I recently came out of a gut bathroom renovation on a major budget. I'm talking replacing everything from the studs in the walls to the tile in the shower. Keeping the renovation affordable was a challenge, but I'm so happy to be showering in my dream bathroom now! (See also: 9 Ways to Make Your Kitchen Look Awesome for Under $100)
Even if you're not renovating the entire room, there are ways to perk up the look of your bathroom on a shoestring. Check out these tips on making your bathroom look awesome for under $100.
Go Bold on the Walls
A bathroom is such a small space that you can experiment with bold color and pattern without too much risk. So choose a vibrant color, a fun stencil or wallpaper, and let your imagination run wild!
If you're a renter, you can do a lot with removable wallpaper or peel-and-stick wall decals, which can be a great affordable and temporary solution in a small area.
Hang Some Art
The bathroom is so often neglected when it comes to wall decor. Hang a large scale photo or picture to bring in some life and color to the room, and to make the bathroom a nicer place to hang out. Just avoid hanging original art or an expensive print, as the humidity can eventually damage the piece.
Raise the Bar
The shower bar, that is. Buying an extra long shower curtain and moving the shower curtain rod up several inches can give the illusion of higher ceilings and more space. Also, if the shower tile isn't your favorite, moving the shower curtain up higher can help to hide it. If you don't want to buy a new shower curtain, sewing a coordinating band of fabric to the bottom of your standard shower curtain will make it longer (and more unique).
Having a place for everything makes your bathroom more functional and more attractive. If your bathroom lacks hidden storage, considering adding your own. A few suggestions include:
1. Add a Shallow Cabinet or Shelves Over the Toilet
This "dead space" can be put to use with a few inexpensive shelves from the hardware store or even a wall-mounted cabinet.
2. Bring in a Bookcase, Cabinet, or Small Dresser
While you might not initially think to bring a piece of furniture into the bathroom, doing so can both increase functionality and make the bathroom look less utilitarian.
3. Optimize Storage With Cabinet Organizers
Buying an under-sink storage system can make the best use of your vanity storage space, reducing clutter in other areas of the bathroom.
4. Corral Clutter in Trays and Baskets
If you must have toiletries on the countertop, keep them contained using a tray or basket, thereby keeping the rest of the counter tidy. Using a wall-mounted rail storage system, like the IKEA Fintorp line, can also keep clutter off the counter.
Investing in a set of coordinated textiles can make your bathroom look much more pulled together. If your towels are mismatched and getting a little ratty, consider buying a new set that coordinates or complements the colors in a statement shower curtain. Add a fluffy coordinated bath rug.
I also really like the Turkish-inspired hand towels that have become very trendy. They allow you to bring in some graphic stripes and color without screaming overly "bathroom."
Replace an old dated faucet with something more modern, or a garish light with a more elegant light fixture. Small updated details can add up to a big impact.
One way to diminish the utilitarian feeling of the bathroom is to bring in accessories. Just be careful to limit them to avoid clutter. A plant, a pretty vase, a stool or chair, and other decorative accessories can bring in color and make your bathroom look more luxurious.
If you're willing to do a little grunt work, tiling can be remarkably inexpensive. For under $100, you can get a bag of mortar, grout, and enough porcelain tile to refinish the floor, shower, or add an attractive backsplash. Your local hardware store probably carries easy-to-lay 12" x 12" or 12" x 24" porcelain tile at less than $1 or $2 a square foot, making a small bathroom floor doable for under $100. Rip up that old vinyl floor and put in a durable and updated tile floor to upgrade the look and value of your bathroom. Tutorials on how to tile abound on the Internet and are totally free!
Frame Out Your Mirror
If you have a large sheet mirror in your bathroom, you can make it look a lot more custom by framing it out with molding. This can be a super cheap DIY (this great mirror frame cost under $30, and this larger mirror under $40), especially if you use salvaged molding!
Add Architectural Wall Features
Adding a wall feature such as board and batten or a beadboard half-wall can take your bathroom from builder-basic to custom. Here's a tutorial to do your own board and batten — it can be very affordable especially if you use MDF boards. Buying wood beadboard can be a bit more expensive; luckily beadboard wallpaper is very affordable (and here's a great step-by-step beadboard wallpaper tutorial) and looks just like the real thing. Top it off with a chair rail or molding.
Paint the Vanity
A dated builder-grade wood vanity can look much more updated and chic with new paint and hardware (I don't recommend painting the vanity if it is laminate). Consider painting it a sophisticated shade such as gray, charcoal, or black, or opt for a fun pop of color. Remember to clean the vanity thoroughly, sand lightly, and apply a good primer before painting. I'd suggest an alkyd paint (such as the Benjamin Moore Advance Line) for a hard and durable finish. A quart of paint and primer won't set you back much, and the results can be amazing.
If you want to keep the wood grain, a gel stain can be another way to update the finish on a wood vanity without having to sand down the entire thing.
Finally, choosing some chic hardware to dress up your newly painted vanity puts the finishing touch on your project.
Shop for Salvage
If you have a Habitat for Humanity Restore in your neighborhood and haven't paid it a visit yet, make it your next priority. This is the best place to find gently used furniture, cabinets, fixtures, and hardware at bargain prices. For instance, I got the gorgeous floor model light fixture in our bathroom for $40 at the Restore, something that would have cost over $100 new.
On recent visits to the Restore I've seen a pedestal sink, remnant slabs of granite, boxes of tile, mis-tinted paint, faucets and shower fixtures,and a variety of light fixtures, each for under $100. It can be hit-or-miss depending on what you're looking for, but every once in a while you can strike gold.
If you don't have a Restore near you look for architectural salvage stores, junk stores, and thrift stores, as well as good old Craigslist. I bought a new granite vanity countertop off Craigslist for $90 — someone who was renovating decided not to use it and wanted to get rid of it, and it happened to fit the dimensions of my vanity perfectly.