Photography by the ever amazing Joshua Hogan – from Joshua Hogan Photography

I think we have just finished the longest bathroom renovation in history. It has taken us over 12months to finish our Ensuite, but it’s so worth the wait!

When we bought the house 5 ½ years ago, we knew it needed a lot of work. Both bathrooms were in their original 70’s state and had a lot of timber panelling and brown floor tiles.

But we could see the potential.

We are gradually completing rooms in the home, as this is our forever home so there’s no rush. And as I mentioned we have finally finished the Ensuite. I am in LOVE with this room!

Unfortunately, the previous owners used tile paint in the ensuite to give it a facelift, and they didn’t do a very good job. They even did the floor of the shower without prepping the tiles properly. The first few times we used it we noticed the paint bubbling, and lifting, then it started to peel off when we showered. This meant that we couldn’t use the shower without getting paint stuck to our feet!

We didn’t have the funds to renovate the bathroom straight away, so we showered in the main bathroom….  for the last 5 years.

As with all our renovations, we try to do it on a budget. Being a small business owner it’s important to manage cashflow, and I am very conscious of how much I’m spending. This is also the reason it has taken us so long to finish the job.

We did a lot of the work ourselves and purchased items online to reduce the costs, and used family who have trades to do some of the work. This meant waiting for them to be available.

When we decided it was time to finally tackle the bathroom, we had a couple of quotes that exceeded $24,000. For a small ensuite that was just outrageous. By taking our time and doing a lot ourselves, we paid less than half that amount.

As I said, it’s a very small bathroom at just 1.7m x 2.35m, and the layout needed some work to get the most out of the space.

Here is a picture of the layout before the renovation.


What did we change?

As you can see in the original layout, they could only fit a small vanity because of where the toilet was located. But, with a small change to relocate the toilet to the other side of the shower, we were able to get a full 1500mm wide vanity.

Modern bathroom with wall hung vanity

The other major change we made was to the ceiling height. It was at 2.4m, and was a lot lower than the bedroom ceiling which is raked like the rest of the house. So, we ripped the ceiling out, and raked the ceiling in the bathroom too. It was a big job, but it definitely makes a statement in the room. It makes the room feel so much more spacious. Add to this the feature tile on the wall it really gives the WOW factor!

The vanity is a combination of modular wall hung cabinets, 2 x 300mm cabinets and 1 x 900mm.  They come in 4 different sizes which allows you to mix and match to fit the size of your room. It’s a great way to get a custom look without the price tag!

Having the wall hung cabinets gives us space under the cabinets for a rubbish bin and to tuck things out of the way. It’s also easy to keep the floor clean and it doesn’t gather dust as much.

I originally planned to have a custom timber vanity. Then decided to save some money and go for a timber look laminate. This meant we could splurge on the benchtop and get a marbled Caesarstone upgrade. I’m so glad I did! I just know that the upkeep of a timber vanity would be something I’d regret in a few years. And I love our benchtop, it really is worth the extra money.

Making the most the small space

To ensure there is enough storage, we added face level mirrored shaving cabinets that are recessed into the wall. It’s amazing how much storage we now have in the bathroom.

modern bathroom mirrored shaving cabinet grey basin and black tap

Another small change was to tile floor to ceiling, and that includes the windowsill. This makes it look more modern. Before we put the tiles in, we also painted the aluminium window frame white to match the tile. It was brown and would have stood out like a sore thumb. But rather than spend more money to replace a perfectly good window, we painted it!

The Challenges

Having an older home does come with its challenges though. The walls were not square, which meant tiling was difficult. It took a lot longer to get them level and the shower screen needed to be custom made. I know it seems like something you should just be able to buy off the shelf, but trust me, when your walls are at least 1cm different from the top to the bottom, that’s a lot of room to fill with silicon when the glass doesn’t fit properly. We didn’t want it to look cheap, so we got the experts to measure up and give us one that would fit perfectly.

The other thing we discovered with this house is that all the tiles were set directly into the concrete slabs. No glue! This meant they were really hard to get up when you want to change them. So, for this bathroom, we didn’t remove the old tiles, we just tiled over the top. This meant we had to keep the shower drain where it was, which isn’t quite in the centre. It’s not a huge deal, but if you are pedantic, it would really annoy you. Lucky I can live with it!

The Huge Wall of Tiles

The huge wall of herringbone white tile was a mammoth task. The tiler we employed took a week and a half to get it right. We had to take some of the tiles off 3 times before we could get them to line up properly! Even though they were on sheets, we had A LOT of cuts that were required as the tiles wrapped around the shaving cabinet. With the walls not being square, he was worried it would look weird if the tiles were different as they went up the side. But in the end, we had no choice. Now you wouldn’t even notice it, unless we pointed it out to you.


The lesson we learned is that choosing something because it’s pretty, can lead to a budget blowout. It cost us a lot more money in labour to have the tiles laid, but the overall look of the bathroom is worth it. I wouldn’t change the tiles we have, but I might reconsider the configuration of the room and get custom shaving cabinets to avoid the issue with tiling around them!

I am so happy with the outcome, and I love getting ready in the morning in our new bathroom.


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