An attractive shower can enhance your home's value as well as make your daily shower a more enjoyable experience. When choosing the best option for your home, consider whether appearance or ease of maintenance is most important to you, and then opt for the highest-quality materials within your price range.
Laminate shower surrounds have come a long way since the gaudy looks of the 1970s. Instead of gold veining, you can find simple solid colors, fairly realistic marble and granite looks and other styles to suit nearly any decor. Laminate surrounds are easy to install and simple to clean. Some companies sell single-piece units that are prebent to fit your shower, reducing the number of seams that can potentially leak and ruin your drywall. The most important part of laminate installation is to get a good seal in the area where the laminate meets the tub or shower floor, so take a few of the dollars you saved by choosing laminate and spend them on the best-quality caulk you can find.
Designer tiles are expensive, but if you have a creative streak and don't mind putting in extra effort, you can create a custom mosaic for your shower wall at a very low cost. Contact all tile manufacturers and home improvement stores in your area and ask for any broken or remnant bathroom and kitchen tiles. Once you have well over the square footage needed to cover your shower wall, break the tiles into small chunks with a hammer and smooth out the edges with a file. Set the pieces in the pattern of your choice -- either irregular or a specific design -- and use high-quality grout to set them into your shower wall. The tiling process will be tedious, but the look will be hard to surpass.
Paint and Curtains
Even if you don't have a freestanding claw-foot tub, you can add claw-foot style to your shower and save money at the same time. Start with smooth, primed drywall in your entire bathroom, and paint the entire room in the color of your choice. Purchase a full-surround shower curtain rod or make one yourself from aluminum conduit or -- for a slightly higher price but nicer look -- copper pipe. Hang one shower curtain along the back of your shower area and one along the front as you normally would. Make sure they overlap quite a bit on the wall opposite the shower head as well as at the shower head itself. This method only works well if your bathroom has a good vent or you live in a dry area where mildew will not build up behind the curtains. Open the shower curtains on all sides periodically and clean the walls thoroughly. Use clear or translucent shower curtains to show off your wall and keep an eye on any moisture problems to catch them early on.