Take your bathroom from lame to luxe for under $2,000

Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | February 24, 2016

Rustic modern shower Your sad bathroom is neither a relic ripe for demolition nor a vintage gem worth preserving. It's just plain boring -- builder-bland or out of style -- a throwback to the '80s or '90s. You can't afford to gut it and start from scratch, but you wish you could give it a little redo with enough panache to wake you up in the morning.

What it needs is something between a full-on renovation and a weekend makeover. You've got about two grand to throw at it to make it pop. Where to start?

Adding one or two higher-end focal points could be just the thing to take your blah bathroom from lame to luxe on a budget and make you feel like a trendsetter. The following suggestions incorporate some of the latest bathroom trends for 2016 from this year's Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS). Splurge by using one or two of them plus a few cheap bathroom remodel ideas to spruce up the rest of it.

  • Floating vanities. The bargain varieties of this popular new trend in cabinetry can be found for as little as under $1,000. With nothing under them, you may have to redo your flooring when you pull out your old vanity, but with the right flooring choice you can visually open up the space in a bathroom that feels too cramped. Think large tiles in unique arrangements like a herringbone pattern or chevrons to make a statement. If a floating vanity and new flooring puts too much strain on your budget, create open shelving instead. Remove a cabinet door or two, build a shelf in the middle of the open cabinet space and fill the shelves with stacked towels or baskets for storage. Painting an '80s oak vanity might seem like a sacrilege if yours is real wood, but white cabinets are still very much in vogue. With new flooring, grey walls and white trim moldings, you're halfway there without putting so much as a dent in the budget.
  • Freestanding tubs. Acrylic freestanding tubs start just under $1,000, making them a more affordable luxury now. If a soaker tub is the one thing missing from your bathroom that would make your day -- or night -- consider coupling one of these lovelies with some inexpensive fixes like a coat of fresh paint in a smoky purple, or an accent wall of striking artwork behind the tub. Add a few shelves or baskets on a free wall to display rolled towels and a refurbished thrift store chandelier over your tub for a budget-friendly touch of class.
  • Relief sculpted walls. Made of plant fibers and resin or gypsum, these sculpted wall tiles and panels lend themselves to bathrooms just as well as drywall would -- in other words, don't use them under running water or subject them to long steamy showers. Primed and given a layer of protection with a coat or two of paint, the 3-D patterns make their own splash as light plays off the shadows to create the illusion of movement on an accent wall, wainscoting or inset on tired cabinet doors. modularArts InterlockingRock® Sculptural Tiles sell for $286 for a carton that covers about 22 sq. ft.
  • Glass countertops. When backlit from below with LEDs, translucent glass countertops, like those featured at the KBIS 2016 make a statement, especially if you leave the rest of the bath lights turned down low. They are pricey, $50-$100 a square foot, but unique. You can customize the color, texture and finish of your glass counter and top it with an affordable vessel sink, priced starting at less than $100, to create a truly magical powder room, master or guest bath experience.
  • Sinks and faucets. Like vessel sinks, trough sinks can be mounted on top of a counter or to the wall under a wall-mounted faucet. Luxury trough sinks start at under $300. Trending faucet styles include burnished metals and chunky geometric styling. A grouping of pendant lights of varying lengths over the sink and a round framed mirror in place of the builder's mirror that stretches from wall to wall can bring your bathroom up to date.
  • No-threshold showers. If you're experienced with plumbing and tile installation, you may be able to pull this off for under $2,000. It won 2016's National Kitchen and Bath Association's top trending bathroom remodel. Ideas for tile patterns and designs may overwhelm you and take longer than the project: subway tiles are always popular but newer pattern options include 12"-by-24" tiles stacked one directly above the other, mosaic tile niches, waterfall tiles, chevron designs, and endless variations of small tiles combined with large ones. For anyone concerned with eliminating bathroom tripping hazards -- and cleaning obstacles -- no-threshold showers are practical as well as up-to-date. Options for entering and exiting include seamless glass doors, no doors, and tiled partial walls.

Creating a sense of spaciousness and relaxation combined with practicality and ease of maintenance need not cost a fortune. Research the trends, make your wish list and budget, and then prioritize your bathroom's shortcomings. Take comfort that if your budget today can't eliminate everything you hate about your current bathroom, next year will bring new trends to ooh and aah over. If you incorporate a few at a time every couple of years, your bathroom may can always appear timeless.

About the Author

Iris Price is a single Baby Boomer whose antidote to a lack of retirement funds was to launch a long-delayed career as a writer. While others her age concoct bucket lists and travel the world, she bought a new-construction home and obsessively creates lists of must-have home improvements and personal realization goals. She specializes in writing about home services and self-motivation.