Splurge or Save: 16 Gorgeous Bath Updates for Any Budget

Whether your bank account is burgeoning or you're styling on a shoestring, you'll find the perfect makeover inspiration in these beautiful baths.
By: Amanda Lecky
Related To:

Photo By: David O. Marlow Photography, Bill Pollock and Dylan Johns, Zone 4 Architects

Photo By: George Ross; Tara Seawright, Inc.

Photo By: David Koel, AIA, CTA Architects Engineers; Susie Hoffmann, EnviDesign; Audrey Hall Photography

Photo By: Christine Thompson, JAC Interiors; Andrew Parke

Photo By: Stuart Cohen & Julie Hacker Architects LLC; JamesThomas; Dave Burk, Hedrich-Blessing Photographers

Photo By: Tobi Fairley

Photo By: Ryan Street and Associates

Photo By: Kirsten Anthony Kaplan, Haus Interior Design; Helen John Photography

Photo By: Claire Paquin

Photo By: Clay Construction, Inc.; Keith Henderson

Photo By: Jack Wettling, Wettling Architects; David Gilbert

Photo By: Nancy Nolan

Photo By: Peter Rymwid

Photo By: Donna Dotan Photography

Photo By: Michelle Fries, BeDe Design; Rick Hammer

Splurge: Go With Glass

An all-glass, custom shower enclosure adds wow-factor to any bathroom. In this contemporary space, architects Bill Pollock and Dylan Johns opted for a frameless design to maximize the sense of open space in the large room and to allow natural light to spread everywhere. "The shower was carefully detailed to be minimal in its presence with in the room, but to make powerful use of the materials and design," they say.

Save: Add a Colorful Curtain

When designer Tara Seawright's clients bought an outdated waterside cottage, they turned to her for help modernizing the space, on a tight budget. "By painting the floors a bright white and using strategic pops of color — like a colorful shower curtain — against a neutral background we gave the home a more current look," says the designer.

Splurge: Indulge In a Spa Shower

In a luxurious pool house with a Japanese-inspired design, architect David Koel and interior designer Susie Hoffman created a spectacular spa-inspired shower with a variety of water works. "The high-volume water feature was intended to replicate the experience of being caught in a warm rain shower,"says Koel. "Materially, the balance of tile, translucent shoji screens, wood, and water seeks to complement the earthy materials used elsewhere in the project, while lending themselves to a quiet, personal, transformational spa experience."

Save: Install a Special Showerhead

Clever material choices like a wall of blue glass tile and a floating zebra wood vanity give this master bath a tropical feel. Rounding out the simple but sophisticated space is a walk-in shower with an oversized showerhead. "The rain showerhead, which we imported from Europe, helps to create a really luxurious shower experience," says designer Christine Thompson.

Splurge: Design Custom Medicine Cabinets

In a master bath designed for a couple, JamesThomas Design created a space with rich architectural detailing and a simple black-and-white color scheme. Above the his-and-hers vanity, the design team fixed mirrors in frames with a mirrored medicine cabinet between the two mirrors. "The three mirrored panels reflect the windows above the tub, bouncing an abundance of morning light throughout the space," say the designers.

Save: Hang An Antique Mirror

"This powder room was designed for a family with six children, so this is a high-traffic room in the house," says designer Tobi Fairley. But it's also a space that would be used by guests, so it had to make a style statement. Hanging an ornate, Venetian-style mirror above the vanity gave the small space instant attitude, without the expense of integrating a medicine cabinet.

Splurge: Create a Custom Vanity

To complement the charming architectural character of this beamed-ceiling bath, Ryan Street & Associates created a pair of richly detailed custom vanities. Facing each other on opposite sides of the space, the vanities share a simple shape made luxurious with deep paneling on the doors and drawers and luxe marble countertops. 

Save: Buy a Freestanding Vanity

In a guest bath, simple, ready-made elements create a classic design. "I was designing a master bath for a client who was expecting twins," says designer Kirsten Anthony Kaplan. "Then, at the last minute, she asked if we could include the guest bath, too. We had one week to pull it off, so I found off-the-shelf materials and used them to create a timeless look." Ceramic subway tiles have a sophisticated bevel while marble accents in the vanity's countertop, basketweave floor tile and shower curb tie the space together. 

Splurge: Invest in Furniture-Style Storage

"The goal with this custom-made built-in was to give the clients storage for towels and toiletries, while maintaining a spa-like atmosphere in their large master bathroom," says designer Claire Paquin. "The arch-topped glass door design was inspired by an existing eyebrow window that crowned the vanity wall. We picked up on this detail to integrate the new piece into the room more completely. The custom-made, celadon-colored porcelain was commissioned to add a soothing color to the bath."

Save: Add Style With Storage Accessories

In a casual bath that's short on built-in cabinet space, freestanding furnishings can add color and character — plus valuable clutter-busting storage. Look for pieces with an interesting shape or style, like this graduated shelving unit, in a color that adds energy. Or, paint a plain furniture piece yourself, using a mildew-resistant paint in a semi-gloss or high-gloss finish. 

Splurge: Use Stone Everywhere

Bathroom surfaces — flooring, countertops, backsplashes, and walls — can go a long way toward creating an air of elegance. In this luxe master bath, Clay Construction used Italian marble tile inside the shower and on the floor, as well as granite countertops. "White and neutral tones of gray stone accentuate the darker cabinet finish," says the builder. The finishing touch: "Wainscoting on the tub-wall gives this bath a truly opulent effect."

Save: Use Stone Sparingly

In a waterfront property on the far eastern edge of Shelter Island, architect Jack Wettling used a palette of crisp white accented with sea blue to create a relaxing master bath. "The colors draw in the views from the picturesque Coecles Harbor," he says. A judicious use of high-end stone — in the marble tub surround and a narrow marble border on the wall — lends a luxe look, without breaking the bank.

Splurge: Spectacular Freestanding Tub

"This serene master bathroom was designed for a young family with two young children who wanted a house that helped them reduce the stress of their busy lifestyle," says designer Tobi Fairley. The centerpiece of the space, a luxurious freestanding bathtub, is an oasis in a space designed to capture the relaxing atmospheres of the clients' favorite beach getaways.

Save: Add Style to a Standard Tub

In a long, narrow space intended to be shared by three children, designer Nancy Leffler Mikulich had to get creative with layout and materials. "By carrying the mosaic tile from inside the bathtub to the vanity wall we have visually extended the area to feel larger than it is," she says. The wood finish on the vanity has been extended to create a tub surround, a tactic that creates a sleek, cohesive effect in the compact space.

From: Nancy Leffler Mikulich

Splurge: Build a Double Vanity

A vanity with plenty of elbow room for two users and substantial storage can transform your bath. "In this bath, the goal was to define each zone in such a way that this small bathroom lived large," says designer Claire Paquin. That meant a perfectly partitioned vanity with many storage drawers, as well as a large steam shower with a recessed rain tile shower head, and hand shower. Every nook and cranny of this space was designed to function, and, of course, to be beautiful.

Save: Pick a Pair of Pedestals

How to accommodate two users if you're working with a tight budget? Consider a pair of pedestal sinks instead of a built-in double vanity. "This bath is tucked into the upper level of a farmhouse," says designer Michelle Fries. "The pedestal sinks worked well with the vintage feel of the home and created a little more foot room than vanity cabinets would have allowed. I made up for the lost under-sink storage by using open shelving with baskets to hold supplies."