Renovation a Condo Bathroom: What to Consider

Recently we did a much needed, full renovation of a bathroom in a condo that was built in 1974. Although the rest of the unit had been renovated, the bathroom was the last to be done and desperately needed a face-lift. 

What we had to work with

The existing bathroom was still in the original condition from when the building was built. To be fair, it had been painted (probably 50 times) over the years but painting can only do so much.  The very 1970’s design was not only dated with its yellow and beige tiles in the tub surround and brown, floral mosaic floor tiles but it was also very tired. The tiles in the tub surround had starting to buckle and the sink had been replaced with a “it’ll do for now” sink when the original one has started to rust though a few years before. 

Beyond the aesthetic look of the bathroom (which would have been enough for me to want to renovate) the layout wasn’t working.

  • It is a small room – 5’ x 7’, 35 sf
  • It is located beside the front door and had a right swing door. The first thing you see when you walk into the home is bathroom sink or a closed door (which wasn’t any better)
  • In order to close the door from the inside, you had to shimmy around the toilet to do so. When the door was open, the door was only 3” from the front of the toilet.
  • The vanity stretched the full length of the left wall, beside the toilet, opposite to the tub. This gave a 2’-7” x 2’-7”space to move around in the washroom…with the door closed mind you.

The layout design

The layout is the first thing we address. Because it is a condo building, the plumbing had to stay where it was but that didn’t mean we couldn’t make some changes.

First, and simplest, a new toilet with a smaller footprint. We replaced the existing toilet with one that had sleeker lines and one that fits closer to the wall with a shorter bowl. These one-piece toilets are also easier to clean which makes them lower maintenance for any busy home owner (or future renter).

Then the vanity. The old vanity stretched the length of the room but in reality, it was a 30” vanity with an extended counter top. To open up the space, we replaced it with a 30” vanity and relocate it to the back wall. Luckily for us, the plumbing for the sink was already on that wall, just need to be slightly tweaked. A simple move but this will now give a 4’-6” x 4’-0” space to move around the bathroom.

There was nothing we could do with the tub. This is the only washroom in the home so we wanted to keep it as a full bath. But we did update the tub to a soaker tub. A little luxury for the necessary makes a world of difference sometimes. The last challenge to address was the door. A swing door just wasn’t working – it couldn’t open out into the foyer; opening in to the tub was awkward and opening the other way was no better. After going back-and-forth on a pocket door or a barn door, we went with a hybrid – a pocket door that didn’t have the inside pocket.

There was some reason to this madness. We have a small space and the entrance to the bathroom in 3” from the tub. On the other end of the tub is the toilet. By keeping the back of the door open, we are able to hang the towels on the back. If we had done a true pocket door the towels would have had to hang on the wall, 4ft from the tub, or above the toilet (not ok for so many reason). Using the back of the door maximizes the use of the room without adding clutter or making it awkward to move around. When the door is closed, the towels are in reach. When open, they are out of sight from people entering the home and out of the way when in the bathroom. You’ll notice the toilet paper holder is there as well. Same thing – easy access when needed but out of the way.

When designing small spaces, you can’t be afraid to step out of the norm and be creative. From more information on designing small spaces check out “How to make small spaces feel not so small”

The finishing’s

Although this is their primary home now, the intention is that this will become a rental property. Knowing this, we wanted to be cautious of the budget and of the materials we choose for this design. Since it will one day be a rental, we want to make sure the materials we choose are durable and low maintenance for upkeep.

  • Large Porcelain wall tiles for the tub surround: Porcelain is an easy maintenance tile and choosing a larger scale tile means less grout lines to keep clean
  • Waterproof vinyl tiles for the floor: incredibly durable material and easy to lay. An inexpensive alternative for cost conscious budgets.

As for the color theme, we kept it light.

  • White with an underdone of grey paint color
  • Pure white tiles for the shower
  • White porcelain fixtures (tub and toilet)
  • An all white vanity
  • Soft purple for the pop of color
  • Dark grey floor

But First things first, DEMO. We didn’t keep any of the existing fixtures so everything had to come out. With relocating the vanity and changing the door, there was some minor electrical work that also had to be done. Drywall, tiles, vanity, toilet, tub – all came out. For a small room, it created a lot of garbage. In a condo, you can’t just throw the materials out a window into a bin like a home renovation. For a small room like this, a service like 1-800-Got-Junk? is a great option to get rid of demo debris. They will take it all and recycle the piece that can be recycle without a headache. Use the link below for a discount on your next pick-up*

And it all comes together

This bathroom is a very small space and to make it feel bigger we went with an off-white on the walls with white tiles and fixtures. On the back wall we did a wallpaper accent in a soft purple to add some character to the room. Using a dark grey color on the floor, gives some weight to the room and lets the other features stand out.

To keep things feeling light, we used crystal accents. When you use dark metals, it can add weight to the room and in a small room it can make it feel smaller. We changed the drawer pulls on the vanity to a crystal pull (instead of the brushed metal it came with) and choose a crystal light fixture for above the mirror.

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