Updating A Small Rental Bathroom

The story begins like this. Meagan and James happen upon beautiful apartment that is pet friendly… It’s spacious… It has a yard and a garage. Has private laundry (the holy grail of urban living) and is within budget. They move in… And then the reality of the 1970’s red tiled, Euro-inspired mini bathroom sinks in. It was clean, but bad. I left it as is for one year. I couldn’t even fathom how I could improve our sad little rental apartment bathroom – and then I did. This past summer, I tackled updating a small rental bathroom. And although it is not perfect, it is 1,000 times better. I actually enjoy being in there and looking around. I am so proud of where it has come – all the waiting was worth it in the end.

updating a rental bathroom on a budget

Bonus: Me getting into the shot.

Our bathroom went from beige, blah and burgundy all over to a crisp little sophisticated boho bathroom. I couldn’t change the fact that the room is covered 75% in tiles. The tiles are what they are. Being a renter versus a home owner has it struggles – and not being able to truly ‘reno’ a space is one of them. So I had to work around the hideous tiles. Almost a year ago I met with Sharon Grech, Benjamin Moore colour expert at IDS.  Knowing that I couldn’t rip down the tiles or put in new cabinets, I asked Sharon to help me reinvent the space on a renter’s budget. Using paint, art and hardware, I prepared myself to tackle my horrible little bathroom. Updating our small rental bathroom was one of my more rewarding home related projects because I had avoided it for so long.

boho modern bathroom inspiration

Sources: Art, brass hardware, Hammam Turkish towel, bathroom image, waffle shower curtain and kilim rug.

Sharon and I poured over images of my bathroom and she instantly had practical and feasible recommendations for how to work with my existing space. This was the first step of many to transforming my 1970’s disaster into a more modern space without having to tear down any walls or replace the cabinets.


outdated bathroom before shots

Using Benjamin Moore Aura Bath and Spa, I update the walls and ceiling with a fresh coat of bathroom ready paint taking them from beige to a crisp white which complemented the aforementioned burgundy European style tiles. By sticking with a matte white, I was able to open up this relatively small, poorly designed space. I also didn’t want it to be incongruent with the rest of the apartment. Sharon Grech had recommended using the same white on the walls and cupboards to create an optical illusion that my bathroom is larger and more open concept than it truly is. Before deciding on my white, I spent time (well, hours) looking through the ‘Off White’ and ‘Gentle Whites’ Benjamin Moore collections. Being mindful of the natural light, artificial light and existing warm tones in the room, I settled on using Wedding Veil (2125-70) for this project. This particular white caught my eye in a bathroom featured in the ‘Gentle Whites’ collection. I also decided to stick with this warmer, creamier white in contrast to other spaces of my home which feature the strikingly clean Distant Gray.

wedding veil white benjamin moore

Wedding Veil (2125-70)

Using Wedding Veil as my crisp white canvas, my bathroom evolved to include details such as adding and updating hardware to be more modern, throwing up new contemporary art from Minted and integrating thrifted pieces. I am not embarrassed anymore by our bathroom and feel like I have made it into the best little 1970’s bathroom it could be!

Minted collage of artwork

Minted Artwork (clockwise from top left): Swing, Life On Mars, Reach, Black Cactus, Rinse and Repeat, Leave Behind The Shadows and Form. All of the Minted art was framed with white frames from Chapters.

DIY Boho modern bathroom update details

Lots of little details were added to the bathroom. Thrifted small Kilim rug to add some colour and texture that I picked up at an antique fair. Updated all the existing silver fixtures (towel racks, toilet paper holder etc.) to be gold (this saved me SO much money). Purchased patterned white towels to add texture to the small space. Spray painted the existing light fixture and accidentally discovered that the fixture looks WAY better upside down. My dad helped us out with this part as I am terrified of doing anything electrical related myself. We laughed when we realized that we actually liked this direction better. It diffuses the harsh CFL bulbs and hides the ugly coils, the light in the bathroom is much warmer. Also, I was inspired by Sabrina at Pink Little Notebook when she DIY-ed a light fixture in her hallway to work with my existing light fixture rather than buy a new one. I grabbed a huge white and beige Turkish towel from Homesense. I would love to replace all of our towels with Turkish towels, but for now, we have the one. And of course flowers with lots of greenery.

DIY Boho modern bathroom update

How you ask did I adhere my frames to the tiles you ask? The genius that is 3M Command water resistant strips!

Hopefully my guests and I spend more time looking at the modern art than at those tiles!

adhere artwork to tiles how to

Still looking for a new soap dispenser that I like…Nate Berkus has some amazing ones but alas, Target won’t send those particular products up North to me.

bathroom update DIY Boho modern

I thought I would create a summary for my top tips for transforming and updating a small rental bathroom.

tips for updating a rental bathroom

Making the best of the burgundy tiles that I can’t rip off, I tried to take attention away from them and added lots of white and gold details.

fresh flowers bathroom

I keep this small thrifted plate by the sink for my rings – did you know that you should take off your rings when you wash your hands?

bathroom update row house nest

All and all, not perfect but an incredible update. Updating a small rental bathroom doesn’t have to be a bank account killer or over the top. Do what you can – my recommendation is to always start with paint then add in other details. I covered up some of the tiles with art – pick pieces that reflect you and can withstand exposure to moisture.

Ways to update a small rental bathroom


*Note: Some links in this blog post are sponsored links and some of the products mentioned were supplied to me. The opinions and text are all mine. Don’t worry! I only write about brands I love!

All of the images in this post were taken by me (Meagan).

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  • Honey Rana

    loved the bathroom taps that you used in bathrooms and apart from this, it is very pleasant to watch your decorative bathrooms.