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The Best Classic and Timeless Finishes for a Cheap Bathroom Reno

By 09/22/2017December 11th, 202024 Comments

Since hurricane season has hit, I have received a few requests on the best, inexpensive, on-a-budget updates that will hopefully make both you and your insurance company happy. Here’s a comment I received from my lovely reader Donna on my new powder room reveal post:

“Hello Maria, you spread so much happiness and I’ve enjoyed following your blog for many years, admiring your work and happy to see your success blossom. Your JEM of a powder room is gloriously RADIANT in Coral! You’ll be smiling with laundry or garden tasks and give your guests a reason to smile as they visit your perky powder room all full of happy! I have needed to see something beautiful since we suffered from recent hurricane Irma.. and before there was Harvey, that pair of storms left 1000’s of homes in mayhem, chaos or completely gone. So many Florida and Texas people face rebuilding, and at the same time we see more storms heading to our south and eastern coastlines. Insurance companies are limited to restoring function…and I know many need that sense of home and beauty and have few resources. Your imagination and talents are many so I thought to ask.. could you and maybe your many designer friends get busy to help our sisters, friends, moms, aunties and daughters to re-feather their nests through low cost DIY touches (like the ones we used when we were young and had little but our imaginations? ) I am helping where I can here at home…online not my thing. How about an initiative “ Home after the Storm…broke but not broken” with posts on many blogs to provide how tos, simple ideas, tricks with low cost items (remember no-sew napkin throw pillows?) to help these women as they put their battered homes back together again. Keep spreading your happy Maria, you are a joy to this world!”

My heart goes out to everyone who is facing this. I can’t imagine what you must be going through, but I know how important it is to pick up the pieces and move on, so I’d like to share some tips and tricks for budget friendly bathroom renovations.

Love this minty almond green cabinet under the marble sink, with black framed mirror, white sconces, and black and white patterned floor tiles in this adorable country chic bathroom.


Image result for bm mill springs blue

BM Mill Springs Blue HC 137

A pretty, bright and classic bathroom does not have to break the bank (or insurance payout) if you keep it simple and timeless and add a dash of colour to make you happy.

You can see the full tour of our Midway House project here.


Flooring often needs to be replaced when there is water damage (or when the existing floor is just plain ugly and dated). While a classic hex tile floor doesn’t need to be expensive, if your insurance allowance or budget is tight and you need to spread it around, you can consider installing a hex look lino for considerably cheaper. Here’s one I really like:


It has the look of a classic hex floor with a warm greige colour that is easy to maintain and some subtle black. It’s neutral enough to allow you to paint your bathroom any happy colour you like 🙂

It also comes in more colourways without the black accent.

One of my new True Colour Experts, Vicki Lerch from Naniamo (in my Vancouver course this week) is a stager and she showed me this 80’s pink bathroom (below) in a house that has been listed for 40 days with no bites.

The homeowner has not been interested in doing anything but he’s coming around because the house desperately needs some updates.

The bathtub and surround is all the same material but the existing sheet vinyl floor is really bad. A quick fix here would be installing the hex sheet vinyl with the green grey background (above) because that’s the same neutral that’s in this bathroom.

There’s also a basket weave tile which is new this year! Finally, something classic that belongs in a bathroom, I love it:


Love colored vanities. Bring changeable pop to the bathrooms.


You can’t go wrong with a  hex floor and a pop of colour. This blue above is pretty, try BM Serenata AF 535, or you can go for something really happy and optimistic like yellow, green or coral.

Image result for bm serenata 535

BM Serenata AF 535

Recently, one of my lovely readers sent me an article that declared that ‘white-one-white’ bathrooms are OUT, OUT, OUT, one of the reasons being that they are hard to keep clean.

However, the greige hex vinyl sheet flooring still gives you options for happy colour, plus there’s also nothing wrong with a stained wood vanity in a bathroom, it adds contrast in a white bathroom and again, it’s easier to keep clean.

If your vanity is still in decent shape, you can definitely paint it and add some cute hardware. If not, consider looking for a used wood vanity on Kijiji and painting it, why not?

As I just demonstrated in this post, colour is way more timeless than grey, black or brown.


Image result for sw quite coral

SW Quite Coral 6614

You can also get creative and find a thrifted vanity or dresser and outfit it as a bathroom vanity. Maybe you already have an extra piece of furniture that could serve the purpose? There are lots of tutorials on how to do this on Pinterest. It doesn’t have to be a fancy antique like the pretty one below.

The Parsonses gave the master bathroom's characterless vanity the boot and replaced it with a dresser scored on Craigslist for $35.


For counter tops, you can find some really wonderful and inexpensive laminates these days, and they offer nicely finished squared off edges that look like stone now which makes a big difference from the dated curved ones we all imagine when we think laminate.

Marble-Look Laminate Countertop New March Issue of Lowes Creative Ideas on the Apple Newsstand!


Another option is to look at Ikea’s Godmorgon series vanities. They have been a long lived offering from Ikea, and they have wonderful reviews and impressive durability and features for the price point like quiet closing drawers with lots of storage space. One bonus of going this route is that the molded porcelain sinks double as a countertop, so that eliminates one expense.



White subway tile is of course the most classic and least expensive tile option for a shower surround and backsplash wall. Installation is the biggest expense, but it is possible to DIY it with some research and time, YouTube is great for renovation tutorials.

Plus, I’m really into round mirrors and Ikea also has this covered with a few options for under $100 below.

SANDANE Mirror IKEA Safety film reduces damage if glass is broken.


And some REALLY inexpensive sconce lights for either side. They also come in nickel.


For faucets, here are some I like on Pinterest.

A classic bathroom update or repair doesn’t need to break the bank, if you’re clear on what you’re looking for. Create a neutral backdrop with tile and flooring and treat yourself to a really fun colour on the vanity or walls. I love my new coral powder room, it makes me so happy!

Don’t forget to decorate and style your fresh new bathroom. Take a look at my Pinterest board for styling white kitchens and bathrooms for some inspiration, and while you’re there, make sure you’re following me so you can see what’s inspiring me right in your feed.

Related posts:

How I Saved $1500 in my Bathroom Renovation

Best Fix for Ugly Tile in Bathrooms

80’s Peach Bathroom to White for Just the Cost of Paint

3770 pins


  • Ellen says:

    We recently finished a kitchen and bath remodel as well as a new construction ADU. We have an small old house and didn’t change the footprint of the kitchen and bath, so it was a fun challenge getting everything to fit just right. I’ve subscribed to Maria’s blog for a very long time and even though my decorating style is different than hers, her ideas translate to any style and were always guiding me. Classic style accented with my design quirks. I did make some mistakes, but I’m really happy with how everything turned out and wouldn’t change a thing.

    There is one thing to make note of if you are using a vintage piece of furniture for a vanity. Check the depth in relation to a typical sink and faucet. I used a beautiful antique dry sink which I bought over 20 years ago. The original aged marble top was too fragile to cut into, so I moved that to another piece and had a similar Silestone counter top made by a fabricator who uses remnants. It’s thick and was cut in the same unique profile as the original marble and we added a backsplash. I stained some inexpensive wood legs which our contractor worked with to bring the height up a few inches. The key was having a wonderful contractor who worked with me to make this all work. He was patient and resourceful.

    So the problem – I shopped for a smaller that normal sink or a not too modern vessel sink for a long time and didn’t find anything I liked which was narrow enough from front to back to allow for the faucet behind. We did not plumb for wall faucets so that wasn’t an option. The fabricator had their own vanity template in hand and sold me their stock sink which they didn’t realize was too deep to work. I ended up ordering a small simple porcelain sink online. Everything turned out very pretty, but in our old house there’s only one bathroom, not a powder room where a tiny sink would be more appropriate. Also, my husband is a vigorous face washer, so there’s a hand towel close by for wiping up the over splash. So far, no one has come out of the bathroom and commented “You obviously made a mistake in there.”

  • There’s an appropriate term in Yiddish that I’ll have to check w my Jewish fried for what you’ve done here. I think it might be mensch. Very good of you to do this post regardless of me remembering the correct term. Thank you, Maria and team.

  • Mary-Illinois says:

    Hi Maria,
    My heart goes out to all the folks that have lost their homes or are very damaged. And it’s going to be hard to find a contractor that’s available to help pick up the pieces.
    Another option for these people to save some money would be to shop for materials at Habitat stores. When we’ve done projects around our house, we’ve donated left over materials to them.

  • Carina says:

    Woot! Woot! To vinyl sheet flooring!!! I have 2 young boys and I picked various patterns of the Mannington line for ALL my bathrooms. I have classic marble tile in my current bathrooms and it was beautiful…for 2 months. Then it became near impossible to keep the white grout clean. IMPOSSIBLE. 🙂 So for our new build we have chosen various patterns from this line. I have seen them in person and they are delicious. Yes, it’s still sheet vinyl but I refuse to spend my time with toothbrush and bleach in hand!

    • Carina says:

      The basket weave pattern above will be going in the boys’ bathroom. I’m thrilled to have found this line as other choices have a lot to be desired.

    • Stacy says:

      Tile will wear better and provides more value for your home, though, so if you can afford tile, it’s still the better option. As for grout, seal it! Sealing grout is the easiest job, and because I sealed my grout when I moved into my new home 3 years, my grout is still perfect. My bathrooms have tile, but my laundry room has vinyl, and in seeing that hex vinyl, I may be replacing my vinyl in there soon! It’s a work-horse room, and not one I will spend the money to have tile in.

  • Debra Rigby says:

    I am a Colour Expert in London, Ontario and I am renovating a client’s
    original 1969 bathroom. This is last room in the house to be updated and we are installing Tarkett FibreFloor Easy Living Rich Onyx Hex pattern as seen in the first whitebathroom. This keeps my client on budget and ready to sell!!
    When i had a flood in my basement we went with the same product and couldn’t be happier!!

    Debra Rigby

  • Debra Rigby says:

    Oops – second picture

  • Penny says:

    Thank you Maria for this wonderful and caring post. The selections you show are quite amazing and will help many people put their lives back together again as well as those who want lovely homes without an unlimited budget. Those sconces from Ikea are adorable!

  • Norine says:

    I love the intent of this article and I like the hints as updates for existing bathrooms.

  • Julie S says:

    I just want to fall all over you with thanks! We are finishing a remodel of the main living spaces of our new house, and as is typical with this sort of thing, we’ve gone over budget (and time). There is going to be NO MONEY for the two bathrooms and bedrooms for a couple years now. But I think I can update the bathrooms after all with the things you have shared today if I pinch a few pennies. Many thanks, and my heart goes out to the homeowners rebuilding after such devastation.

  • Lucy Haines says:

    Maria you are always so generous with your expertise. The poor people in both Texas and Florida who lost their homes is just gut wrenching! Some of them may not even afford to build again. So sad! Those that can rebuild or repair will appreciate your suggestions. I love the hex vinyl tile idea. Also I have been doing some staging for sellers who want to make their home look updated so it will sell fast. It is amazing what you can do by repurposing old furniture to make it look current with pillows or a little paint an area rug etc. I have gone to Home Depot for vanities for the bathrooms and added feet or knobs to make them look custom. Your idea about buying a chest and a molded top with a sink is excellent! All you need to do is cut a hole for the sink. Staging also makes a difference. There are so many places that one can go to and find lamps, flowers decorative items plus a number of other items. I personally check out Goodwill, Salvation Army, and consignment stores. You are such an inspiration on all subjects Maria,. God bless you!

  • Laura says:

    I just found a custom made pantry cabinet on Facebook. It fit the space I’m putting it in perfectly, and it is maple with shaker doors. It was $60. Also, big box stores sometimes have a section of misorder, like special order cabinets and countertops that they need to get rid of. You can bargain with the department manager. Also, sometimes you can get a stone remnant vanity top from a stone fabricator and undermount bowl for the same price as a cultured marble special order top.

    I wanted to get that hex pattern vinyl for our bathroom a few years ago and I let my husband talk me out of it. I regret it every day. Now we are working on our mudroom which is going to be open to our kitchen and I am trying to figure out a cost effective flooring that can go in both. (Home values in our town are very low, so we don’t want to over renovate in a house that is not our forever home.) We plan to remodel our kitchen in a year or two. My dad said tile or grout will crack in our 100 year old house. We have original maple floors in the adjoining dining room so no fake wood. And we get 200 inches of snow a year so real wood is impractical. I am kicking around the idea of the old school linoleum tiles in a checkerboard, but not black and white. Maybe softer green grays to hide dirt. Since it is an older bungalow style home I feel it could work. Anyone have any thoughts?

    • June says:

      Someone I know (who also has a bungalow) put large checkerboards in her kitchen; the adjoining living room is hardwood. Hers is black and white and looks wonderful. Your idea of a softer color sounds just perfect. Good luck!

      • Laura says:

        Thanks! My husband hates the idea but I let him talk me out of a classic choice once already. Just needed an opinion from someone likeminded.

  • Maria–I just told my husband the nature of this post–helping folks who’ve lost nearly everything in their homes after the hurricane–and he said,” Maria’s a nice lady!” YES! You are! Still a Little Sparkle….
    that gal is so right when she says, “Maria you are a joy to the world!”
    I second that notion.
    Can’t wait to see you again in November!!!
    xo, Paula

  • Sonja says:

    So nice of you to “donate” your valuable design advice, Maria. You are the BEST!!!?????

  • Linda says:

    Hi Maria,

    Is this a new word? I have never come across it before. GRIEGE. Is this a new color?

  • Julie says:

    I’ve always appreciated the classic black and white bathroom. Then I bought a house with a 90s era black and white bathroom which I feel has aged pretty well, letting me focus on other renos and making me appreciate anew the timeless value of a classic combo! But I hate, hate, hate the white floor tiles because they show everything, specifically hair (3 females with long hair share the room – I can understand that fewer people with shorter hair might see this as a non issue). The type of floor you highlight seems like a great way to keep to a classic black and white look and not need to sweep every single day. I will be looking for something like this when the bathroom eventually does need to be gutted.

  • Diane says:

    The Hurricane in Houston is exactly why I find myself seeking your words of wisdom to share with my son and DinL who along with a baby and dog are now living in my townhome indefinitely!
    They must completely redo every room, most importantly kitchen and master bath. This was supposed to be a “starter” home, making it even more important to not overspend…(whirlpool tub? I say “no”; they think it’ll be a selling point.)
    Oddly, the ONE thing that doesn’t need replacing is the TAN tile ?kitchen and family room floor.
    (large tiles set on the diagonal)
    They’re in their 30’s and are contemporary/mid century/steampunk(?) at heart.
    Cabinet and counter colors are baffling them and they don’t want brown!
    All I know to tell them is to “look for the undertones!!”
    It’s SO disheartening to have to spend time and hard-earned money to redo a home you don’t wven want to move back into. Saddest to me was losing the lovely little nursery they’d recently put together for my 8mo old granddaughter!
    Do I need to look back in archives for working around tan tile floors?

  • SDC says:

    After reading this post I went to a dealer to see the Mannington sheet vinyl recommendations in person. They are very, very nice vinyls. In my opinion, the basket weave is the most realistic and elegant in person. I’m currently renovating two full bathrooms and due to structural constraints, tile is not a viable option. I had been considering LVT (luxury vinyl tile) but after seeing the basket weave, that’s what I’ll be using in bathrooms. For those partial to the hex, it’s a lovely choice as well, just a touch less realistic.

    One thing to keep in mind, these are only available in 12 foot widths and are premium vinyls (higher cost per square yard). If you have smaller room, or you want to avoid a seam, you could wind up paying for a substantial amount of excess material. In some instances, the cost of this excess could tip the scale closer to going with a tile floor. Just something to keep in mind.

    • SDC says:

      Update: I just checked today (March 4, 2018) and these Mannington sheet vinyls are now being sold in both 6′ and 12″ widths.

  • Trish says:

    Enjoyed your article. Do you happen to know the light blue-green paint color and brand on the walls of the second photo?

    • Michelle Bartel says:

      I was wondering the same thing. I believe it is the same color in my guest bedroom. It is called Healing Aloe from Ben Moore. It is a beautiful color.

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