Back to All Posts
September 03, 2019 Expert Advice

Update Your Bathroom to Look Modern Without Renovation – 7 Great Ideas

Create a Modern Bathroom Without Renovation
You may want to improve the look of your bathroom without spending so much on a complete bathroom remodel.
On one hand, typical old school methods like re-surfacing are costly and not suitable for the long term whilst on the other hand a complete renovation can be a fairly large investment that you’re not ready for.
Is it a good idea to freshen up your bathroom on the cheap? Should you paint your tiles, resurface the bath and change the vanities kickboard?
You are stuck between a rock and a hard place, and need to update your bathroom on a budget…
The good news is that it is possible to cheaply improve the look of your bathroom without spending a fortune. Low cost bathroom updates can make a bathroom look more modern in a surprisingly affordable way! You will need to de-clutter, refresh tired looking parts, conceal what you can, and apply a few other techniques and ideas.
Keep in mind however…
You have to be realistic about expectations on how good the bathroom will look, this won’t be the same as a full renovation! You are quite limited when it is not possible to remove all of the hard fixings such as flooring, sheet walls and PC items.
In this article we list some nifty strategies to update and freshen up the look of your bathroom in a cost effective manner.

To make your bathroom immediately look better – Reduce the number of non-fixed old things!

The first step to create a modern bathroom without renovating is to start eliminating as much “filler” items in the bathroom as possible or any items that seem to be idly taking up visible space.

This is quite important, because a bathroom that looks tired and in need of an update often has a few dated looking “soft fixtures”, essentially anything that isn’t a hardware fitting so that means not your toilet or bath tub. Some examples include an old towel stand, a freestanding little cabinet from the 80s or a suction mounted toothbrush holder which has stained yellow.

Its common for older style homes to have unusual things such as a side extension for a vanity, rugs on the toilet, a tray running along the shower (that you never seem to need or use) or a bath caddy you haven’t needed since your youngest child moved out a few years ago.

It doesn’t help that these items are often as old as the bathroom itself, and show visible signs of use and wear. You can do your best to take out or change a lot of these items to freshen things up a little in your bathroom and open up some space to get creative. It goes a long way towards making your bathroom look better without actually renovating.

If you can reduce the amount of extra items in the bathroom that are rarely if ever used, it makes your next bit of work easier whilst also making the room more attractive.

Quick bathroom improvement – if it can be concealed, conceal it

This bathroom needs a de-clutter.

In older bathrooms, its very common for your bathroom essentials to have little space to be stowed away in, most items end up:

  • sitting on the vanity top (toothbrushes, soap, hair gels, shavers, etc)
  • inside and along the bottom of the shower (shampoo products, body scrubs)
  • sitting on or near the towel rails (such as blow dryers)
  • or lined up along the bath wherever you could fit it.

If its possible to fit in a new small cupboard, you won’t need to renovate your bathroom to conceal a lot of these things, and this will make a big impact on the look of your bathroom. A bathroom that is less cluttered will start to look better, and it helps before we move on to the next step.

A modern look means fresh paint, but is it a good idea to paint the bathroom tiles?

A touch up on any old paint work will make a big impact. By repainting parts of the bathroom that could use it, you also get the opportunity to change up colours to a neutral or pleasant blend that is more conducive towards a fresh modern look.

Its very common for older bathrooms to have walls that might need a bit of work. It’s amazing what changing your old bathrooms flaking blue walls to a fresh white colour can do to lift the look of the room.

Painting the non-tiled parts of the wall is fine, but painting over tiles is generally more expensive as it requires specialty paint. It doesn’t help that even tile specific paint isn’t very good at sticking to most tiles, and will scuff very easily, unless it is very expensive!

That’s not to say painting over tiles is a bad idea, its simply expensive to get the look you want and your money might be better invested into other aspects of freshening up the bathroom!

Painting over tiles also generally looks cheap, has an undesirable odour and can actually detract from your goal of freshening up the bathroom. Most bathroom tiles, generally ceramic or porcelain tiles, are better off being deep cleaned rigorously with an appropriate cleaner. You can also clean the grout or rake it out and re-apply, though this can also be expensive. We recommend not to paint over tiles unless you have to, though keep in mind that in a lot of cases, it costs about as much to just simply re-tile over the existing tile!

Some parts of the bathroom, such as the vanity, might also have flaking bits that may or may not be paintable, so keep this in mind when doing the bathroom re-paint.

If you have a wall mounted mirror in your bathroom, it’s a good idea to change the mirror

Wall mounted mirrors are remarkably simple to remove and replace, a new plain mirror is very affordable and will make a noticeable change to the look of your bathroom.

Old mirrors generally have edges and corners where the film has been compromised with dark black or brown looking marks.

Everyone who uses the bathroom will at some point be looking at the mirror, so its a valuable bit of real estate that may be changed up to lift the look of your bathroom and make it more modern. Mirrors that are built into the wall, flush with the tiling work, are more difficult to replace, so this tip generally applies to mirrors which have been installed over the wall.

Deep clean the grout, or if possible, re-apply new grout

Grout is perhaps the one thing, above all others, that may make a bathroom look old and outdated. A grout touch up will make a huge impact, so the time spent doing it is certainly worth it.

We mentioned before about deep cleaning tile and grout, it is always a good idea to clean, renew or otherwise change your grout to make your bathroom look better.

If you like, you can get a professional to scrape out the old grout and re-apply the new, or you may do it yourself with a grout removal rake to scratch out the grout as well as the grout applicator tools to re-apply.

It might also be possible for you to simply do a deep clean on the grout with a strong grout cleaner, and remove any excess gunk to really lift the look. Remember strong grout strippers, such as those that are acetone based, will need to be applied with a fine brush between the tiles and avoid getting the harsh chemicals on any bathroom fixtures.

It is likely very easy to replace your existing shower

Most showers, whether they are the rail showers with a hose and handheld piece or the fixed shower head protruding from the wall, or even the combination showers that have both an overhead and hand held shower are quick and easy to replace. This might not be intuitive because the water has to come from behind the wall, but it is the shower taps that are harder to replace, and may require professional assistance. The shower itself is essentially just a part that allows the water to shoot out.

It can make a big difference in particular to your showering experience to update your old shower to a new one, so a new shower goes a long way towards making your bathroom look good without renovating.

To replace your shower is as simple as unscrewing the existing shower from the connection point, called a water inlet and removing any parts of the shower that may be drilled to the wall. You can find a few guides to go through more detail for removing the existing shower pretty easily.

If you have holes drilled into your wall tile, its generally possible to also find shower’s that are designed to be easily “retrofitted” in a way that covers those holes.

The best part about replacing your old shower for a new one is that if you were to decide to renovate down the line, its easy to simply detach the shower and re-attach it after the renovation, your potential future bathroom remodel might be slightly cheaper than you expected!

Other steps to achieving a modern bathroom, without renovating

There are a few more bathroom fixtures that may be replaced with new updated ones. Some like the vanity or the toilet may even be re-used if you do decide to renovate in a few years. Others, such as your wall mixers or basin taps, either will be impossible or impractical to change. Following the steps listed above can cost no more than a few hundred dollars, whilst substantially lifting the look of your bathroom.