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While we were busy stuffing ourselves with cookies and piling our tree high with ornaments over the holidays, Anita Yokota was renovating an entire bathroom—in just seven days. “It was impressive and stupid at the same time,” jokes the designer, whose penchant for flipping rooms is well documented. (Remember her stunning master bath makeover?) 

This project was a particularly sentimental one: Yokota made over the once-mauve powder room in her mom’s home. The family moved there in 1989, but except for a mini reno in the ’90s that involved staining the cabinets a cherry red (an immediate regret), they hadn’t made any major updates. A remodel was a long time coming, so while the whole family was around for Christmas, Yokota put them to work. 

They added personal touches throughout, like the color blue (her mother’s favorite) and the oil painting perched atop the bench, which is an original by her mom, a watercolor artist. The result looks like a contractor’s handiwork, but Yokota let us in on a secret: Almost every change she made is actually an easy (and inexpensive!) DIY. Even the more dramatic changes, like the beadboard and countertop, cost less than $50 total. 

We’re so thoroughly impressed that we just had to ask Yokota—now a certifiable DIY pro—for the scoop on how she accomplished these renter-friendly projects. 

Photography by Anita Yokota

The Beadboard 

After scouring old interior magazines for inspiration, the mother-daughter pair decided to add some textural interest to the walls via beadboard—which, according to Yokota, is a much more budget-friendly alternative to board and batten. How she did it: She went to Home Depot with exact measurements, asked them to cut down a panel, and slapped the whole thing on with a nail gun. “Painting was a bit more time-consuming,” she says. “I always assume that darker colors go on faster, but in fact they take longer because they need better coverage.” Three coats of blue and $22 later, the statement walls were complete.  

Photography by Anita Yokota

Photography by Anita Yokota

The Countertop

Psst: It’s actually covered with marble contact paper, which Yokota bought for less than $20 on Amazon. She used a high-end craft heat gun to adhere the paper to the surface efficiently, and smoothed over the finished product with her hands to get rid of air bubbles. Just be careful about leaving hot hair tools on it: The finish isn’t heat-resistant, so she recommends sticking a little tray on top of the counters for your curling iron. 

“Going in, you just have to expect that this is a temporary fix,” says Yokota, who also used this trick in her kitchen. There, the paper has held up pretty successfully—with the exception of the bits around the sink, where the glue began coming undone after about eight months. If you’re in a rental and need a short-term solution, this is it. The faux marble ended up being her mom’s favorite part of the finished space. 

The Small Tweaks

Aside from those two major updates, Yokota made other little changes that transformed the bathroom. She again turned to Home Depot for new sconces to switch up the vanity lighting, and swapped in a brass faucet to replace the old chrome version. The biggest splurge was on the smallest items: New pulls. “When it comes to hardware, I’m a firm believer in spending some money,” says the designer. “It’s the jewelry of the room.” Her go-tos are all from Rejuvenation, CB2, and West Elm, proving that big changes are impressive, but sometimes it’s all in the details. 

See more room makeovers that wow: I Totally Transformed My NYC Rental Kitchen for $7,500 How One Couple Upgraded the Floor in Their 47-Square-Foot Bathroom Renovating Her Rental’s Closet Was the Best Decision Anna Z. Gray Ever Made