After buying and moving into her grandmother’s rundown cottage on Salt Spring Island, HGTV Canada writer Emma Yardley decided she’d overhaul the bathroom first. From the floors to the shower rail, she breaks down costs, design choices and hard lessons she learned along the way.
As this was the first room I’ve ever redone from top to bottom, the first step was coming up with the bathroom design concept. I wanted it simple and timeless with a modern edge – oversized white subway tiles paired with black bathroom hardware and fixtures struck that balance.
Lay it On Me
To keep plumbing and construction costs down, I decided to keep the layout as is, only moving the bath spout from the left to right. Once the old shower tile was out, there was enough space on the left to create a new recessed shelf. LESSON: Reworking the floor plan is expensive – avoid it if possible.
COSTS: Williston Forge Kiley 3-Light Vanity Light ($540, Wayfair.ca); Grey Edged Mirror ($20, HomeSense); Fejka Artificial Potted Plant ($7/set of 3; IKEA); Kingston Brass Curved Oil-Rubbed Bronze Shower Rod ($88, Overstock.ca)
Break the Mould
The bathroom hadn’t been updated since the mid-1980s, with many years of neglect and patch repair jobs in between. The mould stains inside the medicine cabinet could not be cleaned – I needed to come up with some bathroom design ideas fast. LESSON: When bleach does nothing, it’s time to replace.
As much as I wanted to tile the entire wall behind the new vanity, storage was limited; so, I opted to install a large wall cabinet, drilling holes for a pair of clear Lucite handles I already had. LESSON: When square footage is restricted, function should win out over fashion.
COSTS: Vittle Industrial Pipe Shelf ($244, Overstock.ca); Black Bust ($5, garage sale); Vigo Ileana Bathroom Faucet ($167, Overstock.ca); Sektion Wall Cabinet ($269, IKEA); Charcoal Liquid Hand Soap ($6, HomeSense)
How Low Can You Go
Since I live in a drought zone, having a water-conserving toilet was a must. This low-profile model also gave me space to put up an eye-catching industrial shelf. LESSON: Function should win out over form.
COSTS: American Standard Tofino 1-Piece Dual-Flush Toilet ($268, The Home Depot); Riker Bathroom Vanity Set ($1,100, Wayfair.ca); Sure-Loc Boulder Bathroom Accessory Set ($160, Overstock.ca); Black Hand Towel ($7, HomeSense)
Trapped in Time
While everything in the original bathroom still worked (just), nothing had been updated since my grandmother first bought it in the early ’80s. The shower rail was rusted, the window seal deteriorated and the overhead storage had become a spacious apartment for spiders.
Finding matte-black shower hardware that had all the elements I wanted (a handheld for washing the dog and a tub spout) was tricky, so when I saw this set I jumped. LESSON: Start scouring websites for sales and begin stockpiling discounted supplies – I had piles of boxes in the living room for two months before work even started.
COSTS: Symmons Duro Shower System ($1,070, Wayfair.ca); Beveled Gloss Ceramic Wall Tile ($672, Overstock.ca); Glass Blocks ($204, Windsor Plywood); Soap Dish Tiles ($4 each, garage sale); French Milled Soap ($5, HomeSense)
I landed on this tub because of the modern feel of its square corners. I couldn’t find a black safety handle anywhere, so I retrofitted an iron door pull to do the job. The flower-petal floor tiles pull together the colour palette and put a smile on my face every day. LESSON: Get a second opinion on your measurements. I accidentally ordered only enough tiles to do half the job – the reorder set work back by two weeks.
Not having much luck finding a recessed medicine cabinet, I ordered a wall-mounted one and just installed it flush to the wall. A major upgrade was underfloor heating, which replaced a rusted-out baseboard heater. LESSON: Book an electrician in advance – we had to wait three months for them to come hook up the heating.
In Black and White
The Highland cow canvas was the final touch to the bathroom design, inspiring a last-minute colour change on the wall to black. With a clear vision and a local handyman (thanks, Jim!) to help put it all together, this bathroom is now ready to use for another 30 years. LESSON: The process will be stressful, but the results are worth it.
COSTS: Mercury Row “Portrait of a Highland Cow” Photographic Print ($99, Wayfair.ca); Monogram Door Hooks (gifts); Black Bath Towel Sets ($22 each, HomeSense); Extra Construction Costs ($3K); Building Supplies and Paint ($350)
TOTAL COST: $10K (bathroom renos can cost up to $12K, so that’s a bit of a steal!)