It's hard to love a bathroom that's too small or out of date. Even if you're not pining for a supersized spa bath the size of a spare bedroom, there's nothing worse than old cabinets, a lilliputian tub, mildew-speckled grout and dull, style-challenged fixtures circa 1978.
If you don't have the money to renovate and want to spruce up your bath on the cheap - say, for about $100 - it's not only possible, but doable in a weekend.
Leticia Lawson, a Carrollwood-based interior decorator whose company, Home Signature Designs, also helps clients with real estate staging recommends first making sure the bathroom is squeaky clean.
"You want to get those grout lines cleaned up, even if it means getting down on your knees and really cleaning. It can make a world of difference."
Painting the bathroom is the next basic step, she says. It's one of the cheapest ways to change an entire look for the cost of a gallon of paint, "especially if you catch a good sale."
Next, she recommends investing in attractive new "soft goods" - shower curtains, towels and rugs - to dramatically upgrade the appearance of the room. Mine your house for some beautiful things you might not ordinarily think of bringinginto the bathroom.
Consider "beautiful crystal serving pieces to store things like cotton balls. Bring in a tray from the kitchen or add a small floral arrangement or topiary."
A dated bathroom doesn't always need a full-blown remodel, just a freshen-up, she adds, especially if you're trying to sell your house.
"You want to help focus the buyer on the beauty of the room, not the cracked tile or a counter that isn't quite up to date."
Tammy Jo Schoppet, founder of Rental Decorating Digest, an online magazine that offers advice to renters (www.rentaldecorating.com), says that when redecorating a bathroom on a budget, it's important to first think about your color scheme, from paint to accessories. That way, you can avoid costly and time-consuming mistakes and change the look on a dime.
The look to go for?
Think Canyon Ranch rather than country kitsch.
"I always picture the most upscale bathrooms as having a spa feeling," she says.
Her recommendations include splurging for a few small, luxurious things that will give your bathroom a feeling of calm and beauty, much like a spa.
1. Toss the funky faucets: If you're soaping up beneath a conventional, lime-crusted shower head, swap it out for the "waterfall" variety. Much more luxurious, up to date and pleasing to look at.
2. Say bye-bye to bad hardware and light fixtures: Since most bathrooms don't have a lot of drawer pulls or knobs, here's a chance to splurge on some that are really beautiful. It won't cost as much as you think, especially if you just need one or two, and you'll end up with a customized look. Change out a harsh-looking light fixture for something softer and more soothing.
3. Linen's the thing: Get thick new towels and a new rug. Though be forewarned, Schoppet says, those fuzzy bathroom rugs that line discount-store shelves can date a bathroom about as much as those old floors you're trying to hide. Instead, opt for a small rug meant for another room in the house (just make sure it's nonskid).
4. A room with a view: When sprucing up a bathroom on the cheap, don't forget the windows. Look for a ready-made window treatment that accents the wall color and towels and adds to that spa-like feeling.
5. An artful bath: Don't forget to accent your bathroom with art, but think out of the box. Traditional framed and matted art, whether an original or a print, can be damaged by steam and humidity. Consider putting a small piece of sculpture in your bathroom or accent with something that's architectural looking but won't succumb to water damage.
6. Hide that toothbrush: Your parade of personal hygiene products doesn't need to be on display in the bathroom. Put them away or corral them in baskets or other attractive containers.
7. Accent the positive: Accessories can add a spalike touch on the cheap. Consider a glass vase filled with sea glass (or shells), a couple of high-quality candles and bath salts displayed in a beautiful glass jar.
Even a bathroom makeover for under $100 can yield some tangible rewards, Schoppet says.
"You want your bathroom to be a place where you want to go take a shower and then feel rejuvenated after you've been in there."
Elizabeth Bettendorf can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.