Tonawanda News

October 21, 2013

DESIGNS BY DANA: Updating bathroom doesn't have to be expensive

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Question: You always have great ideas; do you have any on some inexpensive ways to spruce up a small bathroom?/Our main bath is so outdated but we can’t afford a total rip-out; can you help?

Answer: We often hear that kitchens and bathrooms are the most costly rooms in a home to update and, when it comes to a total remodel, that can be true. These areas include more permanent fixtures than other rooms do — appliances, tubs, counter tops, cabinetry, etc.

Updating a bathroom doesn’t necessarily mean you have to tear everything out and start over; there are plenty of ways to achieve a fresh, new look and stay within a friendly budget.

I’ve said it before and I can never say it enough, anything can be painted when it’s prepared properly. Simply adding a new color to the walls can create an entirely different look and mood. I like to use a semi-gloss finish in a bathroom because it repels moisture and cleans up easily.

Outdated cabinets? Paint these too. Choose a color that fits your style, change the hardware and see the difference.

As a rule, vanity tops are fairly small in size; scout local stone retailers for scrap pieces of granite, marble, etc. You can usually purchase them at a huge discount.

Rather than buying a new, pricey bathtub, consider having your existing tub re-glazed. This process is very affordable and a professional can have it completed in less than a day. You can select almost any color and when it’s done, you’d swear it was brand new.

Is the tile surrounding your tub looking dirty and you can’t seem to get it clean? Nine times out of 10 your tile is fine, it’s the grout that’s the problem. Grout is a porous material that must be sealed often. Unsealed, it will grow mildew and can even dissolve completely from water hitting it. Contact a tile installer to remove and replace the existing grout; your surface will look like new at a very minimal cost.

Small things really can make big differences. Try some of these simple, budget-friendly changes and see for yourself. Replace your faucets with an updated style; there are some fun choices available at reasonable prices. New knobs and pulls on cabinets are a quick and easy fix. Old style light fixtures can date your entire room. Selecting a current design and finish brings the space into this century. 

Don’t overlook accessories. Refresh your room by adding new color and character with the little items that create an important statement in smaller spaces like a bathroom. Towels, throw rugs, soap dishes, wall art, shower curtains, window treatments, these can all add a new wow factor. 

I recently assisted a client who wanted to give her very dated bathroom a facelift for under $1000. The tub and toilet were an avocado green, the sink cabinet was a dark wood, the walls were covered in a wallpaper that had a tiny gold and green print, and the floors were neutral and could be worked around, as was the tile around the tub (other than the nasty grout). This was a typical 1970s ranch bath. 

We had the tub reglazed in white, the tile regrouted, painted the sink cabinet black ,and stripped the wallpaper and painted the walls a steel blue. A new white toilet cost them $100. We then replaced the hardware, sink faucet and lighting with new ones in a brushed-nickel finish. By adding some coordinating plush towels, throw rugs, a new shower curtain and a roman shade at the window we transformed that room into a spa-like retreat and all under budget.

You can do it too. Think about what can be reused and updated and go from there.

Dana is the owner of Interiors by Dana. You can e-mail your design questions to her at or contact her at M. Carter Decor 434-2159.