Create That Spa Feeling at Home with a Budget Bathroom Makeover

A new vanity in a bathroom.
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A bathroom renovation would sure be nice after all these months at home. But unless you’ve got a spare $8,000 (at least) lying around, a gleaming, newly tiled shower with a luxury spa-grade rainfall shower head will just have to wait.

But don’t go crying into your threadbare bath towels just yet. There are ways to pull off a budget bathroom makeover, creating a refreshed look without draining your savings.

“Changing out your linens is one of the least expensive things to do that makes a big difference,” said Sarah Shields, an interior designer in Arizona.

Here are some basic steps that provide a luxurious platform:

  • A new set of bath towels, hand towels and washcloths. White is bright and can stay bright by washing with bleach.
  • A soft, fresh robe is a touch of luxury.
  • Hang a hook for that special robe so you always have a place to keep it clean and dry.
  • A “squishy” bath mat gives you a little extra foot comfort when you step out of the shower or brush your teeth. Spring for one with “Memory Foam.”
  • Keep essentials close at hand in attractive containers instead of crammed in a drawer in their original boxes. You can buy decorative boxes for a few dollars each from dollar stores. Or try washing out a few mustard jars for a matching set of three glass containers to hold cotton balls, Q-tips and flossing picks.
  • A candle on the counter or back of the toilet with boxed matches.

Create More Space

Create more counter space by organizing drawers and cabinets to hold more clutter.

“The visual clutter takes a toll on us and impacts us emotionally even without knowing it,” said Allison Marshall, a certified professional organizer, and founder of simplyinspiredspaces.com.

But many of us dread the task of organizing their bathroom. Marshall breaks the task into a few steps.

  1. Pull it all out

“The first thing is to pull everything out and put it into categories,” Marshall said. “Teeth stuff, hair stuff, skin care, makeup.” Then go through each of those piles and decide what you really use.

  1. Purge

Have a bag for trash and a bag for give-away at your side. If there’s a lipstick or tanning lotion you paid good money for but found you hate the color, put the purchase behind you and get rid of it, Marshall said.

  1. Pack it in containers

“Once you get it sorted, the containers are the last step,” she said. There are inexpensive plastic baskets and boxes found at dollar stores and Target and Walmart. But you can skip that step and use shoe boxes you cut down to fit your drawers or empty plastic food containers from your kitchen.

Freshen the Tile and Vanity

Two newly renovated bathroom vanities.
Vanities including sinks start at around $95 at Home Depot and Lowe’s. Bathroom faucets start at around $40. Photo courtesy of Allison Marshall

A spruced-up bathroom requires a small investment that more than pays for itself when the home sells, said Judy Anderson, a real estate agent with Re/Max Action First in St. Petersburg, Fla.

“For older bathrooms, I always suggest getting a stand-alone credenza with a sink from one of the big-box home improvement stores,” she said.

Vanities including sinks start at around $95 at Home Depot and Lowe’s. Bathroom faucets start at around $40.

“Chipped, faded or dated tile doesn’t have to be replaced — it can be reglazed,” Anderson said.

Prices vary, of course, but calls tubs can start around $250. Reglazing the tile around a tub is another $300. If the existing tile is white or bone, you can pick any color for the new glaze.

Pay Attention to Special Touches

A bathroom can give you a relaxing feeling as well as make you smile.

“I like subtle things that show a sense of humor when you walk in. I have a little figurine of someone who is actually flashing you in one of my planters. It’s a quarter of an inch tall,” said Shields, the Arizona designer. “You should have things that make you smile.”

She likes Society6.com for fun shower curtains and complementary accessories at good prices.

Shields is also a fan of light shelves, a simple piece of wood hanging in front of a window.  If you fill it with small items, they don’t block light from outside and actually bounce light onto the ceiling and back down.

“In a bathroom a light shelf can hold extra self-care items such as candles, a diffuser, or beautiful bath soaps in a glass jar.”

Katherine Snow Smith is a freelance editor and reporter in St. Petersburg, Fla., and author of Rules for the Southern Rulebreaker: Missteps & Lessons Learned.