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Bathroom Splurges and Saves

Ideas for spending wisely for maximum effect.

Tackling a complete bathroom remodel may be daunting for some of your budget-conscious clients. However, to refresh a space, simply replacing a faucet, showerhead or mirror, though less expensive, may not be sufficient or cost-effective in the long run. "Most people remodel a bathroom because they want to update it," says interior designer Shea Pumarejo, of Younique Designs in Helotes, Texas. "Usually what dates a bathroom is the tile and if you’re replacing that, you might as well do the entire bathroom."

Starting from zero can deliver benefits not possible with a piecemeal approach. "You can change the shape of a shower or integrate storage so it's hidden behind the wall," says Lori Carroll, eponymous principal of a Tucson, Ariz.–based interior design firm. "Sometimes, the design evolves as you go and you can explore more possibilities."

Although both Pumarejo and Carroll encourage their clients to do complete remodels rather than parts of one, they make the most of their clients' budgets by being savvy about where to save and where to splurge.

  • If installing a vanity top with an undermount sink, consider splurging on the former and saving on the latter. A slab of expensive stone, such as agate or quartzite, creates a statement, whereas undermount sinks, more discreet in appearance, tend to have less of an impact in overall bathroom design and can be had for $150 or less. Photo: William Lesch Photography and Lori Carroll & Associates design.
  • A reasonably priced tub won’t necessarily compromise a bathroom’s overall aesthetics, but an inexpensive toilet "can get you into trouble," Carroll notes. For a toilet with good looks and dependable flushing performance, "you’d probably be in the $300 to $400 range." Those with bidet functions and more can run into the thousands, but then again some owners would swear they’re worth every penny. Photo: Courtesy of Aquatic.
  • Spending a little more on a faucet may make sense in some bathrooms, but it’s not always necessary. A faucet with unusual forms can add plenty of visual interest and sex appeal to a bathroom, but attractive, well-designed models are also increasingly affordable. On this front, "Moen has done a great job," Carroll says. Its recent introductions not only offer much market appeal but are "very creative in their design." Photo: Align faucet by Moen.
  • Stock cabinetry provides another avenue for cutting costs. “You can do a lot to dress up stock cabinetry,” Carroll says. Decorative knobs and pulls are an easy way to amp up style, but choose some with a little more heft for better quality. In addition, consider floating the stock cabinetry off the floor for a more modern, high-end look. Photo: Aristokraft Cabinetry courtesy of MasterBrand Cabinets.
  • For Pumarejo, tiles are a splurge-worthy way to maximize visual impact and instill personality. She is especially fond of glass, whose reflective surface adds sparkle and can make a space feel bigger than it actually is. Even if the budget is tight, Pumarejo often includes a little glass for a more upscale feel. Photo: Blue courtesy of Oceanside Glasstile.
  • Finally, both designers would rather spend more on bathroom lighting than less. Quality chandeliers, pendants or sconces are not cheap but can infuse a space with drama, charm and character. Pumarejo also likes using LEDs not only for their energy efficiency but also their “clean, bright white light.” Photo: Iso lighting by Moen.