While real estate markets are cyclical, features a potential home buyer looks for in her home almost always seems to start in the bathroom, according to the National Association of REALTORS' (NAR) annual "Cost vs. Value Report," published each year in conjunction with Remodeling magazine. In fact, in NAR's 2007 report, it showed an upscale bathroom remodel recouped 93.2 percent of the costs and a bathroom addition, midrange stood at 86.4 percent and an upscale remodel 85.8 percent.

"Knowing what's in and what's out in bathroom design is important for homeowners deciding just where to spend their makeover dollars," explained Celebrity Interior Designer Will Smith. "I suggest they look at four key areas: the mirror, paint, hardware and lighting. Each can be easily and inexpensively updated to provide a new, modern look for the bathroom."

Smith, who is known for creating high-end looks for less, shares his tips for making over a bathroom on a budget -- without sacrificing style:

Bathroom Mirror

What's Out: Unframed mirrors are a thing of the past.

What's In: A frame completes the mirror and gives a bathroom a finished, updated look. A good tip for selecting a frame is to think about what you'd frame a piece of artwork in for the room. The mirror is the focal point in the bathroom and can make a real statement with the right frame.


What's Out: Paint is never out. It is a tried and true way to make a big impact with little cost. Colors do change though: you'll want to stay away from mauves and pinks.

What's In: Create a spa-like setting with paints in beige and pale tones. Some popular colors are chocolate, aqua, olive, and golds. When choosing color, remember the more contrast, the more "POP."


What's Out: Mismatched hardware gives the room an uncoordinated feel. Brass finishes also add to a dated look.

What's In: Choose brushed nickel, pewter, antique or oil-rubbed bronze finishes that coordinate with the lighting and fixtures, bath bars, knobs, pulls, switches and receptacle covers. These quick fixes pull the room together with one modern, cohesive look.


What's Out: Take down that bright Hollywood lighting that casts a harsh light.

What's In: Go with a fixture that adds beauty and soft lighting with shades or sconces. They can run above your mirror or flank it on each side. And remember, these accent your room's greatest focal point so be sure to select a style that is right for you and makes a statement in the room.

"You don't need to do a full scale renovation to get the look of an updated bath," added Smith. "Some strategic and cost-effective changes can go a long way to giving you the look you desire."

[Editor's Note: Will Smith, known for his modern and clean living spaces, is the owner of interior design firm Interior Motives by Will Smith LLC in Charlotte (NC).]

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