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In Renovator’s Notebook, homeowners open up about the nitty-gritty of their remodels: How long it really took; how much it actually cost; what went horribly wrong; and what went wonderfully, serendipitously, it’s-all-worth-it-in-the-end right. For more tips to nail your next project, follow @reno_notebook.

Location: Evanston, Illinois

Approximate cost: $3,000

Approximate square footage: 45

Year built: 1899

Top priority: Infuse fun and color into a drab white bathroom that is shared by the kids of the house and guests.

For a lot of families, the guest bathroom isn’t just the “guest” bathroom. It’s usually the guest-slash-kids’ bathroom. This shared setup is something interior stylist and blogger Kate Pearce is all too familiar with. So it was no surprise that the seasoned renovator recently gave her upstairs bathroom, which is located off her eldest daughter Eva’s bedroom and also used by her youngest daughter, a bold refresh. And it turns out, paint can go a long way in making a room feel more adult-friendly: Pearce made the space feel truly cohesive by sprucing up the scratched-up floors so they matched the shower tile (more on how she found the perfect color in a moment).  

What ensued wasn’t a full renovation but a two-weekend-long project that started with funky blue stripes and later called for a Facebook Marketplace–sourced dresser, which now acts as a vanity. “A room can look pretty high-end even when you aren’t spending too much money, and that’s the philosophy I try to have with any project,” says Pearce. Ahead, in her own words, she reveals the many saves and main splurge of her $3,000 bathroom makeover. 

Save: Change Your Floor Tile, Not the Shower Tile

This bathroom has beautiful navy shower tile that I wanted to keep, but I knew I needed to find an inexpensive way to update the grimy white floors. That was really the jumping-off point. I used the ColorReaderEZ device that pairs with an app to scan the tile, and then it gave me three potential paint color matches for the floor. I ultimately went with Sherwin-Williams’s Porch and Floor Enamel in the color Commodore

I first cleaned the floors as best I could, then primed with two coats of Sherwin-Williams’s Extreme Bond Primer. I let it dry overnight, and later the next day, I laid down painter’s tape to make the stripes. I then used a roller with an extension pole to paint on the stripes. While I didn’t add a sealant, six months later the stripes are holding up well. 

Save: Shop Your Own House for Paint

I’ve lately really been liking blue and red together. When I thought of a color for the bathroom walls, it turned out I had just enough paint left over from when I updated my daughter’s bedroom molding (using Farrow & Ball’s Book Room Red) to roll on two coats. Overall, sprucing up the floors and the walls took a single weekend, but it didn’t cost me a dime. I’m the painter in our family, so it was a pretty straightforward and easy job. 

Splurge: Hand Over Your Budget to Your “Dream” Find

I like to pick one or two things to splurge on, and then save on the rest. That’s why I spent $2,500 on an antique Calacatta Viola sink from Aegean Marble on Etsy. After giving the store owner the exact measurements of my space, the sink arrived in about six weeks from Turkey, and I paired it with a $150 mid-century Danish dresser from Facebook Marketplace. Billy, my husband, ran the pipes through the dresser, took the wood top off, and then placed the marble sink on top. Because I didn’t have a ton of depth to work with for the faucet, I selected a wall-mounted one from Amazon for $70.

Save: Bring the Walls to Life With Thrifted Art

I’ve been collecting vintage and antique silhouettes for 15 years (including works by artist friends and portraits of my girls), and I wanted to bring my assortment to a gallery wall. When gallery walls have the same frames, they fall flat. I have two different mirrors, some new art, and some 150-year-old art, and I love mixing up the shapes and sizes. I find that even if I have to shift things around, I can always cover up any nail holes I’ve made.

I purchased the brass sconces that now flank the vanity on sale from Anthropologie three years ago. They are hardwired, and I didn’t have an immediate use for them but held onto them because the design is classic. When this project came along, I knew they’d be just the right style and scale to accompany the thrifted mirror. 

Save: Don’t Hang Your Towels—Roll Them

Adding another furniture piece or shelving would make the bathroom feel cluttered, yet I wanted something that could store a decent amount of towels. I found a solution while scrolling on Facebook one day: a $219 vertical rack from Dutton Brown that can hold up to seven towels. I filled it with cozy Turkish ones that aren’t too childish. They’re nice and large, so we can even grab them for swim practice or when we head to the beach. 

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