Tasteful, Simple Updates for an Outdated Bathroom

From colorful stained glass windows to authentic wood flooring, buying an older home certainly has its perks. Unfortunately, all that vintage charm tends to be accompanied by outdated bathrooms.

Whether it’s a rusty shower head or discolored tile, outdated bathrooms are both a frustration and an eyesore. Updating an outdated bathroom seems like an expensive and time-intensive task at first, but not all bathroom upgrades have to break the bank.

These simple, cost-effective tips will help anyone bring life and style to an old bathroom.

Vanity Upgrades

When a vanity needs updating, first consider which elements need to stay and which need to go. Frugal Family Times was able to update an outdated bathroom by simply replacing the vanity top, rather than the entire vanity. If the cabinets and plumbing below a sink’s base remain in good condition, this is an easy way to make a big impact. To decide the color and style of a new vanity top, Sabrina Scrivo of Pink Little Notebook recommends choosing a classic color palette, such as black and white.

High quality formica tops in marble patterns can add a simple, but effective touch of class. Vinyl coverings can also hide unsightly countertops with more sophisticated materials, and they can be found in a variety of natural prints.

Julie Pennell at Today shows how one blogger transformed an old vanity into faux granite with a simple cover. By covering for the vanity with the heavy vinyl, the entire look and feel of the bathroom was upgraded. For people who have splurged on a new sink or faucet first, whether due to plumbing or functionality issues or just for appearance sake, the vinyl cover is an affordable way to make the vanity itself more appealing.

Pulls and Handles

Another simple way to spruce up a bathroom is to add new pulls and handles to drawers and cabinet doors.

Interior designer Jenna Burger thinks crystal knobs add a touch of class to any vanity, especially in older homes with vintage charm. Drawers that don’t have any pull handles can also benefit from a fresh new set of fixtures.

To spruce up a stark, all-white vanity that has outdated pulls, Krista of The Happy Housie opted for matte brass pulls that offer a modern look. Since she wasn’t updating the cabinet itself, she spent more time choosing pulls that made a bold statement and tied into the rest of the bathroom’s updates. For an even quicker and more cost-effective option, Thrifty Little Mom Kim Anderson offers a DIY tutorial on how to spraypaint existing fixtures. With a variety of metal-colored spray paint options in bronze, silver and more, it’s easy to take old fixtures to the next level.

Shower and Bath

Adding new shower and bath fixtures also provides a fresh look to any outdated bathroom.

Carly Jacobs, editor of Australian lifestyle website Smaggle, says that a new sink faucet adds a pleasing visual lift, especially for those looking to slowly update a bathroom in affordable increments. This is the approach that Canadian blogger Nikki Bahan uses; she started her bathroom update by updating the drawer pulls and sink vanity. These initial changes made it easier to envision and determine the next big change: a new tub and shower combination.

If it’s the showerhead that needs immediate replacing, Brittany of Pretty Handy Girl has a few tips for installing one that looks great and feels even better. She says that if the showerhead is rusty, dribbling or gunky, it’s time to swap it out for a new one. Replacing a shower head is an easy fix that adds to both the aesthetic look and overall experience.

If your shower surround features a partial wall, consider removing it to free up more space. Interior designer Laurel Bern explains that by removing the partial tiled wall at the end of her bathtub, she was able to install a larger vanity. In addition to opening up the shower space to create a more airy and inviting feel, this simple update creates room for more counter space.

A clawfoot tub is an additional way to add elegance and class to any bathroom that’s large enough to accommodate one. As seen in this bathroom remodel by Celia Becker of After Orange County, her outdated cabin bathroom features a vintage clawfoot tub. To enhance the tub’s functionality, Becker added copper pipes to create her own shower system.


To make sure all toiletries and essentials are accessible from the new tub, consider a new approach to organization.

Smart Homes for Living writes that clearing clutter can make your bathroom look bright and modern. Adding freestanding or wall-hung shelves helps too, keeping mess at a minimum while maximizing space throughout. To further enhance the appeal and functionality of a new shelf, consider swapping out old accessories for fresh organizational elements. Gina Luker of the Shabby Creek Cottage shows how wire baskets and mason jars can be used to house everyday essentials while adding a rustic element to the bathroom.

New shelving can also serve as a great addition to a shower update. Beth Hunter at  Home Stories A to Z shows how built-in shower shelves offer convenience and accessibility in an existing shower. They minimize the need for excess shower caddies and hanging hooks, as these elements tend to collect clutter and look messy.

Miscellaneous Updates

To compliment a new vanity, sink or fixture set, consider brightening up other neglected areas of the bathroom.

Kristi Linauer of Addicted 2 Decorating suggests adding beadboard to a ceiling. This enables you to cover the ceiling with new paint and brighten up the entire room. It also adds a dynamic pattern and provides interest to dull or outdated bathrooms.

If a bathroom’s existing tub is in decent condition, consider re-tiling the walls or floor for a fresh look. Krystal at The Weathered Fox added new white subway tiles and clean dark gray grout to make her existing bathtub surround feel clean and fresh. When replacing tiles isn’t an option, painting them can also work wonders. Anna Moseley of Ask Anna explains that homeowners with older homes may be dealing with outdated tile colors such as pink. If this is the case, painting them white or gray can instantly modernize the space.

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