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How to stretch a small bathroom budget

Go big on bathroom design without breaking the

Go big on bathroom design without breaking the bank. Credit: Getty Images/TNS/John Keeble

Walking into a bathroom that's serene, beautiful, well-organized and just the way you like it is a great way to start the day — so it's no wonder that many of us have redecorating the bathroom on our list of to-dos. So what's stopping us? Budget, for the most part. Bathroom renovations can be expensive. Make the redesign work hard for your money with these budget-friendly tips.

1. Find extra storage to avoid major structural changes.

Moving walls is a real budget buster. Instead, try utilizing found space. For example, recess shelves into the area between wall studs to create vertical storage that doesn't eat up floor space.

2. Bounce light around with strategically placed mirrors.

Adding a window or skylight can add big dollars to a remodeling project. If your bathroom lacks light, fool the eyes by adding reflection with mirrors. A mirror (or grouping of mirrors) is an affordable way to add personality and space-reflecting sparkle above a vanity.

3. Add style with simple tile.

Hate the look of a prefab shower surround, but lack pockets deep enough for fancy custom tile? Glazed subway tiles cost only a few dollars per square foot and create a timeless look. You might also consider tiling just the bottom half of your bathroom shower to save on money.

4. Stick to traditional finishes.

A surefire way to waste money on a bathroom remodel is to fill it with fads that won't last. Make your investment last for years by sticking to neutral colors and natural finishes. These tried-and-true classics are typically less expensive than their trendy counterparts, and are more likely to stand the test of time.

5. Transform a dresser into a vanity

Instead of spending big bucks on a furniture-style vanity, get the look for less by converting an old dresser or console table. This can-do DIY project is an easy way to save money and the environment, since you're repurposing something instead of buying new.

6. Use just a small amount of designer tile to add pizazz.

Not enough cash in your budget to retile the entire bathroom in that pricey style you like? Give your bathroom a high-end look without the high-end price tag by splurging on items that give the biggest bang for your buck. You might try using just a few rows of more-expensive designer accent tiles to deliver a big punch of color and character. Install the tile where you'd typically install chair rail (about halfway up the wall), or tile a backsplash around the mirror for a custom look.

7. Invest in just a few solid pieces.

Cabinetry is expensive, but don't skimp on quality in a bathroom where the wet environment can quickly damage cheap particleboard vanities. To save money, choose just one well-made vanity with hidden storage, and then considering adding more storage to the walls with inexpensive open shelves.

8. Refinish an outdated tub.

Old bathtubs can be hard to clean, and heavy and expensive to remove. Try refinishing an old tub to bring it up-to-date and make it last for many more years. The process is done by professionals and the tub will be ready to use in a day or two, which is much less time than a bathroom gut job would take.

9. Go bold with wallpaper.

Floor-to-ceiling tile may look luxurious, but it also comes with a sizable price tag. Save money without sacrificing style by using a boldly patterned wallpaper to add personality to your bathroom walls. Avoid peeling and other problems by choosing a water-resistant paper made especially for a bathroom.

10. Choose a colorful shower curtain.

If your budget can't support a $2,000 custom glass shower door, don't fret. Many top designers include shower curtains in their home collections, so there are now more beautiful choices than ever. For less than $100, you can buy a curtain that looks like a piece of art and that can serve as the star of your bathroom design.

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