top of page

From Builder Grade to Custom Made

Updated: Feb 6, 2022

Are you an average person, working an average job, living in an average home?

If so, then I have a word I bet you can relate to. Are you ready?

Builder-Grade. Did you instantly picture your bathroom? I know I did!

Here's one of mine!

Now, there's absolutely nothing wrong with builder grade, especially in a bathroom! Does a bathroom really need to be special? It looks fine. It's just a bathroom. This is all true...

But for me, even the words "builder grade" kept evoking a feeling of monotony.

Do you remember sitting in the bathroom when you were a kid and you were so bored that you would read the backs of the shampoo bottles and hairsprays? (Or was that just me?) Although we may not be reading toiletries these days, we most certainly are staring at our phones.

Maybe I'm being a bit too extra here, but I couldn't stop dreaming of a bathroom that didn't make me want to look at something else.

What if the bathroom could be an escape (and I don't just mean in the physical sense when you you lock yourself in there because you need just a little peace and quiet for once, I'm looking at you, fellow parents!)

What if the bathroom design itself was a mental escape?

What If I didn't need to look at my phone, and instead could just sit in silence and take in beauty around me? When I designed my kids' bathroom, I wanted to create a design that sparked their imaginations. One that transported them to a magical world. One that made them feel happy - that reminded them they were special and loved. I know I don't need a bathroom to do this - but, like I said, maybe I'm being extra! The thing is, even though I was dying to do this, It was absolutely not in our budget to be able to handle a big renovation like this right now. I don't know about you, but "big renovations" are very few and far between around here. If it's not broken, it's probably not going to get replaced! Heck, if it IS broken, it's still probably not being replaced. I knew if I was going to upgrade this bathroom, I was going to have to get very creative about it.

I set out on a mission to completely transform this bathroom without changing any of the main fixtures. That's right, zero big purchases. Zero obvious design "fixes" Of course anyone can transform a bathroom with a budget that allows for replacing things.

I was challenging myself to do this without replacing anything.

I would be keeping the vanity. The sink. The mirror. The lights.

Yet, I was still confident that I could completely transform this bathroom.

I am no expert but I have created three key design concepts that I use for almost every single DIY project I do. I planned to stick to these three design concepts when I came up with my design plan for this bathroom.

  1. The power of paint. Do not underestimate the power of paint. I have transformed complete rooms using only paint before. The right color palette and creative design can go a very long way.

  2. Utilize scrap materials. I am am avid DIYer, so over the course of my DIY journey, I have collected quite a bit of supplies. I save everything down to the scrap wood. Yes, a scrap piece may be too small to build a shelf out of it, but I bet it could be used to add an accent piece to something! It saves money and creates something unique.

  3. Add something unexpected. In all my designs, I like to add an element of surprise. Some kind of feature, big or small, that you wouldn't expect to see in that space. In my opinion, this is what makes your design stand out from everyone else's.

I knew if I utilized these three concepts I could completely transform this bathroom from builder grade to custom made.

First, I utilized concept #1. The power of paint. I primed and painted all of the trim and walls white - this brightened the room immensely and helped me see the room as a "blank slate" to start getting some ideas rolling. Even though these walls weren't really that dark to start with - it was incredible how much brighter even one coat of primer made them.

I ended up doing two coats of primer and two coats of white paint. I chose the color "Chantilly Lace" by Benjamin Moore.

My son had requested that I make the room colorful. His favorite color is red, so I wanted to find a way to incorporate this into the design. I chose the color "Colorful Leaves" by Behr and decided to try my hand at painting a tile-looking backsplash behind the vanity. I knew I wouldn't need much paint for this so I only purchased a small sample size. The color ended up being a bit more orange than I anticipated, so I mixed in the color "Spiced Cider" (Behr) which I already had on hand, to create more of a burnt orange color.

I marked off the area I wanted to be "tile" with painters tape and painted the burnt orange on. Once it was dry, I used a fine point sharpie paint pen and a straight edge to draw on "grout lines" making it look like it was actual tiles in the bathroom.

It definitely took a few tries to get it right, but once I figured out a method that worked for me, it was a breeze!

Next I tackled the vanity. First I removed the doors and drawers and primed everything with BIN Shellac primer. This stuff is my favorite primer for any kind of furniture because not only is it super durable but it also usually doesn't require any sanding. The color I chose for the vanity was "Accessible Beige" by Sherwin Williams. I have used this color before and already knew I loved it and still had some on hand which made this decision a no-brainer.

For the cabinet doors I decided to use my design concept #2 which is "Utilize Scrap Materials." Using some thin scrap plywood and some very affordable thin trim pieces, I was able to create a custom "sunshine" design on my vanity doors. This was a special design choices for me because "You Are My Sunshine" has always been the song I sing to my boys from the moment I've found out I'm pregnant.

Simply by using some scrap wood and a meaningful design, my once builder grade vanity became very custom made.

Next, it was time to tackle the mirror and the light fixture.

For the mirror I was able to use the same trim wood that I used for the vanity to create a frame. I painted it black and because it was so lightweight, I was able to glue it directly to the mirror using extra strength multipurpose Elmer's glue.

For the light fixture, I simply took it down, spray painted it black, and used some thin scrap plywood to cut out a piece that would fit directly around the fixture. It looks beautiful and one of a kind, but took all of twenty minutes to make.

I finished off the vanity, by using appliance epoxy on the counter top and spraying the faucet black.

Now all that was left was my design concept #3 "Add something Unexpected". I decided to do this in two fun ways.

The first, was to create a gallery wall full of pictures of my boys. They're little boys and love seeing pictures of themselves. Since this was their bathroom, it was a perfect space to display some of my favorite pictures of them.

The second way I added something unexpected was to hand paint a fun mural on the final remaining wall. I choose my color palette, sketched out a quick design with a pencil, and before I could overthink it, painted it on using my favorite Zibra brushes.

Wall murals may seem intimidating, but they are such a simple way to transform a wall and require far less "artistic skill" then you may think. Stick with abstract or simple designs and remember that it's just paint! It can very easily be touched up, fixed, or replaced if you make a mistake or realize you don't like it.

With that, the transformation was complete. I had a great time creating this room, barely spent any money, my kids were thrilled, and the boring builder grade bathroom became an exciting custom made bathroom.

I'd say my mission was definitely complete.

In the days and weeks ahead, I am excited to dive into each of these projects more in depth but in the meantime, please find me on Instagram at I have many saved highlights of my projects with all the details. This project can be found under the highlights titled "kids bath1" and "kids bath2."

I hope that this inspires you to take on your builder grade rooms even if you don't have a giant budget. With a little creativity and out of the box thinking, even the most basic builder grade design can be transformed to custom made.


bottom of page