Create That Spa Feeling at Home with a Budget Bathroom Makeover

A woman relaxes in her bath with candles all around her.
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A bathroom remodel would sure be nice but unless you’ve got a spare $8,000 (at least) lying around, a gleaming, newly tiled shower with a luxury spa-grade rainfall shower head will just have to wait.

But don’t go crying into your threadbare bath towels just yet. There are ways to pull off a budget bathroom makeover, creating a refreshed look without draining your savings.

You can spend nothing but time or a couple hundred dollars depending on your space and budget.

Budget Bathroom Makeover: Free or Cheap

A free or cheap makeover idea? Simply create more counter space — especially in a small bathroom — by organizing drawers and cabinets to hold more things.

“The visual clutter takes a toll on us and impacts us emotionally even without knowing it,” said Allison Marshall, a certified professional organizer.

But many of us dread the task of organizing a bathroom. Marshall breaks the task into three steps.

1. Pull Everything Out

“The first thing is to pull everything out and put it into categories,” Marshall said. “Teeth stuff, hair stuff, skin care, makeup.”

Then go through each of those piles and decide what you really use.

2. Purge

Have a bag for trash and a bag for giveaway at your side. If there’s a lipstick or tanning lotion you paid good money for but found you hate the color, put the purchase behind you and get rid of it, Marshall said.

3. Organize in Containers

“Once you get it sorted, the containers are the last step,” she said.

There are inexpensive plastic baskets and boxes found at dollar stores, Target and Walmart. But you can skip that step and use shoe boxes you cut down to fit your drawers or empty plastic food containers from your kitchen.

Budget Bathroom Makeover: Free to $50 

Here are some basic steps for a luxurious yet cheap small bathroom makeover.

Get New Linens

If it’s been a while, you could probably use a new set of bath towels, hand towels and washcloths. White is bright and can stay bright by washing with bleach or vinegar

“Changing out your linens is one of the least expensive things to do that makes a big difference,” said Sarah Shields, an interior designer in Arizona.

Add a Robe 

A soft, fresh robe is a touch of luxury. Hang a hook for that special robe so you always have a place to keep it clean and dry.

Create Comfort 

A “squishy” bath mat gives you a little extra foot comfort when you step out of the shower or brush your teeth. Spring for one with memory foam.

Make the Ordinary Look Better 

Keep essentials close at hand in attractive containers instead of crammed in a drawer in their original boxes. You can buy decorative boxes for a few dollars each from dollar stores. Or try washing out a few mustard jars for a matching set of three glass containers to hold cotton balls, Q-tips and flossing picks.

Bring on the Candles

OK, maybe don’t go overboard but placing a candle on the counter, by the tub or on the back of the toilet with boxed matches can be a nice touch.

Budget Bathroom Makeover: $25 to $50+

A bathroom can give you a relaxing feeling as well as make you smile.

“I like subtle things that show a sense of humor when you walk in. I have a little figurine of someone who is actually flashing you in one of my planters. It’s a quarter of an inch tall,” said Shields, the Arizona designer. “You should have things that make you smile.”

She likes to pick up a fun shower curtain and complementary accessories at good prices.

Bathroom décor can be functional too. Shields is a fan of light shelves, a simple piece of wood hanging in front of a window. If you fill it with small items, they don’t block light from outside and actually bounce light onto the ceiling and back down.

“In a bathroom a light shelf can hold extra self-care items such as candles, a diffuser or beautiful bath soaps in a glass jar,” she said.

You could even make some wall art to finish off your DIY bathroom refresh.

Budget Bathroom Makeover: $25 to $300+

A spruced-up bathroom requires a small investment that more than pays for itself when the home sells, said Judy Anderson, a real estate agent with Re/Max Action First in St. Petersburg, Fla.

“For older bathrooms, I always suggest getting a stand-alone credenza with a sink from one of the big-box home improvement stores,” she said.

Small vanities including sinks start at around $95 at Home Depot and Lowe’s. If a new vanity isn’t in your budget, consider painting what you have and replacing the faucet. (Pro tip: Look for cabinet paint, not wall paint.) A quart of cabinet paint and faucets both start at about $25.

You could even replace the light fixture over the vanity. Expect to spend $20 to $50.

“Chipped, faded or dated tile doesn’t have to be replaced — it can be reglazed,” Anderson said.

Prices vary, of course, but tubs can start around $250. Reglazing the tile around a tub is another $300. If the existing tile is white or bone, you can pick any color for the new glaze.

Ready to give your kitchen a new look? Check out these expert tips for doing kitchen updates on a budget

Contributor Katherine Snow Smith is a veteran newspaper reporter and editor who covers lifestyle topics, workplace issues and ways to make money for The Penny Hoarder. She is the author of “Rules for the Southern Rulebreaker: Missteps and Lessons Learned.” Assigning editor Johna Strickland updated this article.