Attic bathroom with patterned tile floor, walk-in shower and green panelling

11 easy bathroom updates that anyone can do

It’s a fact that our bathrooms are one of the hardest working spaces in our homes. Used multiple times a day for everything from showering and shaving to brushing our teeth, putting on (and taking off) make-up and maybe even washing the dog, they can quickly look tired – even if we all do our bit to keep them clean and tidy.

If your bathroom has seen better days – but so too has your bank balance – you might be wondering what you can do about it. “Many of us would love to install a new kitchen or bathroom, but once you start looking into it, it is simply too expensive or it feels wasteful as what is there is perfectly fine,” says Becky Dyson, interior designer at The Living House. “The good news is that there is always something you can do to improve what you have.” 

Indeed, there are plenty of easy bathroom updates that could dramatically transform your space with very little outlay. Try just one or two and your room will go from shabby to spa-like in a weekend. And you’ll even have cash to spare for some fancy bubble bath and a new shower cap.

1. Add a fresh coat of paint

Let’s start with an easy and obvious one – a new paint job. Bathrooms are particularly susceptible to condensation as hot steam from the shower makes contact with the colder walls, causing unsightly yellow drips to form over time. Cleaning will only go so far, whereas paint will make everything feel instantly cleaner and fresher.

There are two ways to go with colour in a bathroom. “I like to opt for warm grounding neutrals,” says Charlie Vest, interior designer at Topology Interiors, who prefers warm whites like Safe Play by Coat Paints, beige such as Beige 3 by Lick, ivory or cream “to maximize natural light”. “Mold-resistant paints are a great choice for bathrooms,” Vest adds.

“Bathrooms generally have fewer windows so, if this is the case, work with a colour that thrives in reduced light,” agrees Helen Shaw, director of marketing at Benjamin Moore. White is a safe and easy option in this circumstance as lighter colours tend to make a space feel bigger, however why not inject some colour; warm tones such as yellow, terracotta, and coral will naturally bring a zest and sense of energy to a room. Yellows in particular, are known to lift a mood and evoke a feeling of warmth and joy.”

Bathroom with black drawer unit, Crittall-style shower screen and blue walls

Shop the look: GoodHome Bathroom Monaco Soft sheen Emulsion paint, £20 for 2.5ltrs, B&Q

Or, to counterbalance clinical white bathroom tiling and ceramics, it’s a chance to go vibrant, as seen here in this punchy blue by B&Q. “Alternatively, consider painting the lower half of the walls or your furniture in your favourite pastel hue as this creates a relaxing, sanctuary feel whilst also helping to keep the space open,” suggests Shaw. “The two-tone effect will not only add interest, but it can trick the eye into making the space feel bigger – the top half of the walls in white seamlessly blend into the ceiling, making it appear further away.”

Choosing the right paint formulation for a bathroom is also key. “For areas that are exposed to moisture regularly, such as bathrooms, it Is important to use the right paint to avoid mould and mildew growth. Paints such as our Aura Bath & Spa are specifically designed to stand up to humidity and allows for an easy to clean, finish,” explains Shaw.

Charlie Vest predicts a repaint will cost £20-£40 per litre of paint, plus £20 for materials.

2. Replace your shower curtain

A soggy and smelly shower curtain covered in mildew will make the cleanest bathroom look grubby, so for a quick, cheap fix, ditch it for something on trend.

Bathroom with wall panelling painted in Annie Sloan chalk paints
Image credit: Annie Sloan

Pinstripes or ticking are classic designs, which you can make feel more contemporary by way of a scalloped edging.

3. Or replace it with a shower screen

Even the most beautiful shower curtains have a limited life pan, so if you want something that lasts a little longer, a glass shower-bath screen is a sensible swap.

Drench Keyhole Shower Bath And Black Grid Screen
Image credit: Drench

It should be an easy enough install for a competent DIYer. Potentially, the trickiest part will be drilling into wall tiles, for which you’ll need a specialist ceramic tile drill bit. As budget friendly bathroom ideas go, it’s a pretty good one, too – this Vellamo City shower screen costs just £189.99, at Drench.

4. Wallpaper your bathroom

“If you want to go bolder than bathroom paint ideas, consider adding some wallpaper to your bathroom,” says The Living House’s Becky Dyson. “This is fantastic particularly in a downstairs bathroom and you can even buy peel-and-stick paper that is really easy to install.”

Green bathroom with floral wallpaper, fireplace and freestanding bath
Image credit: Graham & Brown

Shop the look: Flower Press Palm wallpaper, £85 per roll, Graham & Brown

There are a few extra considerations when hanging wallpaper in a bathroom, as opposed to any other room. For example, it’s best not to wallpaper next to the shower, or behind your bath or basin, as splashes of water could cause damage.

It’s also worth sealing the paper with a strong varnish to give a layer of protection against humid bathroom conditions. We recommend Decorators Varnish by Polyvine, £24.24 for 1ltr, Amazon. It’s water resistant and has UV protection so your paper won’t lose its colour in a sunny room.

5. Install a magic mirror cabinet

“In smaller bathrooms, leveraging vertical space is a must,” says Charlotte Tilby, head of marketing at Woodstock Trading Co. “Mirrored vanity cabinets are a great option for this, and often come in multiple widths to suit bathrooms of any size. Our LED-framed Farnese cabinet even offers added functionality, with a single shaver socket and two USB sockets integrated.”

Bathroom with LED mirror wall cabinet and green drawer unit
Calypso Bathrooms Farnese Mirror Cabinet by Woodstock Trading Co.

“Additionally, there’s a growing demand for customisable storage options, such as adjustable shelving and modular units, allowing homeowners to tailor their storage to fit their specific needs and preferences. Homeowners can explore a range of retrofit projects to breathe new life into their bathrooms with minimal disruption, many of which require just a little planning and the help of a professional to be installed over a weekend.”

6. Change your taps

In this writer’s own experience, changing your bathroom taps from a scaly old chrome number to something more on trend can make an instant difference. And providing you co for a like-for-like change, so pillar taps to pillar taps, or one-hole mixer to one-hole mixer, it’s a DIY job.

Two images of Grohe Start tap

For example, Grohe’s QuickFix product portfolio has been specially designed to cater to the DIY savvy, with installation guides. The single-hole Grohe Start tap comes with QuickTool, written QuickGuide and a video accessible through a QR code, so it can be fitted in no time. it’s also got various energy-saving features, like a flow rate that’s limited to 5.7ltrs/min and a ceramic cartridge that only allows cold water to flow from the mid-lever position. The latter basically makes sure you’re not heating water for the sake of it as soon as you turn the tap on – for example, if you’re brushing your teeth.

“While purchasing very cheap brassware is never a good idea (as it may initially look good, but quickly tarnishes and becomes shabby), it is possible to find quality brassware at an affordable price,” adds Natalie Bird, brand marketing manager at Roca. “Our taps undergo testing for one million movements and include ceramic disk cartridges with a lifetime guarantee. Our Rose Gold and Titanium Black finishes also come with a game-changing PVD coating, which is anti-corrosive and resistant to limescale, scratching and cleaning products.”

7. Upcycle a vanity unit

If you can’t stretch to new bespoke bathroom furniture, why not look to what you already have? A vintage sideboard or console table can make an elegant vanity unit with minimal effort. You might just need to cut holes in the tabletop base and through the back to feed the waste pipe through.

Don’t already have anything suitable? “Try and find something that is secondhand,” suggests furniture and interior designer Sam Nichols. “The British Heart Foundation has some excellent charity shops that sell furniture, and they also have an online store as well, and the furniture is generally very good. If it’s a little bit scratched up, you can easily sand it down and oil or paint it.”

The chest of drawers belonged to Tracy’s mother and has been customised as a vanity unit with a sink from Victorian Plumbing
This inherited chest of drawers has been customised as a vanity unit, with a sink from Victorian Plumbing

“You’ll be saving massive amounts of money and the quality will be exponentially better than a cheap flatpack. These pieces have already had a life, and if they’ve survived this long, they’re likely to continue to do so.”

“If you ever want to update your upcycled vanity cabinet, paint them in a bold modern colour like charcoal gray, smoky blue, or a deep eucalyptus green,” suggests Topology’s Charlie Vest, who suggests using an oil-based primer and a washable, water-resistant eggshell paint. “It can be great spot to experiment with colour.” Vest exstimates that the job would cost around £60 for materials & paint.

To make wooden furniture suitable for a bathroom, apply several coats of marine-grade varnish to give timber an extra seal. Reapply every few months to ensure ongoing protection from water damage.

8. Paint your floors

Old floorboards in a bathroom can be easily reinvigorated with chalk paint and lacquer. If they are in good original condition, you can apply paint directly after giving them a good scrub down with soapy water. It’s worth testing a small area first to see if the paint brings out any stains in the floor. If so, it might be worth sanding the floor, before cleaning again and then painting. You could even make it a bathroom feature floor by masking out a checkerboard pattern or using a stencil.

Annie Sloan Bathroom with floors painted in Chalk Paint in Old Violet
This bathroom floor has been given a checkerboard effect with Annie Sloan’s Old Violet chalk paint.

Annie Sloan suggests starting by painting the edges of the room, cutting in a few centimetres with a brush. “Start from the furthest point away from and work backwards towards the door so you don’t literally paint yourself into a corner,” she suggests. You may need two coats, depending on the colour you’ve chosen.

Next you’ll want to apply two-to-three coats of chalk paint lacquer to protect the wood. “Apply lacquer in the same manner as the chalk paint; using a brush for the edges and a roller or brush for the middle section,” explains Sloan. “Lacquer is faster drying than chalk paint, so be sure to work quickly and avoid over brushing. In other words, try not to brush or roll over drying Lacquer as this may drag the finish.”

9. Add new artwork

“The easiest way to improve a tired bathroom is to tackle the walls,” says Becky Dyson at The Living House, who suggests something even easier than painting or wallpapering. “Try to inject personality to your bathroom with artwork. It doesn’t have to cost the earth, you can pick up some really affordable prints that look much more expensive once framed. Depending on the size of your bathroom you could even go for a gallery wall to create an interesting feature.’

Two images of coastal artwork in blue and pink bathrooms

Beach House Art have a wide range of unframed and framed prints with suitably maritime themes. We love the Coral range, left, which comes in a range of colours, or this Vintage Fish Painting No. 3, from £18 unframed.

10. Update your bathroom lighting

“Small updates to your bathroom’s lighting can significantly enhance the space without necessitating a
large budget or extensive renovations,” says Mara Rypacek Miller, managing director and founder of Industville. “For instance, replacing outdated fixtures with modern, stylish sconces or adding a luxurious chandelier can instantly elevate the room’s atmosphere.

Retrofitting lighting into an existing bathroom can be a straightforward process with the right
planning,” she adds. “Begin by identifying areas that could benefit from improvement, such as dim corners or inefficient task lighting. Combining overhead fixtures with vanity lights, wall sconces, and even recessed lights will create depth and adaptability in your bathroom. This combination of light sources will ensure a well-lit space for everyday tasks, alongside soft and ambient options to create a serene, spa-like atmosphere.”

Bathroom basin and mirror with sage wall panels and
Brooklyn Outdoor & Bathroom Dome Wall Light in Pewter & Brass, £159, Industville

“Consider replacing old fixtures with LED options for better energy efficiency and longer life,” Mara continues. “For an updated look without major electrical work, use plug-in sconces or pendants that can be easily mounted. And assess the possibility of incorporating waterproof LED strips in areas like under the vanity or in the shower for a modern touch that also improves visibility. Utilising LED strip lights under cabinets or around mirrors can add a sophisticated and high-end feel, providing both aesthetic appeal and functional task lighting.“

11. Plant your own jungle

Our final easy bathroom update can be done very cheaply, especially if you have green fingers and generous friends who will give you cuttings from their houseplants. “Whether we want it to happen or not, bathrooms can often end up looking or feeling quite clinical and therefore ‘hard’,” say Ian Drummond and Kara O’Reilly, authors of At Home With Plants, £18.40, Amazon. “This is generally down to the typical materials used in bathroom design – namely ceramic, stone metal and glass, not to mention tiles and mirrors. But plants can soften this impression.”

Bathroom with tiles bath panel and lots of plants
Image credit: B&M

“Choose those that will waft and move in any slight breeze or draught. Loose trailing varieties such as Epipremnum aureum (devil’s ivy), Peperomia scandens Variegata (Cupid peperomia) and Tradescantia work especially well, draped over shelf edges, tucked into in-built niches or displayed in a hanging planter.” Chlorophytum comosum (spider plants) are another great option, and are easy to propagate, meaning you can quickly add to your jungle at no extra cost.