Apartment Update: Bathroom Before and After

When I first moved in to my apartment almost 10 years ago (!!) I loved the bright cheery yellow walls. It was a short-lived love which after a year or two turned into some version of apathy, and then loathing. I have ranted about how much I grew to hate the yellowish walls in my apartment, and in no room was the yellow more hated than the tiny, windowless bathroom. I mean, the yellow walls would have grown tiresome with bright white subway tile after a few years. Pair yellow paint with a yellow ceiling and yellow tiled walls (with black and orange trim, to boot) and taking a shower in the MINT GREEN tub surrounded by all things yellow felt a lot like being crushed in an inverted school bus. No, I am not exaggerating. Please note, there is no fancy camera settings to enhance the yellowness, nor did I use some 70’s Instagram filter. With yellow walls and ceiling and tile, this is just what the inside of my bathroom looked like, when a bulb reflects light off a yellow ceiling that then bounces off yellow walls, you have freaking yellow dengue fever trapped inside one little room. I forgot to take pics until I had already taped off the walls to prime them, but even imagining away the blue painter’s tape doesn’t improve this view.

Bathroom Before_feistyharriet_2

Bathroom Before_feistyharriet_3

Please note the yellow tile with black trim and a thin stripe of black/orange floral detail. Please note the mint green tub. Please note the “decorative” CAT TAILS tiles in the shower. Please also note the pretty awesome marble tile floor that is completely lost in a sea of yellow everything.

I did a lot of research to see what I could do about the tile. It was in good shape, not original to the building (just to a 1960’s “upgrade”), but there was SO MUCH YELLOW. I finally stumbled across this post about refinishing tile. I did some more research, priced out the whole thing, and sent a proposal to my landlord, fingers crossed. This is the same landlord who up until this point had refused to even allow me to paint walls because they had a “look” and “image” they wanted to maintain…um, yes. “Hello, welcome to your new home, we specialize in yellow death.”

A few days later I had the go-ahead to completely change the look of the bathroom!! After washing walls and ceiling down twice, I rolled on a coat of Killz primer paint. Even just that one little change and removal of yellow made SUCH a huge difference! (I should note, while I purchased the tile refinisher stuff on Amazon, and despite it’s Prime status it is not a quick ship item, I waited about a week to get it and in the meantime had to use my bathroom and stuff, hence this half-done photo.)

Bathroom During_feistyharriet_4

Again, no special post-photo treatment. Just having white walls and ceiling made this bathroom immediately brighten up by ten million degrees. There are no windows in here, so it’s not like I cheated and used some pretty natural sunlight to make the “after” more dramatic. And also, this isn’t the After shot, this is just after a couple hours of patching walls, priming, and figuring out where I was going to hang some artwork.

I won’t go into a tutorial of how to refinish the tile, because this post does all of that already with great pics and action shots and all sorts of good stuff. I will just say that you must scrub the heck out of those tiles first to make sure they are extra clean (do you see how shiny and squeaky-clean they are in that picture above?), and you definitely want a serious gas mask (I think mine was $30 or so on Amazon) because this epoxy-ceramic finish stuff stinks to high heaven. Seriously, I couldn’t spend the night in our apartment and had to seek refuge at a friend’s house.

Bathroom During_feistyharriet_5

Next up was three coats of Rust-Oleum Tub and Tile Refinishing Kit to get enough coverage for a clean white finish, especially over the textured tiles and the black trim. I used a whole box per coat because I had so much square footage of yellow tile, if you are refinishing a smaller area you could probably get away with less. Warning, read those instructions VERY carefully, wear a serious fumigating mask, and be prepared to spend a day or two far, far away from your tile as it cures. That stuff is STANKY! A little clean up with some acetone and a razor blade, plus a fresh coat of caulk everywhere and the smelly part was done! I kept the ceiling bright white, but ended up painting the walls a beautiful medium gray, Smooth Stone by Glidden. Honestly, the white walls made it a little too bright in there for early mornings. I added some white towels (IKEA), a new shower curtain and pink candle holder (Target), and a couple of photos of hot pink flowers, and blam-o! MASSIVE IMPROVEMENT! I have a completely new bathroom for under $150 dollars. No, that’s not a typo: $150 for supplies, paint, towels and accessories. I still can’t stop swooning at these after photos.

Bathroom During_feistyharriet_1

The tile is white! I repeat: THE TILE IS WHITE!!! The minty green tub suddenly seems trendy-mint instead of a bad bargain on bathroom fixtures circa 1963. The finish is remarkably ceramic-like and, after 18 months of two to three showers per day (average, don’t ask) and zero ventilation in the room there are no signs of this stuff flaking or rubbing off. It’s a freaking miracle. A white tile miracle. The photo above was before I painted the walls gray, the white walls were just too bright and–OCD alert–didn’t match the new white tile very well. So, a coat of gray paint later, this is what I had.

Bathroom After_feistyharriet_1

Bathroom After_feistyharriet_2

(Yes, I am posting this makeover DIY project AFTER I actually moved out of said apartment. Timeliness is not really my jam, okay?)

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0 thoughts on “Apartment Update: Bathroom Before and After

    1. Feisty Harriet Post author

      I think so, I mean, he was pretty “whatever you want to do” about the whole thing. But he also didn’t live with a yellow bathroom for 8 years, so I’m sure he didn’t have the proper angst about how YELLOW it all was to start with. 🙂


  1. spinch

    That looks amazing! I didn’t even know you could refinish tile…

    My wife and I actually did the reverse, color-wise… We changed our bathroom from a dull 80’s off-white to a bright, late-50’s/early-60’s yellow (with a great shower curtain covered in retro forest animal art).

    1. Feisty Harriet Post author

      I can only imagine! The other bathrooms in my building are equally horrendous, the across-the-hall neighbor has pink and burgundy tile, with a serious emphasis on the pink. Ha!


  2. nonsequiturchica

    Wow- amazing job! We have one room in our house that is not quite finished – our upstairs bathroom- and it features a black bathtub. We at least took down the floral wallpaper about two years ago but someday I hope we can redo it.

    1. Feisty Harriet Post author

      I know you can use that particular product on tubs as well as tile, I also read about a zillion reviews and all said that it chipped and peeled in a tub, especially around the drain where there was always water. Blergh.


  3. Camels & Chocolate

    That full-on hazmat apparel is totally bringing back memories, ha! It looks awesome—kudos to both of you!

  4. Pingback: If I Had A Million Dollars: Episode 2 | Feisty Harriet

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