Budget-friendly bathroom updates

Updating your bathroom doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Emmy-winning lifestyle host and best-selling author Christopher Lowell offers us tips on how to update your bathroom into a spa-like oasis while also staying within the confines of your budget.

Gray painted bathroom


“Painting is the cheapest way to transform any room. When picking a color scheme, think ‘Spa,'” says Lowell. “Deep putty or sand colored walls and creamy linen cloth trim and perhaps a pale warm flannel grey ceiling.

The walls aren’t the only thing that you can paint; everything from the cabinets to the flooring can be painted. “If you have an old dark wood sink cabinet, paint it either the same color as the trim or try the new gunmetal paints that will give them a deep metallic finish. If you don’t actually need pulls or handles to open doors or drawers, I suggest leaving old fixtures off and keep the cabinets clean as possible. If floors are wood or old peel-and-stick vinyl, they can be painted too after priming. A deep slate grey or chocolate brown in a semi gloss with white terry or siècle throws can be chic.”


Organizing your bathroom is practical and stylish too. For small rooms, try to use as much of your vertical space as possible.

“If your bathroom is space challenged, add a wood shelf (painted the same color as your trim) about 15 inches from the ceiling all around the room,” Lowell suggests. “Then get several (all the same) decorative wicker baskets and fill with all the supplies you use once a week or less often. Between the baskets you can fold and neatly stack white terrycloth towels. These overhead spaces are ideal for freeing up those crammed cabinets while also adding architecture and texture to a small space.”


Lighting sets the mood in every room. You want your bathroom to be an inviting oasis, not cold and sterile.

“If you have the old white glass overhead light fixture that makes your bathroom look like a coldwater flat, remove the fixture and replace with track lighting on a dimmer switch,” Lowell suggests. “Arcs of light on newly painted walls can be sexy and inviting for utilitarian spaces.”


Mirrors can make even the smallest bathroom look larger.

“If you have a small mirror over your sink or one that only goes partially up the wall, replace it with a large oversized decorative floor mirror in a nice frame,” Lowell advises. “Hang your new mirror vertically over the sink basins — the bigger the better. The mirror will reflect and open up the room, and the molding on the frame will add architecture to the space.”


When it comes to your bathroom accessories, think texture not pattern. “If you had bath mats and towels that were specific décor colors or had fussy trims on them, replace all fabrics with white terry cloth,” says Lowell. “Terrycloth is a universal symbol of ‘spa’ and lends a fresh, texture to our bathrooms today. So don’t be afraid to merchandise with what was once behind closet doors.”

More home ideas

Choosing a color palette for your living room
5 Decorating ideas for small bathrooms
Decorating Diva:  7 ways to customize a rental


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