Updating a Kids Bathroom on a Budget

In a world filled to the brim with incredible before and after transformations, I’m here to tell you that there is so much beauty and pride to be found in a smaller scale refresh. Time, skill, money, and decisiveness all play a part in what we can realistically accomplish in our home.

We’ve been in our current house for 6 years and have slowly tackled projects both big and small while growing our family (which has inevitably extended our typical project timelines!) Our upstairs bathroom, primarily used by our kids and overnight guests, was functional enough but pretty sore on the eyes. The toilet needed to be replaced which, naturally, got my wheels turning to initiate a total refresh. And if you give a mouse a cookie, she’ll probably want to squeeze in some updates while you’re at it.

The former owners remodeled the bathroom it just under 10 years ago, slapping one shade of beige on top of the next, and so on. Since a full remodel was currently unnecessary and several years away, we did our best to work with what we had to make it more aesthetically pleasing.

The goal of the bathroom refresh

The primary goal was to have all of the brown tile and dated vanity countertop blend-in rather than be the first thing you look at, and in this case the best way to do this (outside of ripping it out and replacing it) was to add some dramatic pattern and detail to distract from it. I love a challenge of designing within certain constraints and budgets, since it forces you to get creative and super resourceful! I had also been dying to use wallpaper, and my kids’ bathroom felt like a great spot to practice.

kids bathroom before we moved in

What we kept and what we replaced

Kept: tile floor, vanity, tub, faucet, tub fixtures, window shade.
Replaced/added: toilet, nickel-gap wainscoting, window and door trim, mirror, light fixture, wallpaper, paint, lamp, art.

I used an existing linen shower curtain I had in storage and some art I had stashed away for decor. That paired with some additional art and a lamp from target, and the room feels brand new!


The stars of the show

This Roomates peel and stick wall paper, plus the nickel-gap wainscoting steal the show as far as contributing to the largest transformation. I had a few other contenders that, truthfully, I liked better on their own. This print skews a bit more bohemian than I intended, but when I held the sample up in the room, everything else visually disappeared. It has since made an early 2000s tuscan bathroom feel so much more current and kid-appropriate. My advice is to order several samples before you purchase to be sure that what you’re choosing works well with everything else you have going on! It’s important that you love the pattern you ultimately choose, but if it clashes with something that you are trying to make blend in, it may not work as well as another option that does.


Small things that make a big impact

Intentional design is something I am always trying to achieve. In this instance, I tried to tie everything together with the paint and fixtures. If you’re using wallpaper, take the sample to the paint store to pull colors from it directly. I pulled the wainscoting paint color (Maison Blanche by Sherwin Williams) from the creamy white in the ikat wallpaper, and also painted the mirror to match. And, the shades of the vanity light match the blue in the wallpaper very closely. This small attention to detail will make your whole design feel more cohesive and intentional.


What we spent

All in with toilet, wallpaper, wainscoting and trim materials, light, mirror, and paint, we came in just under $1,000. Granted, my husband completed everything himself while I took over the painting and wallpaper installation, so labor costs are not included here. This amount was well worth the effort to be able to extend the life of this bathroom for another 5-8 years


Wallpaper – Persian Ikat Peel & Stick, Roomates
Wainscotting – Nickelgap Shiplap Panel – Home Depot
Vanity Light – Hampton Bay Elmcroft 3-light Vanity Light – Home Depot
Paint – “Maison Blanche”, Sherwin Williams
Art – Studio McGee for Target , (Hand art, vintage)
Mirror – I picked mine up at HomeGoods and painted the frame, here are some that are similar, similar, similar
Lamp – Threshold Accent Lamp (only $12!)
Tray – Hearth and Hand Tray