Cottage bathroom renovation

Our Hall bathroom was probably the room most in need of makeover when we moved in. It had aqua mosaic floor tile, aqua and white wall tile, an aqua sink, and an aqua tub. Don’t get me wrong, I love aqua! But this was like an aqua monster threw up in our bathroom. Not to mention that the towel bar and toilet paper holder were broken, the shower tile was cracking, and a dog had obviously decided to chew the corner of the vanity.  On the up side, the bathroom was large by any normal standard and had a very large linen closet in it. I have always wanted a bright and airy cottage bathroom, so we decided it was time to tackle this room.



1960 aqua bathroom aqua tub


 We decided to tackle this project early in 2010 when Sophie was still a little baby, so at the time this room was only used by guests.We decided we wanted a fresh vintage cottage feel for the bathroom as it often felt a little dark in the room. We knew we wanted white beadboard and a white vanity. I decided on very pale green walls and beige tile for the floors and white subway tile for the shower. Our budget for the room was only $1500 so we knew we had to get creative to make it look good and stay under budget. For a complete breakdown of the budget scroll to the bottom.

cottage bathroom inspiration


We had a lot we needed to get done on our $1500 budget. Here’s our to do list:

  1. Remove all wall tile and replace it with bead board and subway tile.
  2. Remove baseboard heating
  3. Tear out existing closest and replace it with a new custom built vanity.
  4. Replace existing door and window.
  5. Refinish aqua tub so it is white.
  6. Tile over existing floor tile.
  7. Paint wainscoting white and walls green.
  8. Reface existing vanity and paint it white.
  9. Replace all bathroom hardware, vanity pulls, and mirror.
  10. Install new faucet for sink and shower.
  11. Install new butcher block counters and a new sink.
  12. Hang new shelving in old closet.
  13. Buy new art, towels, baskets, curtains, curtain rods, and shower curtain.


Since the wall tile was cracking it had to go. We thought we’d hit it with a hammer and it would simply fall off the wall like it always does for those nice designers on HGTV. Boy were we in for a surprise. Apparently in 1960 they attached tile to the wall with a metal screen and 2 inches of concrete, Below you can see some of the tile coming down.

bathroom renovation

It took an entire week just to get all the tile down and boy did it make a mess! Our entire house was covered in a layer of dust by time we were finished. Here’s what the shower looked like once all the tile and metal mesh was down.

bathroom renovation

Next, we ripped out the existing line closet. It was huge and seemed to be taking up unnecessary space in the bathroom. We removed all the shelves and the existing door framing.

bathroom renovation

Finally, we were ready to install green board in the shower and sheet rock and bead board in the rest of the room. Below you can see that the bead board has been installed and capped with molding and the shower walls have been prepped for tile.

install bead board

The final reveal

Well the whole renovation took about 2 months and was a lot more labor intensive than we had thought it would be, but we couldn’t be happier with the results. The room is now so bright and airy with pale green walls and white bead board. We had originally planned on replacing the vanity but it was an odd size and ripping it out would have meant more work on the floors and walls, so in the end we decided to paint it white and reface it with new doors that Cody made from MDF. We also got a new light fixture and a new mirror. The butcher block is from Ikea and warms up what otherwise would have been an entirely white bathroom.

cottage bathroom

The sink has actually become one of favorite elements in the room. We choose a square design by Kohler*. Originally we had purchased a chrome and porcelain faucet like this one*, but when we went to install it we realized it had a 4 in spread and our sink had been drilled for a 6 in spread, so back to the store we went.  There wasn’t a lot of selection in our price range, so we settled for this one, but the second it was installed I knew we had made the right choice. In fact I think it has much more presence than the original one ever would have had.

*These are affiliate links. Any purchase made helps support Simply Swider. Thank you.

vintage cottage sink

We ripped out the original linen closet in the bathroom and replaced it with a custom built vanity (made from MDF) and floating wall shelves from Ikea. This combination allowed us to keep the storage space while making the room feel larger and less claustrophobic.  The sea grass baskets are from Target and hold extra towels and toilet paper.

cottage bathroom

We installed new 12 in ceramic tile over the old aqua mosaic tile. We decided to do this because we found out the mosaic tile was installed piece by piece and we would literally need a jack hammer to get it all up. The striped shower curtain established the color scheme in the room and is from Target as are the white curtains. You can also see in the below picture the new energy efficient window that was installed and notice that there is no longer baseboard heating below it.

cottage bathroom The old aqua cast iron tub is now white thanks to a $50 refinishing kit from Home Depot. The shower also got new white subway tile, a new faucet and shower head, and a new curved shower curtain rod.

vintage cottage bathroom

The details

It’s the details in the room that really lend the cottage and vintage charm to it.  We kept all the metal in the room chrome and much of it include porcelain as well. The white and chrome shower hooks are from Target. The new chrome towel bars and toilet paper holder have very traditional lines. We kept the original toilet but added a new chrome and porcelain lever* to dress it up.  In the bath we installed a cheap chrome faucet set but replaced the middle knob with an upgraded chrome and porcelain replacement knob* from Home Depot.

*These are affiliate links. Any purchase made helps support Simply Swider. Thank you.

cottage bathroom inspiration

Art is often forgotten in the bathroom, but also helps anchor the vintage cottage look we were going for.  The washroom banner that hangs over the towel bar was made by myself.  Cody made the picture frame from leftover pallets and burlap. The picture of the girls in the tub seemed like a natural fit for the room. The copper and wire vintage boat we picked up in the clearance section of Bed, Bath, and Beyond.

bathroom art cottage


Probably the most shocking part of our budget was that we actually came in almost $100 under it! We saved a ton of money by doing all the work ourselves and by salvaging as much as we could from the original room (the tub, toilet, and vanity). For the most part we also bought the cheapest  products we could find that still matched our theme.  Everything for this renovation was available in stock at either Lowe’s, Ikea, or Home Depot.

Faucets                 $101.86

Sink                              99.00

Window                     148.00

Shelving                      50.00

Mirror                           59.99

Hardware                     39.98

Lighting                          89.97

Butcherblock             100.00

Cabinet pulls                 27.79

Door                                   81.92

Re-glaze bath                  50.00

Bead board                       56.47

Floor tile                            84.14

Subway tile                     150.00

Paint                                     33.47

Building supplies          194.60

Accessories                      39.99

Total                               1408.18


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4 thoughts on “Cottage bathroom renovation”

  1. Hi, Now that you’ve had a few years with the tub refinished, can you tell me how it’s holding up? We have a very similar 1950s bathroom (ours is pink and gray) and want to paint the tub–but only if it’ll hold up reasonably well. Carol

    1. Hey Carol! With our kids taking baths in it daily is lasts about a year. With adults showering it will probably last longer. For $40 it’s not bad deal but you are going to have to refinish every year or so. If it’s your primary bath I would consider having a professional refinish it.

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