September 1, 2013

Get a better bathroom without a big budget

In addition to less costly improvements, new products add luxury if you can spend a bit more.

By MICHELLE LOCKE The Associated Press

You want a better bathroom, but don't want to put a drain on your finances? Worry not. This is one room in the house where little things mean a lot.

click image to enlarge

The Moxie showerhead from Kohler features an integrated speaker to provide musical accompaniment for singing in the shower.

The Associated Press/Kohler

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The Numi toilet includes a motion-activated cover and seat and air vents at the floor to warm toes.

The Associated Press/Kohler

On the other hand, if you want to go luxe, a variety of new products can turn the bathroom into a showcase.

Often small and poorly lit, bathrooms can end up neglected. But they're probably the easiest room to make over, says Ingrid Abramovitch, senior editor and writer at Elle Decor magazine and author of "Restoring a House in the City" (Artisan, 2009).

A very basic change is to buy a new shower curtain and good quality towels.

Is this a kids' bathroom? Think bright colors and fun patterns.

Or, to create a spa-like retreat, look for fluffy towels in serene neutrals, and maybe add accessories like new soap dishes and towel rails in elegant materials.

If you want to up the luxe factor, think about installing a towel warmer.

Another easy change is to swap out your shower head for a new, multifunction model. If your water pressure isn't all it could be, shower heads designed to boost spray power can help.

You might also try a shower filter to see if you notice an improvement; basic models can be found from under $30 from brands such as Aquasana and Sprite.

A hot trend is bringing music into the bathroom -- the better to accompany your shower serenades.

The Moxie showerhead from Kohler, for example, has a built-in wireless speaker that uses Bluetooth technology to sync with your music device. (Suggested retail for the showerhead: $199.)

If you're feeling handy, one of the cheapest ways to transform a bathroom -- or any room -- is color.

"You can always very quickly change the aesthetics of a room with a can of paint," says David Alhadeff, interior designer and founder of The Future Perfect, a furnishings store based in San Francisco and New York.

Is the room white? How might it look in bright yellow with towels and a bath mat to match?

Look for the new humidity-resistant paints that come in flat finishes for a refined look.

Another way to make a big change is to rethink the lighting.

A lot of bathrooms still have a single overhead light, which casts unflattering shadows.

"Lighting is everything in the bathroom, and there are a lot of tricks to how we want to illuminate ourselves within that space to make ourselves look best," says Alhadeff. "If you're getting only overhead lighting, you're not getting the clear picture of what you look like."

If you already have lighting around the mirror, a change of bulbs can work wonders, and lighting along the side of the mirrors is preferable, says Alhadeff.

Creating layered lighting is more involved than buying a new towel, especially if you have to hire someone to add electrical outlets for sconces and mirror lighting, but it can make a bathroom much more inviting.

A cheaper, albeit temporary, way to create a soft ambience: Light a few candles.

So much for budget-conscious bathroom makeovers. What if you've just won the lottery and are ready to make a really big splash?

Large, free-standing tubs are chic right now, says Abramovitch. Some people are making room for them by taking guest bedrooms and turning them into a bathroom-dressing room, with a free-standing tub surrounded by built-in closets and other accessories.

Hot tubs, too, have evolved, with new systems that create smaller bubbles, as opposed to the roaring jets of yesteryear.

And what high-end bathroom would be complete without a high-tech toilet?

Take Kohler's Numi model, which includes a motion-activated cover and seat, built-in bidet function, charcoal-filter deodorizer and air vents at the floor to warm your toes.

There are illuminated panels with different colors that can be set for the day of the week. A remote control with a touch screen allows you to set your preferences on settings and, of course, you can play your favorite music via Bluetooth connection.

Sure, it's not cheap, with a suggested retail of $5,978. But who can put a price on never, ever having to have the seat up/seat down discussion?

 

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