Transform your bathroom on a budget and in a single afternoon with these fast fixes

Fixtures First

Grab a screwdriver and replace anything that isn’t painted or glued down. Swap out faucets, towel bars, cabinet pulls and knobs, and switchplates. And don’t be afraid to mix finishes. “It’s classic to keep fixtures the same finish, but it’s not necessary. You can have a nickel faucet and bronze hardware,” says Nicole Melde, an interior designer with DeCesare Design Group in Mesa, Ariz.

Now for the Garnish

Sweep everything—we’re looking at you, toothpaste!—off the vanity for a clean slate. Then accessorize with a new soap pump, tissue holder, tumbler and trash can that echo the fixtures (but don’t look too matchy-matchy). And that toothpaste? It—and its cream, serum and lotion cousins—should be stowed away, or displayed with other essentials on a countertop tray.

Throw in the Towels

“I’m a huge fan of white—white towels, white bathmats, white shower curtains—especially for guest baths. It makes the space feel hotel-like,” Melde says. Invest in cushy, clean white terry; display only what you need, and store the rest.

In powder rooms or guest baths, ditch the hand towel (one damp towel for your entire book club? No thanks!) and display disposable paper towels instead. Place matching bathmats in front of each sink and in front of or folded over the tub—you have our permission to skip that crescent-shaped, germ-loving rug around the toilet.

Mirror, Mirror Off the Wall

One of the biggest bathroom eyesores? You’re looking at it. Tear down dingy medicine cabinets and funky mirrors in favor of a large, classic looking glass. “It doesn’t need to be custom-made; the mirror shouldn’t match the cabinetry exactly anyway,” Melde says. “Shop for one with clean lines and not too much detail. A rectangular mirror will never go out of style.”

And if outdated sconces flank your mirror, replace them with fixtures that offer bright but diffused light. Because when you apply makeup in better lighting, it might feel like you got a makeover, too.