Hello! I'm Suzannah, a serious DIYer and mom of two little ones. Follow along with my DIY fixer upper house renovations, sewing and crafty projects, real food recipes, and de-stressing goals.
I believe you can love your home just the way it is, AND have the power to design and make big changes to make it better.
I'm also the author of DIY Wardrobe Makeovers!

Lessons learned: 3 things to remember for your bathroom reno

This is a funny post. We've redone two bathrooms in the past two years and we're done for now, but I just installed a new toilet handle downstairs and wow, I should have done that when we first renovated it!! A detail like a toilet handle that matches the faucet and towel bars make a big difference, but I overlooked it before. Sharing that and other lessons I've learned for bathroom renos!

If you're tackling a bathroom reno, you've probably researched a lot of the important steps and made a shopping list. The tile and how to lay it, which vanity you want, any drywall patching... bathrooms can be super complicated for how small they are! (See all my tutorials here including some great tile ones.) But in the past few years I've done 6 bathroom renos (see all Room Reveals here), plus consulted on others, and learned a few extra steps for getting a high quality feel, plus more function for everyone who uses them.

3 Elements to Remember for a Beautiful, Functional Bathroom Reno

1. Art!!!

This is a hard one, because you're making so many decisions about big, permanent things like the sink and toilet that art might seem unimportant. In terms of resale value it probably isn't too important. But for creating a really beautiful space you love?? Key! 

I've learned this slowly--I hardly thought about art at all in the three bathrooms we did at our first fixer upper house (you can see them on the bottom row of bathrooms on my Room Reveals page), and I don't think we had any in our master bath. (It was a great room but it could have used some art and a pretty Roman shade.)

For our latest bathroom reno, our upstairs half bath, I thought about the main piece of art early, and included something similar in design collages from day 1 (you can see the plans/collage here). It really, really helped to know the color and vibe I was going for.

In our downstairs bathroom at this house, we had so much hard work to do with tiling and other things, art was an afterthought and I just put up what I could scramble together before the reveal, and then replaced it later. At least I knew I wanted some cool vintage-ey art in there from the beginning. 

The project before that was this modern/midcentury modern-inspired bathroom at my friends' house. I remembered the styling elements, but totally forgot art on this one!! They have since added some above the toilet, but man, that was a missed opportunity for the reveal. I could have added some extra character and color there.

2. ALL the hardware and plumbing fixtures

You definitely think about the big ones--sink faucet, shower faucet, maybe even towel bars--from the beginning but it's easy to forget about a few pieces and it can be hard to shop for all of these matching or coordinating. Now, I'm not saying all metals should match (they probably shouldn't), but it takes a huge weight off to know that everything will match if you want it to.

(Tangent tip: plan to replace the hardware on your bathroom vanity if you're using a pretty standard one, and order several styles so you can see the finishes in person. If you can find some you like from Home Depot it's pretty easy to return in-store.)

Some of the big plumbing/hardware brands have matching options and you can search for the brand/line name of what you want and usually find a lot of it, but I find it's really tough to match brass colors/shades even within the same brand, and you may run across limits for black and oil-rubbed bronze.

My favorite, which I've used on our downstairs bathroom and our upstairs bathroom, is Kingston Brass. (They did not sponsor this post, but I worked with them on both of those projects.) They have a ton of traditional-inspired fixtures that I love for our old house, but also some modern ones I've recommended to clients for more modern projects. 

I chose their Metropolitan line for this bathroom and it is so close to the original towel bars that were in here before! (I considered reusing but they were missing parts.) I love the angles instead of rounded edges.

See that toilet tank lever? Even it matches!! What an upgrade!! This was my first time using one of those and I am 100% sold now--a matching toilet tank lever is now on my essential list for bathroom renos!

I love it so much I went back and added this one to our downstairs bathroom, in the Restoration line from Kingston Brass.

It just seems a shame to go through all the hard, hard work of a bathroom renovation and make all the touch decisions about finishes, color, and expensive things like a new vanity... and leave the original silly modern cheap-o chrome lever on the toilet. But I didn't think of it before! LOVE this new heavy, matching one!

You may notice the security lock on the toilet. That brings me to the third thing not to overlook on your bathroom reno...

3. Function for everyone who uses the bathroom

Since redoing our downstairs bathroom we now have a potty-trained toddler and a newborn we're often holding while taking him to the potty. Lots going on in this room. We've got it worked out pretty well, but there are some things I'd do differently next time to make a more kid-friendly bathroom.

The potty seat hanging on the wall is not elegant, for example (and is a bit of a pain to use, though Otto can put it on and hang it up himself when my hands are full). We're going to be using that little seat insert for years still, so a more permanent solution we should have done (and still might do) is a kid- or adult-sized toilet seat that you can install on most toilets. 

This one comes in round or elongated. The toddler seat flips down from the lid for kids to use, and the base seat is standard for adults. Pretty genius for a kids' bathroom or main living space bathroom. You can even get fancier--this one even has a nightlight feature.

The stepstool is another kid feature that is not perfect. When we first pulled it out I tripped on it all the time! It's a pain to move it so we just leave it there. But, next time I might choose a vanity with taller legs/room underneath for a shorter stepstool, or (perfect world) a sturdy pull-out step instead of bottom drawer in the vanity.

Some kid-friendly elements we do have in here: that little round table is handy for putting toys on while going pottty, and notice where that hand towel ring is, low on the vanity. When we first installed it I was bummed we didn't have room on the wall, but now I know it's a blessing! Otto can reach it and dry his hands himself. He can reach the water from the stepstool too so he can wash, soap, rinse, and dry all on his own which is really helpful for me since I have to help him with almost everything else in there!

Kids aren't the only ones who need specialty elements in a bathroom. When I heard about this as-seen-on-Shark Tank beard trim catcher invention I thought, what a great idea!! But I don't think either of our bathroom mirrors is wide enough for Jason to use it.

Adding a hidden outlet or wiring through a cabinet are also great features for shaving, blow drying, curling hair, etc. We only have the one outlet in here and it's behind the vase, so whenever I curl my hair I have to very carefully move it. Definitely something to think about in a reno!

Hope these tips have been helpful! You can see all our Room Reveals here and how far we've come in design and function from our first fixer-upper. Still really proud of those rooms, though!

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