This standard bath was updated with $1,000 worth of materials.

The challenge? Transform a typical ranch-style bath into something spectacular on a limited budget. The challengers? In one corner, a design/build firm with innovative ideas and know-how to get the job done right. In the other, a small, mundane bath with dated blue and maroon tile and lots of clutter. The stakes? Winner takes all. This room didn't stand a chance.

With a budget of $1,000 and a little elbow grease, the design team carried out an amazing transformation, and two lucky homeowners gained an updated bath that came in right on budget.

Wonderful Walls
"The dilemma was how to cover up the tile effectively while giving the owners the look they wanted on the minimal budget that they had," says one of the designers who worked on the project.

First, the team covered the tile walls with a black material to create a shadow effect. Then they applied adhesive and used a series of shelf boards as paneling. (The panels were purchased for about $6 each at a home-improvement store.) The panels were topped with traditional molding, painted black and used as a cap to provide a sense of separation. A series of grommet screws, inset at each panel edge, provides stability and gives a contemporary, industrial look to the room.

Mirror, Mirror
"We used linear elements throughout the bath to give it a tall, dramatic look," says one of the designers. The panels and the elongated mirror, for example, lead the eye up. The mirror glass was cut to fit the space, and the edges were finished for a smooth look. Altogether, the room appears to be spacious, clean, and open.

The free-floating mirror hangs from just above the sink to just below the crown molding. Two lights are suspended from the ceiling. "This was an older house with plaster walls, so we went through the attic to install the lights," notes one of the designers.

Door Prizes
The door to the bath used to swing inward, but because the adjacent hall was fairly large, it made more sense to have the door open that way instead. This allows more floorspace in the bath.

Once turned, the standard slab door was updated by cutting a hole through its center and adding a piece of frosted plastic in lieu of a window. Four grommet screws, similar to those used elsewhere in the bath, add to the minimalist look.

Window Ware
Instead of a frilly window treatment, the team added a frosted film to each windowpane to provide interest and privacy, while letting in some natural light. This is also a good solution for a window in a shower.

Saving Graces
Keeping original fixtures in a bath can save both time and expense when remodeling. In this bath, the water closet was fine, but the sink was cracked and outdated. There was plenty of storage in the closet, so having a sink with a cabinet underneath wasn't important. A new pedestal sink fit perfectly. Small and simple in appearance, it even came with a built-in towel bar.

Dramatic Decor
"The bath itself has a clean and modern look, but we toned it down with baskets and a palm tree-print shower curtain to give it more of a cozy feel," says one of the designers. The soothing natural green wall color blends well with the room's textures. A new shower curtain can do wonders to update a drab space. These owners chose one with a tropical look to match some prints that were hung on the walls.

Fabulous Flooring
The team wanted the look of a sisal or sea grass rug for the floor, but the natural fiber doesn't work well with water. As an alternative, they discovered a laminated flooring that closely resembles sisal. Placed directly over the old, worn tile, the new flooring will definitely stand up to spills and water.

Renovation Costs:

  • various supplies (bolts, washers, shelf boards, plumbing fixtures, and paint) $375
  • window film $105
  • mirror and sandblasted glass $150
  • flooring $170
  • lighting $200