BEFORE & AFTER: My Colorful Gray Bathroom Makeover With a Wall Stencil!

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This small half bathroom makeover has been a work in progress. Watch its transformation!


Watch This Half Bathroom Makeover In Action!



When we moved in, this is how the previous homeowners left this half bathroom. It was badly in need of a makeover!



I thought for sure knocking out this small gray half bathroom makeover with a wall stencil would be a drop in the bucket compared to my other room makeovers.

I mean…how difficult could it be to make over a measly 27.5 square feet??……(asked the naive DIYer)…….

Well, considering that my muscles feel like I trained for a heavyweight championship boxing match, I’d say this project kicked my butt.

Small Bathroom Makeover = 1

Serena = 0

But I can’t deny it was sooooo worth the fight. Wouldn’t you agree??

Half Bathroom With Paint Instead of Wallpaper

Small Bathroom Makeover - BEFORE view - ThriftDiving.com


It took some time for me to get around to giving it some style, but when I did, oh man…it looked sooo good!


Small Gray Bathroom Makeover - AFTER - ThriftDiving.com blog

Small Gray Bathroom Makeover - Toilet

Stenciling Virgin

I’m going to be honest with you–I’m a wall stenciling virgin.

I’m very Plain Jane when it comes to wall treatments: two coats of pretty blues and call it a day.

But I wanted to shake things up a bit with something bolder than I have ever done:

A stenciled bathroom.

Correct: a stenciled dark gray bathroom. GASP!

I felt so adventurous. 😉

I’ve done my share of stenciled furniture, but never walls.

I was in for an eye-opening experience.


(P.S. Check out my awesome stenciled furniture makeovers using my favorite floral damask stencil):

How to Paint a Dresser in 10 Easy Steps


  • Mansion House Grille Trellis wall stencil from Royal Design Studio (comes in large and small). This stencil pattern also comes in a super affordable, smaller furniture stencil!
  • Weathered White interior satin latex Behr (half a gallon)
  • Grant Gray interior satin by Behr (1 quart)
  • Cabana Blue interior flat by Behr (1 quart)
  • Ultra Pure White interior semi-gloss
  • Large roller for walls
  • Small foam roller for stencil
  • Brushes, paint trays, rags
  • Painter’s tape
  • Leveler
  • MDF boards
  • Crown molding
  • Instructions for installing DIY crown molding


Stencil and Bathroom Paint

I wasn’t sure which wall stencil I wanted to use because I’m usually not a “patterns girl.”

But the Mansion House Grille Trellis (the small one) stencil grabbed my attention immediately. There was something sooooo pretty about the metalwork-inspired design. And since it’s so new, I knew it wouldn’t be some cookie-cutter design that you see smeared all over Pinterest.


Small Bathroom Makeover - Royal Design Studio Mansion Grille Trellis stecil - Thriftdiving.com



There size of the stencil


(P.S. Some of you have asked about my Fred Sanford shirt. You can buy it HERE!)

You know how I love blue…so I had to include it, but a bolder color!


Gray bathroom colors for a small bathroom - ThriftDiving.com


Flashback From the Past

I can’t show you this project without including how this bathroom originally looked shortly after we moved in.

I started removing the wallpaper and then painted, but I had never done anything special with the bathroom.


Small Bathroom Makeover - BEFORE - Removing wallpaper - thriftdiving.com


It Stayed Like This For Years

With the wallpaper gone, and a few random pictures hung, it was just a basic half bath. My husband asked for years for me to focus my attention on this bathroom since it’s the guaranteed place that visitors will always see in our house.

But I had more important room makeovers to tackle (like our laundry room, kids’ bathroom, and family room).


Small Bathroom Makeover - BEFORE view - ThriftDiving.com


But I was excited to finally get this project going!

A Small Gray Bathroom Makeover With a Wall Stencil

Thankfully, I had done most of the hard work of removing the wallpaper some time ago, so there wasn’t much to do to get started on this project. I was also thankful that I didn’t have to remove the toilet. This one, albeit a little short, didn’t need to be replaced immediately.

How to Remove and Install a Toilet

NOTE: If your toilet needs to be replaced, or if you’d like to replace it with a taller one that’s ADA-compliant, check out my step-by-step instructions on how to remove a toilet yourself without paying for a plumber. Once the toilet is removed, you can follow these instructions on how to install a toilet yourself.


This is the bathroom that my kids usually use. It’s right off of the family room and is most convenient for them.

I’ve got three boys.

Need I say more??

I had to start with wiping the walls down with Simple Green to clean off all the pee residue and to prep for the paint. ICK!

STEP 2: Painting the Base Coat

I used the Weathered White as the base coat, so I painted two coats over the walls and ceilings.


Two coats of Weathered White


STEP 3: Measuring For Chair Rail

I decided to measure up from the floor about 30 inches and used a leveler to make sure the lines were straight.

When doing chair rail, make sure you don’t put it too high or it can look funny. I ended up having to lower mine because the first lines were waaaaay too high! This is how high the line were originally.

Too high

Small bathroom makeover - Chair rail too high - ThriftDiving.com


Must better!

….but I decided to lower them about a foot!

Measuring for chair rail


STEP 4: Taping Up the Stencil

I decided to start in one corner and work my way out. I used painter’s tape to get it hold in place.


Hanging up the stencil


Small Bathroom Makeover - Stenciled bathroom wall - ThriftDiving.com


STEP 5: Loading the Grant Gray Paint

I used a small foam roller for the stencil. But you can also use a stencil brush.

I think the roller is faster, but I think stencil brush provide cleaner results. I had some seeping out of paint under the stencil, but I think I could have done a better job taping off, too.


Small Bathroom Makeover - Gray paint for bathroom stencil - ThriftDiving.com


STEP 6: Painting Over the Stencil

I was loving how it looked!

So bold and so much different than my usual style!


Small Bathroom Makeover - Mansion House Grille Trellis - ThriftDiving.com


When I was done the first section, I moved the stencil down, re-taped it, and lined up a few the cutouts, making sure it wasn’t crooked.


Small Bathroom Makeover - Move stencil to next space - thriftdiving.com


I added a piece of tape at the bottom to mark off where the chair rail was going to be so that I wouldn’t paint over that line.

NOTE: Be sure to use a SMALL amount of paint on the roller! So little paint that you can barely see the paint. Then, when that first coat dries, add another light coat. It will help to minimize the bleeding of the paint under the stencil.


STEP 7: The Dreaded Frequent Cleanings!

This is the part that I didn’t like the most: having to frequently stop to clean the stencil. When using stencils, paint gets caked on it and “gunky” and can mess up how well the stencil works.

You have to stop every few sections and clean it off in the sink or tub.

This is what it starts to look like when you need to clean it. Just be sure to have a strainer to catch the bits of paint from going down your drain.


Small Bathroom Makeover - Wash stencil frequently - thriftdiving.com


STEP 8: The Dreaded Corners!

This is the other part that I found hard when using wall stencils: getting the corners. I’m pretty sure I used every curse word I knew. LOL

I finally figured out that instead of using the roller or brush when I get to tight corner spots (because otherwise it’s a mess), I would just trace the pattern on the wall and use a small paint brush to fill it in.


Small Bathroom Makeover - Use a pencil to trace the design close to the wall - thriftdiving.com


Even when using a brush, though, it’s going to look a little jacked up until the next step, where you clean it up.


Small Bathroom Makeover - Stenciling inside corners - thriftdiving.com


Small Bathroom Makeover - Outline the stencil in hard to reach places - thriftdiving.com


STEP 9: Cleaning Up Your Messes

Trust me. You will have messes. LOL

But the best part is that you can fill them in with a small paint brush and paint.

Look over your design and use a small crafting paintbrush to go over the areas that are a little sloppy, like in the pic above (see to the left?)


STEP 10: Adding Trim and Molding

I adore rooms where there is chair rail separating the top and bottom!

I used some MDF boards (about 1.5″ – 2″), painted them, and used my 18-gauge nailer and Liquid Nails to attach them.


Small Bathroom Makeover - Painting the chair rail - thriftdiving.com


Adding Railing


I Painted the Vanity

I had painted this vanity years ago, but it needed a pop of color. I’m tired of being afraid of deep colors! I chose Cabana Blue by Behr. I absolutely love it!


Small Bathroom Makeover - Vanity BEFORE - ThriftDiving.com



Bathrooms are the perfect place to experience with bold colors, and that’s just what I did!

I left the hardware the same, although I plan to paint it black or gold. Sometimes, you just run out of time… LOL.


Small Gray Bathroom Makeover - AFTER - Thrift Diving blog


The Vanity Light

It’s embarrassing to admit, but this is the light we’ve had in this bathroom since we moved in. When we took it down, there was still the old wallpaper underneath! LOL


Small Gray Bathroom Makeover - Old Light


I don’t do electrical stuff, so this is where I love my hubby to help out!


Small Gray Bathroom Makeover - Changing the light



And the beautiful part is that I let my 9-year-old pick out the light, and this is what he chose! 🙂 I love getting my kids involved in these decisions. My 6-year-old said, “Mommy, it looks like a hotel light!” I guess that’s his way of saying it looks fancy. HAHA

I admit that it wasn’t my first choice, and the mirror doesn’t match it. But you know what?? My baby picked it out. And I’ll forever be able to look up at it and remember the time he went with me to pick it out. So who cares if it doesn’t match the mirror! 🙂


Small Bathroom Makeover - New vanity light - ThriftDiving.com


The $7.00 Thrifted Mirror

My favorite thrift store was having a 50% off sale for MLK Day and with my luck, I found this $14 mirror for $7.00!

You know….

I rather liked the vintage gold!

This bathroom is very modern, but I wanted a bit of vintage, and the mirror was perfect! The shape was beautiful, and the gold just “spoke” to me. My husband thinks we should paint it and make it “fresh” like everything else. But a little bit of chipped scuff-ness is just the edge this bathroom needed.




Small Gray Bathroom Makeover - AFTER - thrifted mirror - Thriftdiving.com


For this makeover, I also hung crown molding. This is the 3rd room I’ve done now! I can’t say my gaps are getting any smaller, but hey–caulking hides EVERYTHING! 🙂

If you’re looking for detailed instructions on how to install DIY crown molding, you can get a copy of my free ebook here: How to Put Up Crown Molding Like a Novice. 


Small Gray Bathroom Makeover - Mansion House Grille stencil - ThriftDiving.com


I still have some DIY wall art to do…… and to find a cute little wire basket to go over the toilet….maybe some shelves….and definitely new sink hardware.

But this project is proof that with just a few materials and about 3-4 days, you can really transform your house into something you can be proud of for not too much money!

Project Cost

Here’s a cost breakdown of absolutely everything for the bathroom:

  • $0 – Mansion House Grille wall stencil – Provided for free from Royal Design Studio (Click here to buy)
  • $33.66 – Crown molding
  • $5.86 – MDF boards for chair rail
  • $74.97 – New vanity light
  • $12.99 – IKEA rug
  • $7.94 – Thrifted mirror
  • $6.99 – IKEA toilet brush
  • $5.99 – IKEA toilet paper holder
  • $4.97 – Light bulbs
  • $8.99 – IKEA soap dispenser
  • $1.98 – Hardware for TP holder
  • $2.38 – Picture hangers for thrifted mirror
  • $26.48 – Weathered White by Behr
  • $13.47 – Grant Gray by Behr (quart)
  • $12.47 – Cabana Blue by Behr (quart)
  • $1.98 – Latex gloves
  • $3.24 – Caulk for molding
  • $3.77 – Liquid Nails

Taxes = $14

Time = 4 days

TOTAL SPENT = $247.32

This is how I felt when I was done!


Finally Done!


Even with a few things still on the “To Do” list, it still felt GOOD to have a pretty bathroom! I imagine now when people come over, I’ll be eagerly asking, “Hey, do you have to go to the bathroom?? Right this way!!” instead of dreading them seeing this room.

Maybe I didn’t get my butt kicked after all. I’d like to think I was the victor in this fight. 😉

Watch The Video of This Project

I did record the entire project and captured some of my frustration and fear. HAHA Check it out here on my YouTube channel:



P.S. Did you know that they also make a bunch of smaller furniture stencils?? You can find the Mansion House Grille Trellis furniture stencil HERE if you like smaller stencil projects.



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  1. Love it all. The walls are awesome Did you lightly sand and then paint the cabinet? . I love all the creativIty here. Very upscale

    1. Awww, thank you, Gwen! I didn’t sand the walls first. But if I ever decide to paint over the stencil, I’ll have to sand the walls so that they won’t show the stencil pattern. I do know that! šŸ™‚

  2. I am absolutely blown away that you did an entire bathroom with a stencil. That takes tenacity! An incredibly beautiful result.. the blue vanity really sets it all off. My hat is off to you… I’m visiting from #BragAboutIt and when I saw the headline, I knew I had to click over and see how someone did a whole bathroom with a stencil. Well done:)

  3. It’s beautiful! I love it!

  4. Another lovely makeover, Serena! It came out really well. …And LoL at “pee residue” šŸ˜€ Your honesty is so refreshing.

    1. HA! Kate, I was going to show a PICTURE of the pee I found 3 feet off the floor, but I decided you’d not appreciate THAT much honesty… LOL!

  5. How sweet to involve your little guys. You can always paint the mirror should you decide. It looks gorgeous – fantastic job!

  6. Margarete Bickerstaff says:

    I am scared to paint over the vanity. It isn’t real wood. I live in mobile home. Nothing is real. How would you recommend I do that. I tried painting something years ago and everytime something hit it the paint came off and you could see the color underneath.

    1. Hey, Margarete! No need to worry, girlfriend, there are tons of paint options for you! You were probably trying to use a regular latex paint, right? Well, this post might help: https://thriftdiving.com/whats-the-best-paint-for-furniture/

      Basically, if you’re using one of those paints, you don’t have to prime and you can paint nearly any surface, even if it’s not wood. You can paint plastic, MDF, or any surface, really. My vanity I used a regular latex paint in a FLAT finish but I used a chalky additive that I am planning to post about later today!

  7. This is just SO lovely. What a great job you did. The colors and the stencil choice – perfect.

    And I’m tickled pink to see a vanity light ABOVE the mirror. My DH thinks the lights should be on the SIDES of the mirror. I find his way blinding and we have a silent argument going on in the downstairs bathroom. He screws in the lower bulbs and I unscrew them – repeatedly, since he hung them. LOL!!!

    But, it’s all good. The whole thing’s going to be gutted eventually anyway and my bitty claw-foot installed in an adjacent walk-in closet that will become part of the bathroom. Someone light a fire under me to begin the de-struction to hopefully encourage the con-struction. šŸ™‚

    Serena, you are always an inspiration. Aren’t you glad that Royal Design Studio asked you to team up with them?!!

    1. Thank you, Donna!! Good luck on your demo! Whatcha waitin’ for, girlfriend! Hop to it! šŸ™‚ I’ll light that fire under you! LOL

      Yes, I’m glad that Royal Design Studio asked me to team up! I’m hoping they like this project enough to work with me again. šŸ™‚ Crossing fingers!

      1. If only you lived around the corner and could hassle me every day. LOL!!

        Thank you for the encouragement.

        I would like to see more projects with you and them. You did a good job. I always like that you show your goofs along with your successes. It allows the rest of us to have hope for ourselves.

        1. Hey there, Donna!! I actually thought about offering a coaching program that would help us all along in our projects! I’m just not sure how I want to set that up yet. But yes, I’d be hassling you every day! šŸ™‚ I think most people have trouble getting started and staying motivated. So I want to get a group together and actually force us to be motivated. Not just with room makeovers, but with regular projects, too! Stay tuned for that!

          1. Keeping my ears perked!! That sounds great, Serena.

  8. Serena – Love the transformation!! THe last picture says it all!

  9. That is really a BEAUTIFUL transition! I love it! I have one bathroom so it be tough to do redo it, but it is VERY small so it wouldn’t take long….

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