Our Tiny Ensuite Bathroom Renovation – Seven Years Later

It’s been a while between posts, online friends. Time feels like it has flown past lately. When we all had to stay at home, the mornings and evenings felt a little slower, but the days still rushed past – and are still rushing past. I wonder if that’s normal for everyone who has kids? With two, it feels like the days go by at triple the speed.

I still can’t get over how fast the school days go by, either. Every day I drop Little Nerd at pre-primary (and Miss Nerd at day care, now that she is back to going two days a week) and I mentally plan out all the things I want to get done – I’ll answer emails, work, run, shower (goodness) do the grocery shop, tidy the house, maybe run a couple of errands – and am generally lucky to achieve three of those things. If anyone has any time-saving tips for maximising time with children, I’d be all ears! In a time when lots of people have lost income, I’ve also been grateful to be doing a little bit more work for the Sunday Times Magazine lately with a new column called Inside Story – a look at how Perth creatives and small business owners have been faring and adapting since COVID-19. I’ve been enjoying writing it but lately in general I’ve felt a bit more scattered, on some days downright foggy, that on some days no amount of exercise and coffee has been able to fix. Something that should only take me half an hour takes two. At first I thought, is this just me being weird? But I don’t think it is – I think it’s how a lot of people feel at the moment, a bit imbalanced and less focused than usual. Anyway, something has had to give lately, and unfortunately for me it has been blogging, and even posting on Instagram.

But, today I’m prioritising House Nerd (Full disclosure: I haven’t showered yet today. FERAL. Doing it for you guys cos I love you. Yes, I promise I’ll shower before I see the other parents at school pickup). And today, I want to share a post on our ensuite makeover – seven years after we renovated it. Because I know a lot of you wouldn’t have seen this when I shared it originally.

When we moved here, this was one of the first rooms we renovated properly – and by this I mean a full gut and retile. It was an old 70s bathroom with original brown tiles with pink roses on them. It was, well, not very nice – the kind of old bathroom where no matter how well you’ve tried to clean it, it just never FEELS clean. (This is my old post here, where you can see all of our ‘befores’). But in this post, I’ll share the photos I took today. And some gross befores, because everyone loves gross befores…… well I do.

BEFORE. I know. We didn’t even properly replace the toilet roll for your visit. That’s how much of an energy drain this crappy bathroom was back then.

We completely gutted it and replaced everything and I shared it then here. Mr Nerd and I were total newbies to renovating, and we both agree that since then we have learned a LOT about renovating through our experiences and mistakes, and if we were to do another house now, we think we’d probably approach a lot of things differently.

My personal taste now is also pretty different to my taste seven years ago. But when we look back on how we did this bathroom, I still feel good about it.

As you can see, it is a SMALL ensuite. It is 1.75 metres by 1.75 metres (about 3m square or 30 square feet). The shower space is about 85cm x 85cm. Our house is a three by two, but when we were house-hunting, I remember seeing marketing material for the house that had it as a three by one.

Maybe it was an error. Or maybe it was clever marketing. Because I remember being at the first home open for the House Formerly Known as the Crap Shack, poking around in the main bedroom and going, “Oh wow, there’s another bathroom!” Which maybe I guess is preferential to being told a house has two bathrooms but then you open the door of the second bathroom and you’re disappointed cos it’s the smallest bathroom you’ve ever seen? I don’t know. Isn’t it nicer to NOT be expecting a bathroom and then you open a door and ta-da! Bonus bathroom! Like I said, maybe it was a mistake, but despite its lack of floor space, that Bonus Bathroom still scored some points at my end. Take my money, real estate agency. Yes, all of my money.

One day I’ll stop doing an awkward peace sign in photos.

Speaking of money. I shared on the blog (this is back in 2013) how much this bathroom renovation cost.

After, I got a few emails from people who said it was impossible to renovate a bathroom for under $8,000. Reading a little between the lines of those disgruntled emails, I’m guessing they were people in the industry who didn’t want their work devalued, for want of a better word, or to have potential clients coming to them saying, “Well how come my quote for a bathroom renovation comes to $12,000 but House Nerd girl’s bathroom reno only cost $8,000?” Which is totally understandable. In their defence, if you go to a professional renovation company or an interior designer, you’re paying for their experience, their speed, their trusted trades, things like their discounts from tile companies, the ease, the lack of risk (like no design mistakes… well – hopefully!) When you project manage it on your own, you’re taking a risk. By no means was I out to upset anyone by sharing our bathroom renovation or by breaking down what we paid for it.

However, as I pointed out (and as I had stated in my posts, but I’m not sure if they actually read them) they would have seen that we saved money in more than a few ways – we did some work ourselves to save costs, like we gutted it ourselves, we had a tiler friend who slowly worked on it on his weekends (obviously with a second bathroom, there was no rush).

I remember this dark winter night way back when – I think this was when the grouting was being done. Odd how in restrospect all those days of renovating that dragged into the night seem like fun now!

We bought all our fixtures from the same plumbing store that we really like (some will give you a discount if you do this) and it’s also a VERY small room – even though we used nice finishes like the travertine, of course you’re going to save when you don’t need that much. So can you renovate a bathroom for under $8,000 these days? I don’t know. But there are always ways to save if you really want to. If you want to save money you have to prioritise what you really want, and put time in to hunt around for what you want.

Anyway. Almost eight years later, we’re still happy with this tiny room, and (to me, anyway) it hasn’t dated – everything as looks as good as it did when it was first done. We love the travertine most of all – the occasional upkeep of natural stone is worth it to us. Although it’s a tiny room, the natural stone makes it a feel a tiny bit special. I like the hob in the shower – hubby built a brick wall and then it was rendered and tiled, and it gives us a space to put bottles in the shower.

Products from Urban Skincare Co. We discovered this brand while staying in our Camperdown accommodation in Sydney  (the same accommodation with the REALLY BIG SHOWER, which I’ll tell you about in just a sec) and we both liked this stuff so much we ordered a box when we got home.


I still like the white walls (it’s hard to see in the photos, but they are fully tiled in white rectified wall tiles, where the grout lines are so thin you can barely seen them) the custom-made vanity with Polytec doors, the Corian benchtop. Corian is an awesome material, and still feels kind of underrrated. It’s hardwearing and durable and has lots of nice colours. Once I left a can of hairspray on the benchtop, and the bottom of the can got wet and left a rust mark – you just buff it out and you can’t even tell.

Plant and planter from No Vo’s Home Nursery. You can buy Savon de Marseille olive oil soap from Hard to Find. Chloe from David Jones.

In hindsight, we might have done a few things differently, though. I would have insisted on paying more for the electrics so that when you turn the lights on, the exhaust fan doesn’t HAVE to go on.

I also might have put in a medicine cabinet above the toilet for a little bit more storage. If we were remodelling this same house now, we’d be more inclined to be a little bit more confident and think a little bit bigger.

This felt like enough at the time.

Sometimes we think it would have been better to forgo our walk-in robe (which sits alongside the ensuite) knock down the wall in-between the robe and ensuite, and instead create a bigger ensuite, then add a wall of robes into our bedroom instead. It’s such a simple luxury to have a spacious shower – we went on holidays last year and stayed in a self-contained apartment in Camperdown, and all four of us were basically awed by how big the shower was (yes, we are easily thrilled). But it was bigger than our entire ensuite! With double shower heads so we don’t have to fight over who gets to stand directly under the nozzle! Such decadence!

But, at the time, I wasn’t quite convinced it would be the best way to go, because our bedroom, too, is small, and adding a walk-in robe would have greatly eaten into the space (and doing the renovation this way would have cost more, in terms of additional labour, trades, materials and moving plumbing).

There you go! Have you ever renovated a room and thought to yourself down the track you might have done it very differently? Would love to know. Maya x


Author: Maya Anderson

When Maya Anderson was thinking of a name for her homes and design blog, nothing seemed more fitting than House Nerd. Obsessed with everything to do with houses, renovating and interior design, Maya is a features journalist by training with a background in print and a focus on homes and real estate. She has been renovating her 1970s house since forever, loves dogs and can eat her body weight in dumplings.

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  • Hi Maya,
    Did you replace the window or just put up a wall for the mirror? I have a similar set up so was wondering.

    • Hi Sue! We removed the old window, bricked it in partially and got a new custom-made window to fit. My hubby was insistent that we have a mirror above the sink. I wasn’t that fussed about it at the time but I’m glad we did it that way now. We also did the mirror on two walls to make the room feel a little bigger.