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Low-cost luxury bathroom remodeling ideas

Use these hacks to mimic expensive design trends on a budget

by Rosemary Avance, Ph.D. ConsumerAffairs Research Team
White bathtub

Introduction

The bathroom was never a place to linger. You’d get in, get out and get on with your life. But contemporary designers are giving new life to bathrooms with amazing (and amazingly expensive) design ideas.

There’s good news for regular folks who can’t afford a solid gold toilet: there are low-cost ways to bring a little luxury into your bathroom. If you’re ready for a bathroom re-do, take some inspiration from these ridiculously expensive bathrooms and rework them to fit your budget.

Crystal chandelier

Idea #1: Crystal decor

The dream: A Swarovski-encrusted bathtub, customized to fit your space and style.

Customized adult-sized bathtubs vary in pricing. The baby-sized version (yes, there really is a baby-sized Swarovski encrusted bathtub and yes, it looks as amazing as it sounds) costs $5,200, so you should expect to pay no less than $5,000 for this luxury bathroom item.

Your reality: Crystal accents.

Swarovski-encrusted accents are a less expensive alternative that can add some bling to your bathroom. If you really want to splurge, you can find Swarovski encrusted faucets for $1,000-$2,000. For a mini-splurge, buy accents like a soap dispenser, soap dish, toilet paper holder or towel holder for under $200 each. If you’re crafty, DIY this idea with faux crystals from the craft store.

Girl watching fish tank

Idea #2: Ocean theme

The dream: Taking a bath surrounded by the ocean in your underwater bathroom.

Underwater hotels are trending overseas, including bathrooms that make you feel as though you’re really taking a bath under the sea. You’d have to shell out $8,000 to spend just one night in a luxury underwater hotel.

Your reality: New flooring or paint.

Enjoy the luxury of the ocean with epoxy 3D flooring. The tiles are printed with lifesize ocean scenes to make you feel like you’re actually walking through the ocean. Prices range from $100-$550 per square meter. As a reference point, laminate flooring from your local hardware store costs around $4 per square foot.

Don’t want to commit to this flooring trend? You can still evoke the ocean with new paint and ocean-themed decorations. Try aqua walls, crisp white trim and a few well-placed seashells or starfish to get the feel of the ocean without undergoing a full bathroom remodel.

White and black bathroom with gold accents

Idea #3: Gold accents

The dream: A solid gold toilet, encrusted with gems and surrounded by 24-karat gold furnishings and flooring.

Gold has made a big comeback in interior decorating, and a bathroom is a great place to incorporate this luxe look. Taken to the extreme, artists and designers have created pure gold toilets, like artist Maurizio Cattelan’s fully functioning toilet at the Guggenheim Museum and Hang Fung Gold Technology’s $29 million dollar gold bathroom in Hong Kong.

Your reality: Gold fixtures and hardware.

If gold’s your thing, you’re in luck. There are plenty of ways to incorporate gold accents in your bathroom without spending a fortune. Try adding gold-toned faucets, shower heads, towel holders and drawer handles. Find these at your local hardware store for anywhere from $50 to $1,000 each. Or try adding some gold paint: a bright white bathroom with gold trim looks luxe for under $100.

Plants decorating bathroom counter

Idea #4: Nature theme

The dream: An outdoor shower oasis.

Picture this: The sun is shining, birds are chirping and you're enjoying the refreshing thrill of showering in nature. Sounds great, right? Outdoor showers aren’t necessarily all that expensive, but they are definitely impractical for most homeowners who have neighbors or a small yard. Fortunately, there are ways to get an outdoor vibe without actually going outside.

Your reality: Bring the outdoors inside.

If you love the idea of bringing nature into your shower, add some plants to your bathroom space. A philodendron is a great option because it’s low maintenance and doesn’t need any soil. Stick it in a jar with some water and put it on your shower shelf to make yourself feel like you’re outside. Cheap, easy and simple.

If you want to do more than just add a plant, think about installing a skylight over your shower to give you that outdoor feeling without the invasion of privacy. You can also add natural elements into your design like rocks, shells or driftwood.

Towel and bucket in sauna

Idea #5: Spa experience

The dream: Your own personal spa complete with sauna, steam room and therapeutic essential oils.

Your steam bathing environment will, of course, include chromotherapy mood lighting for a complete sensory experience. You might have heard of the steam room at Core Gym in New York City: Members pay $50,000 just to sign up, then another $15,000 a year to enjoy the facility and its amenities including a luxury steam room.

Your reality: Shower kit and lighting.

Ok, this is one bathroom idea that can easily become a reality, and the only one on my list that just might improve your lifestyle. Steam can help with allergies, asthma and chronic sinus conditions by opening up your air passages. Steam is also good for circulation and muscle relaxation, which is why some gyms and spas have steam rooms.

Steam shower kits start around $800, or you can have a steam shower designed for up to $5,000. And once you decide to splurge on a steam shower, you might as well add chromotherapy lighting which starts at a few hundred dollars. If you’re doing a completely new shower installation, you might want to consider built-in chromotherapy lighting. If you’re remodeling your existing bathroom, there are plenty of stand-alone chromotherapy options.

White bathroom counter

Conclusion

Whether you’re going for a complete bathroom remodel or just want to do a little sprucing up, use these bathroom ideas as a jumping off point. Add some luxury or just a little flare to give yourself a reason to linger in your new bathroom at the end of a long day. If you’re in the market for a walk-in shower, make sure to read through our consumer reviews to find the best one for your space and budget.

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by Rosemary Avance, Ph.D. ConsumerAffairs Research Team

Rosemary Avance, Ph.D., uses her social science research background as a member of the ConsumerAffairs research team to help people make smart choices. She researches products, businesses and industries thoroughly, then passes on the most relevant and essential information for consumers looking to make important purchasing decisions.