Simple Changes; Rental Bath

Last year, after I shared the new vanity we installed in our rental bath – I got a slew of questions as to how we did that. Since we have made a few more small updates since then, I figured I would show the current state of our small apartment bath and touch on some of the most common questions I have been getting.

By far the most asked about is the vanity. We had a tiny pedestal sink here before which always caused problems. It is an awkward bathroom to begin with and adding in secondary pieces for storage aways competed with the sink and caused really odd spacial flow. I knew I wanted to take the pedestal sink out since we moved in, but I debated if it was worth it for about a year and a half. I knew I wasn’t going to put in a fancy replacement (I ideally wouldn’t have a stark white vanity) but had seen a few of the Ikea vanities installed at clients houses which looked great. Ikea was having a sale (they do that sometimes) so I went for it and decided the $300 on a vanity plus the sink topper was so worth it! I went to our local Ikea too so I didn’t pay the high shipping cost. I added pretty bone knobs which changed the look a lot without the hassle of painting it another color. Our brass faucet is also from there and was under $100.

I will say I had nothing to do with the install. I assembled the vanity on my own which even with the drawers was very easy. Daniel took our old sink out and installed this. There are no back legs so you seal it at the wall and the only tricky part is making sure your existing plumbing matches up. There is no back, so he ended up having to make a notch in the back of the bottom drawer that was hitting the p trap. No project ever seems to be as simple as build and install, but overall this only took a few hours for him to complete. Every bathroom is very different and some may require a lot more trial and error.

The second question I always is get is how? How on earth do we get free reign of a rental and why would we spend money on a a place we don’t actually own. We do live in a rental, but our landlords are an older couple that really don’t mind (within reason) what we do to the space. We don’t ask them to pay for anything, so essentially we are updating their space at our expense, which they can likely rent for much more when we move out. We are not technically in a rent controlled space and in this part of the Bay Area it can be hard if your rent increases even by a little bit. For everything we do, they leave us be and haven’t raised our rent. It is a win win!

For me the why is simple. I am affected deeply by my living space and if spending a few hundred dollars on a vanity will help that – I am all for it. Even though we won’t rip it up and take it with us when the time comes to move, I will have gotten to enjoy it for the duration of living here. I often equate this to buying clothes. We all buy clothes that we don’t necessarily plan on having for the rest of our lives. They get worn out or ruined, but we got to enjoy them for the time we had them. Why is your home different just because you don’t own it? I am not going to start replacing windows or kitchen countertops anytime soon (I wish, ha!) but little updates really can make such a huge difference. We just changed out the ugly towel bars for simple brass hooks and I wish I had done it sooner. It cost under $60 for the three hooks (I also waited for these to go on sale) and we can easily take those when we move and put the old towel bar back up. This doesn’t work for everyone, but since our living space has become a part of my job it is fun to play around with and see what we can make work in the confines of a renal.

[Art, Frame, Vase, Wall Hooks (unlacquered brass), Bath Oil, Soap Dish, Vintage Rug, Vanity/Sink, Faucet, Bone Knobs, Basket, Bath Towels, Soap, Brush]


For reference – this is the before. I would say it is very worth it! You can also visit My Bath shop page for more pieces we have including the shower curtain.

photos by Torrey Fox

  1. Pamela says:

    Hi where can I get that beautiful piece with the hooks on them. Thank you

  2. Renee Haggquist says:

    Hi JULIE,
    I love, love your apartment … you have such great inexpensive ways of making anything look fabulous! Was wondering, in you bath, did you remove the tiles on the towel wall?
    Thanks! You’re always inspiring!
    Best, Renee

    • Thank you so much! The towel wall and surround is not tile, it’s actually a wood detail that is meant to look like tile. We did not remove it, but painted over it with a brighter white. Hope that helps!


    I love what you did:). At least the bones of your rental bathroom are great with the tile and batten or chair rail whatever it’s called where you put the brass hooks.
    We are renting a home in Santa Monica and we are way too old to be renting but haven’t been able to find a home to buy so c’est la vie! Our two bathrooms have no windows. One has awful old tile going up half the wall like yours and the other has just nothing. Our landlords are not into us changing too
    much. It was hard for them to agree to let us take
    down the vertical blinds they had in the bedrooms
    that had sliding glass doors. But finally they agreed. I have a question-have you ever worked with something from Sherman-Williams called Sher-Cret (I think that’s how it is spelled? I am thinking of
    putting that over the ugly tile and adding a batten
    chair rail for one bath and then using the Sher-Cret
    in the shower to cover the ugly tiles of the other bath. That is gonna be a big ask for the owners but again
    we are doing everything at our expense and this eventually will def increase their rental value. The Sher-Cret is like a concrete and can come in this great pure white that is super nice. Anyway. And last question what do you recommend to do with a windowless bathroom?

    • Hi Julie,

      Thank you so much! I have heard of it, but only for exterior settings not in a bathroom. It sounds like it might work well because of the water proofing so hopefully they allow you to make some changes.

      It is always a bummer when a bathroom doesn’t have a window, but if there is any spot to add in some accent lighting that works wonders. A mini lamp on a vanity, cabinet or shelf can help a lot or making sure the overhead light is nice and bright will make it feel less drab. Brightening up the walls or adding accessories that feel lighter like a crisp shower curtain or bath mat / towels can a lot help a lot too. A lot of little details can impact the space more than you would think. I hope this helps!

  4. miki says:

    I really adore how you decorated the bathroom, simple but so chic!
    Miki x

  5. Julie says:

    First, I love your blog! Your apartment is adorable. Second, I’m basically stealing your entire vanity! I’ve the got the vanity, faucet and knobs (love those!) in my shopping cart just waiting to pull the trigger. I’m curious, though, you said you wouldn’t normally choose a white vanity. What would you choose for your own home?
    Thanks for the great home inspiration.

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