DIY Bathroom Design at the Fixer Upper {Before and After}

While I am excited to share with you the before and after transformation of our DIY new bathroom carved from a dark, raw, unpleasant storage room in the basement at the Chicagoland fixer upper, I’m also hesitant. I mean. “Please devour images of the ugliest dungeon-like corners within my home!” said no one ever. 

We bought this fixer (a neglected Nordic style cottage on a Northern Illinois property with mature woods) in 2015, when we swiftly began a whole house DIY renovation. Since my husband (an attorney) and I (writer and blogger) work full time, we worked weekends and evenings for more than a year gutting, rebuilding and renovating the main and 2nd floors. We have problems. And reno-virus. The only prescription? More cow bell + another reno.

So instead of enjoying a solid break, we saw an investment opportunity and relaxing getaway in Arizona and bought a second home. Many projects later, we completed a DIY whole house cosmetic makeover and enjoyed the place for two years before selling it in early 2018. We’re down to one home again! Yay. But there’s more work here. Boo! Yay! (Affiliate links follow and may earn me a small commission if used for purchases.)

Classic bathroom design with fireclay farmhouse sink, brushed nickel faucet, Venetian mirror, and light grey wallpaper with butterflies. #DIYbathroom #bathroomdesign #farmsink

DIY Bathroom Design at the Fixer Upper {Before and After}

Hungry for the next project, as soon as the Arizona home sold, we turned our attention to our lower level basement. (Here’s the resource guide for the materials and sources.)

About the space…It’s not lovely, and it’s also too easy to ignore since we don’t spend time down there. The basement includes: a large media room, a spacious bedroom with huge but unfinished “walk-in closet with a checkered past,” an unfinished workshop, and unfinished storage spaces. First on the agenda was stealing raw, spare, storage space to create a brand new full bathroom and executing all the work ourselves (and by ourselves, I mean, my better half since I simply assist and point).

Keeping costs manageable…We were determined to keep costs and backbreaking labor to a minimum. I’ll discuss in more detail how we successfully achieved those goals in an upcoming story. A boost and boon to the budget was partnering with brands for two beautiful fixtures, and the other day I shared a little ditty about the the DXV console sink and GROHE Seabury widespread faucet with cross handles we chose for the bathroom design. They heighten the quality and spa-feel of the classically modern farmhouse style bathroom. I was also able to shop my house, and Venetian mirrors that worked in our last home but not here finally got dusted off…you can find a similar and well-priced cut glass mirror right here.

Creating a floorplan & recycling…Since we could not introduce a door to the bathroom directly from the media room without interrupting furniture placement and flow, we were forced to get creative and designed a small vestibule you enter from the existing door to the unfinished part of the basement. Then we created a door from this hallway to the unfinished workshop and storage space as well as the door to the new bathroom. We had saved all the pre-existing 6-panel interior doors we replaced when we upgraded to the knotty alder ones upstairs and were able to re-use them for the hall and bath.

A loose bathroom design plan…We held our bathroom design plans loosely as we always do with these DIY adventures–it’s the only way we know how to stay on budget and meet a deadline. What this means is typically I don’t choose fixtures until just before it’s time to install them because then I know what dimensions and configurations will work. This may sound backwards to some of you designers who have a vision, sketch it, and then execute, but as renovators, it’s how we roll. Here’s an example: initially it appeared there would be plenty of space for a 30″ bathroom vanity or bathroom sink, and it’s what I planned  for but held loosely. When it was go-time for the sink, and I could see the relationship of the toilet, sink, and shower, I knew a 24″ size sink would function and look better even though the 30″ could technically be squeezed in. So instead of a bunch of tweaking to make a 30″ sink work, we saved ourselves time and hassle by ordering the 24″.

DIY doesn’t mean change orders are easy…I don’t get overly attached to a particular fixture or model when we’re renovating because I know better. When you’re doing the work yourself, change orders are even more painful than submitting them to a contractor you have hired because it’s YOU who will do the changin’ and time is money! Since we have been renovating for years with this “do not be a clinger” approach, we have learned the results are often surprisingly better because when forced to get creative with a limited amount of choices, a more custom and imaginative result often emerges.

Linen closet or pretty open shelves? Another design feature I held loose was the space in the bathroom to be used for a deep closet, built-in shelves, or even a makeup vanity with cabinetry. We did not make a decision on how we would finish this part of the bathroom until after the drywall was up. How did we decide? My husband is coping with a shoulder injury, and we opted to create a deep closet since: it would not be as labor intensive as finish work for shelves, we could purchase pre-made shelves for it, it would be more about function than decor, and we already had a salvaged closet door.

Miss Frugal hangin’ loose…While I may be a designfreaky dreamer, I am also a frugal, sensible Midwestern girl when it comes to renovating smartly and without excessive emotion or clingy-ness to Pinterest dreamy bathroom trends. I am also learning it’s best to allow reality to be reality and to not fear resistance. You may be somewhat surprised to learn we opted for  a super simple soaking tub and shower wall combination rather than springing for a fancy freestanding tub and chic tiled walls.

The bathtub/shower decision…This design decision was made based on function and facts: the bathroom will be used only occasionally by our visiting children, I am not crazy about grout, and it saved us a bunch of cash and ouchy shoulder time. Fiberglass tub surrounds are easy to install and clean, and after all the tiling we have done lately, we were both keen on no tile and no grout. I have noticed that even in the finest hotel bathrooms I have used, grout doesn’t stay good looking for long. While fiberglass shower wall surrounds may have fallen from favor because they are inexpensive, not custom, and not IG-worthy, I’m thrilled to have them working hard in the new zen groutless bathroom!

Thibaut (Lizette) Wallpaper…I even held the wallpaper idea loosely. I love the pattern with butterflies and the color palette, but I didn’t decide to use the Thibaut wallpaper until the last minute in case the space didn’t need the interest. My choice to paper the sink wall only is another example of our design flexibility…it took only a couple of hours to install, and if ever I tire of it, the work removing it will be only a fraction of what would be required if every wall was wallpapered. Find more options from Thibaut HERE.

The walls in the bathroom and hall are painted Benjamin Moore Classic Gray, and the trim is Benjamin Moore White. Care to see the wallpaper going up? Here you go:

Lakewood Pecan flooring from Trafficmaster…On the evening we went shopping for floor tile, I got to thinking about our decision on the tub/shower combo to forego tile and grout, and that made me consider how beautiful it would be to have no tile or grouting tasks for the whole project! And then we saw this friendly-priced flooring – a German-made floating floor mimicking the look of pecan hardwood (flooring is here). I’ll save the details about the flooring for another post, but you will not believe how good looking and inexpensive this flooring option is…less than $1 per square foot! No nails, no glue, no underlayment, no mortar, no grout, just a click together, hard-wearing product that isn’t cold underfoot in the basement.

Zen-like Accessories… I wanted the bathroom to feel airy and spa-like, so there was no need for too many accessories, but the space is large enough that it would look stark without them. I found this teak shower bench but hated the finish so I painted it light grey, and now it’s perfect upon the warm wood-toned floor next to the toilet where it sort of buffers it when you walk through the bathroom door. If you can’t have the toilet in a closet or a partial wall, this is the next best thing. On the toilet is my favorite white candle – a Capri Blue volcano candle you can find here. The rustic teak stool near the tub (which got a wash of BM Revere Pewter a few years back) was shopped from my house (here’s a cute one), and I always have Diptyque candles around me. The Pamuk Turkish striped towels are a luxurious touch.

DIY bathroom project...We borrowed raw, unfinished, storage space in a dark basement to create a new, spa-like, classic bathroom! #beforeandafter #bathroomdesign #DIYbathroom #classicbathroom

The framed walls of the hall outside of the bathroom before drywall. Straight ahead is the workshop. DIY Bathroom Design at the Fixer Upper {Before and After}

DIY Bathroom design: We carved out a brand new bathroom with console sink and pretty classic decor in a formerly dark dungeon basement. #DIYbathroom #bathroomdesign #beforeandafter

AFTER…A door to the unfinished workshop and at right, the new bathroom. DIY Bathroom Design at the Fixer Upper {Before and After}

A DIY bathroom we created from scratch in our dark unfinished basement! #DIYhome #beforeandafter #bathroomdesign

Hall and entrance to bathroom. DIY Bathroom Design at the Fixer Upper {Before and After}

Benjamin Moore Classic Gray paint on walls of hall and bath. #classicgray #beforeandafter #DIYhome #bathroomdesign

AFTER. Painting: Cindy Austin. DIY Bathroom Design at the Fixer Upper {Before and After}

See the before and after transformation of our DIY bathroom in a dark, unpleasant basement! #beforeandafter #DIYhome #bathroomdesign #bathroommakeover

BEFORE. DIY Bathroom Design at the Fixer Upper {Before and After}

A neutral, classic, spa-like bathroom was created from a raw, ugly, unfinished space in the basement...come see the transformation by Hello Lovely! #renovation #bathroommakeover #DIYhome #bathroomdesign

AFTER…DIY Bathroom Design at the Fixer Upper {Before and After}

See how this ugly space was transformed by Hello Lovely into a beautiful new bathroom, DIY style. #DIYhome #beforeandafter #bathroomreno #bathroomdesign

BEFORE…The ladder is where the new shower is! DIY Bathroom Design at the Fixer Upper {Before and After}

Our beautiful new bathroom design with classic, elegant, spa-like style was created by us DIY style from an ugly, dark, basement space. #renovation #DIYhome #beforeandafter #consolesink

AFTER…DIY Bathroom Design at the Fixer Upper {Before and After}. Wallpaper: 

You won't believe how this ugly basement space looks now that we added a pretty, spa-like bathroom! #DIY #bathroomdesign #renovation #beforeandafter

BEFORE…Not a pretty space before! DIY Bathroom Design at the Fixer Upper {Before and After}

A new bathroom created in a dark, unpleasant basement by Hello Lovely! #bathroomdecor #consolesink #beforeandafter #bathroomdesign

AFTER…DIY Bathroom Design at the Fixer Upper {Before and After}. Flooring is here.

Before and after: a new bathroom for our fixer upper and a dramatic transformation! #beforeandafter #DIYhome #renovation #bathroomdesign

BEFORE…DIY Bathroom Design at the Fixer Upper {Before and After}

Venetian mirrors, a console sink, wallpaper, and classic decor details in a bathroom created in an ugly, dark basement. #beforeandafter #bathroomdesign #DIYbathroom #consolesink

AFTER…DIY Bathroom Design at the Fixer Upper {Before and After}. Flooring is here.

See the transformation of an unfinished storage space in basement to a beautiful new bathroom. #beforeandafter #renovation #bathroomdesign

BEFORE…DIY Bathroom Design at the Fixer Upper {Before and After}

A pretty spa-like classic bathroom started out as an ugly basement storage space...come see the #beforeandafter! #bathroomdesign #renovation #DIY

AFTER…DIY Bathroom Design at the Fixer Upper {Before and After}. Flooring is here.

An eyesore of a basement space becomes a beautiful new bath with some DIY smarts. #hellolovelystudio #beforeandafter #DIYhome #bathroomdesign #bathroommakeover

BEFORE…DIY Bathroom Design at the Fixer Upper {Before and After}

An elegant console sink, wallpaper, and a Venetian mirror in a classic, spa-like bathroom by Hello Lovely. #beforeandafter #bathroommakeover #DIY #renovation

AFTER…DIY Bathroom Design at the Fixer Upper {Before and After}. Wallpaper: Find more options from Thibaut HERE.

See how we added a full bathroom to our home, stealing unfinished space in the basement. #beforeandafter #renovation #bathroomdesign

BEFORE…To the right of the tub is the future closet. DIY Bathroom Design at the Fixer Upper {Before and After}

A light and bright classic bathroom we created DIY style in a dark, dreary basement. #beforeandafter #DIYbathroom #consolesink #bathroomdesign

AFTER…DIY Bathroom Design at the Fixer Upper {Before and After}. Flooring is here.

See the dramatic before and after of our DIY new bath project on Hello Lovely! #diyhome #bathroommakeover #bathroomdesign #beforeandafter

BEFORE…The toilet wall. DIY Bathroom Design at the Fixer Upper {Before and After}

Come tour our new light, bright, and functional bathroom we built DIY style in a dark basement. #beforeandafter #renovation #bathroomdesign

AFTER…DIY Bathroom Design at the Fixer Upper {Before and After}

Come see our DIY bathroom we created in our dark ugly basement! #beforeandafter #bathroomrenovation #DIYhome

BEFORE: the flooring going into the hall. DIY Bathroom Design at the Fixer Upper {Before and After}

TrafficMASTER Lakeshore Pecan 7 mm Thick x 7-2/3 in. Wide x 50-5/8 in. Length Laminate Flooring (24.17 sq. ft. / case)

Here’s the flooring we used: Lakeshore Pecan Laminate. Flooring is here.

This peaceful, zen white bathroom did not start out like this...come see the dungeon it was! #bathroomrenovation #DIYhome #beforeandafter #bathroomdecor

AFTER…DIY Bathroom Design at the Fixer Upper {Before and After}. Wallpaper: Thibaut (Lisette). Flooring is here.

Let me know if you have any questions about the transformation of this space — I’m happy to help!

Find the resource guide with links to the fixtures right here. For more peeks around our house, visit here.

Shop our Home!

Rustic French Farmhouse Table
Oval Back Counter Stool, Set of 2
Teak 3 Leg Stool
Bonjour Pillow
French Linen Upholstered Dining Chair
Round Farmhouse Dining Table
Linen Slipcovered Dining Chair, Set of 2
Campaign Style End Table
Louis Upholstered Bench
Oak Laminate Flooring
Knotty Alder Interior Door
Alabaster 30″ Lamp
Louis Ghost Chair
Rustic Wood Candleholders
French Linen Dining Chair Set of 2
Beachy White Slipcovered Sofa
Beachy White Slipcovered Armchair
Antiqued French Lamp
STOCKHOLM Framed Print
PARIS Framed Print
Light Grey Rattan Chair
Tulip Style Modern Round Dining Table
French Industrial Metal Cafe Chair (Set of 2)
White Farmhouse Lantern Pendant Light
Oak Accent Stool
Bridge Kitchen Faucet (Stainless)
Jute ARea Rug
Leather Club Chair
French Linen Sofa
Venetian Etched Mirror (24″ x 36″)
Rustic Wood Candlestick Set
French Market Basket
Polished Carrara Subway Tile
French Country Farmhouse Baskets
Magnus Table Lamp
White Slipcovered Sofa
White Honeycomb Mosaic Tile
Fireclay Farm Sink
Linen Slipcover Dining Chair
Round Farmhouse Dining Table
Wicker Patio Chair
Teak Farmhouse Stool

Peace to you right where you are.

~michele

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12 Comments

  1. Jeanne
    March 9, 2018 / 8:17 am

    You created such beautiful balance in this space- the streamlined against the more ornate (mirror, wallpaper). It works so well. You get an A+!!

    • michele
      Author
      March 9, 2018 / 9:42 am

      Thanks for the kind words, Jeanne! Have a lovely weekend. 🙂

  2. March 9, 2018 / 8:47 am

    You and your hubby do nice work! Kudos! Here are a few thoughts from this kitchen and bath designer, for what they are worth: love your advice about the tub/shower unit…classic and appropriate for a basement bath. (Would have loved the valve placement on the other side of the tub/shower, though.) That DXV console is lovely, no pun intended 🙂 Wallpaper is stunning. Regarding the flooring choice: I would not place a laminate flooring in a bathroom….plenty of waterproof LVP products on the market that are better suited to a wet environment. Lastly, your sage advice about being flexible is refreshing! Always go into the project with a great plan and design, but allow some degree of compromise. I really enjoy you blog my friend!
    Peace,
    Liz

    • michele
      Author
      March 9, 2018 / 9:41 am

      Hi Liz! Thanks for sharing your bath design expertise here. I so agree about valve placement for shower. It was roughed in, and we had to do that left drain. I also hear you about laminate in a bathroom – there are superior options out there for sure. Thanks for reading, friend. 🙂

  3. Phyllis Cooper Thomason
    March 9, 2018 / 9:04 am

    You did an amazing job. Beautiful!

    • michele
      Author
      March 9, 2018 / 9:37 am

      Thanks, Phillis! This project actually went quickly! 🙂

  4. Rhonda
    March 9, 2018 / 10:22 am

    Beautiful reno, Michele, and how blessed you are to have a handy husband! You two need your own HGTV show. 🙂

    • michele
      Author
      March 9, 2018 / 11:32 am

      Have your people call my people, Rhonda! My sons are colorful personalities and would be an asset on any HGTV show too! 🙂

  5. Karol
    March 9, 2018 / 8:41 pm

    I always wonder about wallpaper in a bathroom. Is it going to peel or are wallpapers better these days?

    • michele
      Author
      March 9, 2018 / 9:21 pm

      We have had lived with wallpaper in many bathrooms through the years and not had a problem. That said, we are also ones to change up the decor quite often! From what I have observed, wallpaper does NOT come down easily! Thanks for reading, Karol. 🙂

  6. Lurlie
    March 9, 2018 / 8:47 pm

    You created a beautiful space. I love the beautiful mirror and wallpaper and the accessories are so artfully arranged. It all looks great!

    • michele
      Author
      March 9, 2018 / 9:19 pm

      Thanks, Lurlie! So glad you are following along. 🙂

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