A Brooklyn Rental Makeover

As a designer, a lot of my job involves making the most out of what my clients have, this is especially true for renters. It can be hard to find solutions that meet the needs of both the tenant and landlord not to mention, no one wants to sink a bunch of money into renovating a space they don’t own. However, I’m a firm believer that making the most out of what you have doesn’t mean compromising on style. So, when Brooke and Josh got in touch with me they were hoping I could help them find a few cool solutions for their rental bathroom.

Like a lot of New Yorkers, Brook and Josh have a great apartment that they’ve been in for a long time with a lot of original details. Unfortunately, the apartment also includes a mish-mosh of old bathrooms fixtures and finishes.  Because there apartment is a rental we knew that we were not going to change the location of any of the plumbing or make any changes to the footprint of the bathroom.


The most obvious issue was ALL the blue tile. We had dark blue tile on the floor and light blue tile on the walls. The light blue tile on the wall was in good shape and semi-original so we choose to treat them as a feature.  The dark blue tile on the floor is from the 80’s and in fine shape but color and scale were all wrong so I decided to cover them up. I’ll get to that later.

I understand this might be a controversial opinion but I kinda like the blue wall tiles.  Although I probably wouldn’t pick them out for a new bathroom, pastel colors are totally having a moment.  I figured we could embrace the blue and make it feel intentional with some savvy design decisions in the rest of the space.


After the tile, the outdated sink cabinet was our biggest issue.  The old plywood base cabinet had seen better days and it was way too deep for the already narrow space. So, I decided that it had to go. With the blessing of the landlord (because how on earth could you object) we decided to replace the old sink with an inventive vintage solution.

I’ve always loved the idea of converting a vintage piece into a sink base. Most of the time when you see bathrooms with this treatment the vintage base is a dresser or something more complicated in shape. Because the wall tile gives the room a lot of personality, we opted for the clean lines of  a mid-century piece.  I choose to wall-mount the cabinet (as opposed to putting it on legs) because that gave us more flexibility with the height and helped give the tiny bathroom an open feel.

With some very specific dimensions in mind, we set out to find the perfect narrow  base cabinet. After scouring many antique stores, Josh spotted this lovely wall mounted piece with sliding doors (key for space saving). I think it was originally for records, cool right? with the perfect cabinet in hand we set out to find the right sink. Lucky for us sinks come in almost every shape and size, so we found a simple white vessel sink that fit perfectly on top. I picked out this mat black faucet because its awesome, and adds an Eams-ish vibe to the finishes. Speaking of finishes, wood can be a tricky choice for a bathroom, we used oil based polyurethane to protect the top because it’s super durable. I picked a satin finish because it’s more in keeping with the original finish.

Installing the cabinet involved having my plumber (Peter) drill a hole in the back for the pipes and reinforcing the inside of the cabinet with a 2 X 4. I specifically chose a vessel sink for this project because it sits on top of the countertop and only requires a small drain hole. Other types of sinks like under mount require a hole the size of the sink and that would have compromised the strength of the cabinet and taken up valuable storage underneath.

Floor cloth

To cover up all that dark blue floor tile I created a floor cloth that fit the floor of the bathroom exactly. This was my first stab at making one in a custom shape, I think it turned out pretty well! The steps for making a floor cloth are really simple. First, you need a large heavyweight piece of canvas. Next, you prime the canvas, I used some white floor paint I had laying around a primer. Be advise that canvas will shrink when you prime it, so make sure your piece is at leas 12 inches bigger than it needs to be on each side. After the primer was dry I finished the edges. To do this I turned under the raw edge and secured it with carpet tape. Sewing super heavy canvas can be really hard so I love using carpet tape to finis the edges. With the edges of the floor cloth were finished I gridded out my pattern using a pencil and ruler and then painted in the shapes. I prefer to paint the edges by hand with a small brush (because I’m crazy like that) but you could also use painters tape to help with this portion. To protect the painted surface I gave the floor cloth a coat of poly water-based polyurethane. I also used the double sided carpet tape to hold the floor cloth in place on the bathroom floor.


Before the bathroom had a tiny built-in medicine cabinet that didn’t function well. We swapped the old one out in favor of this larger Ikea one. To make hanging this cabinet possible we removed the hinged mirrored door from the old cabinet and mounted the new cabinet right over the recessed portion of the old one.  Above the toilet, we mounted another one of Josh and Brooks thrifted scores. We painted it in a shade of blue to match the tile.

A special thanks to Josh, Brooke, and Ada for being awesome thrifters, great creative collaborators, and all around cool people. In fact, Brook writes a super cool blog so cruise over to This Is Authentic for more picks and to hear her side of the story. Also, Brooke shot the photos for this story.

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