Decorating Bathrooms on a Budget

by Erin Ingram with Sharon O'Neill


If you are like most of us, your bathroom gets to look shabby pretty quickly. Constant use and cleaning can really take its toll on this very important and most frequently visited room. Unfortunately, not many of us can easily afford to redecorate whenever a room gets dingy or boring to us, so making decisions you love and can live with is very important.

Luckily, one of the easiest rooms in the house to decorate cheaply is the bathroom! Because it is visited constantly by family and visitors alike, we have to rely on our creativity to keep things looking fresh and presentable.

Depending on your decor, personality and the function of each bathroom, possibilities are endless. The central bath is usually coordinated with the rest of the home's decor and is generally more formal, while a master bath or kids' bath is coordinated with the attached bedroom and is a great place to try out your decorating skills.

First, the walls. A fresh coat of paint will do wonders for any bathroom. You can coordinate the walls with the adjoining rooms with very little paint; just make sure it is at least a satin finish for ease of cleaning. On top of this you could add a border. Available now are peel & stick borders that can be removed whenever you get tired of them! If you are feeling artistic, get some small bottles of craft paint and try painting freehand shapes taken from your shower curtain or try a stencil or a stamp for a quick change to your walls. For less than $10, I purchased an ivy- shaped stamp, some hunter green glaze and sponges, and hand-stamped an ivy border on my all-white bathroom. The result was great and cost me next to nothing! If you must use wallpaper, you are still in luck. Because bathrooms are generally fairly small, you can wallpaper the entire bathroom in just one day for a reasonable price.

Once that is done, it's time to go shopping! I like to a start a bathroom with a shower curtain. If your existing one is still in good shape, you can change the entire look of your bathroom by changing the wall color and towel sets. If your shower curtain has seen better days, there are many fun and affordable shower curtains that can liven up your bathroom in a pinch. An all-white bathroom can take any color or pattern...choose to go with bright, bold colors for a fun and funky look, or pastels for a soft, feminine bath. With darker walls, choose a jacquard print with a solid color that sets it off. This creates a more formal, intimate bath and makes quite a statement. Now, it's time for accessories! With such an array of affordable and attractive accessories out there, you can have a lot of fun with this. You can use the colors of your existing fixtures to coordinate or contrast accessories. If you have white or pastel colored fixtures, pastel towels and delicate accessories can have a soft, almost feminine, look. Put bold colors and/or prints in the same bathroom and the look is a much different one. Another thing you can do is look at the finish on your faucets. Gold, silver & chrome accessories are hot now, and readily available.

If your bathroom has a window, buy new curtains or make your own using sheets. Using full-sized, flat sheets you can easily make coordinated shower curtains as well. Make several sets of different but coordinating colors and you can change your bathroom's look on a regular basis.

For extra storage, invest in an open wicker shelf unit and display stacks of neatly folded colorful towels that highlight favorite colors in your shower curtain. A wine rack can hold several rolled towels in a unique way, and a basket of colorful, rolled facecloths can look like a basket of flowers! Not only does this add to your linen closet space but it also brightens your bathroom.

If this all sounds too expensive, here is an example of how inexpensive a total overhaul can be. In my kids' white bathroom, I bought a funky, clear shower curtain adorned with dragonflies, frogs, snails and polka-dots all in bright colors....lime green, cobalt, yellow, hot pink ($10). I then got coordinating craft paint ($0.99/bottle at the local craft store) and towels ($3.99/towel) and facecloths (2/$1) in each color. I copied the designs from the shower curtain onto the walls with a pencil, and then painted creatures and swirls on the walls (cost- $0 and a little time). The mirror was plain and too small for the wall, so I painted a wide frame around it to balance it out (again, $0). For accessories, I used a chrome wire wastebasket ($7.99) to match the existing faucets and a yellow shaggy rug ($5.99) pulled it all together!! Two rescued wicker wall shelves got a fresh coat of spray paint ($1 a can) and now hold rolled face cloths and extras that would just clutter up the counter. More than a year later, the kids still love their frog bathroom and visitors get a chuckle, as it is the main bathroom in the house.

One thing that we all have easy access to and an unlimited supply of is imagination and creativity. If you pick colors that you really love and trust your instincts, you can't go wrong. Just relax, have fun, and wait for the compliments to roll in!


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