50 (Almost) Free Bathroom Updates

Remodeling your bathroom doesn't have to be expensive. Take a look at what you can do with a little creativity and some housewares you likely already have on hand.

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June 15, 2020

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Photo By: Marian Parsons, Mustard Seed Interiors

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Photo By: Photos: Christopher Shane/Styling: Elizabeth Demos

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Photo By: Sarah Busby; Styling by H. Camille Smith

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Photo By: Marian Parsons, Mustard Seed Interiors

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Bring Out the Bath Towels

Put pretty towels to work by artfully arranging them in a large basket or repurposed waste can. Display in an empty corner or under a floating or pedestal sink for a pop of cozy color.

Found-Object Towel Hooks

Why waste precious dollars on high-end towel hooks when you can make them from items you have lying around the house? Here, antique spigot handles are repurposed to make a charming, farmhouse-inspired towel rack.

GET THE HOW-TO: Upcycle Vintage Spigot Handles Into a Trendy Towel Rack

Hand-Stamp Your Shower Curtain

Plain old shower curtain got you down? Give yours a fresh, tropical update by hand-stamping it with leaves and paint.

GET THE HOW-TO: How to Use Leaves as Stamps to Make a Botanical Shower Curtain

Shop Your House

The best way to decorate for free? Shop for items in other rooms of the house. Here, a tray of fresh flowers and a bowl of vintage keys adds unexpected yet delightful style to an empty spot on the counter. This arrangement would also look great on the back of a toilet or on a low shelf — just be sure to sanitize regularly.

Shop Your Yard

If your yard is teeming with gorgeous greenery, grab those clippers and put a few branches on display. Pro Tip: Rinse stems before bringing inside to keep curious critters at bay.

Paint One Wall

Repainting an entire room may not be in the budget, but you can pull off a small accent wall with a quart (or maybe even a sample can) of paint in a trendy color like forest green.

Raise Your Curtain Rod

Add instant luxury and make your bathroom feel larger by raising your curtain rod almost to the ceiling. But keep in mind, you might have to invest in a new, longer shower curtain.

Upgrade the Light Switch

Give builder-grade light switches a custom look with this hack. Pick a picture frame that's the same size and color as your switch covers, then attach the frame to the wall with adhesive putty. Pro Tip: 3.5" x 5" frames will fit a standard 1-gang switch plate.

MORE IDEAS: 50 DIY Home Improvement Projects Under $50

Plants With Style

The bathroom is a natural place for houseplants — with higher humidity than most rooms, many varieties will thrive. Choose one that does well in moist environments, like ferns or lilies, or opt for designers' favorite plant: a fiddle-leaf fig, which is a native to the tropics so it does well in warm, wet conditions. Just make sure it gets plenty of light.

MORE IDEAS: Plants to Grow in Your Bathroom

Upgrade Your Wastebasket

Trash that cheap garbage can and shop your home for an unused woven basket or flower pot that will fit the bill, instead.

DIY Permanent Marker Wall

Stylist Michelle Keeley gave her bathroom a quick, trendy update (for free!) by using a permanent marker and DIY stencil to create this gorgeous accent wall in her kids' bathroom. Follow the link to her Instagram page below and find the easy instructions in her story highlights.

GET THE HOW-TO: DIY Permanent Marker Wall

Upgrade Towels

If you're still hanging onto those threadbare towels from college, it might be time for an upgrade. Breezy, beautiful Turkish-style bath towels like the ones seen here are a steal at about $9 apiece. Grab a few and toss those old terries for good. Can't afford an entire set? Just buy a couple and keep them on display.

BUY IT: Etsy, $8.50

Focus on Fabric

A pedestal sink is great for an open, airy vibe, but you're left with zero storage space. Make use of extra fabric to add cottage charm and hidden storage to your powder room — no sewing required. Create clean edges with iron-on fusible webbing and then attach to your sink with adhesive-backed hook-and-loop tape.

Decant

Ditch mismatched packaging and give your shower or bathroom sink a cohesive look by decanting store-bought shampoo, hand soap, shower gel and more into beautiful custom bottles like these from Sweet Water Decor on Etsy. Or, make your own using inexpensive plastic amber bottles and printable sticker paper.

BUY IT: Etsy, $14.99

Double Up on Curtains

Your shower curtain takes up the single largest piece of real estate in the bathroom. Why not double that real estate by hanging not one, but two beautiful curtains for an ultra-luxurious look? Choose fringe-style drapes for a boho feel, go bold with large, moody florals or opt for a soft, modern ombre like designer Kerra Michele Huerta did here.

MORE IDEAS: 10 Must-Shop Shower Curtains for Every Style

Put Collections to Work

Add wow-worthy personality to your powder room by displaying a favorite collection. Whether you have an affinity for antique art pieces, colorful pottery or miniature figurines, gather them all together in one place to show off your much-loved collection and make an impressive vignette. A grouping of framed vintage keys decorates the back wall of this powder room for a creative, curated look.

MORE IDEAS: 25 Clever Ways to Decorate Above the Toilet

Use Handy Organization

Look for creative alternatives to get organized. A vintage wire basket hung above the toilet makes a cute and accessible bin for storing extra toilet paper.

MORE IDEAS: 40 Clever Bathroom Storage Ideas

Paint the Door

Add a burst of welcoming color by painting the bathroom door a bold hue. If a colorful door won't match the rest of your home or experimenting with color makes you nervous, just paint the back for a fun surprise when the door is closed.

GET THE HOW-TO: How to Paint a Door

Hide Dirty Laundry

Piles of dirty laundry can quickly make your space look messy and uninviting. Keep used towels and clothes off the floor and stylishly stashed away until laundry day with a gorgeous, lidded African basket.

Update Door Hardware With Paint

Is your home plagued by dated doorknobs? While swapping them out for new might be tempting, it can add up quickly — especially when one oil-rubbed bronze knob costs around $30 a piece. And that's not to mention the matching hinges and door latches. If you're looking for a cheap, long-lasting alternative, consider painting the knobs in your house for the cost of a can of spray paint and a weekend's worth of work.

GET THE HOW-TO: DIY Painted Door Knobs

Look Lofty

Take advantage of wasted vertical space above the toilet by transforming an old ladder into a chic, rustic storage rack. Opt for a dark stain to add rich depth to the piece or paint the legs a vibrant shade or bright white for a playful vibe. Add a wire basket or two to store towels and show off a pretty houseplant.

Clean & Paint Fan Cover

If your bathroom vent cover is clogged with dust and yellowed from years of use, it's probably time for a refresh. But instead of buying and installing a whole new unit, which can run you upwards of $100, simply remove the cover and give it a good scrubbing in the sink. Once dry, hit it with a few coats of high-gloss white spray paint for a fresh new ceiling look in minutes.

SEE MORE: 10 Spots You’re Not Cleaning Well Enough in the Bathroom

Repurpose Old Furniture

Before you discard furniture, ask yourself, "Is there another way to use this?" An odd, hand-me-down cabinet might seem like trash, but it can serve as valuable storage space in the bathroom. Give it a fresh coat of paint and you've got a beautiful bureau for your boudoir.

Make a T-Shirt Bath Mat

We're all guilty of having too many old shirts laying stuffed in our dresser drawers. Put them to good use by crafting them into an easy, no-sew bath mat.

GET THE HOW-TO: How to Make a Rag Rug Bathmat From Upcycled T-Shirts

Hang Curtains

If you're lucky enough to have a window in your bathroom, dress it up (and add some privacy) with gorgeous, gauzy, floor-to-ceiling curtains.

Find Vintage Vertical Storage

Hit flea markets or thrift stores to score vintage beauties like a tiered enamel server or brass tray to prettily corral your makeup and morning necessities.

Just Add Feet

Make your builder-grade vanity look like a built-in furniture piece with the addition of furniture feet. Measure the height from the floor to bottom of the cabinet, find unfinished "bun" feet online or at the craft store to fit your measurements, then paint them to match your vanity. Pro Tip: Take one of your kitchen drawers with you to the hardware store and a paint expert can mix the exact shade you need.

Pick Pretty Products

Want in on a little-known designer secret? Stock up on gorgeous self-care staples like this rustic, natural-bristle body brush, and put them on display. Items like beautiful bar soaps, bamboo toothbrushes and razors with wooden handles double as pretty decor when not in use.

Don't Forget Flowers

The quickest route to a refreshed bathroom is a freshly cut bouquet. Fill a vase or jar with flowers, evergreens or berries from your yard for an instant (and free) update. No yard? Pick up a discounted bouquet from the grocery store or fashion paper flowers for long-lasting beauty.

Create Displays

A clean and organized bathroom makes for a calm, inviting atmosphere. Add simple trays to keep necessities on hand and give the space an uncluttered look. Stow away those not-so-attractive essentials, like hair dryers, brushes and toothpaste, in a closed basket, drawer or cabinet.

From: Elizabeth Demos

Bring On the Color

Nothing beats a fresh coat of paint — and this eye-catching teal-blue vanity makes a major impact in this crisp white bathroom. With a little elbow grease, some sandpaper and can of paint, you can take a plain vanity from ho-hum to the star of your bathroom.

Sharpie Shiplap

Want the shiplap look for less? Go faux by creating shiplap-like lines with permanent marker on an accent wall in the bathroom. For this easy DIY you'll need a level, ruler and a black permanent marker — that's it! The final result looks surprisingly similar to the real shiplap shown in this inspiration pic.

GET THE HOW-TO: DIY Sharpie Shiplap Wall

Paint Grout

Give your tiled shower, backsplash or floor an instant, modern update by coloring over discolored grout with grout paint or a handy grout pen. Choose white or black for a traditional look or go bold with a saturated hue like trendy terracotta. Snag our top tips for painting grout below.

READ MORE: The Dos and Don'ts of Painting Grout

Smart Upcycle

A vintage test-tube rack keeps all your grooming tools neatly in one place. Brushes, nail polish and nail files fit perfectly in the test-tube compartments, giving your bathroom an organized look and keeping everything conveniently at your fingertips. But the best part? These vintage organizers can be found online for about $7.

Hang Your Plants

No extra floor or counter space to put a plant? Hang one instead. Using a few low-cost supplies from the hardware store, you can make this trendy macrame hanger to display your favorite humidity-loving plant.

GET THE HOW-TO: How to Make an Easy Macrame Plant Hanger

Pull Up a Stool

In addition to its practical functions, a wood stool makes a handsome catch-all for towels, toiletries, plants and more — perfect for filling an empty corner in your bathroom.

Try a Makeup Sponge Wall

Want to go bold in your bath? Use a teardrop-shaped beauty blender and black paint to stamp a high-fashion pattern onto your walls. First, cover all surfaces with a drop cloth and tape off baseboards and trim. Dip one side of the makeup sponge into your choice of wall paint, dab excess paint onto a paper towel, then stamp an artsy pattern from left to right along the top of the wall. Press the sponge harder or lighter on the wall to create the varying fat and thin impressions seen here. And don't worry about being perfect — imperfections make it more interesting! Continue until the entire wall is stamped, then let dry before removing the tape and drop cloths.

Paint Your Frame

Say goodbye to your basic black, brown or white mirror frame and spruce up your bathroom vanity with a brilliant hue. This frame is painted a beautiful robin's egg blue, giving the otherwise neutral bathroom a color boost. All it takes is a small amount of paint for the job.

Add Storage With Shelves

Double or triple your storage potential by utilizing vertical space. Grab leftover boards from a project or reclaimed wood and turn them into floating shelves. A trio of shelves adds extra storage space for towels, toilet paper and toiletries in this bathroom nook.

GET THE HOW-TO: How to Make Floating Shelves From Reclaimed Barnwood

Look Up

Don't forget the fifth wall! Try a bold, dark ceiling color in your small bathroom, like the deep, flat black designer Sarah Gibson used here. The dramatic shade draws the eye upward, making the small space feel significantly taller and oh-so-chic.

Make a Shower Caddy Garden

Transform your run-of-the-mill shower into a tropical spa, complete with a hanging garden of exotic flowers. Orchids, like the ones seen here, thrive in humidity and will stay in bloom for months and live for years with proper care. Make your own shower caddy garden following our step-by-step instructions below.

GET THE HOW-TO: Make a Shower Caddy Garden

Give Lights a Lift

Hate your builder-grade light fixtures? Give them a major makeover without breaking the bank — all you need is some spray paint and new shades.

GET THE HOW-TO: Easy Vanity Light Upgrade

Curate a Gallery Wall

Fill an empty wall and add instant style with a low-cost (or free) gallery wall made from items you have around the house or can find at the thrift store. Here, mismatched framed art like a quirky bee illustration and DIY watercolor painting are arranged irregularly to create a designer-worthy look.

MORE IDEAS: 16 Easy DIY Wall Art Ideas

Upcycle Baby Food Jars

Transform those sweet little glass jars into handy storage for small items like ponytail holders, bobby pins, cotton pads and more. Unscrew the lid from the jar, then glue a small wooden drawer knob in the center of the lid. Spray paint the lid and knob your favorite color and let dry before placing back on the jar.

MORE IDEAS: 18 Things You Shouldn't Throw Away + What to Do With Them

Upgrade (or Paint!) Hardware

Give that old vanity an instant facelift by swapping dated hardware for new, pretty pulls like the sleek, black bars used in HGTV Smart Home 2020. Designer-worthy cabinet hardware can be found online for just $2-$6 apiece, but if that's still out of your budget, try spray-painting your existing knobs for even less.

BUY IT: Build.com, $5.99

DIY Napkin Curtains

You read that right — you can DIY your way to pretty cafe curtains like these simply by shopping your linen drawer. Get the step-by-step instructions below.

GET THE HOW-TO: Napkin Cafe Curtains

Stencil the Floor

No budget for new floors? Stencil over old tile at a fraction of the cost. The end result is a gorgeous look that nobody will believe is faux.

GET THE HOW-TO: Paint and Stencil a Tile Floor

READ MORE: Can You Paint Ceramic Floor Tile?

Line the Drawers

Even a junk drawer deserves some love. Lining shelves and drawers with bright, cheery paper will inspire you to keep everything organized and in its place.

MORE IDEAS: 10 Ways to Turn Leftover Gift Wrap Into Pretty Decor

Decorate Resourcefully

A little ingenuity turns a hand-me-down furniture piece into a completely original vanity. This distressed side table is transformed with a sleek white vessel sink and a pair of large-scale gray tiles for the backsplash. Shop your home (or parents' or grandparents') or estate sales for a base that's little-to-no money and invest a bit in the transformation.

GET THE HOW-TO: Turn a Vintage Dresser Into a Bathroom Vanity

Create Your Own Artwork

No budget for artwork? Find an old frame and print something from a free printable website, or pick up an inexpensive letter board and put your bathroom pun skills to the test.

BUY IT: Party City, $14.99

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