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Renovating your bathroom on a budget Add to ...

One might think you'd need to sacrifice style for speed, but not in this case. I wanted to achieve a look of relaxed cottage charm and was thrilled to find a solid-wood vanity with open display, ample storage, and a lovely pure-white, natural-stone top. It fit the bill perfectly.

Generally speaking, custom countertops take about two weeks from measuring to installation, plenty of opportunity to deal with any errors. And a custom countertop alone costs about the same as I paid for the entire kit and caboodle (vanity, sink and counter and faucet).

Accessorize with flair

Never satisfied with a totally off-the-rack solution, I couldn't resist customizing my wonder vanity with a few special touches - to make it my own. The knobs needed a more polished pick-me-up, and the faucet wasn't really singing the right country tune, so I opted for an upgrade. Shiny chrome knobs and a big-box-store faucet quickly added the proper panache to my look with very little effort.

Make a tile trade off

Everything doesn't have to come from the same place. In order to get the best results, I often combine tile and stone from multiple sources to achieve my save/splurge goal.

For instance, Home Depot carries two of my constant go-to items for budget baths. One is three- by six-inch, glossy white ceramic tile with a matching bull-nose profile (necessary for adding "wow factor" mosaic accent bands) at a cost of less than $3 a square foot.

The store also offers ready-to-go jambs and thresholds in two types of marble for a fraction of the cost of custom jambs from a stone supplier. (You need these if you are planning to install a standalone shower stall with a glass enclosure.) Then, once you've got the bulk of your tile needs taken care of, you can toss a little glamour into the mix with more expensive glass mosaics and natural stone, which can be bought at a number of places.

Seek local inspiration

Never one to go hog wild for themes and motifs, I still like my rooms to have a mood. Since our clients' home is surrounded by beaches and feels more like a cottage retreat than a city pad, I wanted to inject water-related references. A wall of glass mosaic in varied tones that evokes the look of treasured beach glass finds added just the right touch of colour, and a pebble mosaic shower floor created the relaxed mood and rustic texture of an outdoor shower.

Old-fashioned and modern

I've always had a weakness for a deep, claw-foot tub. Despite all the modern offerings available, I never grow tired of the look, comfort or space-efficient design of these old-fashioned gems.

You may have seen me prowling around the yard of my favourite vintage appliance supplier, Royal Appliances in Toronto, in search of the ultimate deal on an old cast-iron, claw-foot tub (available for the unbeatable price of about $150). But arranging for a special truck to haul the tub over to the island on the delivery ferry, a team of guys to manoeuvre it up the stairs, and a painter to rejuvenate it once its in place suddenly made it look like less of a deal.

Instead, we bought a brand new tub with old-world elegance, shiny chrome feet and easy-to-lift acrylic construction. It arrived on the doorstep without any effort thanks to the free delivery policy of our supplier.

Shine for less

I've said it before, but this tip bears repeating. When working within a budget, you should always stick with classic, shiny chrome finishes. It's hands-down the most durable finish for all your plumbing and is the most economically priced finish.

Keep in mind that if you choose to upgrade your vanity faucet to brushed or polished nickel, you will also need to pay for an upgrade on your shower fittings, tub filler, wall sconces, knobs, towel holders, hooks and any other complementary metal fittings.

Save those valuable dollars and put them to better use elsewhere! Make time for one custom touch. Plan it right and you can still accomplish your goal in record time and have a single custom element - a glass shower enclosure.

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