Lack the funds to redo your whole house? Then consider starting with the powder room.

By Alice Welsh Doyle

Pick the theme or overall feel you want. Here, designer Lisa Todd went with a garden inspiration for Barbara and Paul Gardner's powder room. "The Gardners love the outdoors, so I wanted to bring that feeling into this space. It also complements the adjoining family room and kitchen, so there's a continuous flow," explains Lisa.

A lively floral wallpaper sets the stage in the tiny space, and bright white paint--which replaced the stained door and trim--contributes to the fresh look. The outdoor-inspired lantern continues the theme while giving off attractive light. A mirror that looks like a window, hardware, and some new accessories coordinate perfectly. Lisa chose to give the room even more presence by removing the texture on the ceiling and creating a tray effect with crown molding. "The tray ceiling really finishes the room and gives it more height visually," she says. "It's a special feature that's not too expensive in a compact space." The result is a small room with big style. Alice Welsh Doyle

Total: $1,300 (does not include the cost of hardwood floors, which were part of the main floor renovation, or the designer's fee)


  • Wallpaper: $100--three double rolls bought in stock and on sale. (Tip: Powder rooms don't require a lot of paper, so you may find a good deal on items that are being discontinued. In that situation, be sure to buy an extra double roll just in case you need it later.)
  • Mirror: $120
  • Faucet: $150
  • Light fixture: $150
  • Labor: $750

A competent do-it-yourselfer could do the work, but if you hire someone, expect to pay about $125 to take down existing lighting and repair the walls and $125 to strip the ceiling. (It takes patience, but you can do the ceiling yourself. Wet it thoroughly with a spray bottle, and then use a drywall knife to remove the bumps.)

Editor's note: If hardwoods aren't in your budget, consider inexpensive tile. A neutral textured carpet, such as sisal, would also work.