Even if you can't afford the time and expense of a complete bathroom renovation, you can still make dramatic changes without moving a wall or replacing a sink. Here are a few easy-to-do ideas for increasing the function and beauty of your bath.
Optimizing space. Wasted space can be reclaimed and a logical system for storing your hygiene and cleaning supplies can be set up if you spend an hour going through your cabinets. Remove everything from the medicine cabinet and vanity, throwing out old makeup and any non-essential item which has not been used for a year or more. Can you put duplicate cleaning supplies under the kitchen sink or over your washer/dryer? Can you set up a makeup and hair-styling station in your guest bath, rather than the master bath?
After you've thrown out and removed what you can, return only the essentials to the cabinets. Line the drawers with wrapping paper or shelf paper, sprayed with your favorite perfume. Put the most frequently used items in the top drawer, and seldom-used items in the bottom drawer or in back of the base cabinet. Store like items together (i.e. bath toys, cleaning supplies, medicines, etc.), preferably in plastic boxes with no lids . Keep your vanity-top clutter free by storing a plastic caddie (with a handle) for hair-styling equipment and lotions under the sink.
If you want to add storage, purchase pull-out and stacking wire racks from your hardware store to take advantage of the vertical space in your base cabinets. Most hardware or container stores carry free-standing storage units which sit over the toilet, along with wall-mounted shelf units. Install hooks on the back of the door or next to the shower. Skirt a wall-hanging sink and hide supplies behind the fabric. Sit a small bookcase next to the toilet.
A new set of towel bars, hooks, a toilet-paper holder and a glass mini-shelf can add new sparkle to a dull bathroom. Home Depot, Ace Hardware and Orchard Supply carry a variety at reasonable prices.
Color-coordinated accessories. Fresh, fluffy towels and coordinated accessories can take the curse off even the most outlandish color scheme. Spring for the best quality towels, rug, and shower curtain you can afford which harmonize with your tiles and fixtures. Add in a few antique guest towels on top of the tank or layered over your hand towels.
Window treatment. If privacy is not an issue, consider no window covering at all. If the opening looks too spare, stencil or paint a motif copied from your shower curtain or tile pattern over it. For added color, fill a few bottles with colored water and line them up on the sill.
If window coverings are required, replace outdated curtains with honeycomb shades, mini-blinds or shutters. Or, add texture and color with ready-made valances available from Bed, Bath and Beyond or Pier One. For a non-standard window treatment, try hanging a stained glass window over the opening, or a section of garden lattice which you cut to fit and paint the same color as the walls, or hang a pair of bushy Boston ferns.
Floor covering. Cover ugly flooring with the largest area rug. Why not use an antique Persian prayer rug, a braided rug, a sheepskin or a Mexican blanket?
Lighting. If you can't replace the light fixture, clean the fixture's lens and make sure you are using the highest wattage bulbs possible. Place a small-scale table lamp on the vanity or toilet tank for additional lighting. Plug in a night light.
Decorative touches. Go on a treasure hunt for fun things to hang on the wall: a small gilt-framed picture or pair of antique plates, a kimono, a collection of hats or a display of your necklaces. On top of the tank or vanity try: an African violet or peace lily in a basket, several large, exotic seashells nestled around a glass canister filled with smaller shells, a bowl full of rose petals on top of an antique doily, a basket lined with an antique hankie and filled with fresh soaps next to a pair of candlesticks.