How to make your bathroom look expensive on a budget

Bathroom experts share how to give your bathroom the luxe look for less

White bathroom with marble tiles
(Image credit: Future PLC)

Looking for bathroom ideas to give yours a makeover but funds are tight? Panic not, as there are ways you can make your budget – whether reno- or revamp-sized – go further and with more impact. 

Bathrooms are no longer just practical spaces; they’ve become indulgent and retreat-like with influences from spas; stylish with exciting bathroom colour schemes, and storage havens, with clutter all out of sight. But there are ways you can create the bathroom of your dreams without breaking the bank.

‘Creating a luxurious bathroom requires a combination of many things,’ says Cigal Kaplan, of Cigal Kaplan Interiors, ‘great space layout, a wonderful mix of products and, of course, a mix of textures.’ Yet these are design principles that work whatever your budget.

‘The bathroom has always been one of the most functional rooms in the home, but in a post-pandemic world, homeowners are looking to create gorgeous-looking spaces where they can completely unwind,’ agrees Abbas Youssefi, founder of Porcelain Superstore

How to make your bathroom look expensive

From expert tricks to designer cheats, there are plenty of ways of making, often the smallest room in the house, look expensive with budget bathroom ideas. Like any project, so much of your cost-cutting comes down to research – from budget-bathroom suites, to end-of-line tiles that might be just enough – know your budget, your dimensions and your expectations.

1. Balance the costs

bathroom with shower in black finish

(Image credit: Future PLC)

 ‘When it comes to a full renovation, one of the best ways of creating a luxury budget bathroom is to balance costs – mixing affordable fixtures and fittings with more expensive statement pieces,’ says Richard Ticehurst, Britton Brand expert. ‘Investing in a hero piece will not only deliver a wow factor and focal point to the room it also elevates more affordable fixtures in the room, giving an overall impression of luxury.’

When working out where to save and where to spend on a bathroom think about what says ‘luxury’ to you? Is it the bath, a gorgeous shower or a focal-point vanity unit, and rejig your budget to reflect this.

2. Go large format with your tiles

Modern bathroom with large format marble tiles on the walls and floors and a statement freestanding bath

(Image credit: Future PLC/Adam Carter)

Choosing larger tiles helps your tiling budget go a little further, especially if using a tiler. There will be fewer tiles needed, as well as fewer cuts (unless your bathroom is exceptionally small), which can make it quicker to complete the job. Larger wall and floor tiles can also make the bathroom feel bigger – look for a tile that works both on the wall and floor, which can help reduce waste with any cut tiles.

‘Large format tiles mean minimal joins, which improves flow and can help the bathroom feel more expansive. Combine with natural-effect tiles, such as stone, wood or marble for an opulent finish,’ says Abbas Youssefi, founder of Porcelain Superstore

3. Play with your tile layout

Green tiles in a herringbone layout

(Image credit: Future PLC / Fiona Walker Arnott)

While your budget might only stretch to basic square or rectangular tiles, it doesn’t mean you can’t be clever with your tile layout. ‘Installing your tiles in a unique way, such as in a herringbone layout, can make a real statement on your bathroom walls,’ says Ruth Foster, interior designer at Victoria Plum

If you’ve fallen for an expensive tile, but can’t afford to tile the whole wall, then stick to splash areas, using bathroom paint in a co-ordinating or contrasting colour for the remaining wall surfaces.

4. Fake the look

Black-framed niche shelve in a marble clad shower enclosure

(Image credit: Future PLC/Lizzie Orme)

Fallen for marble? There are plenty of lookalikes that won’t eat into your budget. ‘Marble-effect tiles in porcelain and bathroom wall panels can add a level of luxury to your space too,’ says Ruth Foster, interior designer at Victoria Plum, ‘especially a darker-toned marble.’

Or why not look for a marble-topped vanity unit, which can be teamed with less-expensive plain wall and floor tiles?

5. Splash out on accessories

Pink bathroom tiles with white basin

(Image credit: Future PLC / James Merrell)

‘Matching bathroom accessories is a small and inexpensive way to achieve a luxurious look in your bathroom,’ says Ruth Foster, interior designer at Victoria Plum. ‘This will help your bathroom look more unified and cohesive, which gives that desired high-end appeal.’

Look at handmade ceramics, vintage glassware, matt black metal or marble. Buying second-hand pieces from charity shops is a great way to unearth affordable treasures to increase the luxury feel of your bathroom. 

6. Rethink your bath-shower combination

White shower room with gold shower head

(Image credit: Future PLC / Anna Stathaki)

While a bath and shower, or shower-over-the-bath, are the preferred choice in many bathrooms, think if a large walk-in shower idea would be a better option. In many cases it might be cheaper than installing both, although if it’s the only bath in your house, you might not want to for resale value.

‘The shower area should almost feel like a separate space from the rest of the bathroom,’ says Amanda Telford, Marketing Manager at CTD Tiles. ‘Investing in the area that you will step in to refresh yourself is a great investment to make as it’s not just the bathroom that’s being invested in, but also yourself. You can update these spaces with luxurious brassware and beautiful tiling for the ultimate spa-like look and feel.’

7. Mix materials for your tiles

White bathroom with marble tiles

(Image credit: Future PLC)

There is nothing that says you can’t mix materials – with marble and ceramic a great cost-friendly combination. ‘To save money and still get the look of a big-budget bathing zone, tile the floor in marble and use a ceramic mosaic on the walls,’ says Rob Whitaker, creative director, Claybrook

Alternatively, consider opting for luxury shower tile ideas as a strong focal point and use budget-friendly basics tiles for the remaining three walls/areas of your bathroom. No one will guess you scrimped on the cost of the remaining tiles. 

8. Splash out on taps

White bathroom with large mirror over basin

(Image credit: Future PLC / James French)

Think of your brassware as the finishing touch, the ‘jewellery’ of your bathroom. ‘Pairing a brushed brass wall-mounted tap with an affordable basin, for example, will deliver a stand-out luxury look,’ says Richard Ticehurst, Britton Brand expert. ‘The bathroom industry offers a large number of tap finishes, shapes, and styles to suit both contemporary and traditional bathroom designs.

Make sure you look after your brassware too – limescale does not say ‘luxury’. Try not to allow watermarks to build up, buffing with a soft cloth to remove. Lemons are a natural ways to remove limescale from taps if you need something more heavy-duty.

9. Don't rule out paint

small bathroom with painted blue walls and blue and white patterned floor and wall tiles

(Image credit: Future Plc)

‘For those skipping a renovation in favour of redecoration, a fresh coat of paint can do wonders for evoking a sense of luxury,’ says Richard Ticehurst, Britton Brand expert. ‘Try a neutral colour palette, as these hues are synonymous with luxury bathrooms and can instantly brighten a room, giving the appearance of a cleaner and larger space.’

In addition to exploring neutral bathroom ideas, don’t overlook the importance of natural light either. ‘Enhancing natural light will also provide your bathroom with a touch of luxury, so invest in a large bathroom mirror to bounce natural light around the room and create an illusion of more space,’ adds Richard.

10. Don't forget storage

Black and pink bathroom with patterned tiled floor and tall ikea cabinet turned into bathroom storage

(Image credit: Future Plc)

A clutter-free bathroom says a luxury bathroom! Every luxe bathroom has a bathroom storage idea behind it. ‘Think about what you need to store and where these items need to be accessible,’ says Clare Pasco, director of Pascoe Interiors. ‘If the WC cleaning products aren’t close to the loo, you can bet that they’ll frequently be left standing beside it rather than in the cupboard!’ And that’s not a luxe look, even if your cleaner isn’t budget.

Under-vanity storage is a great way to hide essentials and give your bathroom hotel glam. You can even upcycle a cabinet if you are good at plumbing or ask your bathroom fitter. A countertop basin, tap and necessary waste pipes, plus labour costs might mean you get a better-sized bespoke unit for less than off-the-peg.

Can I make my bathroom look more luxurious?

Any bathroom can have a touch of luxe, whether that’s through bathroom colour scheme, tiles, furniture fixtures, or even a big stack of the fluffiest, softest towels. Start by gathering inspiration, then edit to create a luxe look that works for you, your space and your budget.

‘Be inspired by hotels,’ says Rob Whitaker, creative director, Claybrook, ‘especially in the US, where they often spend as much on their bathing zones as they do on a kitchen – something we are catching on to here in the UK. Their extravagant use of marble for walls, floors and templated bath surrounds is time-honoured but still feels aspirational today. A walk-in shower with two shower heads also feels particularly indulgent, as well as romantic.’

Bathroom with white walls, wooden washstand and round mirror

(Image credit: Future PLC/Anna Stathaki)

What is the one bathroom feature worth investing in achieve a high-end look?

‘A beautiful basin cabinet is a great way to add contrast into a scheme which will inevitably feature a high percentage of white porcelain,’ says Rob Whitaker, creative director, Claybrook. ‘Not only will it provide useful storage and be a good use of space, one creates the look of actual furniture, enabling the space to transition from clinical to quintessentially stylish.’

‘Upgrading your bathroom tap is an efficient and simple way to breathe new life into a bathroom by instantly improving aesthetics, functionality, and resource efficiency by ditching its dated and leaky predecessor,’ says Paul Bailey, leader, product management, LIXIL EMENA & GROHE UK

While it’s a chance to add a touch of style and luxe, there are also practical reasons too. ‘The bathroom is a high-traffic area within the home and failing to invest in good quality brassware and fixtures can quickly age the space. Along with appearing worn, budget taps and fittings can also become squeaky over time as the internal washers harden through water damage,’ says Paul.

Paul would also replace the showerhead. ‘A rainfall style showerhead will instantly level up your bathroom turning it into your very own “spathroom”, thanks to a luxurious full-body spray and options of multiple spray patterns for a premium experience,’ he adds.

Jennifer Morgan

Jennifer Morgan is an award-winning editor, writer and stylist, with over 25 years’ experience writing, styling and editing home interest magazines. Jennifer was the deputy editor of Ideal Home from 2008-2010, before launching Ideal Home’s sister title, Style at Home in 2010. Jennifer went on to launch several craft magazines and websites, before going freelance in 2016, with a client list that includes John Lewis, Dunlem and Nordic House. Today, she writes for Ideal Home, Real Homes, Waitrose, Woman & Home, Sainsbury’s Magazine and Homes & Gardens. But it was during lockdown that Jennifer realised her dream of publishing her own magazine – Simply Scandi.