Instead of shelling out for a granite vanity, the homeowners bought a cheap piece of glass and painted the bottom of it black. It has the same smoothness and look of granite and saved them about $1,000. Behind the mirror is Brazilian cherry wood flooring leftover from when they finished their floors.
Borrow From the Landscape
Instead of using expensive rock tile that can cost $11 or more per square foot, Homeowner Sherry Binkley bought a few $5 boxes of 12x12 sheets of landscape rock and set them in concrete. She says the texture of the rock massages her feet while she showers.
Instead of paying $2,500 for a custom vanity, homeowners Donna and Mike Schramm bought a $300 table at a restaurant-supply store. They spent another $300 on the sink. To contrast the industrial vanity, they used inexpensive subway tile purchased for $5 per sq. ft. and a 1940s tub purchased in an antique shop.
Look for Alternative Materials
Architect Cary Goodman wasn't afraid to incorporate unconventional materials into the design of his home. Instead of tile, he used concrete panels called Plycem (a silicone-infused concrete board typically used underneath floors and roofs for fireproofing). It is made of 20 percent recycled materials and costs about $1.50 per sq. ft. He used Plycem on the floor, walls and ceiling then added a glass-tile accent.
Shop Local to Save
Architect Fred Bamesberger bought an ordinary cabinet for $100. He then surrounded it with three slabs of Indiana limestone, which is normally used for chimney tops and exterior architectural detail. The whole project cost less than $250. He used the limestone because it's a local, inexpensive material.
Browse Specialty Stores
These homeowners used a a different, vibrant color in each bathroom shower in their home. They found a website where they could mix different shades of colored tile themselves. By purchasing online, they were able to save $5 per sq. ft. on the tile, resulting in a total cost of about $300.
DIY Plus Surplus Finds
This handmade wooden-top vanity cost just $300. Homeowner Robby Finley talked to a couple of yacht builders to find out how to build and seal it. He used bird's-eye maple and coated it with a commercial epoxy (marine-grade finishes are available at most boating stores). The vanity base is made from stainless steel picked up at a surplus auction of items used to build Denver's International Airport.
Add Transparency and Color
Homeowner and architect Eddie Jones created a sculptural cabinet that glows in the dark for about $300. The pieces are all off-the-shelf materials that can be found at most supply stores. It's basically a wooden cabinet with a translucent-acrylic back covering a fluorescent light and a translucent film applied to the face.
Hire a Fabricator
Homeowner Carla Hutker hired a metal fabricator to build the steel-frame vanity. Ash-wood planks were mounted for shelves then they were lined with inexpensive baskets. Total cost: about $1,100.
Surround With Concrete
These homeowners took a typical cast-iron tub and surrounded it in cement face panels. They poured dyed concrete into sections, applied a sealer then a thin layer of wax. The entire project cost about $100, compared to the alternative granite that would have cost about $1,000.