Where would you score your home’s bathrooms, on a scale of Boring to Beautiful? If your master bath, guest bath or powder room is hovering at the Boring-But-Functional end of the scale, it’s time transform it into a space that is so beautiful, you’ll say yes to that extra cup of coffee just so you can visit it more often! Remaking the look and feel of your bathrooms is a lot easier and less expensive than you may think when you use these six surefire tricks:
1. Opt for an arresting color scheme.
Take a hard look at the walls in your bath. Are they unremarkable? You can make them powerful with a few rolls of wallpaper or a fresh coat of paint. You might think that using a bright, bold wallpaper in a small powder room would be overwhelming, but one peek inside the gorgeous room in the photo above and you’ll become a believer. It doesn’t get much better than this peppy green and white trellis pattern, which infuses this bathroom with energy. Even though it’s a bit on the contemporary side, it looks marvelous with the traditional artwork.
Paint is an inexpensive and easy way to transform a bath. Check out how this subdued combination of black, white and gray creates jaw-dropping drama. If you have older oak cabinets you want to freshen up, try this trick: Cover them in a high gloss whitewash and add new nobs. Then create some magic with contrasting colors on the door and ceiling. I love how the brooding gray ceiling pulls out the gray threads in the marble on the vanity and floor.
2. Dress the walls with fabulous art.
I like to use lots of artwork in bathrooms because I think it elevates the look of the room. Plus, it’s so unexpected – it will catch your guests off guard. Bathroom walls are a prime spot to create a gallery that features your favorite collectibles. My friend Anne hung this set of old silhouettes in this glorious bathroom off her main entry (It’s the one pictured at the start of the blog).
Check out what my friend Marsee has done in the tiny bathroom right off her kitchen. This space is no bigger than a closet, yet it’s packed full of art, enlivening every inch from floor to ceiling. I’m having a blast employing this technique as I decorate the bathrooms in my lake house redo. I took a postage-stamp-sized bathroom and painted it Twilight blue then covered one wall with a mix of plates and antlers, and the other wall with a grid of turn-of-the-century portrait engravings. Right now, that little bathroom is my favorite room in the whole house!
3. Add interesting arrangements of accessories.
No one accessorizes bathrooms like Marsee. She could lead a college course in how to making the everyday extraordinary, and to rethink functional objects and make them fabulous. When I’m at her home, I always make a trip to the ladies room so I can take in all that luxurious loveliness, like this beautiful tableaux she created on an unusual ledge in an upstairs bathroom, pictured above.
How can you do the same thing in your bathroom? From shampoo to mouthwash to bath salts, we all have lots of toiletries to work around when we decorate our bathrooms. Instead of hiding them away in a cabinet, why not create displays that make your toiletries beautiful? All you need is an assortment of lovely containers. For instance, put your bubble bath and lotions in pretty decanters and pour your bath salts into apothecary jars. Place them atop a silver tray. Then fill in with a few more accents, like a candelabra or an urn.
4. Finish out with furniture.
I love to use “real” furniture in bathrooms, even small ones, because it gives these often-forgotten rooms the same stature as the more public spaces in our home. If you are redoing your vanity, consider using a piece of furniture to hold the sink, instead of a generic hardware store cabinet. In our lake house, I took a well-worn chest that had been in Dan’s family, gave it new life with a coat of gray paint, and had the carpenters fit it for the sink. In a slightly larger bathroom, I used a dining room buffet as a vanity.
Another favorite trick of mine is to put a large chest in a bathroom, like my friend Julie did in her master bath above. Not only does the chest visually balance out the cabinetry on the other side of the room, it provides another spot for storage. The glass doors allow you to make artful displays with towels and toiletries. If you have enough room in your bath, consider adding an upholstered chair to use for dressing. It’s another touch of luxury that will make your bath inviting.
5. Create a mood with ambient light.
Whenever possible, I use ambient lighting to illuminate a room instead of overhead lights. I just prefer the soft glow they provide. The little black lamp sitting on the vanity in Anne’s powder room makes the room feel so warm and inviting.
I also love the way lamps break up the cold, hard plain of a bathroom counter top. Anne picked the perfect lamp to add interest to her master bath vanity.
6. Make practical pieces pretty.
As much as I love creating baths that are a bastion of beauty and luxury, they also have to be practical. So outfit your new bath with tools that make daily life easier, yet are loaded with style. In my home, that meant saying goodbye to towel bars and hello to towel hooks. For some reason, my family members were unable to hang wet towels on bars, preferring to drop them on the floor. Sigh. I solved the dilemma by installing pretty hooks, so all they have to do is toss the towel. Problem solved.
Check out how Marsee displayed the hand towels in her powder room. They are easy for guests to find in this simple wire basket on the back of the stool and they look gorgeous.
The tub is the most sacred space in my bathroom. I love to soak in a hot, steaming bath after a long day. Julie did an artful job of making bath essentials pretty and accessible for her big tub. The yellow loofa serves as an unexpected focal point in this room, adding an arresting pop of color and organic texture.
Next Week … I’ll show you how to use large wooden cabinets to add drama to your home.
Lisa Fernandez saysFebruary 3, 2014 at 9:57 am
I too share your love for bathrooms and consider it to be the sacred space of the house. It is where you can be alone and truly relax. We have a 1912 claw foot tub that is my pride and joy but my space is so small that I wasn’t able to put a piece of furniture in it like an antique chest with drawers which would have been my ideal thing to do. But it really is tiny and we had a small linen clost that took up most of the space so we painted the entire bathroom Benjamin Moore Simply White, took off the door of the closet, rounded the top and painted the old shelves inside white as well. I placed art work, and rolled up towels with a few vintage baskets and even a wire basket to hold toilet paper. Everyone comments about how lovely that little space looks and how the art work is so beautiful. I learned all that from you Mary Carol and your books are the greatest reference tools ever. Love these bathrooms and all the ideas you show through them.
Love it! Going to have to build another bathroom to incorporate all these ideas. Oh Rob. . . (calling out to my husband)
Kathy Raines saysFebruary 3, 2014 at 2:58 pm
Love! Would love to know who makes that wallpaper!
franki saysFebruary 3, 2014 at 3:30 pm
My bathrooms are my “tiny jewel boxes!” Train station luggage racks for towels, urns to hold wash cloths, garden stools with trays…I change out my shower curtains twice a year…still “playing dress up.” 🙂 franki
Florence Carlsen saysFebruary 3, 2014 at 5:32 pm
I tried the wire basket with hand towels for my guests but they didn’t know what to do with the towels after they used them? Any suggestions. I went back to just putting out fingertip towels on the counter.
Sharon Stoffel saysFebruary 3, 2014 at 5:44 pm
Mary Carol, I loved every idea on this blog. One of the smallest things which you really did not talk about was hanging that vase of flowers on the hook between the towels instead of using a towel bar. I do have hanging vases, actually little test tubes in simple wire hangers on the wall in my guest powder room, but never thought of hanging them between towels. Am going to try this and the basket of guest towels on the toilet tank top. I have always just laid one there, but somehow my guests never use them, they always use the one on the towel hook. Any suggestions on how to encourage them to use the guest towels instead?
Frankie Wright saysFebruary 3, 2014 at 6:26 pm
I really enjoyed you 6 tips for a beautiful bathroom. The pictures are beautiful! Would you show pictures of your lake house bathroom? I would love to this bathroom because I am planning a mountain house bathroom.
Gail saysFebruary 3, 2014 at 8:46 pm
So many beautiful ideas, as always. Just moved into a 10 year old home and the MB is large with a heatherish grren wall paper with a little darker about 12 inch repeat design. Can I hang a picture over wall paper. The picture matches all theexpensive wastebaskets, soap decanters, etc, and some of the same color of green with a pop of yellow. Just wondering. I know you need a picture, but don’t know how to load to this. thanks for all the inspiration. I look forward to your blog.
Deb Finn saysFebruary 3, 2014 at 9:20 pm
Thank you for all the wonderful ideas. I am going to work on art work for my guest bath and hooks for my master bath.
Mary Hines saysFebruary 3, 2014 at 9:58 pm
What gorgeously beautiful ideas!!! Can’t wait to share them with friends!
Mary Carol saysFebruary 4, 2014 at 12:14 am
Hi, Everyone! Thanks for sharing your ideas – love them all! When it comes to guest towels, perhaps you can use the basket on the stool to hold the “reserves” and place the towels for guests to use on the sink or on a hook by the sink. Then, toss them in the laundry and replace with towels from the basket. Gail, yes you can definitely hang artwork on top of wallpaper! I’ll have photos of my guest house in a few months – it’s still not where I want it to be. Still moving and changing and tweaking things, and I’m having a blast taking my time, living in the space, seeing how Dan and I really use it. Stay tuned … we’re getting closer!
Pat Crowder saysFebruary 4, 2014 at 8:56 am
Thanks Mary Carol for all the wonderful ideas. Bathrooms are so much fun to decorate. I recently redecorated a powder room, adding a small ceiling chandelier, and counter lamp. Covered the cord with match color fabric. Really dressed it up.
Ricki Brown saysFebruary 4, 2014 at 9:45 am
I love your blog and emails. I have all your books….just wish your store was closer to me so I could just drop by to see all your wonderful things.
I’m looking forward to another book where you highlight accessorizing, tables, etc. Love those!
Tari Laster saysFebruary 4, 2014 at 12:23 pm
Decorating and renovating bathrooms is my favorite project in my 80’s home. I love love adding seashells (from my travels and my inherited WW II shells my Grandfather brought home from exotic beaches while deployed in the Pacific). I display in the corner area of my counter a beautiful tall glass container filled to the rim with special shell and each becomes a talking point.
Mary Carol saysFebruary 4, 2014 at 6:21 pm
Tari, how lovely that you have these treasures in your home! Thank you for sharing, all!
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chdonald saysMarch 3, 2014 at 8:28 am
I really enjoyed your 6 tips for a beautiful bathroom. And I followed your steps to make my bathroom beautiful and believe me its something else now something amazing. Thank you!
Susan smith saysMay 7, 2017 at 8:39 am
Hi I would love to have that cute basket to put vintage hand towels in. Where could I buy one? Susan smith
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Ruthie Davis saysJune 8, 2019 at 4:42 am
Awesome tips. These 6 bathrooms renovating ideas are really interesting. I was looking for some ideas for making my bathroom more attractive and here I got some nice ideas for remolding. I was also considering getting a renovation done by Bathroom Renovations Port Macquarie. Love it and very inspiring.
Johnny McCarron saysJune 25, 2019 at 9:47 pm
Good to know that paint is an inexpensive and easy way to transform a bath. I’ve been feeling lately that my bathroom could use a makeover. I might try looking at installing some glass splashbacks. Could be neat.