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How to stay sane through a bathroom reno

While this shot of our Main Bathroom vanity looks the picture of serenity, it definitely wasn’t always this calm, let me tell you.

Given the impact of urban density, and the increasing age of many houses that unassuming first-time renovators are snapping up, the bathroom (along with the kitchen) is one of the first things to tackle – and you’d be forgiven for being scarred for the rest of your renovation journey, because it’s one of the hardest projects to tick off first.

Sure a lick of paint, gap filling and fixing light fixtures here and there is one thing, but a bathroom renovation is in a whole other league of its own (and I know all of my fellow renovators can relate when I say, talk to me after you’ve just spent five days trying to decide on the perfect sconce light – and if you don’t know what that is, carry on).  

Just because I’m a preparation-freak and list-maker extraordinaire, here’s a few tips both my clients and own journey have taught me when it comes to keeping a level head renovating bathrooms (or anywhere in your home really!):

Set a budget and then some

This is the most common argument I’ve witnessed! Especially when partner A has champagne taste with no research, and partner B knows they can only afford at best, craft beer in instalments – so make sure this is your first discussion. Sorry to burst your bubble, but bathrooms (with all the trimmings Instagram and Pinterest make us lust for) aren’t cheap – the average range from at LEAST $10K (for budget finishes, minimal structural changes, limited tiling, and next to no floor space), upwards to more than $50K (for large floorspace, double shower heads, and luxuries like floor to ceiling tiles, artisan finishes, custom timber cabinetry, designer basinware, and all the other trappings). And unless you’re doing a quick cosmetic glow-up, structural changes can get messy real quick. You’d hate to be the one responsible for the blowout – so avoid it by having a contingency (same goes for any part of your renovation really).

Plan (for multiple scenarios) from the outset

Because trust me, they happen. And be prepared for the stress that comes with them – call it a form of “managing expectations”. Get plenty of quotes and source multiple finish and appliance options, so you have several backup plans – trades won’t turn up on time, or other mishaps like materials arriving late, broken or no longer being available, will delay them, which can really blow out a firm timeline. Even if you think you’re probably not going to do a bathroom straight away, start dreaming and planning anyway. It’ll take the stress out of deciding how you want to do things once you finally get to it.

Live in the space first (if you can)

Or at least spend a lot of time in it – “Wait, what?” you say. Seems like a recipe for disaster if it’s from before the 90s, but we didn’t do this with our first bathroom and while it’s more functional than the majority out there, there are still things I’d change about it to this day. Plus when it comes down to making the big decisions, you’ll be able to quickly rule out choices by avoiding arguments over the facts – does it have enough natural light? Is the ceiling high enough? How does the door swing? Etc etc. 

Don’t forget function

Who’s using the bathroom: are you a skincare fanatic, do you have six family members, are you all getting ready in the one bathroom, will it be used as a guest bathroom also? Agreeing on what your bathroom will mostly be used for is helpful for avoiding the inevitable stress of too many cooks in the design kitchen, and trying to make it too many things for too many different people (although I completely appreciate that sometimes you’ve got to kill multiple birds with one stone). Conversely, it might be cheaper and quicker in some cases to just use the existing fittings and design, but if the original space doesn’t work for you and your family, you’ll end up spending a lot of cash (see point 1) on something that angers you EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Trust me – prioritise functionality from the get go and you’ll avoid arguments that start with “We should have…” throughout and at the finish line. Function over form wins any day in my books.

Chill out

I’m here to tell you there’s no such thing as a perfect renovation, so stop trying to make it one! As long as you land your top 3-5 big ticket non-negotiables, don’t sweat the small stuff – because that’ll be one of the biggest contributors to your frayed nerves. At the start of our bathroom renovation, we aligned on three things we wouldn’t compromise on: a larger floating vanity with more drawer storage, frameless shower screen, and the perfect lighting (which included wall-mounted/sconce lights) – so when I was told a bath would be difficult to fit, I wasn’t even mad about it – we’d lived in rentals without them for years anyway! Being flexible on the other details made it so much easier to work around what we couldn’t live without.

Approach your reno room by room

Definitely be mindful of what else is going on (or that you want to happen in the future) in your other wet areas (kitchen, powder room, laundry) for sure, but try to just think about the project at hand to avoid overwhelm. It’s OK to focus on making your home liveable first, and then approach things bit by bit – the greatest way to gain a sense of achievement is to know you’re ticking things off, so split your bathroom renovation up into a project timeline and do just that. 

Have an alternative bathroom

And then have a backup alternative bathroom. The hot water system going in our backup bathroom during Winter taught us that one. If you can’t head to a friend or family member’s bathroom, helpful tip – showering after your gym session in the morning or evening helps too (although it’s obviously a little different now in COVID times)…

Look back on your before and family photos & stay positive

It’s hard to remember why you agreed to do this in the first place when you’re down the rabbit hole of choosing floor tiles, but you are making progress, so remember that you’ve got this!

Much love and laughter,

XO