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A $12,000 Brooklyn Bathroom Renovation That Didn’t Ditch All The Original Features

By on September 23, 2022 0

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In Renovator’s notebook, the owners open up on the details of their renovations: how long it really took; how much does it actually cost; what went horribly wrong; and what happened wonderfully, by chance, it’s worth it in the end. For more tips on how to make your next project a success, follow @reno_notebook.

Location: Prospect Heights, Brooklyn

Approximate cost: $12,000

Absolute priority: inject personality into the en suite bathroom without altering the perfectly refined finishes.

New York editor Arati Menon never lived through the honeymoon phase when she and her husband bought their apartment in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn in early 2020. You know, that feeling of butterflies in the stomach you feel when you move to a new neighborhood and check out all the cute restaurants and the 24 hour bodega. “We didn’t have any of that,” Menon recalls. “All we had was this apartment and the problems swirling around us.” It wasn’t until the world began to slowly open up the following year that she was able to make up her mind to settle down. The first space on which she wanted to put her mark? Their adjoining bathroom. “The bedroom is such a sanctuary for me, so it was a great place to start,” she shares.

The bathroom, before.

What ensued was not a full renovation, but rather what Menon likes to call a “half-renovation”. Instead of designing the space of her dreams, she sought to give the room personality while staying true to her budget constraints, and she admits it was just wrong to tear down a perfectly innocuous space. “Not wanting to send things to landfill forced me to get super creative,” she says. Menon decided to keep the features she could live with, like the contractor-grade marble mosaic floors, the plain toilet, and the glossy white bathtub. Next, she identified her biggest pain points: the stark subway tiling in the shower, the ineffective vanity unit, and the complete lack of a mirror.

Up front, in his own words, Menon reveals the goodness and seriousness of his approximately $12,000 bathroom renovation.

Splurge: fast delivery tile that says “sanctuary”

green tiled shower

shower shelf niche

When choosing the new tile for the shower, I was guided by the scale of the bathroom itself and the size of the tile on the floor. Fireclay sent us some samples that I fiddled with. I wanted to create an impression of lightness, so I wanted to stack them vertically. The guy who did the install said it would be simple enough for him to add a niche for our bath products which was good news as I hate clutter around the edges of a tub with passion. We lined the base of our windowsill with the tiles we had left over from the project, so nothing was lost.

Save: anti-deformation paint


Looking into the bathroom from our room, I noticed that there was still a little something missing – it was too empty. I painted the wall closest to Benjamin Moore’s Weekend Getaway restroom, which matches the Rosemary tile nicely. To protect the fresh paintwork from possible water damage from the shower, we opted for the brand’s Aura Bath & Spa finish.

Splurge: In-Stock Fixtures That Are Surprisingly Chic

brushed nickel tub filler

Kohler’s shower system was another pricey item (nearly $1,000), but luckily the parts didn’t require us to make massive plumbing adjustments — they fit right into the wall. Originally I was aiming for a vibrant brushed brass coating, but when the company told us there was no way to get it anytime soon (shipping delays!) I went with some brushed nickel…and I’m so glad I did. Brass would have taken too much attention, whereas nickel really holds everything together.

Splurge: A Solid Barrier

I didn’t want to block our beautiful new shower with a curtain, so we installed a glass door in its place, opting for the larger of the two sizes available. It gave us a bit more coverage, although we did have an issue at first where water seeped through the small gap. We sealed it and there have been no issues since.

Save: Life on the Ledge

towel hanging under the ledge

The persistent challenge was: Where to put the mirror. (The window sill in front of the sink prevented us from placing one.) Fortunately, there is a large wall to the left of the shower. At first I considered a medicine cabinet, but the truth is, we didn’t need any storage space, so I bought a simple $300 swivel mirror. We have plenty of room in our new vanity for most of our stuff, but that little ledge is perfect for displaying cotton swabs, candles, and everyday skin care.

Splurge: Deep Drawers

sink in front of the window

wooden sink drawers

The old gray vanity cabinet was not optimized inside (it was basically a gaping hole). We swapped it out for a floating IKEA version with upgraded semi-handmade fronts, Kohler faucet and facelift hardware. This piece has two drawers so my husband and I can keep our stuff separate. I was so thrilled that I found takers for our old vanity and hardware on my local Buy Nothing group. Not wasting these items and knowing they are being used by someone else is such a relief.