You probably don't live in Trump Towers, and even if you did, the Nate Berkus-esque expert you hire would still need a spending limit for redecorating your abode. Everyone has a budget. The trick is learning how to live (and redecorate) within it.
The good news is that even though you don't have a Donald-sized bank account, you can still decorate like a diva. It just takes a little DIY. And the bathroom is an ideal place to start. The square footage is minimal, the room already has a clearly defined purpose and the entire redo can be accomplished on a budget of a few hundred dollars instead of the few thousand that larger, furniture-filled living rooms or hardware-happy kitchens require. Better still, you can usually revamp your bathroom in a weekend -- and you may want to use some of our favorite ideas on the following pages for inspiration.
Make Surfaces Sing
If you've dreamed, but not yet dared, to make really bold decorating choices (like painting your living room walls chartreuse), it's time to make your move. Mon petit washroom awaits your wildest wishes. Because of its minimal square footage, a bathroom can handle colors and textures that would overwhelm larger spaces.
Even if you splurge on a gallon of high-end, mildew-inhibiting paint, it will only cost about $25 and it will cover about 350 square feet, which is more than enough paint for most bathrooms [source: Hamilton]. Top off freshly coated walls with vinyl wall stickers featuring you favorite shapes or inspirational sayings, which can be as quirky ("get naked") or as sophisticated (geometric, abstract bamboo) as you'd like. You can use these types of decals on unexpected surfaces, too, such as the tub or toilet. These vinyl stickers cost $10 or more, and can be purchased at home décor and improvement stores and from independent online retailers like those at Etsy, which will often accommodate custom requests at no extra charge.
Take your bathroom's ceiling from white to wow by continuing the wall color onto this often-overlooked fifth wall [source: Daniel]. If you're feeling adventurous, for about $10 you can apply a roll of textured and paintable wallpaper to the ceiling and then paint it to look like an antique tin ceiling. For a modern look, opt for textured wallpaper featuring an abstract design or apply a vinyl mural. You'll want to pat yourself on the back every time to look up while lounging in the tub.
Shower It with Details
A shower curtain is to your bathroom what a fireplace is to your living room: It's the center of attention, so make it count. Start by replacing the straight-as-an-arrow bar that holds the shower curtain for a chrome, brushed nickel or oiled copper convex shower curtain rod. It doesn't take up more space that the traditional version, but seems to add miles of elbow room from inside the shower [source: Apartment Therapy].
If your bathroom has a high ceiling, play it up by placing the bar higher up on the wall. You can always glue or sew coordinating fabric to the bottom of a shower curtain to accommodate the new height. In fact, adding a few DIY details like ready-made ruffled fabric or beaded trim to a standard (read: inexpensive) cotton shower curtain is a great way to get an Anthropologie look on an Old Navy budget [source: House and Home].
If you're feeling really creative, you could make a shower curtain out of two (or more) terrycloth bath sheets. Bath sheets are typically 72 inches (1.8 meters) in length, which is conveniently the same length as a standard shower curtain, so you won't need to hem them. It only takes a few minutes (and a few dollars) to install grommets in the towels' edges and hang them using curtain rings [source: Martha Stewart]. You could do the same to create an inexpensive window treatment. The terrycloth is cozy, plush, easy to clean and -- if you decide to stencil it with fabric paint -- a design all your own.
Update the look of your bathroom by replacing your bathroom sink hardware with a larger version normally used in a kitchen. The swap will give the room a high-end appeal on a low-end budget [source: Ahern].
Go big with the mirror over the bathroom's vanity. Give it a custom look (on the cheap) by having your local home improvement store or glass specialist cut a mirror to fit a vintage (read: thrift store or garage sale) frame. You can make smaller mirrors into elegant toiletry trays by backing them with felt, too [source: O'Hea].
If your tub and tile are looking forlorn, it may pay to call in an expert to reglaze them. The multistep process involves sanding and applying a special paint that can bring timeworn products back to life, but is probably best left to the experts -- or a friend who has done it before with good results and can offer advice. Search the Web for detailed DIY instructions before you start. You can give the job a twist by using colored paint instead of standard white [source: Better Homes and Gardens]. The money you save by refreshing your bathroom's existing items may be just as thrilling as the outcome.
Make It Eclectic, Not Cluttered
It's a good idea to see double when you decorate your bathroom, especially if you're doing it on the cheap. Every storage item you select should, if at all possible, perform double-duty by also being decorative. Boxy knick-knack shelves or hinged shadowboxes can fill wall space while adding extra storage capacity. Or, by gluing a glass candlestick between a dinner plate on the bottom and a salad plate on the top, in just a few minutes you'll create an attractive way to store small accessories like nail polish or lotions [source: Better Homes and Gardens].
If your bathroom is spacious enough for a chair, you can add a custom one without spending a fortune. A dining chair discovered at a thrift store can be repainted and the seat can be upholstered with a piece of a high thread-count towel that will perfectly match your bathroom décor [source: House to Home]. If you don't have a convenient storage closet, store your towels by rolling them and placing them in a basket or bin near the bathtub. Washcloths and handtowels can be rolled, too, and collected in a decorative stone planter or other unexpected receptacle that doesn't come with a hefty price tag [source: Better Homes and Gardens].
Less Equals More (Style)
There's a reason high-end hotel rooms and spas are so relaxing, and we aren't even referring to the absence of roaring bosses and demanding children. These spaces-turned-oases give you room to breathe.
They're uncluttered, for starters, and (not coincidentally) they smell really, really good. You can get the same effect without taking out a loan or hocking your jewelry by doing two simple things: Store toiletries out of sight and stick to a monochromatic scheme. Editing the space and limiting the colors will be soothing. Plus, the total effect can make a room seem larger, which can be especially pleasing when it comes to small bathrooms.
Finish the look with a few strategically placed candles and bath salts infused with your essential oil of choice. Essential oils are very strong, so those tiny bottles will go a long way. For a spalike touch, mist a linen spray on bath towels [source: Terry]. DIY Web sites have easy recipes for making your own -- they're really just essential oils, alcohol and water. Alternately, if you have an out-of-control herb garden or leftovers from cooking, a bundle of thyme or rosemary sprigs tied with pretty ribbon or simple twine could make for a pretty sight and scent. The most relaxing part of all may be that this bathroom facelift didn't cost you a fortune.
Dollar stores — where most items cost just a buck — always seem to make money. HowStuffWorks finds out how they do it.
- Ahern, Abigail. "Install a New Faucet." CountryLiving.com. (Oct. 9, 2011) http://www.countryliving.com/homes/how-to-get-the-look/budget-decorating-makeover-0109
- Apartment Therapy. "Is Installing this New Shower Rod a Good Idea?" (Oct. 9, 2011) http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/ny/faucets-hardware-kitchen-bath/ny-good-questions-is-installing-this-new-shower-rod-a-good-idea-047701
- Better Homes and Gardens. "30 Ways to Store More in Your Bath." (Oct. 9, 2011) http://www.bhg.com/bathroom/storage/storage-solutions/store-more-in-your-bathroom/#page=7
- Better Homes and Gardens. "Low-Cost Bathroom Updates." (Oct. 9, 2011) http://www.bhg.com/bathroom/remodeling/projects/quick-bathroom-updates/#page=4
- Better Homes and Gardens. "Real-Home Makeover: Bathroom on a Budget." (Oct. 9, 2011) http://www.bhg.com/bathroom/remodeling/makeover/budget-bathroom-makeover/#page=9
- Daniel, Alice. "Chic, Cheap Bathroom Makeover." HGTV.com. (Oct. 9, 2011) http://www.hgtv.com/bathrooms/chic-cheap-bathroom-makeover/index.html
- Hamilton, Gene. "Estimating How Much Paint to Buy." Dummies.com. (Oct. 9, 2011) http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/estimating-how-much-paint-to-buy.html
- House and Home. "DIY Ruffled Shower Curtain." (Oct. 9, 2011) http://houseandhome.com/design/diy-ruffled-shower-curtain
- House To Home. "9 Steps to a Sophisticated Bathroom." (Oct. 9. 2011) http://www.housetohome.co.uk/room-idea/picture/create-a-sophisticated-bathroom-in-9-steps/7
- Martha Stewart. "Terry-Cloth Shower Curtain." (Oct. 9, 2011) http://www.marthastewart.com/275735/good-things-for-the-bathroom/@center/277006/bedroom-and-bathroom-decorating#/273132
- O'Hea, Jonathan. "Make a Tray." CountryLiving.com. (Oct. 9, 2011) http://www.countryliving.com/homes/how-to-get-the-look/budget-decorating-makeover-0109
- Terry, Mindy. "Decorating Ideas: Turn Your Bathroom into an Oasis of Calm." Spa Magazine. (Oct. 9, 2011) http://www.spamagazine.com/articles/healthy-living/how-turn-your-bathroom-oasis-calm