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The Little Things: Bathroom Update On The Cheap

By Sarah Van Arsdale on January 17, 2009

Designer Monthly’s Little Things column places a spotlight on those home accessories that are often overlooked, and we'll show how they can be improved to make a world of a difference. Our pursuit is to enhance the decor through economical yet aesthetically superior measures.

Long ago when we had extra money to spend — or at least had the illusion that we had extra money to spend — a complete bath renovation often seemed the best way to give your home a lift and to increase its value in case of re-sale.

Now, with the economy in one of those bath fixtures, an entire remodel may be out of the question. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do something to fix up the bathroom and to give your spirits a boost at the same time. It just means that you may have to think on a slightly smaller scale.

Start by taking a good look at the bathroom in question. And don’t just glance around in your usual despair at the moldy shower curtain and the clutter around the sink. Take down the shower curtain, remove the towels, and take everything out of the cabinets. Once the room is completely naked, you’ll be able to see its flaws and you’ll have a clearer way of seeing which problems are serious and which can be addressed with a little cosmetic help.

For example, if you can’t stand the color of the tiles in the shower, a new shower curtain that hides them, or that better complements the color, will help. Coordinate the new shower curtain with new towels, and you’ll have a new-looking bath without having to put in a whole new tub enclosure, or without investing in that whirlpool you’ve been longing for. You may want to consider painting the ceiling or walls.

For a makeover that’s only a little involved, there’s a lot you can do with the sink without breaking the bank. We love the new above counter basins, also called vessel sinks. This is the latest look in bath design, and gives a bathroom a striking look of modernity.

We especially like the ones offered by Quality Bath, and with these you can create just about any look in the bath that you want. This metal washbasin gives a room a solid, almost Renaissance look of rustic luxury. If you added thick towels with detailed trim and ornate towel holders, you’ll suddenly have a bath that brings you back in time.

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We also like the lighter look of this copper above-counter basin, which would bring in a more Asian look. This would go nicely with towels and curtains in a pale verdigris, to bring out the slightly greenish tint underlying the copper.

Quality Bath even has a wood above-counter basin, in striped zebrawood for a thoroughly modern look. Imagine this in a bath with bright towels in modern patterns and colors, and you’ll imagine a whole new room, and without the price of a re-model.

Another look we like is the Fluidity Bronze Vessel Sink from Signature Hardware, which would bring a statement of elegance into the bath. The feminine lines and fluid polishing calls for towels and curtain in feminine patterns and colors. This photo shows it in polished bronze, but the interior finish can be custom ordered. We like this sink either in the bath of the lady of the house, or in a sophisticated guest bath. In a powder room, it is sure to bring compliments from your guests.

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Taking the plunge into the world of above-counter sinks doesn’t mean giving up good old porcelain. Easy to maintain, easy to keep clean, porcelain is of course still the most popular material for the bath. But you can update your porcelain by switching to a vessel sink, and for a much lower cost than you may think. For a porcelain choice, we like this sink, also from Signature Hardware.

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Putting a new sink into the bath is perhaps the biggest of these small moves you can make to add new life to the bathroom without going broke. But once you do, make sure you also take time to clear out all that old junk in the cabinet, properly disposing of outdated make up and medications. You’ll have a fresh start for the new year, and a nearly-new bathroom to lift your spirits.

You can take one of NYIAD's interior design courses online to learnhow you can update your bathroom's design on your own!