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6 ways to give your bathroom a makeover

(ARA) - Most homeowners know by now that improvements to bathrooms can bring big returns on investment when it comes time to resell a house. But there's another equally compelling, often-overlooked reason to freshen your bath - it just feels good.

Perking up a tired bathroom doesn't have to cost big bucks and consume weeks either. Sure, if you've got the budget and patience to retile, rip out a wall and upgrade countertops, go for it. But if you're working with a more modest budget, here are six easy ways to give your old bath a new look in record time.

1. Replace hardware. Whether it's damaged and dingy or just simply dated, unappealing hardware can really drag down your bathroom's visual appeal. Switching out hardware - including drawer pulls, cabinet handles and hinges - can be an easy, low-cost way to freshen the room's appearance.

Home improvement and hardware stores, as well as on-line retailers and specialty Web sites offer a staggering variety of hardware to fit virtually any budget and design theme. Replacing old hardware is as simple as turning a few screws.

2. It may seem obvious that repainting is an easy way to spruce up your bath. Changing colors can create excitement and impart a whole new personality to a space. But don't forget that repainting can brighten a room even if you stick with the same color that is already there. The ravages of daily use by the average family can sap even the best paint of its beauty over time. If you like the color you already have, you'll like it even more when you brighten its appearance with a fresh coat. Remember to use a semi-gloss paint in high moisture areas.

3. Turn your bathroom into a portal to somewhere else with a wall mural. Easy-to-hang, cost-effective wallpaper wall murals can turn your bathroom into a tropical resort or an Italian villa.

If you already have wallpaper in your bathroom, maybe it's just time for an updated look. Removal can be done easier than you think by just using old fashioned steam.

Once you're ready to dress your walls, get ready to be creative. Snug a Renaissance-style courtyard on the wall behind the commode. Or splash a sunset beach scene in a bathtub alcove.

Specialty Web site Murals Your Way (www.muralsyourway.com) offers thousands of images and custom sizing - from palm tree accented beach scenes to city scapes, undersea adventures and inspiring nature scenes.

4. Dress up your soft goods. Toss out every torn, frayed or faded towel in your linen closet (and we all have them). You can splurge and invest in a quality set of Egyptian cotton towels from a home design store. Or, hit the local discount store and stock up on bright, fun colors and patterns. Create a cohesive theme by coordinating towels, window treatments and shower curtain.

5. Fix your fixtures. Replacing worn or dated fixtures is an easy - and much cheaper - way to create a whole new look for your bathroom vanity. You may not be able to afford the granite countertop you dream of, but ditching an old chrome-colored faucet and temperature controls for something newer and stylish can help draw attention away from a vanity that is merely average. Your neighborhood home improvement or hardware store can offer a wide range of styles and finishes to complement any décor.

6. One of the hottest trends in bathroom design is the use of furniture. You may have seen home improvement shows that feature vanities made of reclaimed dressers or dining room buffets topped by beautiful sinks.

As with the furniture in other rooms of your house, you want it to blend with the overall style of your home.

You can often find a craftsman who can make the right piece a fit for a bathroom vanity. If that seems daunting to you, many manufacturers of bathroom fixtures are making furniture with the look of custom cabinetry.