Ashley Trudeau is a San Francisco–based blogger who writes about interior design and home décor. She grew up around her mother’s interior design business and retail shop and moonlights as an interior decorator when she isn’t working as a lawyer. Ashley has redesigned and redecorated several flats in the Bay Area and has a line of pillows she makes by hand in her Bernal Heights kitchen. She’s an ardent lover of interiors and all things décor.
Renovating is the perfect opportunity to make all of your design dreams come true. However, the truth is that most of us are on a budget, and that means compromises will have to be made. The bathroom is one of the most expensive rooms to renovate in any home, but you can still create a gorgeous salle de bain, even if your budget isn’t sky-high. Here are some tips for creating a beautiful bathroom on a budget!
Relocating plumbing fixtures can be expensive, especially if you’re moving them to another wall. They seem like they’re just various water pipes, but each one serves a different purpose. Moving each plumbing line can cost a few thousand dollars, so if you want to move your sink, tub, or toilet, you could be looking at $15,000 or more in bills.
If that’s not in the budget, keep the big stuff where it is. In addition to having to relocate the pipes, you may have to move existing pieces that you want to hang onto. In one of my bathrooms, we have an amazing cast-iron tub original to our 1890s home that we would have been crazy to get rid of. Moving it across the room, however, would have taken the strength of 20 people. Okay, maybe not 20, but it would have been a pretty big (read: expensive) hassle—so we left it where it was.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the pieces you have in your home may be custom, especially if your place is older. Finding a tub to fit would have been quite a challenge, so we had to reconsider our grand plans.
At some point, you will have a reality check and realize that you need to work with what you’ve got—but this isn’t necessarily a negative. It’s an opportunity to get creative and think of ways to save and reuse existing pieces. Remember that cast-iron tub I was talking about? I didn’t mention that it had seen better days. Despite that, I still wanted to keep it because it added so much character to the house. I did some research and found that reglazing cast-iron tubs is actually really easy—and totally affordable. A coat of bright white glaze turned out to be a great way to preserve a charming piece of our home while bringing it into the 21st century.
As with any room, you have to consider how you’ll actually live in the space. You may have your heart set on a built-in vanity, but think about how you actually get ready to leave the house. Do you keep your makeup routine to a minimum? Do you prefer to stand when applying your makeup? If the answer is yes, you may not use that vanity very often, and that money could be better spent on something more practical, like additional custom storage. On the other hand, if you currently spend a fair amount of time getting ready and your existing bathroom space is cramped, incorporating that vanity will save you time and make you happier every day, so go for it!
If you’re on a budget, you may not be able to afford those custom cabinets or hand-painted tiles. Instead, focus on finishes and splurge on the tactile pieces you’ll interact with on a daily basis. Flimsy finishes will cheapen even the nicest floors and furnishings, while higher-end finishes will draw out the best qualities in thrifty pieces. If you find a faucet that you truly love, or unique hardware that will make your stock cabinets stand out, spend your money there.
Make sure you know what work you have to do. Any project that involves the “guts” of a home can fall victim to expensive surprises that quickly eat up your budget. You may have planned to invest in a new walk-in shower, but when you rip out the floor tiles, you could find water damage that will be costly to repair. Get this stuff out of the way so you know what your real budget looks like.
While you’re at it, make sure you have a backup plan in case you have to make quick decisions. Always have a suitable alternative to a pricier item that may end up being out of reach. This will ensure that you avoid making hasty decisions that you’ll regret, and that will be expensive to fix later on. It will also help you stay on-schedule—another key to staying on-budget.
Don’t be afraid to embellish with beautiful accents. In a bathroom, editing is key because it has to be cleaned more often than any other room—but this doesn’t mean it has to be a clinical space. Add a plant, a cool soap dispenser, a nice shower curtain, gorgeous towels, and a beautiful rug. Nobody will think anything of the classic hex tile you chose for the floor when they’re staring at your gorgeous vintage rug.
Share your favorite budget-friendly ways to update your bathroom!