The “work-with-what-you-have” mindset {Complete bathroom update for Under $200!}


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I live in a manufactured home. You can read why this is the best thing that ever happened to me and my family here. However, this home was a dump when we moved in and needs ongoing work to allow it to feel like the beautiful space I want to spend my time in.

This spring our focus on the homestead was getting our vegetable garden in so we can start feeding ourselves and becoming more self sustainable. Our money and energy was tied up outside the house rather than inside. So when it came to having guests this summer, I had to get creative about how to update our rather gross guest bathroom on a major DIY budget.

After much time on pinterest and DIY blogs I developed my plan of action that was based on these core life values I use in many arenas of my life:

  • Work with what you already have – Identify your resources, materials, and talents. Recycle, reuse, repurpose to save money and save resources.
  • Indulge creativity through seeing possibility and thinking outside the box. Have the vision to create beauty from anything.
  • Experiment without fear. There are no mess-ups that don’t lead to beautiful outcomes. Commit to an action and trust yourself to figure it all out along the way even if every step is new to you and seems completely overwhelming. (this was a big one for me since I had never used any of these types of priming, and painting, and sealing, and stenciling products and had no idea how sink plumbing worked!!!)

What I realized in a huge way through this project is there is absolutely no reason to wait to have the house you want (or a life you want!). I kept putting off the bathroom and kitchen remodels until I had a chunk of money to buy new cabinets and countertops and floors, but seriously, even if I had a bunch of money, I don’t think I would ever think about remodeling in this way after seeing how fun, sustainable, and beautiful it can be to get creative about working with what you already have!

There are a lot of creative folks out there who have come before you. If you have something you dislike about your house, (like a linoleum floor or cheap kitchen cabinets that don’t go all the way to the ceiling, or ugly window frames or countertops), but don’t have money to put in a new version, chances are someone has figured out an amazing way to transform that thing with clever cheap DIY tricks. And if there isn’t a tutorial out there yet, create one yourself by getting creative!

As a member of this earth and knowing we over-consume resources and over-produce trash as a society, why would I buy new resources when I can make what is already here beautiful? And as a lover of beautifully designed things why would I walk into a bathroom everyday that makes me cringe while waiting until someday I can afford to change it, when I can do it right now? 🙂

So here’s what I did!

– The Before/after photos –



– Bathroom Countertop –

Vanities are ridiculously expensive when they are not much more than a glorified dresser so finding an alternative to buying a new one was essential but our old one was UGLY. GREEN laminate countertops, plastic sink, and a faucet that looked like it was out of a cheap motel. In my master bathroom renovation, I turned an old dresser into a vanity which worked great. But in this bathroom, I wanted to go even cheaper by working with what was already there. So i found a tutorial here and another tutorial here to spread concrete right on top of the ugly green laminate countertops for the new trendy look of concrete countertops!

Here are the materials I personally used:

(For painting vanity)

Product Links (in order of use!):
(For concrete countertop)

Product links (in order of use!)

Cement: Henry, W.W. Co. 12163 H549 FeatherFinish Floor Patch

Sand: 3M Garnet Sandpaper, 9-Inch by 11-Inch, Assorted-Grit, 5-Sheet


You will also need some cement spreader tools like these: Grizzly G8213 Bricklaying Trowe Length Set 5-Piece

Here are pictures throughout the process:

Step 1: we removed sink, doors, and peeled off the green laminate covering because it was loose and may cause unevenness under concrete (removal may not be necessary).

Step 2: we glued and nailed plywood pieces on all surfaces of the countertop and primed the cabinet.
Step 3: 2nd coat of primer on cabinet. Then 2 coats of white paint after drying per primer and paint can instructions.
Step 4: mix up feather finish cement per package instructions and smooth onto countertop in thin first coat…..not worrying about it being smooth or perfect.
Step 5 : 2nd coat of cement after drying time per package instructions.
Step 6: sand cement with medium grit sand paper until as smooth as your little hearts desire….I liked mine rustic with a few trowl marks left behind.

Step 7: paint on two coats of cement sealant (see product picture above).

And here is the finished product! Who knew, cement was sooooo easy!

There are many other DIY ideas i came across for creatively updating your countertops in the kitchen and bathroom. Here are some other ideas I came across:

DIY Faux Granite Counter tops

DIY FAUX Marble Countertops

DIY Butcher block Countertops

DIY Soapstone Countertops

DIY Painting Countertops

Our kitchen has the same laminate green countertops as the bathroom did, so for that remodel this winter I am considering trying the butcher block method or sticking with concrete since it turned out so good or if I am feeling lazy, just painting them plain old white or black to go with the white I will be painting cabinets (anything is better then the ugly green!).

-Bathroom Cabinet Doors –

I glued trim and beadboard (from Home Depot) to the laminate door fronts and painted them white which transformed them totally! This project was so easy and so transformative that I am going to use it to upgrade our kitchen cabinets and our dented interior doors to all our bedrooms….frame out squares with trim around added beadboard to give cheap flat doors, the depth and look of a real wood door (tutorial coming this fall!). The new hardware are aged copper vintage handles from the Tacoma Earthwise Reuse store.

Here is the wood glue I used: Franklin International 1415 Titebond III Ultimate Wood Glue, 32-Ounce Bottle

-Bathroom Sink & Faucet –

Sinks and faucets are another thing that seem so expensive especially for the quality that they now produce (why do all the faucets these days look plastic and still cost $100?). We bought a new sink on craigslist for $15 and I had the vintage gold (copper?) faucet I was going to use for Aza’s play kitchen (a project that got put on hold until this fall in order to get our garden in this spring). We got this faucet at the Tacoma Earthwise Reuse store for approx. $20.


– Bathroom Floor –

Now the floor was another place where I was amazed at the creativity that comes up in a google search of “DIY floor”. There were amazingly beautiful floors made out of plywood (for our tiny home!) or wood scraps (maybe for our trailer?). There was one made out of paper bags (I may just try this for my kitchen!). And then there were many tutorials for transforming your floor with simply a can of paint. The minimalist approach I was taking for this bathroom led me to find several painting tutorials for linoleum floors. At first I was going to just use tape to paint stripes on the floor, but my inspiration for this bathroom was an outside garden potting bench so I wanted something less geometric and more flowery. Therefore I chose to get a stencil to create my floor pattern.


Clean: Savogran 10632 Liquid TSP Substitute Cleaner, Quart

Prime: Rust-Oleum Corporation 02001 Water Base Primer, 1-Gallon, White

Paint: Behr Porch and Patio Paint (we used the regular ultra white for stenciled part of the floor and then had 1 gallon tinted with Behr paint color Post-modern mauve for the base color of the floor)

Seal: Minwax 23333 Satin Polycrylic Protective Finishes, 1/2 Pint

You will also need paintbrushes (to get around edges of floor) and a large paint roller to make painting the floor much quicker. Here’s a good starter set for all the painting projects in this post:
STANLEY PTST03508 Premium Paint Kit, 8-Piece


Clean floor with TSP and rinse and dry with rag.

Paint 2 coats of primer with drying in between (drying times on can).

Paint 2 coats of base color  with drying in between ( drying times on can).

Choose your stencil and paint color for stencil and start playing. Just one coat!

(Base color picture)

(After the stencil)



Immediately after the stenciling, my husband went in and made a face. “What you don’t like it?”, I said. “Um, I like it but there are a lot of mess ups.” He said. Well yeah stenciling is hard to not smudge or get paint in places it shouldn’t be.

I went back in with a small paint brush and painted the base color over any white smudges and did my best to recreate patterns where it got a little distorted. And it made a huge difference. Although I can see some imperfections when I sit on the toilet and examine the floor, it’s amazing how when you look at the floor overall your eye doesn’t notice them. Our guests seriously don’t believe me that it is painted linoluem. First impression is that it is some patterned flooring that we put in!


We still have a few smaller projects in this bathroom including adding nicer moldings around sink and floor, framing out the mirror with reclaimed wood to give it a more finished look, and putting in a new light fixture. But it felt nice enough for our guests this summer and all cost under $200 with lots of product left over for the kitchen or other projects.

Moral of the story, if there is something you don’t like about your house, get creative because there is a way to make it beautiful without waiting for more money!

And I would extend this to ….if there is something you don’t like about your life, get creative because there is a way to make it feel the way you want to feel without waiting for more money!

Step 1: Take stock of what is already there….your resources and strengths available to you

Step 2: adopt a mindset of creativity, possibility ,  and vision

Step 3: Seek support from someone because there is probably someone who has done something similar before!

And that’s how you can UPCYCLE YOUR HOUSE AND YOUR LIFE on a dime 🙂


From our family to yours,

Tessa Chittle

signature pic - Aza


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