Carrara marble taste, contact paper budget.. 😉
Last week I shared the first step in our budget guest bath makeover — our exciting (albeit slightly ill-advised) spray-paint shower transformation!
Once the shower and floors were absolved of sin, it was time to address the next thing I wanted to turn white: the hulking wooden vanity that had been built against the wall:
This all-wood contraption was a bit of a head-scratcher from day one and, ironically, I’m inclined to believe that this vanity was itself once the product of a DIY budget bathroom makeover waged by the previous owners of our home.
On one hand, as someone who has dabbled in DIY carpentry (lol jk), I feel qualified to give credit where credit is due, and applaud a job very well done: the construction was well-executed, and this thing is solid as a rock.
I also can’t deny the stunning aesthetic foresight that motivated the previous owners to pick such an awesome vessel sink and pair it with the most beautiful brushed nickel faucet.
On the other hand, I’m left with so many questions.. mainly: why, for the LOVE OF GOD WHY, did they pair grey grout and brown tile?! (These are the questions I try to reconcile as I toss and turn on sleepless nights).
My original plan was to keep the existing vanity configuration, but remove the large door on the wall cabinet, turning it into open shelving. Then I wanted to chip away the hideous backsplash tile, sand down the wood, and give the whole unit a fresh coat of glossy white paint.
Step one: I put R in charge of backsplash removal. Using the same putty knife and hammer method that we had employed when tackling our kitchen backsplash removal, he was able to effortlessly knock away the tile along the sheetrock. His luck changed when he got to the tile that had been set over the wooden cabinet.
After about twenty minutes of chipping in vain (during which a grand total of 2.75 mini tiles were removed), the project escalated from “annoying but possible,” straight to “abort mission” status, and it was time for a Plan B. That Plan B, it turns out, involved power tools.
Using words of encouragement like “just trust me” and “it’ll open up the room!” R convinced me that we needed to remove the entire upper cabinet. Then, armed with an impact driver and the evil gleam of deconstruction in his eyes, he disappeared into the bathroom.
I was wary at first (all that lost storage space!), but when I saw the results, I realized he had made the right call:
It made the room feel instantly bigger and brighter, and that continued to improve when I applied the first coat of white paint to the remaining section of under-cabinets.
With the upper cabinet and brown tile backsplash out of the way, we had a lot of torn up sheetrock to contend with. We also had some leftover subway tile and supplies from our kitchen backsplash. Lightbulbs went off, and we threw down a quickie tile backsplash.
Another light bulb went off when I found a roll of marble-patterend contact paper at Lowes, and I hatched a scheme… a crazy, crazy scheme…
Rather than just painting the top surface of the wooden vanity white to go along with the drawers, we decided to cover it with this contact paper. Seems a little crazy, right?
So crazy, it just might work…
First I prepped the vanity by sanding down the wood and smoothing out any rough spots.
Since seams were inevitable, I decided to start at the wall and work my way outwards, towards the edge of the vanity. I unrolled the contact paper and measured how much I would need for the first segment (starting on the righthand side of the vanity), then I cut.
To apply, I carefully peeled back the first few inches of backing and lined the contact paper up with the walls at the corner of my vanity. Then I slowly pressed the sticky side down onto the surface, ensuring my alignment remained kosher as I did so.
I kept the backing underneath the paper and work outwards, peeling and pressing a few inches at a time. I’d press in the center first, then work my way out to the edges to eliminate any air bubbles with a dry sponge (just what I happened to have on hand at the time.. you could also use a foam squeegee).
The paper I used was quite forgiving in the few instances where I had to carefully peel it up and re-position it slightly, but I tried to avoid that by going slow and checking my alignment frequently.
When I got to the edge of the vanity top, I pulled the paper taught and wrapped it snugly around, then pressed it firmly against the underside of the “countertop.”
To work around the sink, I used the same method that I had used for wallpapering around a door — I measured out the sink on the contact paper and made a few tentative cuts, leaving the excess paper behind. When I applied the paper, I then used a straight-edge and razor to press the paper precisely along the sink and cut away the excess.
To give the finished product a more polished look, I later went in and applied a thin line of caulk around the sink. And, after a couple of coats of glossy white on the cabinets below, we had the perfect compliment to our faux carrara marble “countertop.”
So what’s the deal with contact paper countertops, and is this actually a good idea? Well…
This is an incredibly easy, incredibly cheap solution (the liner paper was less than $10, and we didn’t even use an entire roll). I found the paper very easy to work with, and I’m over the moon with the results.
I was also impressed with the quality and durability of the paper. Though it’s quite thin, the satiny finish has an almost “vinyl” quality that makes it (relatively) water-resistant and smooth to the touch. The seams are visible up close, but not overly obvious (the pattern is surprisingly forgiving). We haven’t had any issues with the seams popping up, either.
Overall, the paper was perfect for what we set out to accomplish: a quick and easy transformation to tide us over until we could do a proper renovation. This stuff would also do wonders in a rental property (think: chic marble countertops in an apartment bathroom! transformed kitchen counters!)
Have you ever experimented with contact paper countertops? If so, how’d they hold up to long-term abuse?