isn't room for more in our tiny bathroom. But something with more power would be ideal.

  4. I didn't think an under-the-sea theme could look so GOOD and not tacky. Wow! Now I want to put a theme together for our new bathroom. Everything is beige, unfortunately, but maybe I can work with it. We haven't moved in yet so now's the time to get busy.

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