8 Ways to Upgrade Your Bathroom Without a Contractor (or a Major Budget)

Tackling a bathroom reno project on your own might feel intimidating, but a few DIY updates could be all you need to create your dream space. Before diving in, it is important to understand the fine line between what you can do yourself and what requires a contractor. “As soon as you start thinking about changing the plumbing, replacing tile, or changing light fixtures, it’s worth hiring a contractor,” interior designer Noz Nozawa says. “They are not only experts in helping bring a renovation to life, but they are also often necessary for insurance and permit purposes, which are very important—especially in urban areas.”

But here’s the good news: You don’t need to work with a professional (or find a big budget) to improve your bathroom. According to Nozawa, creative consultant Jen Levy, designer Leah Alexander, and professional organizer Jessy Smith, there are several small projects that can make a massive impact. Read on for a list of simple bathroom upgrades that you can take on in a weekend.

Modify your medicine cabinet—or add a second one

Chances are the inside of your medicine cabinet is begging to be reorganized. “Reuse old jam jars or whiskey tumblers to make use of the vertical space on each shelf,” Smith says.

If you’re looking for a more eye-catching update, grab some paint. “Painting a medicine cabinet frame and vanity an interesting color that feels just a little risky can be an exciting way to breathe new life into a bathroom,” Alexander says. “A nice one-two punch is [also] to switch the hardware on cabinet doors and drawers to reflect fresh whimsical, glamorous, or edgy energy.”

If you already have a medicine cabinet and you’re still craving storage space, sometimes the answer is installing another one. “Consider adding one over your towel rack or over the toilet,” Nozawa says. “There are now bathroom medicine cabinets that are full height and shallow enough to hide behind your door.” Just make sure you search for a surface-mount cabinet, which you can attach to the wall yourself, as opposed to a recessed cabinet, which requires a niche.

Install open shelving 

If you’re looking for extra storage, consider a wall of open shelves. “These can hold your more beautiful products or extra-tall items, like hairspray and shaving cream, that don’t fit anywhere else,” Smith says. “A battery-operated clock here is also nice, plus something decorative.” For a more eclectic look, go for the same shelves in different colors or different shelves in the same color. Both are small design decisions that will help elevate your space.

Add a mirror

If you’re looking for an easy way to reflect light and add personality, the answer may be a simple one. “Mirrors aren’t just for perfecting your own reflection—they can also add a lot of aesthetic joy to a bathroom,” Nozawa says. You can go so many ways with this advice: vintage etched mirrors, designs with chunky frames, gilded mirrors, and DIY options. “Consider an oversized mirror in an interesting shape,” Alexander says. “Arched or even concave and convex mirrors add tons of interest.” There are no rules—except that you should install it properly, so it stays put. To hang a heavy mirror, make sure you attach two anchors to the wall to support its weight, if you’re not hanging it from a stud. 

Have fun with new accessories

One of the easiest ways to make your bathroom feel new again is to invest in some updated accessories. “When I started searching around for a bath mat for my own bathroom after I renovated it to have green and pink tiles, I couldn’t believe how many fun and affordable [options] were available,” Nozawa says. “There are patterns, textural solids, and kooky flora-and-fauna-themed bath mats, just to name a few,” she says. Looking to work with what you’ve got? “If buying new doesn’t make sense for you, consider dyeing your old towels and bath mat,” Smith says. “Use Rit dye at home or send it to a community dye bath.

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