Agonizing Too Much Over Our Bathroom Vanity

Let me tell you about our bathroom in our first house, in Dorchester, MA:

I don’t have a picture of the bathroom handy, but I found this one that will give you an idea of what ours was like:



Only ours was MORE pink.

Pink tub. Pink sink. Pink toilet. Pink tile on the floors and two thirds of the way up the wall, then white wallpaper with little….pink bows above that. I was unable to find a picture on the whole of the internet of a bathroom as pink as ours was.

But you know what I liked about that bathroom? It made SENSE.

I understood why it was so pink. Someone decided to make it pink back when that was a popular style and then they were all, “hey–if you’re going to have a pink bathroom, why not have a PINK bathroom?!” And I kind of admired that level of enthusiasm. We decided if you can’t beat the pink, join it, so we bought a vintage pink trash can with a poodle painted on it, lots of black and white accessories, and went with it.

My current master bathroom, on the other hand, bothers me a great deal because it’s such an endless stream of enigmas. It makes no sense.


WHY is there a bathroom bigger than any of the secondary bedrooms in my early 80’s built house, back before anyone thought master bathrooms needed to be like that?

WHY, once the builders had decided to put in such a giant bathroom, did they finish it off with a teeny tiny shower stall?

WHY carpet?!

WHY did whoever decorated it mix metal finishes so aggressively and badly?

There are no answers to these questions. Someone made the questionable at best decision to put in a master bathroom that is all out of proportion to the rest of the house and then throw in a bunch of mediocre finishes that belong in a bathroom of far less pretentious size.

And now Dave and I have to deal with the consequences.

Take this ridiculously long vanity, for example:


I mean, sure, once you make your bathroom over twenty feet long, what else are you going to do with that space besides put in a ridiculously long vanity, right?

And, really, there’s no harm in a ridiculously long vanity….until you want to replace it with something else.

This was supposed to be a super low budget bathroom makeover to hold us over for a few (ten?) years or so until we could afford a fullscale, rip everything out and put in a giant shower kind of reno.

Then we tore up the carpet and realized painting the subfloors wasn’t going to work after all, and had to spend more money than we’d planned on the slate tile.

This is a very contrary bathroom.

Okay, so, back to the vanity. The vanity itself is….strange. The other bathrooms have basic, builder grade oak cabinets that look nothing like this weird pressboard-box thing with….what are those? Like faux-louvred doors? See what I mean about this bathroom? I just….don’t understand it. But, whatever, I’ll slap some paint on and it will be weird but fine.

But then, of course, because it makes no sense, we have white tile in the shower, white hex tile on the floor next to the shower, white trim, white vanity, and…..a yellowy-cream cultured marble vanity top and almond tub.

I’ve known for a long time exactly what I wanted to do in this bathroom, and the vision in my head looked really terrible with a yellowy-cream vanity top. Cue much hand-wringing over how to get a white vanity top. We considered many possibilities:

1. Paint it: this is what I assumed we’d do for a long time. Up until maybe two weeks ago, in fact. I was pretty sure it was going to be horrible and tedious and smell really bad, but I also thought it was the cheapest way to get my white vanity top. Problem was, when I started researching, I realized that most of the kits out there for redoing counters aren’t recommended for cultured marble. I couldn’t find many examples where people had actually painted cultured marble, and a number of people said they’d seen it done and it never looked good.

Because here’s the thing about cultured marble: it’s not so bad. It’s not the fanciest counter surface in the world, but it’s not laminate. If mine were white, I wouldn’t even be thinking about changing it. In the end, I couldn’t justify the possibility of expending lots of time and effort and some money to potentially turn my cultured marble into something crappy looking just so it would be the right color.

2. Get a new vanity top: I thought this might be a good option…until I measured the vanity top. It’s 85 inches long, which, near as I can tell, makes it thirteen inches longer than the longest standard vanity top that you can walk into Lowes or Home Depot and pick up. So we were looking at a custom one. I did some quick pricing on these, and it looked like it would be at least $500 for something similar to what we already have, only in white. This seemed like a lot of money to spend to get no increase in quality at all. Then I spent an evening thinking maybe for Christmas we’d throw a few hundred MORE in and get a BEAUTIFUL counter. Like marble. I love marble. Like this vanity at Wills Casa (you should go check out their whole master bath (and house) if you haven’t seen it, because it’s all amazing):

Marble Vanity at Wills Casa

Wills Casa master bathroom

So I spent awhile indulging in/attempting to justify this magical fantasy wherein my super low budget bathroom makeover included not only slate tile but an 85 inch slab of marble. I went as far as measuring the kids’ bathroom vanity down the hall and determining it was the same size, reasoning that if it didn’t work later on when we got around to the REAL bathroom reno, we could move it down there (where they also have a cream colored cultured marble counter).

But. As much as I wanted it to be so, I could not pretend that marble was a reasonable thing to spend money on right now. It didn’t make sense to spend the money on that when there are lots of other things we need more AND it didn’t really make sense to put a fancy hunk of marble down on top of a cheapie pressboard cabinet base, either. Goodbye marble dreams.

3. Get a whole new (shorter) vanity: or maybe two small ones. This made a fair amount of sense, really. The vanity itself is not very nice, and it’s poorly installed on top of that (like Dave can’t open the door of his cabinet all the way because it hits the wall by the tub). A reasonably sized vanity could be smaller, making for a less expensive counter top and be better quality/look nicer on top of that. But it was still more than we wanted/had planned to spend. And this option also had the major, major, MAJOR drawback of meaning we’d need to do more tiling (since the footprint of the vanity would change). No thank you. There would also be a lot of extra plumbing to deal with that would either be a PITA (Dave hates plumbing) or expensive. Maybe both!

4. Leave it alone: yeah. So this is what we ended up with. It’s not the most exciting option, but it’s the one that makes the most sense. And we already established back at the beginning of my wordy post that I’m a fan of bathrooms that make sense. This decision will mean changing up a few of the other plans in here, but that’s….okay.

I got a little down because I was feeling like this was going to end up being such a TINY bathroom makeover; my poor bathroom wouldn’t even get a prettier vanity top. Whine. And I do sometimes feel like we focus too much on purely aesthetic changes around here and don’t make enough actual improvements. Then I remember the two new furnaces, new hot water heater, two new toilets, non-leaking roof, and four (so far) new windows we’ve put in, the fence we built, and I think maybe we’re doing okay by the house after all. And this bathroom already got slate tile, for goodness sake: what is it complaining about?! If the bathroom doesn’t stop it’s moaning, I’m going to bring back its stinky carpet and see what it thinks about that! Also, it’s gotten two new light fixtures and will have all new fixtures before we’re through in here. So it’s all okay.

And there you go….a long post about doing….nothing.

Next time: doing something!






Agonizing Too Much Over Our Bathroom Vanity — 26 Comments

    • sometimes it’s really the only reasonable option! I wouldn’t mind it so much if I didn’t have my heart set on a black and white bathroom, really!

      • I’m playing catchup here, so I was wondering if you’d done anything to your countertop yet. If not, I have an option you may want to consider (if you haven’t already). Paint it…but NOT with the countertop kits. The options are too limited. For my kitchen countertop, I used Valspar’s Signature Sandstone Collection and it is BEAUTIFUL!! It actually looks like a stone countertop. The original plan was to pour acrylic over the top to make it a smooth surface and to protect it (already have the supplies) but I really love the look and don’t want it bartop glossy. Soooo, it has stayed as-is since February (while I entertain other options) and it still looks like I just painted it. I’m in shock that it’s held up like that! Anyway, all I did was sand and clean the surface with a bleach solution (and rinsed well), roll on 2 coats of Zinsser primer, then roll on 2 or 3 coats of the sandstone. More coats for more texture. It comes in 8 or so colors at Lowe’s so I’m sure you could find a color that goes with your vision. Best part? I think the style would fit with your other temporary “stays.” Good luck in your endeavor!

        • Thanks for the idea, Nora–your counters sound really cool :). From what I’ve read, it seems like it’s harder to get a good looking finish on cultured marble than laminate (which I’m assuming your kitchen counters are?)….I think maybe it doesn’t sand down well for paint adhesion because it’s not uniform all the way through. The other issue is that the sink is molded into the counter, so we’d need something that held up to water running in it all the time, and that seemed to really limit options. If the sinks were separate, I think we could do a lot more with them! I’m pretty resigned to keeping them as is for now….but we’ll see what I think about how they look once I get the cabinets painted 🙂

  1. don’t we all wish we had the means to have a bathroom or home like the Wills crew. I have to contimplate a whole new vanity or making over the existing one…sorry I am no help 🙁

  2. My husband lived in Dorcester for awhile too 🙂 We’re still Boston-area. And, as chance would have it, we also have a gigantic-ly long master vanity that baffles me. I have no ideas for you since I’m still muddling over it myself!

    • Small world! Of course, I would have killed for a giant vanity problem in our Dorchester house….we had one teeny tiny bathroom with almost no storage 🙂

  3. I actually really liked reading your train of thought on this process– I think sometimes (especially as bloggers) we focus on this big giant REVEAL PICTURE and that’s just not reality. At the end of the day, you’ve got cream marble. I’ve got honey oak kitchen cabinets. Those are things that are just going to have to happen for now… because food costs money and I think I’d rather have that then white cabinets.

  4. Our last house had exactly the same vanity issue. So annoyingly 80’s which is trending now but not in this way. I know the master bathroom is huge, so could you split the vanity area into 2 spaces and go IKEA with it? I really love the IKEA sink/countertop that we used in the upstairs bath.

    • We’ve definitely considered that….I think it would look good (although we’d have to figure out what to do with that in the middle space)….but the fact that it would mean more tiling makes it so unappealing right now. We still have tiling PTSD 🙂

  5. I should take a picture of our vintage pink bathroom for you. ;). We made some changes to it, but embraced the pink. We need to reno it properly at some point, but I really like the pink actually (maybe I’m just crazy). I think if you’re planning to do a bigger reno down the road then it’s probably not worth it to replace the vanity at this point. I’ve been having serious sticker shock with marble prices lately. They’re so high now. I’m told that Dubai is buying all the marble and driving up the prices. That’s the story they give me as the price is at least double of what it was three years ago. Ouch!

    • I had no idea you have a secret pink bathroom! ;). I’m sure if we’d stayed in that house we’d eventually have redone our pink bathroom, but I didn’t mind it while we were there. At least not the pink. I minded how cramped it was and how it was the only one!

    • I almost put in a section about how we considered DIY options…and concrete was one of them! I love the look, BUT it doesn’t fit in with the rest of what I want to do in here, I don’t think. Sadly.

  6. I know you decided to leave it alone, but just for kicks… A sheet of copper from a roofing supplier would be about $100, you could rough up the existing counter and glue it on – copper and slate look lovely together. Or (also roughing up the counter and gluing) you could install cement board and cheap marble tiles (and if you or the kids liked making mosaics you could probably get the broken tiles for free)…. The only caveat would be the new faucets and drop in sinks.

    • We thought about a few different DIY options, but I couldn’t really see any of them working with the other stuff I want to do in here (which may mean I need to get a little more flexible about my grand vision ;)). I LOVE copper….I actually have big down the road plans to maybe do our kitchen island in copper. But there’s so much brass in this room (already and planned) that I’m not sure it would work? Or maybe I just need to embrace the mixing metals trend more fully….

  7. Oh I get this friend! Man…our bathroom was a gut but it was the size of a small walk in closet. My sisters bathroom on the other hand which was built in the 80’s with carpet and a tiny shower with 2 walk in closets in there and a huge tub…is bigger than my bedroom! They currently had to start fixing things in there as they have been there for 12 years and were having water issues and she ran into the same thing with the darn vanity being so long. You hang in there……It will be beautiful with or without a new vanity ..I have seen your skills! Happy weekend to you! Nicole xo

  8. I still have PTSD from our total bathroom re-do that started from 2 leaky tiles, so I totally get you and applaud your decision to do nothing! We have a vanity that we don’t like in our other bathroom, but replacing it means replacing the floors, which means replacing the baseboard, which means… Total “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” time. And you probably already found this, but if not: I love your idea that it makes no sense to un-do things in a home that make sense. (As for carpet, it may have been put in there because it’s cheaper than other flooring options.)

  9. Oh my goodness, and I thought we had a long vanity at 77 inches long!!! I’ve been looking on craigslist for a vanity top, anything that size will do. At least yours doesn’t have blue swirls and shell shaped sinks, lol!! Thanks for stopping by our home tour the other day! Obviously I left out the kids bathroom, and now you know why 😉

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