There are lots of articles out there on home staging and how to declutter, so this isn't going to be one of those. This article is going to talk about how to handle a feature you really don't like, and don't have the budget to completely do away with.
I am going to use a case study on a home I worked on quite a few years back where we had to deal with some difficult problems on a limited budget. I must start with the caveat that there was a budget, though and that these tend to be more facelifts that help a home feel more livable to a potential buyer, but may not be the ultimate solution. Still, sometimes that is all you need to open a buyer's eyes to the livability and potential in your property and allow you to offer a home that isn't fully renovated at a price that will attract offers. Bathrooms are expensive to renovate and if a buyer sees a bathroom that doesn't look good, they mentally subtract dollars from what they are willing to pay.
The first thing you need to remember if you have a finish or feature in your home that you want to downplay is that you have to work with it, not against it. This can be a very hard thing for many people to do because if you hate something, the last thing you want to do is add more of it, but that is how neutralizing often works.
First, here's a photo of the finished project:
And here's how it looked before:
This was done at the time on a budget of about $2000 without any work being done by the homeowners, who didn't feel particularly handy, so something similar could be done for less if you are willing to put in the elbow grease yourself on at least some of the items.
The very obvious problem here is the paint colour, but what can't be seen in this photo is that the tiles around the tub also had the same feature tiles in red diamonds as the previous owner had tried to replicate in paint in the faux border. My client had never dealt with this bathroom and had just lived with it for years feeling they didn't have the budget to completely re-do it and not knowing where to start. I am not picking on red, I like it, but it wasn't the homeowner's first choice and it wasn't making for a bathroom that felt clean, bright and welcoming.
Step one is to acknowledge you are going to be working with red or whatever colour or texture you have that you wish wasn't there. Resign yourself to it because you can't rip it out and often painting out or otherwise trying to hide something like that will just make it worse. In this case, the tub, surround and toilet had to stay as well as the floor (which was luckily neutral). We concetrated the budget on the vanity and accessories.
So, here are some key things to remember:
Think about the colour wheel.
If you have a colour in a room that you hate and can't get rid of, do NOT use its opposite on the colour wheel. In the case of red, that would be green. Adding green to this room, would only contrast and highlight the red. We used a neutral wall colour in a sympathetic shade with no green undertones.
People love light.
If you can add more (in this case an inexpensive but updated hardware store light fixture) do it. When this project was competed, the homeowner intially felt the room was too bright. She was used to a dark bathroom, but after a week, she realized this is how it should have been all along.
Use fixtures from hardware stores and big box stores.
We found the new medicine cabinet (which replaced the old one that put a seam down the middle of your face) with a piece found at Home Outfitters. Keep a theme to what you are creating. In this case, it's a more traditional look, so we looked for light fixtures and accessories that had a more traditional feel.
Add more of the thing you hate.
I am sure there are exceptions to this rule, but it often works and it's the thing people have the hardest time making themselves do. We kept red as an accent in this bathroom which made the red tiles in the room blend in and look pleasant and intentional, not like a mistake. If you have something you hate in only one place in the room, that will be the first place your eyes will go.
Spend where you must.
In this case, it was really important to properly address the backsplash on the sink and fix the mirror over the vanity. The homeowner decided to also upgrade the countertop and faucet (laminate and another hardwarestore find). It was worth it to have a painter with some drywall experience remove and repair those items.
What we were left with was a bathroom that feels much better and that many would be willing to have and use for at least a few years even if they felt they wanted to do a full renovation down the road. This eases a buyer's mind and helps them to see what they could do with the space for themselves when they are ready.
To a buyer looking at this space for the first time, they see a livable inviting space not a money pit and that adds up to big money for the seller. Lastly, don't wait to do this. I have done so many staging jobs of this kind for people who (like in this case) said to me when it was all done, "I should have done this years ago so I could have lived in it and enjoyed it!"