A couple years ago I helped a friend with some simple updates in her 50's home. It's really amazing what a little paint can do.
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Here's a couple before pictures:
The bathroom had carpeting, I've already removed it. As you can see there's lots of paneling, the tub and toilet are pink, as well as the linoleum countertops. It's a small space, which I can't do anything about, but we can lighten it up and make it feel a little more spacious.
So, first things first, I removed all the doors/drawers from the cabinetry and gave them a good cleaning, also wiping down the paneling and cabinet itself. (I also painted the kitchen cabinets in this home, you can see the process and results of that project here: Updating A 50's Kitchen). The floor is getting some vinyl wood laminate so I gave it a good cleaning as well (using a scraper to remove any "bumps" along the way).
Everything got a coat of primer and a couple coats of a nice, creamy paint color.
Now, the pink countertop and fixtures are pops of whimsy instead of eye-sores.
For minimal investment you too can drastically change the look of a room by simply painting, taking it from dark and dreary to light and airy.
Today's postcard: 10 Ways To Update Your Bathroom On A Budget