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  • Stephanie Donnelly

Bathrooms: When to Splurge and Save

Updated: Sep 12, 2022

As much as we wish they did, most renovation projects don’t come with an unlimited budget. We’ve talked before about when to splurge and save on a kitchen, but today we’re talking about the other most expensive remodel in your home, the bathroom. Bathrooms are one of our favorite spaces to design because they’re all about the details. From the tile to the plumbing and the lighting, there are so many beautiful options for a bathroom design. If you’re working on a bathroom design and aren’t sure where to invest your budget, keep reading for our tips on when to splurge and when to save on a bathroom renovation.

Splurge on:


Custom cabinetry adds a wow factor to any room. Bathroom remodeling usually takes place once every 20 years. Considering this length of time for a highly used feature in a space, you want it to last. It is important to invest in good cabinetry with quality hardware because you will be opening and closing your cabinets constantly. Some things to look for in quality cabinetry are dovetail joints, real wood fronts, and quality plywood. Cheap alternatives peel, bubble, and break much more frequently.

Some bathroom layouts are very limiting or minimal in quantity, so you may need to go with custom cabinetry since storage and functionality are top priorities in bathroom designs. Custom options can be designed with smart storage and designs that tie the whole room together, so we would definitely recommend splurging on your cabinetry if you can. Your bathroom vanity is often the main focus of the entire bathroom design, so it’s worth it to invest in something you really love!


We see hardware as the jewelry in any room. There are some amazing places for beautiful hardware. It’s not cheap, but it definitely takes it to the next level. We tend to gravitate toward warm metals that are substantial in weight. You can always swap out most pulls and knobs for a quick bathroom update, but there is nothing worse than a peeling handle or knob. Make sure you invest in good quality!


There are many tile options out there that can transform your plain bathroom into the bathroom of your dreams. It's probably the most noticeable element of your bathroom design. Therefore, it makes sense to invest part of your budget here. We suggest selecting a quality material first, such as marble, other natural material, etc, and then deciding how much to spend since there is a huge range of both tile options as well as prices. If you’ve fallen in love with a gorgeous tile that has an expensive price tag, avoid using that tile for your whole bathroom. Instead, try to accent the expensive tile with something a little bit cheaper to achieve the same look without going over your budget. If you'll only be tiling a small section of your bathroom, it may make sense to splurge on marble or another natural material. It's worth spending a little bit extra for your dream bathroom.


There are some beautiful plumbing fixtures available that can really elevate your entire bathroom design making it feel like a luxurious spa. With the shower evolving into its own luxe room equipped with an array of spray heads, jets, self cleaning toilets, color therapy, aromatherapy and even seating, the key with plumbing fixtures is to never compromise quality. Based on personal preference, you may choose to install body sprays or a rain shower head, but no matter what you decide on, be sure the fixture quality is there. It's worth getting a better model because it affects the flow and the finish. You want it to last. You don't want chrome peeling off five years later. It's worth the splurge for a bathroom design you love that will flow seamlessly.


Splurge on your light fixtures to really create that designer feel. We’re big fans of beautiful sconces, chandeliers, and vanities, and we love looking for light fixtures that don’t feel like traditional bathroom lighting. This is an area you don't want inadequate lighting. The more individualized the lighting is, the more it becomes a focal point. Investing in quality and style lighting adds a lot of personality to your space!

Read more about illuminated vanity lighting here!


Your bath linens are part of the entire bathing experience. Nothing says relaxation after a long day like cozy hotel quality linens that will last a long time. When you’re buying new linens, you should look for towels with a high number of grams per square meter, or fabric weight. If you’re really after something luxurious, opt for Egyptian cotton. More expensive and higher-quality towels also last longer, so you won’t have to keep running out to the store for a new set.


A simple mirror will allow your lighting and cabinetry to shine. A mirror doesn’t have to be anything fancy. If you’re in need of one that matches your vintage bathroom design, upgrading to a quality new or vintage mirror is usually a splurge.

Save on:


Countertops can make a big difference in your bathroom. Usually fabricators have remnants that are at huge discounts, so you can get a deal on a "fancier" stone or stick with a budget friendly neutral for timeless style. You can also save money by selecting countertops that resemble more luxurious materials, such as granite, instead of purchasing higher-end surfaces. Make sure your countertop makes sense for your lifestyle while also resisting breaks, chips, and heat.


Another area where it's worth saving rather than spending is bathroom decor. Not much decor goes into a bath compared to other spaces and some decor is functional to the space such as soaps, lotions, towel bars, toilet paper holders, etc. When looking for these pieces, many times the less expensive options will work perfectly. These small touches are nice, but you don’t need to spend a fortune to get the look you want. Second hand, vintage finds, and artist crafted decor are all great options if you want a curated look. These are styles that will best create this aesthetic and also are the easiest to switch out when you want to refresh your style.


When it comes to budgeting for art in your bathroom, this is an area that you will want to save. There are great options at all price points that look high end. Instead of buying new, reframe second hand or vintage pieces for a modern look, create shadow boxes that hold sentimental items, or purchase artist prints as another way to save. Your bathroom’s style is a big inspiration for picking the best art for your space.

Window treatment/shades

There are a few things that you want to consider when you choose any bathroom’s window treatments. You want a functional space that is beautiful where you can adjust the light and your privacy level while also matching your decor and style. The best idea for your bathroom window treatments is to choose a type that can open, close, and possibly tilt to give you full functionality in your light control. We suggest custom sized roman or matchstick shades depending on your style.

Where you invest your budget will depend on your unique lifestyle and your priorities in a bathroom space. For example, if you love taking long baths with a glass of wine and a good book, invest in a beautiful freestanding tub with a ledge nearby and statement chandelier. If you prefer a clear countertop, invest in lots of storage in the form of a long vanity or custom cabinetry. We suggest really thinking about how you’ll use the space and what features will have the most positive impact on your lifestyle.

We hope this helps you decide where to splurge and where to save on your upcoming bathroom remodel. If you missed our latest blog Kitchens: When to Splurge and Save, head there to catch up. If you’re looking for a personalized design plan or interior design expertise, head to my contact page to start a conversation! I would love to hear all about your vision for your home.

~This blog was brought to you by S. Donnelly Interiors. Learn more about the interior design project process by following Stephanie Donnelly and her interior design services in Glen Ellyn, Illinois and the surrounding areas!


S.Donnelly Interiors
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