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7 Bathroom Renovation Mistakes to Avoid

By: Liz Harrell
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7 Bathroom Renovation Mistakes to Avoid

By: Liz Harrell
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When I think of the worst bathroom renovation that I’ve ever laid eyes on, I think immediately about the bathroom in my first house. It was a small, humble, cozy yellow brick ranch house. I had a blog devoted to both the house and my dog called Mabel’s House (this feels like a lifetime ago). It was just one street over from a lake and a short walk to The Old Mill. It was by far the happiest and nicest neighborhood I have ever lived in to date, but my favorite part of the house was the retro Mamie Pink bathroom.

Bathroom Renovation - Mamie Pink

The only full bath in the house, it was small, but I adored it. I grew up admiring my grandmother’s bathroom with the exact same pink tiles (and coordinating cabbage rose wallpaper). The house and the bathroom felt like home to me the first time I walked through the door. 

Long before the famous line in Steel Magnolias, Mamie Eisenhower (wife of President Dwight Eisenhower) made sure pink was her signature color. Pink was, and is, a flattering color to most everyone, and she made sure to decorate and wear her favorite pale shade as much as possible. This resulted in the midcentury “Mamie Pink” tile and appliance craze.

The subsequent owners ripped out every piece of that pink tile and replaced it with ill-fitting (cheap) fixtures from a big box store. When I saw the change on the real estate listing online years after moving out, I cried. Is it strange to be so emotional about tilework? Probably. If they’d done a classy renovation, I might not have taken it so hard, but the reno was, in a word, horrendous.

There are definite “mistakes” we make when renovating and updating bathrooms. The following are a few bathroom renovation mistakes to avoid. But ripping out a pristine retro bathroom and replacing it with the cheapest fixtures on the market should be an unspoken addition to the list.

Bathroom renovation

Colors that Do Nothing for Your Complexion

When choosing your tiles, paint or fixtures, consider the wisdom of Mamie. Yes, you might adore pea green paint, but do you really want to appear vaguely seasick every time you peer into the mirror? Pick shades that will compliment your appearance and make you feel good first thing in the morning. 

Skipping the Bathroom Fan

This goes without saying, but yes, yes you do need to install a bathroom fan during a renovation if at all possible. Humidity, aromas, sounds: these three nouns specifically request you get a bathroom fan, ASAP.

Bathroom renovation

Underestimating Storage

Yes, modern and sleek bathrooms are visually stunning. But where are the medicine bottles? The curling irons? The towels and band-aids? Let’s face it, pedestal sinks and modern clean-lined bathrooms are lovely. But if you have beauty items falling onto the floor and no real place to store your towels, you probably won’t care how streamlined your bathroom is.

Make it Match

My last house had bathrooms that could only be described as “builder specials.” The tiles on the walls didn’t match the tiles on the floor. The fixtures on the sink, bathtub, and shower were all from three different universes. I can only assume this design hodgepodge started with a conversation that started like, “Hey, I know a guy, and he’s got some stuff on a truck.” Make it match, whether it’s light fixtures, sink faucets or tilework. Cohesion really is important.

Space and Layout Matters

It doesn’t matter how grand your very-much-wanted, two-sink vanity is if you’re bumping your elbows in a small shower, or your thigh is wedged against the side of a wall when you’re sitting on the porcelain throne. Make sure your space is laid out in a way that makes sense.

Pick Lighting for All the Moods

No one wants to feel like they’re on the surface of the sun when they take a relaxing evening bath, nor do they want to squint in darkness when they’re trying to pluck their eyebrows at 6 a.m. Bathrooms should have lighting options for getting ready in the morning, and for relaxing at night.

Avoid a “Theme”

I can still remember going to a home bible study in college, using the guest bathroom, and struggling frantically to pull the toilet paper out from under a lighthouse toilet paper holder. I finally gave up and grabbed some Kleenex from a lighthouse tissue holder. Sometimes lighthouses don’t belong in bathrooms. I wasn’t immune to the siren’s call of theme-ing my bathroom. In 2002, I had strawberry towels, strawberry bath mats, and a strawberry stenciled mirror. These aren’t mistakes I want to repeat. When picking a design for your bathroom, the less “theme-y” the better.  

No matter what your preference may be, whether it’s pink retro bathrooms or sleek modern spaces, there are universal rules to bathroom updates that assure the end result is comfortable, well lit, and pleasing to the eye. Just try not to desecrate Mamie Pink tiles, and ditch the strawberries.  

Meet the author

A little about Liz Harrell

Elizabeth Harrell is an author, freelance writer, and lives in Conway. Her book, My (not so) Storybook Life, was published in 2011. Her blog projects and articles have been featured in At Home Arkansas, Apartment Therapy, Better Homes and Gardens, Design Sponge, and here on Only in Arkansas. Visit her at https://elizabeth-harrell.com

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