Learn Where to Splurge and Where to Save for a Beautiful Bathroom

Balance is key to creating a great design that fits within your budget. A few of our favorite designers share where they would pinch pennies and where they would invest to create a stunning bathroom. 

By: Chelsey Bowen
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Photo By: Skout

Photo By: Skout

Photo By: Donna Dotan Photography

Photo By: Claire Paquin

Photo By: Wendy Blackband

Photo By: Tessa Neustadt

Photo By: Marie Flanigan

Photo By: Marie Flanigan

Photo By: Jacob Snavely

Photo By: Matt Wier

Photo By: Brown Design Group

Photo By: Mark Williams

Photo By: Mark Williams

Photo By: Sarah Wittenbraker

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Photo By: Sarah Hebenstreit / Modern Kids Co.

Photo By: Regan Baker Design Inc.

Photo By: Ryan Garvin

Photo By: Ryan Garvin

Save: Prioritize Your Splurge

The key to saving in your bathroom design is picking what's most important to you personally then creating a space around it, says designer Ashley Clark. "Budgets are tough, big or small. Sticking to one is never fun, but setting one up-front will make all the difference." Go for that deep soaker tub you're dying to relax in at the end of the day, but offset the cost with simple light fixtures, mirrors and window treatments.

From: sKout

Splurge: Spend Money on What You Love

Your splurge should be the one piece you can't live without. Designer Ashley Clark says, "Find the thing that inspires you and work around it." Whether it's an elaborate mirror, statement tile or custom vanity, incorporating a much-loved element will always bring you joy when you walk into the space.

From: sKout

Save: Fixtures Add Style, Not Cost

Plumbing fittings are a great place to save. "There are high-end brands, like Dornbracht, Waterworks and Samuel Heath, to choose from, but there are also a lot of well-priced brands on the market. Our favorite go-to brands (Phylrich, Fantini, Aquabrass and Sigma) have streamlined, modern selections at a great price point that don't skimp on style or quality," says designer Claire Paquin.

Splurge: Go Glam With Marble Tiles

Marble mosaic floor tiles are one of designer Claire Paquin's favorite ways to make an impact in the bathroom. "With the exceptions of window treatments and wallpaper, bathrooms rarely have an opportunity for pattern so a patterned floor tile is a great place to splurge. Sometimes the small, intricate patterns are expensive, but you typically won't need to buy as much," says Paquin.

Save: Source an Off-the-Shelf Vanity

Instead of going the custom route, look for a vanity online or at your local retail stores. "It can cut the cost in half when comparing the price of a custom vanity and sink. For this bathroom, we really wanted to splurge on the wallpaper so the builder sourced this freestanding vanity to cut down on the structural cost. There are many great retail options out there, shop around for vanities and compare prices online and in retail stores," says designer Wendy Blackband. 

Splurge: Boost Your Wall's Style

Wallpaper is a foolproof way to make a big design statement in a small space like a powder room. Designer Wendy Blackband believes, "Wallpaper instantly elevates the look and feel of any bathroom, and it's one of our favorite ways to transform a small space. We purchased the vanity through Restoration Hardware to cut costs and splurged on the wallpaper."

Save: Add Style With Hardware

Designer Marie Flanigan says, "If your cabinets are in good shape, swapping out the hardware can add a fresh new look without a hefty price tag. Many vendors offer high-quality, reasonably priced pulls and knobs that can be delivered to your doorstep quickly. Most importantly, have fun with your hardware by using pieces that exhibit a unique shape or interesting colors and textures, and you're guaranteed to create a wow-worthy space that's budget-friendly."

Splurge: Illuminate Your Bathroom

"Lighting is vital to any good design and it's definitely worth the splurge in functional spaces like bathrooms. Whether it's a cozy powder room for visiting guests or a large master suite where you prepare yourself for the day ahead, lighting can dramatically enhance both mood and function. I love uniting the warm glow of natural light with the brilliance of sophisticated chandeliers, sconces and recessed lighting to ensure that a bathroom is ready to dazzle at any hour of the day," says designer Marie Flanigan.

Save: Shop Around for Tile

Eye-catching tile doesn't have to be expensive. Designer Susana Simonpietri suggests first going to designer showrooms to browse, then heading to local shops or online retailers for similar materials in more attainable prices. "You'd be surprised how often we find amazing white marble mosaic online for a quarter of the price we can get it in stores. Tile is one place where being thrifty pays off," says Simonpietri.

Splurge: Invest in Name Brands Wisely

"A great faucet or showerhead from Waterworks feels amazing to the user and will, without a doubt, return its value as a real estate investment. There is a rather palpable brand-oriented mentality for bathrooms in real estate, so skip the expensive tile which ultimately cannot be pinpointed to a maker and stick to brand names you love for your fixtures," says designer Susana Simonpietri.

Save: Sconces Lighten Up the Budget

Sconces are a great place to save in the bathroom, suggests designer Ryan Brown. Small and typically more affordable than a larger vanity light, just swap them out when it's time for an update. 

Splurge: Customize With Luxe Fixtures

"Our favorite item to splurge on in a bathroom is the plumbing. Plumbing vendors that tend to be more expensive have more refined style options and nicer finishes overall. A simple tiled shower or standard vanity with beautiful plumbing feels more custom. Moreover, cheap plumbing products can cause huge problems later on," says designer Ryan Brown.

Save: Striking Backdrop, Right on Budget

Glazed ceramic subway tiles are an inexpensive and classic addition to any bathroom. Designer Mark Williams takes them out of the shower and onto all of the bathroom's walls for a refined look.

Splurge: Add Opulence Underfoot

When adding luxury to the bath designer Mark Williams focuses on the floor. "Create an inset of water jet mosaic stone tile in the center of the floor. Typically, our bath designs are very tailored and simple. The addition of contrast and pattern from a more exotic material in limited application can add a sense of luxury," says designer Mark Williams.

Save: Think Classic Shower Tile

Shower tile is a smart place to stretch your dollar. Designer Sarah Wittenbraker suggests choosing penny or subway tile on the shower walls, since they are chic, timeless and budget-friendly.

Splurge: Opt for Statement-Making Wallpaper

Wallpaper in powder rooms is a favorite splurge element since it makes the biggest visual impact. Designer Sarah Wittenbraker loves it because, "Little bursts of color and pattern in these pockets of the house are fun and unexpected surprises."

Save: Brighten Up Your Savings

Lighting is one element that can easily be found at a reasonable price point. Look for fixtures that are fun and sculptural to bring style without the cost, suggests designer Regan Baker.

Splurge: Wow With Tile Floors

One of the few places you can add pattern in the bath, high-quality floor tile that will wear well over time is a smart investment. Plus, it's a great place to make a statement and add color, says designer Regan Baker.

Save: Simplicity Always Looks Fresh

Save big bucks by selecting basic white wall tile from home improvement retailers like Home Depot or Lowe's. In this spa-like bath, designer Shannon Wilkins relies on a simple tile backdrop to allow her splurge elements, a graphic floor and marble shower bench, to steal the show.

From: Prairie

Splurge: Of-the-Moment Fixtures

High-quality, high-design fixtures elevate an ordinary bathroom to ultra-sophisticated. "Right now, I really like the sleek matte black collections by Brizio," says designer Shannon Wilkins.

From: Prairie