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Renovating your bathroom on a budget Add to ...

I recently wrote a column about the "ready-to-wear" approach to kitchen renovations as an alternative to the more common custom approach. Clearly, it struck a chord with readers, as I received an overwhelmingly positive response to my suggestions for remodelling on a quick timeline and tight budget. (Who doesn't love pointers on where to get a deal?)

Naturally, I assume that you'll be equally interested in a few pointers on how to achieve similar winning results in a bathroom. So here goes ...

Much of my work focuses on the high-end, bespoke-is-better approach to design, but there's a part of me that loves the challenge of a tight budget and impossible timeline. I turn these design challenges into a kind of scavenger hunt (with very few clues for guidance). My prize is successful completion and client satisfaction.

I thrive on the concept that any room design can be imagined, executed and enjoyed in less time than it takes for a mailed package to be delivered overseas.

My creative ideas come fast and furious, so I'm eager to get them out of my head and make them a reality so I can move on to the next project and a new concept.

I don't need to spend months thinking about what I might want to do, and I get bored with too much talk and not enough action. In every season of my show, design inc. on HGTV, I try to throw in one of these fast-paced challenges to keep my team on their toes and inspire my viewers to try it at home.

This time around, Natalie was the design team member assigned to manage our time-trial experiment. But there was a twist: We chose a cute little house that was not located downtown or accessible by road, but on the Toronto Islands, reached only by ferry, water taxi or delivery boat.

Normally, one travels to the islands on a sunny summer's day laden with sunscreen and a picnic basket, but not Natalie.

Her island adventure involved toting tile samples, plumbing parts, gallons of paint and decorative accessories, all at the mercy of the ferry schedule. (Miss the boat and there goes your schedule for the day!)

Given these challenges, I wanted to get in and out as quickly as possible. With trades people losing valuable hours every day waiting for ferries, we wanted to expedite the process as much as possible.

When we started, we said goodbye to custom anything and hello to in-stock and ready-to-go! Our job took two weeks from start to finish, the impact on our clients was minimal, and I think the results are dynamite. Here's my recipe for success.

Don't mess with the pipes

If time and money are an issue, your best bet is to leave the plumbing in its existing location. Moving toilets and pipes can be costly because it takes extra time for your plumber to do the job. I left the sink, toilet and shower where they were and merely added plumbing for a new stand-alone tub.

Be open to suggestions

Don't embark on your project with a preconceived notion of what the end result will be.

Why not hit the shops with an open mind?

See what's in store and in stock that tickles your fancy. Starting by saying "What can I choose from?" instead of "I want this" will enable you to take a cash-and-carry approach to everything from tiles and tubs to plumbing and light fixtures.


One quick call to my man Peter at Taps Bath Centre revealed that (hallelujah!) there existed a Canadian company that specializes in ready-made bathroom vanities to suit every whim - from modern to traditional.

Add to this great news that all the products are Canadian-made (I love a homegrown solution), and come complete with a built-in sink and counter, and we were out of the gate running. I browsed the website, selected my vanity of choice, and it was delivered to our island doorstep five days later!

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