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The current state of the economy may encourage us to downgrade spending, but it doesn't mean halting your home upgrades. Look to the smallest room in the house to make the biggest imprint, and look to yourself to make the difference. Don your overalls and bust out the hammer - here's how to breakthrough a boring bathroom without sending your savings down the drain.

Think Outside the Bathroom

Alison Hall, editor at Domino magazine, suggests the biggest misconceptions about bathroom do-it-yourself projects comes from personal limitations. "People always think in bathroom mentality, but you can treat the bathroom like a living room." Space limitations allow for unlimited creativity.

"Get crazy with this small area. Hang pictures, art collages or decorative plates like you would in any other room of the house." Bold and bright colors that become overkill in a larger room light up a lavatory. Working with a number of home-design firms in California, Christina MacDonald, of DRS & Associates, says that simply choosing a sink makes a statement. "Today, there are so many designs made from innovative materials like bamboo, onyx and colored glass."

American Standard's 2008 Bathroom Habits Survey, which the Piscataway, N.J., company released in the fall of 2008, revealed that being comfortable and being able to multitask are top priorities for people when it comes to time spent in their bathrooms. Add homey décor touches or double-duty fixtures and shelving units to meet your needs.

Let there be Light

Hall warns to not be trapped by tradition. When it comes to lighting up your bathroom, "don't think you can't use something glamorous like a chandelier." Create old world style by swapping out the current light fixture and bringing in ornate illumination. No re-wiring necessary.

Floor Coverage

Love the faucet but hate the floor? Gutting the groundwork can be costly and timely. For a quick fix to cover tile or linoleum Hall suggests, "forget limiting yourself to just bathmats. To cover the bathroom floor, opt for an indoor/outdoor rug that you would typically use in a front foyer or living room." Built to absorb water and heavy foot action, a carpet of this variety offers colors, patterns and sizes that go beyond the traditional range of solid toned bathmats.

Shower Door Bore

Think of the shower stall as a wall for art. If saddled down with sliding glass doors on the shower, glam up the glass by covering with a curtain. "Hanging a beautiful shower curtain in front of sliding glass doors adds instant stall style," says Hall. No doors? Go mod by removing the uniform shower rod. An inventive friend of Hall's modeled the hospital look by installing the same cords used for patient privacy to hide peeling paint above his shower. Bring this style saving look to your bathroom by, "attaching a really beautiful, textured fabric and run from the floor to the ceiling," suggests Hall.

Fun with Fixtures

Both Hall and MacDonald agree for the quickest bathroom fix-up, look no further than your fixtures. Hit up the local hardware store to change out the existing hardware like the towel bar, toilet paper holder and cabinet knobs, suggests Hall, which means minimal effort and money for a maximum makeover. For an upgrade that appeals to the body as much as the eye, MacDonald suggests swapping out your old showerhead for a spa rain canopy. A fan of a clutter-free surface, MacDonald also recommends wall-mounted accessories like soap dishes and toothbrush holders for a cleaner, more pulled together look.

"Opt for a suite of furnishings in the same pattern for a fresh transformation." Simply switching from your sleek shower curtain holders to a decorative detailed set changes the look from mod squad to French Country without consulting an interior decorator.

Wall Flower

From eye-popping pinks to muted mochas, a fresh coat of paint creates a new look overnight. But Hall warns, "be careful when you purchase the paint. Make sure to speak with someone and explain you are painting the bathroom, as you'll need to pick a moisture-resistant brand." Use tape to guard against brush strokes on the tile, tub and medicine cabinet.

Look beyond the traditional lavatory layout for an instant home improvement. From new knobs to a fancy faucet, picking a new pigment or swapping the shower curtain, get the biggest bang for your buck by taking on the bathroom yourself.

-CTW Features


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