Travel Inspires a Small Bathroom Remodel in Washington DC

An interior designer’s bathroom cost $23,000, featuring a new shower and a special black and white floor tile

white square shower tile with wall mount faucet
  • Homeowner: Interior designer Chelsea Albright posted her small bathroom remodel in Washington DC on Sweeten
  • Where: The Kalorama neighborhood
  • Primary renovation: Remodel the bath in a 550-square-foot unit, replacing the old tub with a modern, glass-enclosed shower
  • With: Sweeten general contractor in DC
  • Homeowner’s quote:We were in a pinch regarding the timing of our renovation—every other contractor was busy during the timeframe when we needed the project to happen,” said Chelsea. “I felt confident in our choice thanks to Sweeten having already vetted this contractor.”

Written in partnership with homeowner Chelsea. “After” photos by Tyler Hooks for Laura Metzler Photography.

Bringing boutique style to a bathroom

Our condominium in the Historic Kalorama neighborhood is in an old hotel, built in the 1920s. There was a vision for this small bathroom remodel in Washington DC: to make it feel like a hotel bathroom. We love staying in boutique hotels and have been gathering inspiration from our travels for awhile. We wanted something that felt dimensional.

Portrait of interior designer for a bathroom remodel in Washington DC

The fixtures and other features of the bathroom were worn down; it felt ready for an upgrade. A renovation by the previous owners had been poorly done—the tile was incomplete, the toilet was mounted improperly, the flooring wasn’t level and the fixture finishes didn’t match. We wanted it to feel luxurious and new.

a photo of a bathroom before a remodel in Washington DC
small bathroom remodel washington dc with plum walls, wall mount faucet and white square tile

I am the principal interior designer at Places Studio. I live with Corey, my spouse, and Milo, our child, in the 550-square-foot one-bedroom, one-bath unit. Since moving in, the bathroom was the one space we hadn’t yet renovated.

Finding the right contractor in the nick of time

I was excited to use Sweeten’s remodeling services for the first time after meeting the team at a trade show in New York. We were in a pinch regarding the timing of our renovation—every other contractor was busy during the timeframe when we needed the project to happen. After posting the project on Sweeten, I got connected with our contractor right away. We reviewed our quote through the platform and the G.C. was able to get us on the calendar quickly. I felt confident in our choice thanks to Sweeten having already vetted this general contractor in DC.

small bathroom remodel washington dc with black and white Moroccan floor tile

Plans for our small bathroom remodel in Washington DC

Our goal was to make the space feel bigger and more open by replacing the bathtub with a tile-and-glass shower. Hallelujah! I am just not a tub person. We otherwise planned to maintain the layout, but to change the current swing door to a pocket door to gain space. More than anything, we felt excited about getting rid of the shower curtain.

I had some contractor questions but, as a designer and an experienced renovator, I mostly wanted to be clear on how the construction team was going to work in and around the space, and how our personal items would be protected during construction. The biggest challenge for us would be having to move out during the project, and for the contractors, it would be just navigating a renovation in the small space.

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"Our contractor was amazing and we worked well together to solve problems as they arose."

Nostalgic touch: patterned black-and-white shower tile

We got started choosing materials, which needed to arrive before construction started. The most notable pick was the concrete black-and-white tile for the floor, which has a sentimental association for us. When we got married, we stayed in an historic home in the heart of Panama City’s Casco Viejo. This pattern was on the floors and was something we’d wanted to use.

We decided on a white Zellige tile to line the shower walls, and we extended it out into the main space on the lower half of the wall so we would have tile behind our toilet and sink. It was a perfect opportunity to double it up as a sink backsplash, and we decided to do a wall-mounted sink faucet to call attention to it.

small bathroom remodel in Washington DC with white sink bowl and black wall mount faucet

I remember that tile delivery arriving. We were literally hiding tile boxes in every nook and cranny around the apartment so they weren’t in the way. Installed, the tile brings back memories of our wedding for me. Once it was finished, it was so cool to see how it transformed the space. Sometimes a sample piece of tile just doesn’t do it justice.

A snafu leads to a perfect accent finish

Our contractor was amazing and we worked well together to solve problems as they arose. Being a designer, I was able to tap into my sources when we needed to get missing items quickly. When we made a mistake and needed to locate and buy the schluter—or edging—midway into the job, our Sweeten contractor and I worked together to find the dream finish—brass!—in stock. It was a miracle but we kept our schedule.

Throughout the bathroom, we mixed two metal finishes, that brass and matte black. The shower and sink faucet are in black and the light fixture, towel bars and our tile edge is in brass. While we love a modern style, the black and white tile is already bold—it needs a warm accent to add character and balance out the graphic tile. We went with a dark plum paint color to add depth to the mostly white tiled room.

Our cost to remodel a small bathroom in Washington DC

In the end, we did not stay within our bathroom renovation budget. The contractor’s renovation quote was for $13,000 and we ended up spending $17,000, due to a few unforeseen electrical items. We also spent about $6,000 in material costs outside of the contractor’s price, so the total was approximately $23,000, while we had budgeted $20,000.

Despite the extra expense, our contractor was transparent throughout the process, so we felt comfortable with our overall costs. 

bathroom with plum walls, brass hardware, and white square tile
white square bathroom shower tile with black shower fixtures

Designer tip: Pad the schedule

My biggest tip for other renovators is to budget an extra week or two into your job, because it’s hard to avoid shifts in your schedule. Even being extremely prepared, we had some problems that added a few days here and there throughout the project. Leaving a little buffer helps you guarantee the project will be finished well. Being adaptable when things change also goes a long way. And we love our new bathroom. It feels luxurious, clean, and spacious. Just like one at a cool hotel.

Thank you, Chelsea and Corey, for sharing your new bathroom with us!

When you’re ready to get started on your bathroom or home remodel, work with Sweeten to renovate with the best contractors.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

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