A few weeks ago, I wrote about transforming a bathroom on any budget.  Then last week I went into detail on the 1st project referenced in that post – The Stock Bathroom.  Now I want to give you details on the 2nd project referenced in Transform a Bathroom on Any Budget.

I called this project….

The Semi-Custom Budget Bathroom – Budget = $$

So here’s the thing… “semi-custom” can mean so many different things to as many different people.  So let’s just keep it simple and break it down to it’s true basic meaning:  semi- = partly: not completely, and custom (adj) = made or performed according to personal order.  So semi-custom = partly made according to personal order.  No room for interpretation there.

In decorating and design, especially for kitchens and baths, how we arrive at semi-custom is open for interpretation.  As I stated in Transform a Bathroom on Any Budget, when you have a budget that’s more than enough for a few updates but not enough for a total remodel, transforming a bathroom is truly an exercise in priorities.  This is more often the plight of the average middle class homeowner.

In my mind, there were so many things wrong with this 1990’s builder basic bathroom.  In fact, the only things that were right were the tub itself (NOT the surround), the lights, and perhaps the mirrors could have been okay.  But because of all the other changes, only the tub made the final cut!



Read on to see the steps I took to revamp this originally builder basic bathroom and have a look at the finished space at the end.

1. Enlarge the footprint of the shower (this was the catalyst for all other changes)

Brass door shower stallYou know those fiberglass shower stalls with the built in niches for soap, bottles, and such?  The ones that are all 1 piece with a glass door that traps all kinds of nastiness in the bottom?

←  Something like this.


Yah, that’s what was there before.  And it was literally a 2.5×2.5×8 cube.  NOT the bizness.  I’m sorry I don’t have a true “before” photo of this but once I got to ripping that sucka out, the madness did not end until the moment you see below! ↓


It absolutely HAD to GO.  The bulk of the budget went toward changing the footprint of the shower and shifting the electrical and plumbing slightly to accommodate it.  And frameless glass doors – those are almost always custom since the fabricator must measure, rough cut workable pieces of glass, and finish the job on site to ensure a custom fit.

During 2

 2. Tile!

Tile is one of those items that’s like paint – you can get a lot of bang for your buck.  You don’t necessarily have to use custom or specialty tile; as in this project, you can customize the shower by creating your own pattern with varying tiles or mixing and matching styles and carrying it through to the backsplash and tub surround.  Like paint, the possibilities are endless.

3. Replace the original vanities, mirrors, and light fixtures

Enlarging the shower meant that the extra long 60″ white 1 SINK vanity (madness I tell ya!) had to go.  As a result, so did the mirrors and the light fixtures that were put up to span the length of the vanity.

The replacements are models that can be purchased at a big box store, but can be customized with faucet choice and by changing out the knobs.

Home Depot St. Paul Ashland 36″ Vanity

And the lights?  To stay true to my Green (i.e. sustainable) sensibilities, we just swapped them with the smaller scale lights from the secondary bathroom.  Another way to customize these is to change out the glass shades on the lights.

4. Replace all plumbing fixtures

A lot of the money went into this as well.  We opted for fixtures that we had to special order and decided to change out all the fixtures to match.  I feel like this is 1 place to get a more custom look and feel that could be totally unique to your specific project, that is if you choose not to go with custom cabinetry.

* Decorator’s note:  While ordering and replacing fixtures can be done by the DIYer, I would strongly suggest getting professional help.  There’s nothing worse than realizing that you ordered (and waited weeks for) a beautiful roman tub faucet that you can’t use until you order (and wait weeks for) the correct rough in valve, lest you end up calling a plumber/contractor ANYway because neither fit with your current configuration.  Just hire a pro or let your decorator do it for you!

5. Paint!

Hands down THE biggest bang for your buck.  Have I said this before?  I feel like I’ve said this a lot, so that tells you it must be true.

A loooong time ago, when I first started writing online, I put out a post about paint called Interior Paint 101.  I know no one has seen it and I’m secretly glad because I had no idea what I was doing.  But I knew all about the subject matter (note to self – go FIX that post!).  While I love the Ralph Lauren Suede paint color that was originally in this bathroom for someplace else, like the master bedroom – dark and flat, kinda moody, a chameleon color – I HATE it for the bathroom.  Why?  It’s FLAT!

* Decorator’s note:  DO NOT use flat paint in kitchens or baths, or any room where you might have to clean the walls at any given time EVER.

6. Textiles and accessories

The fun stuff again… window treatments and towels, flowers, romantic candles, and art.  In this bathroom we opted for hooks instead of the standard towel bars.

Here’s a look at what around $5000 in materials can do!


There are always things you can do to enhance your space, even if you’re not ready to hire a decorator.  However there are some things that should be left to the professionals.  It can be a liberating experience getting what you want and having it done right!  Just imagine how great it will feel to kick back in your whirlpool tub with a glass of wine and a great book knowing that your beautifully design bathroom was money well spent!

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