Small Bathroom Remodel: From Mid-Century to Modern

When you have a master bathroom that’s anything but, and you’re working with a limited budget, it’s time for a small bathroom remodel.

This mid-century house belongs to Logan and Hannah, who share it with their daughters Brooklyn and Dakota and, soon, another baby girl.

The growing family has a master bathroom that needs to grow too, but since it can’t, we’re making the most of what they have.


Unattractive mid-century bathroom with institutional tile floors and a basket under the sink
This bathroom looks dated and institutional. It’s not the inviting spa that it should be — but it has plenty of potential.

The Problems

Logan and Hannah’s master bathroom is not much of a master. It’s small and has a dated light fixture and medicine cabinet, tired tile, a toilet too large for the space, and an overall lack of storage.

Then there’s an oddly placed outlet that prevents Logan from entering the bathroom without getting tangled up while Hannah blow-dries her hair.

Finally, their exhaust fan sounds like a freight train when it’s turned on.

And we’re going to fix all these problems with a small bathroom remodel on this episode of Today’s Homeowner.


Old cast-iron sink in an unattractive mid-century bathroom
A sink without a vanity isn’t very functional. Every bathroom needs the storage underneath.

Adding a Vanity

The sink is, well, just a sink. There’s no vanity, and that means there are no drawers, no doors, and no storage. That means Hannah has to store things in a basket under the sink — not ideal. So, the first thing we’ll do during this small bathroom remodel is replace this sink with a proper vanity.

Usually, when you have water lines coming out of a bathroom, there’s a shutoff valve. While there’s one of those near the toilet that we removed, there’s not one for the sink. That means we have to turn the water off at the street and then add shutoff valves. This is a job for the plumber, Artie.

Partially remodeled bathroom with new vanity, gold drawer pulls and knobs and no toilet
This bathroom is really coming along! It’s starting to take on the grand appearance the homeowners wanted.

He will do more than add shutoff valves; he’ll also install an offset toilet flange. This will allow us to position the toilet closer to the vanity.

But before he arrives, I’ll remove the dated ceramic cup holder and toothbrush caddy.


Beautifying with Beadboard

We’re installing a vanity that has Shaker-style doors and beadboard fronts. Chelsea loves the look of beadboard and glues a piece on the side of the vanity, next to the toilet.

Danny Lipford, host of Today's Homeowner, glues a panel of beadboard onto a bathroom vanity
Upgrading a vanity to include a beadboard side couldn’t be easier. Just add Titebond II wood glue!

She also wants to cover the linen closet door’s louvers with beadboard; this will make them look fresh and modern. So, we cut panels from the beadboard and use Titebond II Premium Wood Glue to adhere them to the door recess, to dry overnight. Then we caulk the gaps so we can paint the door.


Painting a bathroom wall Modern Mocha, a brownish color
We’re going bold with this bathroom’s paint color. The solution? Modern Mocha.

Painting the Walls, Ceiling and Trim

When it comes to paint, Chelsea thinks we should go bold or go home. She chooses Modern Mocha, with Hannah’s blessing, and paints the ceiling and trim the same color as the walls.

The seamless appearance is on trend and makes a big statement for this small bathroom remodel.  


Freshly laid porcelain tile in a master bathroom
This porcelain tile is big, which has the effect of making the bathroom look more spacious.

Laying Porcelain Tile

Once the walls and ceiling are painted, floor prep begins. We rough up the old tile surface with sandpaper, clean it thoroughly and chalk our layout line for difficult cuts by the tub. 

Bear mixes thin-set and cuts tiles to fit around the tub and other awkward spaces. Then Logan and I apply the thin-set and lay the tiles.

The floor dries overnight, and the next morning we prep the surface with Aqua Mix Grout Release from Custom Building Products, which prevents staining on the tiles when you use a dark-colored grout.

Then we apply Fusion Pro Single Component Grout from Custom Building Products. It’s ready to use, stain-proof and color perfect.

Once the tiles are grouted, we’re ready to add a transition from the master bathroom to the master bedroom.

I’m often asked, “How do you transition from the new floor to the old one?” Every situation is a bit different. In this case, we used the same threshold that was there before; we just modified it with a bevel.


Beautiful black and white shower curtain hanging from a rod installed on the ceiling
Hanging a shower rod from the ceiling makes this room appear taller and more spacious.

Hanging the Shower Rod

No small bathroom remodel would be complete without a special touch that helps make the space look high end.

So, we’re hanging the shower curtain rod from brackets on the ceiling, not a tension rod. This gives the illusion of more space and height in the bathroom.

Plus, it’s a change from what most people do, which adds a special touch to the space.


Remodeled bathroom with beautiful vanity, new mirror and candle and vase of flowers
Don’t forget to dress up the sink with fresh flowers and a candle!

Finishing It Off

When the grout is dry enough for traffic, we install the vanity cabinet, countertop and the linen closet door. And this small bathroom remodel is complete, and the master bathroom is finally worthy of its name!

Joe Truini displays a trash can he installed inside a cabinetSimple Solutions
The Simple Way To Hide Your Bathroom Trash Can
Jodi Marks demonstrates Simple Grout by Custom Building Products on Today's HomeownerBest New Products
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Beautiful black and white shower curtain hanging from a rod installed on the ceilingWatch & Learn
How to Hang a Shower Curtain from the Ceiling

2 COMMENTS

  1. Didn’t you add a small vent fan that plugs into an outlet? I think it was by Honeywell? I cannot seem to find it at Home Depot.

    • Hi, Rebecca,
      We installed a Broan-NuTone Ventilation Fan and Heater in this episode.
      You can find this vent fan at your local home center.
      Happy home improving. 🙂

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