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Team EHD’s Rental Bathroom Refresh Plans: They Are BIG And BOLD

When you are a renter you know that bathrooms tend to be the one area where you feel a little “design helpless” because not many people are able to take it upon themselves to renovate (and landlords are usually VERY wary, if they let you at all). Brady did the classic “ask for forgiveness, not permission method” with his rental bathroom. Risky but I don’t think anyone was mad at him for it because it turned out awesome. But normally with rental bathrooms, tile can be outdated with wild patterns, faucets old and a little molded, and if the walls are anything other than white, you are not in for a treat. My “favorite” though was in college when my best friend had a clear glass vessel sink with “sea life” inside the glass like some kind of insane underwater Jell-O mold. But that was a VERY special and extreme case that hopefully (?) not many people have had to deal with. However, the bright side of such a “bold design element” is least you don’t have to worry about knowing what your design direction is. Under the Sea is the ONLY OPTION.

Luckily for me, Julie, Ryann, and Cailtin we don’t have “scary” ocean themed rental bathrooms but they do need a little love in the design/personality department. All of the are more on the “vintage side” and have some “vintage quirks” (read: random architectural moments). So please enjoy our bathrooms and our big rental-friendly plans. PS. I have also just now decided that we each have two months max to complete. Deadlines are CRUCIAL since three out of the four of us are the world’s most indecisive Libras. And if anyone wants to mention the new astrological sign I respectfully think it’s trash. #LibraFOREVER. Ok back to our bathrooms!Heck ya!

Julie’s Bathroom

Hey you and come on in! But wait, not all at once cause this bathroom is a small one but has been working great for one so far. A little over a year ago I got to upgrade my room and bath situation in my apartment when one of my roommates moved out – YAY for actual privacy! I think I was just so excited to have a bathtub all to myself again that I didn’t care enough to design it. Now that the rest of my little space is fully designed it has become a bit of a “wahh, wahh” moment – fun fact: just learned how to spell that sound effect for you all today. If this wasn’t a rental there are a few things I would start fresh on – replace or paint the vanity, swap the builder grade mirror for something with a bit more interest, lay new floor tile since as you can see they are already begging to leave/not even attached under my vanity, and start over on the shower surround. But alas, I don’t have the budget or landlord approval for any of the above so a simple refresh it is! Let’s all check out what is inspiring the space…

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I’ve already established a very strong “old man library” aesthetic in my bedroom so going in a different design direction like post-modernism would be a bit jarring. Luckily, the permanent items in the space like the off-white square/subway tiles and window trim will help me to lean into the vintage style I want easily. But as it is now, it is very neutral which equals safe in my book and that is something I am trying to avoid in my own home. So, I am pulling inspiration from my typical three go-to sources. Ironically none of the photos are of bathrooms but to me, that makes it easier to interpret what I like without a copy and paste design plan. On the far left, the Hoxton Hotel and their curated room designs – that purple paint detail gives makes my heart flutter. One of my favorite Seattle based interior designers, Heidi Caillier, with that moody entry with again a touch of purple and yellow color combo. Lastly, Beata Heuman, who takes such bold risks and is a pro at mixing vintage patterns. Feeling the vibe by now? Take a look at the mood board with me to see how it compares…

Hanging Planter | Vintage Mirror (similar) | Light Fixture | Temporary Wallpaper | Peel & Stick Floor Tiles | Vintage Tank Tray (similar) | Trim Paint Color | Vintage Towel Hook (similar) | Towel

So here’s the plan. That large builder grade mirror is staying put whether I like it or not. So I decided to search high and low on Etsy for a vintage mirror to overlap it – literally for 6 months – and finally came across the perfect one at a reasonable price point. Next, I’m going to add some pattern to the space without causing permanent damage with a peel & stick floor tile and temporary wallpaper. They were the obvious choices. That blue diamond pattern looked so similar to the hand-painted kitchen floors from Beata Heuman, I was thrilled when I found it and my sample should be arriving any day now! As for the “Stripes Away” wallpaper, I have that marigold color-way above on about 16 of the 42 mood boards – it’s a lot I know but it’s a process. I am also playing around with the blush and ink colors, leaning a bit more towards the blush to keep the space on the lighter, brighter side. But maybe I should do an Ask the Audience post to make it official? I’ve been loving the accent trim trend lately and being a big fan of the right shade of purple, it seems like the time to try it out and if it doesn’t work that’s why primer was made. While in Atlanta, working on the Invitation Homes project, Emily B. and myself shopped at about a dozen vintage stores and I kept gravitating towards Vintage French coat hooks but never bought one. So I splurged on this one from Etsy which will be great to finally replace my current one-towel-bar-and-no-hand-towel-ring setup. And if you’re wondering what that wooden object is at the bottom, it’s a cigar mold cause remember this is still an “old man library” vibe.

Caitlin’s Bathroom

I *love* a vintage bathroom, but you know what I don’t love? BUTTER AND SALMON TILE. If you’re looking at this and thinking, “Hey, this is kinda cute,” I appreciate your optimism — and I will admit that it looks better in photos — but OH GEEZ. Why couldn’t I get a nice aqua tile? Or a mint? Pink and black? This one is just a little weird and wow, it shows age like CRAZY. These photos were taken after the bathroom was deep cleaned, so I think I’ll be spending some time re-grouting these bad boys in the future (so much gray between them, yikes!). 

A couple key problems: I never bought new towels or bathmats (y’all, I have had the same towels since my freshman year of college, 11 years ago; the bathmats are less old, but from my old bathroom, which clearly did not have such a pastel nightmare scheme), there are about 80 different paint colors going on (yes —that’s a white-ish wall, a cream-ish cabinet, a different white trim, and a greige door (#design), and it’s east-facing with one window that lets in no light. I’ve tried about a million paint samples in here (read: 14 paint samples) and EVERYTHING reads super muddy. Also, I have lived here a year and I don’t have blinds or shades. I know that’s bad. I know it’s a bathroom. AHH. 

But there are a few good points: my bathroom is enormous. I have a separate tub and (semi-functioning) shower. And maybe most importantly, I have so much storage. As an added bonus, my cabinet doors never shut (#LAapartments) and my cat loves opening them and chilling inside, which is very cute. It has potential! But ol’ girl needs HELP. 

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My inspo is pretty simple. I want to make this tile look intentional. I love these two wallpapered room — both are so well coordinated and really modernize each space — and the navy paint (featured here on EHD!) is SUCH an easy way to upgrade on a budget. Buuuuut since I’m working in the extremely restricted land where my options are defined by a color palette I can only describe as “creamed corn and an old melon,” I’ve done a TON of searching (like, months of searching) and I think I’ve finally found a solution that will work for me. 

Window Treatment | Light Fixture | Vases | Mirror | Shelf | Bath Mat | Wallpaper | Cabinet Knob | Towel | Stool

THOUGHTS? This wallpaper from Work & Sea comes in a peel & stick option and I think it’s actually the perfect match to make my tile, my cream cabinet, my white trim, and my greige door ALL ~GO~ together. (Also, I’m not allowed to paint those three things! So they have to stay that way — I can only touch the walls! Fun!) The rest is pretty neutral for me, though, which feels like a risk. (I love a bright color palette and an 80s moment!) Anyway, I’m planning to grab a vintage-inspired light fixture (this one echoes the sconces in my living room, which I think is cute!), add a modern stool in the place of that trashcan (for holding my laptop while I watch Netflix and soak), update all the linens (finally), add a wall-mounted shelf and some decor to make it FANCY, and last — but definitely not least — swap in a fun mirror that can run horizontally and balance out that built-in towel rack on the right. But y’all, I’m not a designer (just an enthusiast!), so WHAT DO YOU THINK? Your approval and guidance are both very important to me. 

Jess’ Bathroom

Welcome to what I believe is my little bathroom’s BIG blog debut. When I first saw her, my initial thought was, ” YAY no scary tile. I can work with this!” Although I will never understand the insane number of towel bars for this little studio apartment. Three? WHY?? Well, nearly three years later my sweet bathroom still remains not scary but oh so bland (those dark gray towels were a family hand-me-down and while I am grateful to have something, I am sad every time I look at them). I am normally a proponent for keeping your main (and in this case…only) bathroom on the “serene and neutral” side for relaxation purposes. But honestly, I just want to go a little crazy (well my version at least). I don’t have to worry about good lighting for doing my makeup since I have a built-in vanity just on the outside of the bathroom door (even though I don’t think I would care) so why not throw a rust-colored marbled wallpaper on the walls? It’s a rental WHO CARES?? Ok, let’s get into my inspiration…

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I told you I wanted something different:) My heart skips a beat when I look at these photos and YES I am still obsessed with checkered patterns. The trick though is while I want a bold design in my bathroom, I live in a studio. So it’s important to me to make sure all of the “spaces” feel cohesive (even the one room with a door that shuts). So now let’s talk mood board.

Ceiling Paint | Light Fixture | Towel Ring | Shower Curtain | Towel Bar | Towel | Wallpaper | Cabinet Pull | Bath Mat | Toilet Seat Cover

The wallpaper was my first “I want that” moment. It’s likely the closest temporary wallpaper option I could find that lives in the same world as my first inspiration photo (my favorite of the three). However, to be honest, I’m a little nervous about having wallpaper in a rental bathroom. BUT guys, it’s SUCH a “moment”. It might be awful (with all white tile) or…amazing. Only time will tell. Then I got real excited about the idea of doing an accent ceiling color. I literally wrote a post about it so my love of this idea has been well documented. Also, cool mint is a super trendy color this year (that feels low risk). How could I not? Actually the mint and red combo has been a favorite of mine for a minute. I think now is the time. The other bathroom trend that I love this year is the mix and match toilet seat. It’s easy, fun, and again what’s the worst that could happen? I change it back. So all in all I think that I have enough “Bunge-approved” design risks (um how cool is that pendant??) to make me feel like I’m pushing myself while still having it look like it all belongs in my home. I would LOVE your thoughts though. See you in the comments:)

Ryann’s Bathroom

Welcome to my beautiful bathroom. HA I am kidding, obviously, and I am painfully aware how boring my bathroom is now that it is on the internet. There is zero joy being sparked here. SAD. But that’s all about to change my friends. I am not playing around or playing it safe because life is too short. In fact, a few months ago I was 100% team neutral but I believe the big Q has changed me into a BIG color-loving gal. It’s very fun and exciting, but I am afraid some pretty crucial things need to be replaced before any painting happens because a few brushstrokes are not going to salvage this bad boy. We need a big rental friendly refresh. But first, here’s my inspo:

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Yes, two of my inspiration photos are of living rooms and I have no excuse other than these three photos have simply been inspiring me a lot lately. I get very happy when I look at them and they evoke all the right ~feelings~. The bathroom on the right is dreamy, but like I said, right now I have lots of color on the brain. Basically, I want my bathroom to be elegant but fun. Easy enough, no?? We’ll see…

Vinyl Floor Tiles | Paint Color | Faucet | Mirror | Shower Curtain | Bath Mat | Cabinet Knob | Portrait |Painting | Towel Ring Towels

Alright. Say hello to my 50s-diner-meets-victorian-drawing-room inspired bathroom. Charmed, I’m sure.

I have to tell you that what really started it all was the vinyl tiles. I wasn’t going to even entertain the idea of including tile (so much work!) but my mind quickly changed when I saw this pattern. And then, BOOM. A soft minty green paint color popped into my mind and the rest is history. Now, I didn’t want to go full diner and I love Victorian flair in bathrooms so a portrait painting with a vintage ornate frame was next in line. But I also needed to think about hardware and since I have a matte black curtain rod already, I wanted to bring some more black accents -thus the faucet and cabinet knob. The hardest part was choosing a bath mat and to be honest, I am not sure I love what I have here. I like that the yellow is accented in the painting, but I don’t know if this particular mat is the one. What do you think?? I’d love nothing more to hear your thoughts as this is my very first go at designing a bathroom. 🙂

So that’s where we are all at. We all want bold and whether that’s from being quarantined for over three months who knows! But all in all, we are pumped. Some things may shift but isn’t that part of the fun? Hope that if you felt more on the hopeless side when it came to designing your rental bathroom, that some of these ideas empowered you. Design is fun, so why not wallpaper? See you back here in 2 months or less:)

But as always we want to know what you think! Has anyone put temporary wallpaper in their bathroom? Are you pro bold bathroom design or do you like them “calm”? What has been your favorite bathroom rental upgrade? Let’s talk in the comments.

Love you, mean it.

Opening Photo Credits: Design and Home of Brady Tolbert | Photo by Zeke Ruelas for EHD | From: Brady Gives a Refresh to His Vintage Bathroom


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59 thoughts on “Team EHD’s Rental Bathroom Refresh Plans: They Are BIG And BOLD

  1. Just a FYI, that “new astrology sign” stuff comes up every now and then but the signs are not based on the actual constellations, they are based on the division of the ecliptic into 12. The constellations have actually moved in relation to the zodiac since then and don’t match up – this is called the precession of the equinoxes if you were looking for a phrase to dazzle sceptics with. Astrology continues to work as advertised.

  2. Hey EHD – Ryann’s shower curtain link is messed links to a Rectangular Victorian Framed Wall Mirror instead

  3. I’m loving all the inspo pictures so much!
    Julie: I really like your floor tile choice! Are those going to be easy to remove though when you have to move out? Also, that 3rd inspo picture is kitchen goals. love it.
    Caitlin: I love your bathroom tile actually, but “creamed corn and an old melon” cracked me up. Old melon. I have the 1950s square tiles too in our bathroom, but ours are aqua. Your inspo pictures are all ones I have loved when I saw them before. Can’t wait to see what you do.
    Jess: I looooove the light fixture you chose! Swoon! I can’t even picture what that’s all going to look like together, but i can’t wait to see it.
    Ryann: I love EVERYTHING you picked out! That black is going to give it a nice edge. And that art pieces is awesome. 🙂

  4. These are so fun! Can’t wait to see how they turn out. My ensuite in my main bedroom is actually smaller than ANY of these! Ha. So I’ll be looking for some inspiration! (It also somehow has three towel bars…??)

  5. Wot a grrreat post!
    Nearly midnight. Hafta sleep!
    I’ll be dreaming about bathrooms now!! 🤣

  6. Excited to see how these turn out!

    I have to mention that rentals have the strangest placement of the TP holder. Jess’ TP-on-the-door reminded me of a rental I had where they put it about 3 feet over the toilet…was it supposed to be art? Ha!

    1. Ya, it’s a good thing I live alone because I can really only comfortably get my tp when the door is half-open… But 3ft over the toilet is NUTS!

  7. Does temporary wallpaper work well in bathrooms? I would love to use it in mine, but it’s our only bathroom in the house so I wonder if the steam from showers would cause it to peel.

    1. I am not sure so if any readers have experience PLEASE chime in but I think it’s about the amount of ventilation you have. I have a window so maybe it’s fine? But maybe I need a fan too?

      1. Hi Jess! IMHO you definitely need a fan. Perhaps a fan that actually sits in the window and pushes air out? I mentioned the High Tack paper in the comment above – wondering if there are other companies that offer it too…

    2. FWIW (i’m not an expert!), ventilation is definitely key. i’m planning to hit my walls right now with some mold & mildew primer (this one!–mildew) so it has some time to cure before putting my wallpaper up, which should help a bit too.

      and if it peels, we’ll be sure to let you know, and you can avoid making our mistakes!! haha

    3. There are stick on tile decals that are removable and good for bathrooms. The USA has loads of resources for these and all kinds of styles. If I ever use them, I’ll source mine from Indonesia coz they’re closeto Australia and much cheaper re the exchange rate of 68 centscto theUS dollar.

    4. Hi Julia, this Julie came to the discussion just to read about this issue. Does the bathroom mirror fog when you shower? Yes? Then you have a moisture issue.

      So – I’ve been researching temporary wallpapers that will work with slightly textured walls – and I’ve found a store on Etsy that sells all their patterns in what they call a High Tack Peel & Stick. I might give it a shot….

  8. Oooh, this is a good one! Really looking forward to following these creative, colorful, bathroom makeovers. Far more interesting than the big-budget, of the minute, go to, bathrooms I’m used to seeing.

  9. “Although I will never understand the insane number of towel bars for this little studio apartment. Three? WHY??”

    Wet workout gear + towels.

    1. I would guess most renters own a folding drying rack and/or retractable shower clothesline like myself (assuming they don’t have a washer/dryer). Works much better and no dripping on the floor!

      I actually don’t store my towels in the bathroom anyway because it has no windows or venting of any kind (WHY) so I relocated my towel rack to my kitchen and use it as hanging storage.

  10. Loved this post; it makes me feel like I can do this too! Can’t wait to see the final results.

  11. Caitlin, I think you could make the banana leaf paper work if it had a cream background. There are plenty of places that will custom print paper with your choice of colors.

  12. Ladies, these are great jumping off points! Being home during quarantine has made all of us reconsider our spaces. May I suggest, with love, that you carefully consider putting down peel and stick tiles if you need to remove them? In my experience, it can be relatively easy (as I found after a basement flood, before the crew came to demo) or painful (heat gun, scraping, and adhesive removing solvent needed in a bathroom with peel and stick over existing tile). Just offering my experience if it can save you some pain. Wish you the best as you work through your plans.

  13. I think all of these are great plans even if you live in a home you are buying. These are
    inspiring especially for the color loving audience. I have a circa 60’s vinyl in one of my bathrooms with a brown tub. The tile is very neutral and light so when I moved in I replaced the vanity top with the two brown sinks with something more to my liking and painted the cabinet a nice pink to go with the flamingo water color I had purchased from a local artist. In fact that flamingo was the inspiration for the bathroom but still I need to do something with that floor.
    I never see great peel and stick tile in the local big box stores.
    Maybe I need to branch out and follow your lead because you have found some great peel and stick looks. I think the future post with your results will be very exciting for those of us afraid to take a leap.

    1. The peel n stick paper n tiles are more of a specialty thing BUT not that $$$. Good value!

  14. loving this post! catching major chzon vibes in jess’ bathroom. love all of your personal styles!

  15. Awesome post! I have a hideous rental bath and this gives me hope. Please post the afters!

  16. I just wanted to say I really like the direction you are taking the blog. While I love looking at Emily’s more “aspiration” design, the balance with your common house issues is really great. Its also fun to get to hear more from the team. Can’t wait to see the after photos!

  17. I’ll be waiting on pins and needles for the reveals of all of these bathrooms! Just a note, it looks like many of you have medicine cabinets, and if you remove them to install a new mirror, you’ll either need to cover that hole with the new mirror, or do a bunch of drywall work to fill it. I just did this in a bathroom remodel, and while it’s not difficult, it added a lot more work!

    1. Thanks Bev! We are all really excited too:) I think we are thinking more about covering the mirrors so that when we someday move out we can reattach.

      1. A thought my very tired self had last night was:
        Attach a nicewooden ‘frame’ around a dodgy looking mirror and upscale the vibe.

  18. This is really great! Scrolling through, I figured that Caitlin had the most interesting tile work but also the most challenging color palette so I was surprised to find that several of the other mood boards would also be great in her space – Jess and Ryann’s especially but those marigold stripes in Julie’s wallpaper could look pretty great with a few swaps of other items.
    As a homeowner with a renter’s budget, I’m so looking forward to seeing what you do with your spaces!

  19. Is all the conversation in the Insider site now? It doesn’t look like there’s too many comments here.

    I have been a renter my whole life and have had mostly older bath rooms to work with. Changing up the shower curtain and towels was how to change up the look because painting was never an option. Not sure I’d have the talent or nerve to use temporary wall paper. Does it really come off? What about those wall decalls? And I’ve heard there are tile decals too.

  20. Caitlin – instead of regrouting, may I suggest Grout Renew? I used it on my shower about five years ago and it still looks as good as the day I did it. Tedious for sure, but WAY less work than regrouting. And it costs like $15 a bottle, which was more than enough for my shower. Here’s a link to Young House Love’s adventures with Grout Renew for more info

  21. It will be so cool to see what you ladies end up with! If any of you find a good shower curtain liner that doesn’t billow and cling to you in the shower (so yucky!), or even better, a shower curtain that doesn’t even need a liner, please link it/them in your descriptions. Thanks so much!

  22. Caitlin! That wallpaper is perfect and hilarious and charming in a great way. And I think you do t need a new light fixture with that wallpaper and that hardware. Save some dough.

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