Day of the Dead Small Bathroom Renovation

My husband and I purchased this 1986 disaster of a house, complete with shag green carpet, animal stained baseboards and a floor-to-vaulted ceiling mirrored wall… Yikes! We wanted to renovate as much of the home before moving in so, we focused on the kitchen, living room, bedrooms and patio area. We felt we could live with the three (yes, three!) Ugly bathrooms and slowly renovate them ourselves. In less than 8 full weeks (and weekends) of renovating, we moved into the home of our dreams!

First up, was the Cabana bathroom. The home said, “Modern, Rustic, Nautical” to me so, I chose complimentary tiles that worked within that theme. Since most guests would be using this bathroom, we wanted to make it feel like an extension of the rest of the home.


The master bathroom is a total eyesore however, it must wait as the final room to be remodeled since, it needs plumbing rerouted, and pretty much everything torn out and reworked. Plus, this Momma wants a soaking tub and, that ain’t cheap!!! (We’re saving our pennies for this one). And, because I took a year off of Teaching (long story in another blog post, here), we had to be frugal when renovating anything this year.

Which leads me to the third bathroom… This bathroom is near my husband’s office and the laundry room. I pass it almost daily and, hated cleaning that bathroom. I wanted to take my sledgehammer to the whole thing but, refrained for just over a year before, I couldn’t stand it! 

Most guests would probably not use this bathroom since, it’s out of the way from the common areas. We decided to go with a completely different look for this bathroom. We love Day of the Dead and Dia de los Muertos artwork. We collect articulated skeletons of animals and macabre artwork. My husband and I are both artists – He works with painting, sculpture and printmaking. In the past, I painted however, in the last 15+ years, have focused my attention on home design/renovations and tile work.

Many years ago, we sought beautiful, handcrafted  day of the dead pieces on our trip to Playa del Carmen, Mexico. I incorporated a few of those found objects into this bathroom design. We plan to go to Mexico again and will pick up more awesome finds to add to our collection.

Before the renovation: This bathroom was ugly! Laminate countertop and grey, 80’s laminate cabinet, grey toilet and an ugly grey bathtub to match. 

Completed with a nasty mirror, cracking faucet, gross medicine cabinet, cheap Hollywood style lights and the worst… The floor! Uggg. Whoever chose the floor tile must have been drinking because these tiles only belong on walls!

Super shiny floor tiles = slip and kill yourself when stepping out of the tub or shower. These belong on the walls only!!!


What sparked the whole theme for this bathroom was this awesome sink I scored on eBay:

I had my husband rent me a Tile Hammer from our local home improvement store. It took me (I did it by myself!) just about 2 hours to demo the nasty tiles on the floor. I was overly cautious around the toilet flange/hole, bathtub and marble thresholds. 

Tile: Once I removed the old toilet and sink, I fell in love with Lowes’ Mitte Grey 12X24 tiles. At $1.99 per square foot, it was just under the $2.50 I had allotted for tile. I also purchased coordinating 2X2 tile sheets and some bullnose edge tiles for around the shower, toilet and sink areas. I knew I wanted to incorporate some Mexican handpainted tiles (eBay) and possibly paint some of our own 4″X4″ tiles at our local pottery painting place.

Essentials: For the toilet, we purchased a Glacier Bay watersense toilet for $88 (on sale at the time), normally they are $98. And, for the sink base, I purchased a 30″ wide base cabinet that I had to do some major surgery on, in order to fit it into the space. I removed the drawer and reapplied the drawer face to the front. However, when we attempted to get the cabinet into the small bathroom, it would not fit through the doors! Too wide (doors are 24″ wide and, so was the cabinet!) So, I had to deconstruct the back of the cabinet and cut 3 inches off the back and sides. I was so sure I’d make a fatal mistake but, alas… I didn’t! Measure 100X and cut once.

I stained the cabinet using some of my husband’s old holey socks in Varathane’s Weathered Grey stain and gave the cabinet a matte clear polyurethane finish 24 hours after the stain was applied.

Any countertop I purchase, I head straight to my friends at Amazing Marble and Granite. The guys there hooked me up with a remnant quartz countertop piece that had been sitting in the side yard for (probably) a long time. They measured, cut and installed it for a steal! They are the best local granite installers and, I would never use anyone else! I love how the quartz ties in the grey floors, blue walls, and terracotta tiles.

For the bathtub, I originally had planned on reglazing it, either by myself using a DIY kit or, hiring a professional. However, once the floor tiles and walls were completed, the grey tub worked with the Navy blue walls and deep grey tiles.

When it came to the mirror, I used an IKEA Grundtal stainless steel mirror I already had, ($39) inwhich the stainless steel also dictated that I coordinate the shower and sink hardware to match. I opted for a Brushed Nickel finish. I scored an awesome, modern faucet set on Amazon for around $60 and I splurged on a Moen shower set (with valve included) which was close to $120. When all things are considered, the valve alone can cost between $80-100 so, I was OK with the splurge.

Non-Essentials: Since we already own many Dia De Los Muertos themed items and artwork, I didn’t purchase too many accessories. But, I could not live without buying this crazy toilet paper holder (on Amazon):

I also purchased two sugar skull rugs, H&M skull hand towels and bath towels and a magazine holder that I mounted to the side of the sink cabinet. For the medicine cabinet, I removed the old, nasty saloon-styled shutter door, saved the hardware, thoroughly scrubbed down and spray painted the inside of the wall cabinet with a matte white. Then, I built a wooden frame and mounted our friend, Scott’s awesome skeleton surf print on a canvas and, mounted the artwork, using this as the medicine cabinet door. For more of Scott’s awesome art, shop here:

Another non-essential thing I wanted to create was a built-in wall shelf. It was my first attempt at making a built in wall shelf.  I used the same wood stain for the shelves and, I think it showcases some of our favorite Dia De Los Muertos pieces (glue is still drying, therefore the masking tape remains):

Overall, I am so pleased with my budget, Day of the Dead themed bathroom! Here are a few more photos of the finished product: