DIY, Home Improvement

How We’re Renovating our Bathroom to Maximize ROI

We’ve lived in our Chicago home – a fixer-upper on a great block – just shy of six years. In that time, we’ve renovated every single room in the house, that is, with the exception of our first-floor bathroom. That room has seen a few surface remodels in the years prior to our ownership, but it’s still in need of a totally new configuration and all new finishes top to bottom. Throughout this post, I’ll be sharing the raw and real before photos of our bathroom. Demo Day, we’re coming for you!

While we have no intention of moving, it’s a well-known fact that kitchens and bathrooms sell homes. This should come as no surprise! With that in mind, we’ll be making conscious decisions to ensure that our choices maximize the return on our investment for when we’re older, more grey (than we already are!) and ready to sell our home. (And when that time comes, we can utilize the simply smarter home search on to relocate somewhere warmer!)

Prioritize Layout

The current bathroom layout is cramped and crowded. It features a stand-up shower shoehorned into an awkward corner, and the toilet is not only located uncomfortably close to the wall, but it also partially impedes the door of the shower. The current floor plan needs serious help, and we’ll need to focus on reconfiguring things, quite literally, from the ground up. Since the bathroom shares its back wall with our indoor workshop/pantry space, we’ve decided to take at least 2’ of space from that room, which will allow for a full-size standup shower as opposed to a corner unit. Hooray! We’re confident that this change will not only improve the way we and our guests use the space, but the larger shower will be a more desirable feature in the long run.

Incorporate Classic Design Elements

Built in 1887, our home is more than 130-years-young! We try to be respectful of its bones and ensure that our design aesthetic meshes well with the permanent elements of the structure. While our home is by no means ‘period correct,’ we’ve been mindful of details such as doors and moldings that offer a nod to the 130 years’ worth of history. We also tend to select finishes that are timeless and classic, as opposed to following the most current trends. Our preference is to choose finishes that lean classic for the more permanent portions of the home, such as the aforementioned tile and trim molding. Being choosy about these finishes from room to room lends an overall cohesive feel to the entire home, which visitors tend to notice and appreciate.  However, we think that every space needs a detail that’s unique to it (I love a good splash of quirk!), which leads me to…

Don’t Forget Your Unique Touch

Having fun with finishes like paint and wall sconces – i.e., things that can be changed easily down the road – can lend a special, memorable quality to a small space like a bathroom without feeling too permanent. Thinking long-term, we especially love hints of solid metals like unlacquered brass that will age and patina over time. When mixed with finishes like marble and bright, polished chrome, the result is dynamic and layered. On the more permanent end of the spectrum, we also challenge ourselves to come up with storage solutions throughout our bathrooms. Think outside the box and take advantage of small nooks or otherwise unused space to allow for hidden toiletry storage!

For our upcoming bathroom renovation, we’re considering a frosted transom window above the shower alcove that will allow light from the window in the workshop to pass through into the bathroom while providing additional natural light. Unique design decisions like this that set bathrooms, and therefore homes, apart from others on the market can push a home to the top of a buyer’s list and result in a higher sale price at closing. Special features can also improve your day-to-day experience in the home and bring a smile to your face every time you enter the space. Tip: I think the key to adding your own unique touch is harnessing restraint. The addition of a single, well-executed design element can go far.

The Importance of New Fixtures

We’re big proponents of improving spaces while we’re living in them as opposed to waiting until it’s time to sell to make necessary improvements. Even if a bathroom isn’t in need of a full, down-to-the-studs gut rehab, simple changes like a new toilet, vanity or faucet can offer a fairly inexpensive weekend update to a bathroom. Cosmetic improvements aside, replacing outdated toilets with low-flow or dual-flush model can save enough water to pay for themselves in as little as 6 years depending on usage! Coupled with modern, water-conserving faucets, savings of hundreds of dollars per year in water usage are easily attainable. Replacing any outdated fixtures to update a space can offer huge short-term ROI and we’ll be considering all of these modern fixture options in our soon-to-be-gutted bathroom all the same.

Play the Long Game

While bathroom renovations can sometimes provide immediate equity in a home, gains in ROI will often come to fruition years after improvements are made. Playing the long game and investing in timeless quality will often pay off in the long run, while helping to create a space that is more functional and enjoyable for the immediate future. In our case, the renovation of the last untouched interior space in our home will create a far more usable space that we’ll be able to enjoy immediately. We’ll be keeping all of these factors in mind as we make decisions on everything from whether or not we’ll spring for heated floors to selecting the appropriate vanity for the space.

Once our renovation is complete, we think it will be fun to bring in a real estate expert to gather information on how our investments have paid off! (Side note: Did you know that has a database where you can view the value of your home based on where you live and comparable public records?) Check back for the second part of our renovation adventure where we’ll share the results of our renovation and see how well we fared in maximizing our ROI!

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Kim and Scott Vargo are the muscle behind the blog Yellow Brick Home. Together with their two rescue pitties and a silly, cranky feline, the team is DIY-ing their way through their 130-year-old house, taking down walls, building them back up and nurturing back the character that was so rudely taken away over time. They share their story with an honest rapport, encouraging friendly feedback and discussion from readers around the world. Follow their adventures at, or on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.

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