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My Friend’s Carpeted Basement Bathroom Gets A Budget Makeover (With A Lot Of Readymade Products And The Transformation Is Insane)

Whoever thought wall-to-wall carpet in a bathroom was a good idea, was well, I don’t know what they could possibly have been thinking. This bathroom bummed them out more than any other – a room I actually never even saw because guests didn’t really go downstairs. Once they decided to renovate and give it a grown-up look, Priscilla (the designer) took the style/architecture of the house (Tudor revival) and designed this to be a budget/modern version that worked well in that style. She did an incredible job – I had almost nothing to do with it except the “I love it’ product approvals and styling the photos. Everything was affordable and ready-made with no major hiccups. But I’ll let Priscilla take it away.

Hi everyone, Priscilla here! I’ve been a long-time reader of the blog and was so excited to get the chance to work on another project with Emily. We originally met via Rejuvenation (I used to work in-store design there) and was leaving to go back to school when she was looking for help on the Portland Project. When she reached out at the start of the pandemic about her best friend’s basement, it was an easy yes. Today I’m excited to share with you the bathroom remodel and get into all the ins and outs of the design process for this space.

THE PROJECT

The house is a 3-story, 1930s Tudor in SW Portland. The top 2 floors have a ton of charm with a lot of the original character intact. The basement, however, was another story. It had gone through a pretty rough renovation in the 70s. Think Graceland cabin but with asbestos tile and carpet in the bathroom (why was this ever a thing?).

Like so many families during the pandemic, the clients were looking for more usable space. While the goal of the renovation was to make the basement more functional for the whole family, they also wanted to carve out a dedicated room for their teen son. During the initial space planning process, we came up with the idea of minimizing the bathroom into the old laundry room footprint. By downsizing the bath, it opened up the space to add in the bedroom they needed.

Cavernous and choppy, the original bath was tucked in a back corner of the basement down a hallway. It felt weirdly inaccessible and disconnected from the family room. By reconfiguring the original layout, it provided privacy for the new bedroom and allowed the bathroom to be more centrally located in the space. Double win!

THE DESIGN PROCESS

Wall Sconces | Mirror | Faucet | Vanity | Towel Ring

Basements can often be tricky to design, with a lot of mechanical systems overhead and height limitations. This basement was no exception and had a lot of budget-consuming, un-fun tasks that took priority, like waterproofing (we live in Portland, after all), floor leveling, and duct moving. This meant we needed to get creative with the finishes in each space. 

    Cabinet Hardware | Hand Towel | Vase | Soap Tray | Match Holder (similar)

With a limited budget, we wanted to find materials that felt high-end without the price tag. Nodding to historic elements while incorporating contemporary details, our goal was to create a bathroom pretty enough for guests, but durable for a teen boy. Our color palette for all the basement spaces was either blue or green (always and forever blue and green for me). Playing off the green mudroom outside the bathroom door, we wanted to contrast it by pulling in soothing blues and neutrals for the bathroom.

We played with a lot of different options to get the right balance between pattern, white space, and metal finishes. Below are some of the early mood boards and inspiration pics we pulled from. Initial ideas ranged from more nautical/youthful to simple/clean to more traditional. Once we landed on doing wood trim in the mudroom, it helped push us toward fully tiling out the bathroom so the finishes had variety as you moved through the basement.

*Disclaimer on prices: We were designing this at the beginning of the pandemic so pricing is, sadly, different now.

Option 1: Graphic, Playful, Nautical

Option 2: Classic, Simple, Clean Lines

Option 3: Traditional, Tudor

TILE

With no natural light in the space, the idea was to bring in energy with a graphic floor tile. Something to draw your eye down and help distract from the low ceilings. The pattern and strong lines of the tile helped create movement which gave the room a more expansive and open feeling. Utilizing the vertical space on the wall and installing floor-to-ceiling subway tile also helped to give the illusion of a taller ceiling above. The choice of a shiny tile (instead of a more matte option) was intentional to reflect light and create as much warmth as possible.

 Floor Tile (sold out-similar) | Wall Tile | Baseboard Tile | Toilet Paper Holder | Bath Towels 

Shower Enclosure | Shower Floor Tile | Curb Tile | Shower Plumbing Fixture

FIXTURES

Part of our cost-saving strategy was to go with ready-made fixtures instead of doing the custom route. We picked a deep navy vanity that came with a Carrera marble top and had much-needed storage…both open and closed. The clients wanted a glass shower so we found this fun enclosure that felt higher end, but less than custom glass would be. We debated between matte black or brass on the plumbing. In the end, we decided to go the brass route just to have those extra pops of warmth. Trying to find low-cost brass plumbing that doesn’t look cheap can be super challenging. We sampled a variety but liked the look of the Pfister Contempra collection the best. I think the key to a good, affordable brass is to stay away from the tones that have a lot of green in them. (They look the cheapest IMO). If you’re designing a teen or kid’s bathroom (or sharing with one), do yourself a favor and install a self-cleaning toilet. We were joking (but not) that it’s the highlight of the space. It’s Kohler’s self-cleaning model and really keeps the bowl super tidy and fresh smelling. Seriously, life-changing:)

Toilet | Bath Mat | Landscape Painting (vintage)

DECOR

As a nod to the Tudor style, we picked an arched mirror that we found at Target. After trying a couple of different shapes, when we held this one up, it was the clear winner. You can’t go wrong with a classic arch. The client knew she wanted double globe sconces (they give off such great, even light). We sourced these ones from Anthropologie and loved the matte shades and subtle brass finish. The decor developed organically. I found this amazing landscape at Artifact (a fun vintage shop) in Portland. The pop of wood and soothing colors along with Emily’s styling magic pulled it all together. 

Hooks | Bath Towels | Side Table (sold out)

I hope you enjoyed all the details and behind-the-scenes decisions that went into this space. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Til next time, lovelies…

*Design by Priscilla Frost
**Styled by Emily Henderson
***Photos by Sara Ligorria-Tramp

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20 days ago

Love it the Bathroom cabinet look very nice

20 days ago

It looks SO great, Priscilla! I love your work and thanks for showing the options you presented to clients. I appreciate the use of ready-made materials for those of us who can’t go custom or have an “extra” bath that doesn’t need the investment of custom pieces. Question on the shower: Did you install the blue tile over the floor that came with the kit? It looks so custom; I’d love more details on that aspect of it.

Priscilla
20 days ago
Reply to  Molly

Hi Molly👋🏻! Thanks for the kind words. As far as the pan goes, we didn’t use the plastic one that came with it. There was some floor issues that made it easier to go custom (plus it just looks better). The shower tile is linked on one of the photos (like 4th one down, I think). We did a mosaic for the floor, a bullnose for the sides of the curb, and the 12×24 tile cut down for the top of the curb. It’s funny cause it looks super blue in the photos, but in the space it’s a slate gray that matches the floor tile. Tiling a shower is tricky, but there are slope templates (Oatey is a good brand for these) that make it easier if you’re ever trying to DIY one. Hope this is helpful 🙂

Leslie
20 days ago
Reply to  Priscilla

I was so wondering why you picked ‘blue’ for shower tile! Meanwhile, like the bathroom but also wonder why you would have matches in there. As a mother, i’d say absolutely no to flames/candles in the basement!

Kara
19 days ago
Reply to  Leslie

Those are probably incense matches. They have a little bit of incense on the strike tip, which is very useful in a bathroom for obvious reasons, lol. Also this bathroom is for a teenager, not small kiddos. They can handle striking a match without burning the house down.

Kara
19 days ago
Reply to  Kara

Oh whoops, I just looked closer and saw the candle; so they’re most likely regular matches. Either way, teens can handle lighting a candle. I wouldn’t stress about it.

Sarah C
20 days ago

Love the gingham floor tile option. Any chance you can link the source?

Priscilla
20 days ago
Reply to  Sarah C

Hi Sarah! I love a good gingham pattern😍! What you’re seeing is actually 4 different colors of 4×4 tile laid out in a gingham pattern. The fun thing about doing it this way is you can customize the colors you use as well as play w/ sizing. Like a 2×2 tile would give you a smaller scale look or 6×6 would be fun in a larger space 🙂

Kristi
20 days ago

My eyes think this is beautiful-dramatic with an art quality. Very memorable space.
My body might like some warm elements layered on top to finish it off.
Thanks for sharing this with us.

Julie
20 days ago

My favorite part of the whole bathroom is the shower floor tile! It’s a gorgeous space, but this just pops and looks so unique. I also love those sconces – the scale and color are fantastic. Way to go! We just redid a teeny tiny bathroom (smaller than this, just a 1/2 bath) and it’s so hard to proportion things and not overspend.

Teri
20 days ago

Loved the unintentional (?) pun “bummed” in the description of the bathroom!
Well done!

Molly
20 days ago

First of all, how dare you deny us the satisfaction of no “befores”? Especially when talking about a carpeted basement bathroom! JK, this is lovely and I really appreciate the cost saving measures – esp when tasked with moving a bathroom, things get VVV expensive v quickly.

phyllis
20 days ago

I just love the combinations of color and texture in this bath. Thanks for sharing about the self-cleaning toilet; who knew??? Lastly, please share the source for the vanity as it is my favorite part of the bath.

phyllis
20 days ago
Reply to  phyllis

Oops! Saw the vanity link above.

Amy
20 days ago

Generally very nice, and certainly much better than before, but someone should have complained to the tile installer about the tile placement at the ceiling — that thin, disappearing strip would drive me nuts, especially knowing that thousands of dollars were spent on this room.

Mich
20 days ago
Reply to  Amy

Omg yes – also the corners have such thick grout, and in other places it looks like the installer was not very skilled or detail-oriented.
The design is fun and I like almost everything in it. Personally I don’t feel the main floor tile works well with the blues, but if that’s what the owner wanted, it’s their bathroom.

lja
19 days ago
Reply to  Mich

she explains that the shower tile isn’t actually blue, it’s just looking that way in the photos

hickenack
20 days ago
Reply to  Amy

That’s necessary bc the angle between the wall and ceiling isn’t perfect. If they didn’t do that, the top line would be full tiles but wonky.

Donna
19 days ago
Reply to  Amy

If they aligned the top row of tiles with the wall as it meets the ceiling, all the rows of tiles that follow would be out of level. I tiled a wall in an older home that had a similar situation. I set the top row of tiles level which left a small angled slice of wall where it met the ceiling. I left it like that and painted that slice of wall the same color as the ceiling. Another thing they could have done was grout that thin angled row of tile in white so that it wouldn’t stand out as much. It’s tricky working with older homes and especially basements.

Amy
15 days ago
Reply to  Donna

The appropriate thing to do in this situation is to align the tiles so a half-tile hits the ceiling — then the unlevel-ness of the ceiling is much less obvious. You’re right; aligning the tile with the wonky ceiling and creating a bunch of slanted lines is definitely also a bad plan.

Kirsten
19 days ago

Very timely post for me. Love the emphasis on high quality for less. Would appreciate links to the suggested products, especially for the clean and classic mood board. But the others as well would be great.

kath
19 days ago

I love those shaded sconces under “Traditional, tutor” ($175). Where are they from?

Kate
19 days ago

Love this post–thank you, Priscilla! So glad you included floorplans of the basement and the square footage attached, it’s invaluable for those of us considering similar changes in our own homes. And, love the idea to go with a graphic tile to distract from the low ceilings!

JeffreyC
19 days ago

Beautiful, albeit filled with all hard surfaces that bounce sound, but given the location that probably isn’t too problematic.

Apryl
18 days ago

Could you share the link to the round sconce (listed at $133) from Option #2? 😍

Kj
14 days ago
Reply to  Apryl

Looks like the Soft Ceramic Sconce from Shades of Light: https://www.shadesoflight.com/products/soft-ceramic-sconce?

Beth
17 days ago

This looks great! I’m pretty sure I have the exact same hand towel ring and toilet paper holder- love how inexpensive but nice they are! You mentioned that the rest of the basement had asbestos floor tiles- did you have them removed or did you install the new flooring as a floating floor above them? I have asbestos tiles in the entire second floor of my house (all are underneath “floating” wall-to-wall carpet), as well as my staircase, and have been debating removal (which is very costly and not necessarily required) or encasement, and would love to know what you and your clients decided on!

Somer White
16 days ago
Reply to  Beth

I am also interested in how you handled the asbestos tile? I have just bought a house that has vinyl sheet tile in kitchen that is likely asbestos.

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