Here’s a typical rental bathroom. Builder-grade materials; not offensive, but very plain and basic. It could be worse, of course, but a lot of rental bathrooms are devoid of style and character. But I like to look at this little room as a blank canvas just waiting for some personal touches. If you’re a renter living with a plain bathroom like this one, or maybe you’re heading off to college where a dull dorm bathroom awaits, here are some easy and affordable styling tips that will brighten your space.
Start with some color
Much better right? These bathrooms tend to be super neutral. They need a big dose of color! The easiest way to get a color into the bathroom – without painting – is the shower curtain. If you’re a pattern person, the kind of person who would cover a house in wall paper or textiles, your shower curtain is how you make your pattern statement.
To make this small room look taller I used a 84-inch shower curtain (that’s a bit taller than standard 72-inch height). You can order taller shower curtains that are intended for a shower door opening, but they don’t make any wide enough to cover a shower/tub combo. So my trick is to buy two curtain panels and sew them together. When your curtain is pulled back, no one’s the wiser. When your curtain is pulled closed, no one should be in your bathroom with you!!!
Note: shower curtains aren’t waterproof, so you’ll also need to buy two tall shower liners (the cheap ones will do). I make sure the curtains I purchase are back tabbed. I attach the liner via the shower curtain ring to the back tab. Voila, your curtain is functional and waterproof.
I used these sweet little stitched edge curtains from Target.
If you choose to make a window curtain and liner curtain work together, you’ll need an extra-sturdy curtain rod. Tension rods usually can’t hold the weight, so you’ll have to use a rod that screws into the wall.
Add smart storage
This bathroom needed a little more storage, and the best place to put it was over the toilet. I love wall-mounted shelves over the toilet, but some of you won’t be able to get permission to do that, so you can do free standing versions instead. Here’s a trick: instead of buying a cabinet made to go over the toilet, use a tiered shelving unit and take off the bottom two drawers. I used an Ikea Lerberg shelf, which, sadly you no longer can get at U.S. IKEA stores.
The Ikea Hyllis is not tiered, so it would work well if you needed more towel storage. This white, tiered bookshelf from Overstock is great if you need even more storage. Since these are not made to go over toilets, they will not have a hidden bar that goes behind the toilet keeping the shelving unit from falling. Make sure you secure the unit to the wall.
Baskets are perfect for storing extra toilet paper, makeup bags, and anything else overflows from the vanity.
It’s easy to think that small photos or artwork will work well in a small space. Not always true! The reality is that small wall hangings can make a small room feel even smaller. Instead, go big and use the largest frame that will fit naturally in the space. It will fill up a blah wall with something personal while making your bathroom look bigger.
Run around your house and grab little storage containers and bowls to use for all those little bathroom items you need to keep on hand. If you need to buy something, skip the bathroom section and head to the kitchen storage section to find little storage bins.
Use the opportunity to upgrade to more stylish bathroom storage. These make-up bags are super cute (from Target).
Plants always bring a little color and life to a boring bathroom. Succulents are my favorites, especially for a bathroom that has no natural light.
Use space wisely
If you have an awkward space underneath your mirror there are lots of great ways to make it more functional. I headed to Target’s office section and got a cute little marble dry-erase board. I like to write little reminders and quotes to keep in mind. It’s nice to keep your family values top of mind while you brush your teeth, right?
By the way, my go-to hand towels are these cheap dish towels from Ikea. They wash well and are meant for drying so they’re perfect hand towels. Embroider them and add some pom pom trim and you’ve got a cheap wedding gift!
Another way to fill the space between a countertop and bathroom mirror would be to install a small shelf. The shelf above is from Home Depot, and looks very easy to install. I also think a grid organizer like the one above from Target could be a fun way to clip on reminders, quotes, and pictures.
Have fun with your bath mat
Bathroom floor mats have come a long way in the last ten or fifteen years. In days past, bath mats were always soft and fluffy, but your rarely found inexpensive and stylish ones. I love the look of vintage rugs in the bathroom, but my slightly more messy reality requires one I can easily throw in the wash. That’s why I like this rug from Target.
One way to make bathroom decor look really stylish is to resist the urge to be too matchy. Just because the floor is black and grey doesn’t mean you need a black or grey mat. The same is true for the shower curtain. Just because the shower curtain is dark blue doesn’t mean the floor mat needs to match.
(On another note the floor is not tile, it’s vinyl. This basket weave pattern from Mannington floors is seriously amazing. I think the bathroom floor cost less than $100 including install. Even better, it was installed in less than an hour!)
Some other tips
There are many more things you can do to make a boring bathroom better. Here are some to consider:
- Hang a Huge Gallery Wall
- Add Dark paint or removable wall paper.
- Add hanging plants (if you have the correct lighting)
- Install a metal shelf above the fiberglass tub/shower for more storage, like this one. Hanging it higher than your tub and showerhead so the towels don’t get wet.
- Add a cute stool for sitting (especially if you are a parent who has to help with baths) or a storage basket for easily accessible towels.
- Add new hardware to your cabinet
- Swap in a new mirror. I love this mirror from Ikea because the frame of the mirror can serve as the shelf!
Now go out and make that boring bathroom stylish!