Bathroom on a Budget

Learn how to make impactful bathroom renovations without draining your wallet.


Architect Paul Levine describes ways that a small bathroom makeover can be economical and visually appealing without going over budget.  

What is the most complicated part of a bathroom renovation — no matter the size?
With cost increases in fuel and certain building materials, the hardest part is determining a budget. Homeowners need to have a realistic budget or come to an understanding of what a proper budget will be. After kitchen renovations, bathroom projects are the most expensive areas of the home. Due to their smaller size, they can generally be even more expensive on a cost-per-square-foot basis. During the design process, the homeowner and architect will determine the scope of the work to be done and the level or quality of materials to be used.

Without compromising design standards, what alternatives to traditional materials are less costly but also durable and attractive?  
Off-the-shelf traditional materials — such as tile, wood and conventional fixtures — will be the least costly and most durable options for a timeless design. Newer, custom-made materials are going to be more expensive. I use simple, clean, less-expensive materials for main areas and make a statement with a featured material, such as a special glass tile or made-to-order sink.

What’s a creative way to combat clutter?  
Bathrooms need to accommodate a variety of storage spaces, so I try to include a linen storage cabinet for towels and supplies, along with a medicine cabinet built into the walls in front of or beside the sink. The area above the toilet is a great place to pick up some additional space, too.

Would employing area craftsmen make construction more cost-effective?  
Local craftsmen depend on word-of-mouth and their reputation to obtain work. They can achieve this by using local materials, but shipping long distances can add significant costs and environmental impacts. Pittsburgh homeowners’ budgets don’t always support creating an extravagant spa-like bathroom. But this doesn’t mean a beautiful bathroom isn’t within reach. At the end of the day, you want everyone — the architect, contractor and homeowner — to walk away from the bathroom project happy and within budget. 

Your bathroom can benefit from a splash of designer touches by taking a few key steps:

» For an unexpected punch of luxury, use higher-end materials in a smaller focal area, such as the vanity backsplash.

» Keep existing fixtures in place — avoiding the need to rework the electrical system — to add to cost-effective design.

» Using wall sconces in the sink area can provide needed light while also making an impact on the overall bathroom design.

Architect Paul J. Levine is a Pittsburgh native with more than 30 years in new construction, renovation and sustainable design.

Categories: HOME + Design