Decorating a Bathroom on a Budget

Bathrooms can be pricey. But you can get an elegant, enviable look for less. Here are some smart tips for decorating a bathroom on a budget.


Budget Idea No. 1: Paint

It's amazing what a new coat of paint can do to upgrade a bathroom. For the walls and ceiling, you'll want to invest in mildew- and mold-proof primers and paint, which are slightly more expensive than basic formulas, but you won't need more than a gallon to cover an average-size bathroom. And the extra cost builds in extra protection for moisture-prone bathrooms. Cover any dingy surfaces, including baseboard molding, window trim, and scuffed cabinetry. Finally, consider updating timeworn fixtures with paint. By using the right product, you can give old ceramic tile a new look, refresh a metal medicine cabinet, or refinish a cast-iron tub (though you'll want to consult a professional for this job). Use frosted-glass-effect spray paint to add privacy to your windows or a decorative motif to your glass shower enclosure. Even floors can be updated with paint: You can stencil a pattern on vinyl flooring as long as you rough up the surface first and seal it when you're finished.

Budget Idea No. 2: Shiny, New Hardware

There is a lot of hardware in a bathroom, including cabinet knobs, towel bars, sink faucets, and toilet flush handles. Devote a portion of your budget to upgrading these items. New hardware can add showroom-quality shine and sparkle to the bath. You can banish dated decor simply by switching yellow brass out for oil-rubbed bronze. And you can upgrade the look, feel, and function of the fixtures when you change out builder basics for pieces with more heft, style, and personality. The same way jewelry dresses up an outfit, these items elevate an ordinary space into something special.

Budget Idea No. 3: Wallet-Wise White

To curb expenses in a bathroom redo, avoid the rainbow and stick to the clouds. Basic white fixtures, such as toilets, tubs, and sinks, are plentiful at the low end of the price spectrum and are easy to live with. You can save a bundle by also choosing white tile for the floor, tub surround, or backsplash. This doesn't mean the room has to be dull, however. If you stick to plain white field tile, you might be able to splurge on a glass mosaic border, for example. To enliven the one-color backdrop, choose affordable accents, such as bright towels, colorful window shades, bold artwork, and fresh wall paint.

Budget Idea No. 4: Invest in Lighting

An underappreciated way to get a rich look in your bathroom is to change the lighting—both the fixtures themselves and the placement. And these switches don't have to be expensive. Hanging a small chandelier with crystal drops over the vanity can be dressy and sophisticated. Replacing harsh bulb strips around the mirror with sleek sconces is an immediate update. And inserting can lights in the ceiling that you can dim with a controllable switch creates a feeling of tranquility for those long soaks in the tub.

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