Small Bathroom Renovation: Before And A Plan

Today is a very exciting day. Let’s introduce you to our next major renovation in what feels like years! Actually, this project has quite literally been years in the making. We are resurrecting our primary bathroom project, a small bathroom renovation, after we started back in 2019. You can read about where we last left off in our home renovation progress report in 2019. Spoiler alert…it was just a bunch of construction debris.

One Room Challenge: Spring 2023

I signed this project up for the Spring 2023 One Room Challenge. I’m hoping this will kick my butt into high gear on finishing it. It’s a fun, biannual event where various designers and DIYers totally makeover a space in their home over the course of 8 weeks. I’ve always loved the One Room Challenge projects and I even participated once before. Ironically enough, the last time I participated we renovated our guest bathroom (here’s the bathroom renovation budget breakdown) which is now the bathroom in Rowan’s room. It’s by far the nicest bathroom in our home.

Bathroom Renovation Before

To get a feel of where we’re starting, let’s take a little trip down memory lane, shall we?! Here’s a shot of our primary bathroom on move-in day in all its dated, disgusting glory.

Small bathroom renovation before with toilet, plywood closet, and black sink

Don’t you just love the copious amounts of towel bars and the plywood closet in this tiny bathroom? Other favorites to note: the closet so close to the toilet the door won’t open, a black sink that shows ALL the toothpaste, and a switch to an overhead heat lamp for a toasty warm (but red) bathroom. Honest to goodness when you turned that heat lamp on, you felt like a baby chick in a brooder.

Here’s another view of the bathroom where you can see the sink and mirror better:

Small bathroom renovation vanity area with black sink and dated medicine cabinet

And here’s a view of the attic door, which used to be so much shorter than it is now:

Door from primary bathroom that leads into a small attic space

In 2019, we decided to rip it all out and start a full bathroom remodel.

Demolition of a small primary bathroom

We cleaned up the construction debris, started to make a bathroom renovation plan, but then let the project fall to the wayside until we finished the attic. The bathroom has sat sad and empty for far too long so why not try to finish it this spring?!

Primary Bedroom and Bathroom Layout

The space is definitely tight and this is going to be a super small bathroom renovation project. We consider this bedroom and bathroom the primary bedroom in the home for a few reasons, despite the small bathroom. One, there’s a bonus room attached to this bedroom. The bonus space is currently in use as a moody, baby girl nursery but it could also be used as a sitting room, study, or even a closet. Two, we just finished the unfinished attic space attached to this bathroom and turned it into a walk-in closet, which gave our bedroom a more spacious feel. Here’s a shot of our second-floor layout with the new, finished attic space to help orient you.

Floor plan of the second floor of our 1781 colonial farmhouse

Small Bathroom Renovation Plan

So here’s the attack plan with a focus on improving functionality. There was no need for a closet in such a small bathroom. Rowan’s bathroom had a similar layout and we found that ripping out the closet opened up enough space to turn a half bath into a full bathroom. We intend to do the same thing here because we just don’t need a closet in the bathroom now that we have an attic walk-in closet.

This bathroom was trickier to layout than our previous bathroom remodels, even though they are comparable in size. The difficult part is keeping the attic doorway accessible. We couldn’t fit the tub against the far wall since it would block the attic door, meaning the tub only fit where the toilet used to be.

We decided to remove a tiny closet behind the vanity, move the toilet to where the sink was, add a tub beside the toilet, and squeeze a small sink between the tub and the attic door. I’m still undecided on how to make the sink work but I am absolutely dedicated to figuring it out. There are so many gorgeous wall-mount sinks that I want to use here, like the Grizzly Sink from Rejuvenation or the Nano Coupe 11″ Sink on Etsy. I would put one of those sinks in this bathroom in a heartbeat but budget is a concern. We are on an extremely tight budget to finish this bathroom so for now we’re going to try and DIY something that’s rustic and functional.

Here’s a shot from our under-construction primary bathroom looking into our bedroom:

Small bathroom under construction, view from the bathroom into the primary bedroom

Small Bathroom Design Plan

Now for the fun stuff! Let’s talk about the design plan for this small bathroom renovation project. Sometimes when it comes to design, it takes a while to figure out what direction you really want to go. Other times inspiration strikes immediately and sets off the other design elements. This was an inspiration-struck situation. I knew early on that I wanted to do wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling white subway tile with black grout. The subway tile obsession began when I came across this Pinterest image. I could not get that bathroom out of my head.

Small Bathroom Mood Board

Because pictures speak louder than words, this is the design direction for our small bathroom renovation:

Small bathroom renovation mood board with white subway tile and a vintage vanity

Sources: Bathmat, hamper, towels, shower curtain, hooks from West Elm // shower hardware from Amazon // light fixtures from Home Depot // art from Minted // bathtub from Wayfair // mirror from Target // vanity is vintage

I made this mood board so long ago that most of the finishes aren’t available anymore. I’ve got some work to do to track down similar alternatives! We also ordered some things back in 2019 that have been sitting underneath our bed for the last few years. I’m pretty certain the light fixtures are there along with the shower curtain rod.

In an ideal world, I would love to find a vintage dresser that we can convert into a bathroom vanity. We did something similar in our last home and we absolutely loved how it turned out. You can see how we converted a buffet into a bathroom vanity, painted it, and installed it in our bathroom. But in this bathroom, we have just enough space for a small sink placed on top of a custom-built shelf. This sink/shelf combo is inspiring.

There is little room for storage in this bathroom so we’re relying on using the attic closet. We’ve already moved an old toy cabinet into the attic to be used for bathroom storage. It’s the perfect fit I’ll likely paint it soon.

Attic walk-in closet accessed from bathroom

Can you just picture this view once the bathroom is all subway-tiled? I’m a sucker for good sight lines and this one is going to be amazing!

Renovation Progress Update

We’ve already been working on this bathroom renovation, chipping away at some of the unglamorous but necessary projects. Colby has been working on the plumbing which is all roughed in now. Moving the plumbing was no easy feat. The two options for accessing the plumbing were to either take down the ceiling in the kitchen or take up the old floorboards. He chose the floorboard route and it was wild to see all of the old, wide pine floor planks pulled up so he could plumb. Now that all the flooring is back down you can’t even tell that he had removed them.

Small bathroom renovation with plumping roughed in and the drop in tub framed

We found the most compact, drop-in tub on Wayfair. Having a tub was a non-negotiable for this bathroom design plan because someday we are thinking our girls will share our bedroom and bathroom. Having a tub for kids is essential. While they may not still need or want to take baths by the time we move them into this space, it’s definitely nice to keep our options open. Colby framed the tub and started to prep it so we could also tile the tub surround.

Here’s a shot where you can see the doorway from the bathroom into the attic closet.

Small bathroom renovation progress with a door to attic closet

You can see how small the bathroom sink space is in here. There was no way to move the attic door without making it only a few feet tall since the roof line slopes in that direction. We even cut the door at an angle, following along the roof line, to make as much head space as possible for us to walk through.

Follow The One Room Challenge: Week One

I’m so excited to be back and participating in the One Room Challenge (ORC) over the next 8 weeks. Be sure to follow along as all of the participants will be linking up their projects. You can find all the other participant projects on the Spring 2023 Week One linkup page. Also, be sure to check out some of the past ORC projects.

One Room Challenge Logo for Participants


  1. Oh Angie, I Lol’d at the copious amounts of towel bars, since I remember you showing them way back when and I knew you were going to mention them again. Sooo funny! The attic closet is awesome and your vegetable garden gave me all the heart eyes! I had a small but very prolific (?) container garden of cucumbers last summer that I was very proud of. We are moving from Pennsylvania to South Carolina in a couple months and the new house we just bought already has 6 raised beds so I’m excited about that. You can’t really grow anything in the ground down there because there’s basically no dirt just lots of sand. Anyway, I’m hoping to grow more things but I will never be as ambitious as you guys in the gardening department! Colby did a great job on the scribing-my husband has done some too and I’m always like how did you do that?! I’ll never understand! Good luck on the ORC, you guys got this! Can’t wait to see it all done.

    1. Ooooh that’s so exciting to be moving into a home that already has a raised bed garden space. You’ll have to let me know what you grow! And agreed on the scribing…I just don’t get it, or have the patience for it. They really have one of those one in a million skills. Thanks so much for your sweet comment, it brightened my day!

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