Updating the look of your home can be exciting, but trying to fix an outdated bathroom can appear too costly to attack. However, renovating an older bathroom doesn't have to mean ripping out everything and starting from scratch. You can change the look completely with a few simple and relatively inexpensive ideas.
Get rid of your dated countertop and replace it with a granite countertop that's already been cut. Many bathroom counters come in standard sizes, and buying a granite top that's already cut saves you hundreds of dollars over buying a custom countertop. These countertops already have a hole for the sink, so measure carefully to make sure you know where the hole needs to be. You can also allow your creative juices to flow and buy an antique desk. Refinish the desk and cut a hole in the top for the sink. The knee hole makes an ideal place for the plumbing, and there are already drawers to store your bathroom items.
Whether you have a bathtub-and-shower combination or a standalone shower, update the look by removing it and replacing it with a glass shower enclosure. These can stand alone in the room or can cover just one side, which you need if your shower is enclosed by walls on three sides. Tiling the walls isn't that expensive and can give your shower a modern look. Choose an enclosure style that matches the size of your existing opening, and use the existing plumbing locations to make installation cheaper.
Depending on the kind of flooring already installed in your bathroom, changing it might be an easy fix. It's usually simple and economical to pull up existing linoleum and replace it with a more modern linoleum pattern. You might be able to lay new linoleum, tile or laminate flooring over your existing linoleum without removing it. Adding new tile to the floor is more expensive than linoleum, but it can bring a modern and natural element to your bathroom. The small size of most bathrooms makes tiling relatively inexpensive.
Take advantage of wall space by creating a sunken shelving nook. Cut through the drywall where you want the shelves to be, then attach 2-by-4-inch lumber between the studs to frame the shelving unit. Attach beadboard to the frame with screws, then add molding around the edges. If there's a stud in the middle of your new shelving nook -- if you want your nook to be wider than the distance between two studs -- cover it with beadboard and use it as a shelf divider. Attach shelves with L-brackets or install 1-by-2-inch lumber on the sides and back of the nook as braces and secure the shelves to the braces. This works especially well for older bathrooms where space is often an issue; instead of taking up headroom, this creates storage that doesn't extend into the room.
Based outside Atlanta, Ga., Shala Munroe has been writing and copy editing since 1995. Beginning her career at newspapers such as the "Marietta Daily Journal" and the "Atlanta Business Chronicle," she most recently worked in communications and management for several nonprofit organizations before purchasing a flower shop in 2006. She earned a BA in communications from Jacksonville State University.