ISSUE 26  |  Quick Fixes

Expert Advice: 10 Tips for Transforming a Rental Bath

July 08, 2016 10:00 AM

BY Sarah Lonsdale

The challenges of the bathroom in my family’s rented house in Northern California ran the gamut from fusty glass lampshades and a heavy wrought-iron curtain rail to limp, musty curtains and a bold green-and-white striped shower curtain. The solution was pretty straightforward: Strip the place down to its bare elements, make everything white, and add layers of texture to prevent the room from feeling sterile. Here’s my 10-step action plan.

Photography by Matthew Williams for Remodelista.


Above: An ornate wooden mirror originally hung over the sink. I replaced it with the Molger Mirror in birch from Ikea. (The Molger Mirror is no longer available at Ikea but a similar style is the brand’s Tyngen Mirror with Shelf.) Its frame, which I painted white, doubles as a handy shelf for small objects since there’s little room on the pedestal sink.

1. Swap out (or doctor) the light fixtures. I initially tried to find better-looking shades than the glass ones that were in place above the mirror, but in the end, I opted for no shades and silver-tipped bulbs: They’re not only visually pleasing but also they provide better light.


Above: A Fog Linen wire hanger on the towel bar.

2. Hang as much as possible. Built-in towel bars work well for larger towels, but I also keep out hand towels on a hanger. It’s a practical storage solution and a way to add texture.


Above: Two of my favorite objects in the bath: a vintage Danish stool that I picked up years ago for $10, and a straw mat from a recent trip to Seville.

3. Introduce warm elements. All-white walls and tiles can feel a bit clinical; I added my wooden stool and rush mat to introduce texture and warmth to the space. I love the feeling of standing barefoot on straw first thing in the morning, and in winter it’s so much nicer than cold tiles.


Above: Necklaces and wrist ties hang on the medicine cabinet knob.

4. Utilize every bit of space. Any handle or knob is fair game for storage in my book. I like keeping my jewelry on hand.


Above: One of the nice details that my period bathroom came with: an inset, glass-paneled cabinet.

5. Display well. I put out only the good-looking bottles, and I typically decant (or hide) anything with packaging that’s not appealing. I think of the shelves in my cabinet as a series of vignettes that I am constantly changing.

6. Declutter. The smaller the space, the more that things need room to breathe.


Above: Straw baskets above the cabinet make up for lack of deep shelves. They look tidy because none of their contents peek over the edge.

7. Be creative with storage. I stow toilet paper in a Japanese fisherman’s basket, and all the extra stuff goes into a leather-handled market basket picked up in a French supermarket, both shown above.


Above: A stack of washcloths sits on the toilet.


Above: Our shower curtain hangs from homemade rings.

8. Ditch the plastic. There was no good reason to keep the cheap plastic shower rings, so I swapped in my own leather ties. (I have a well-documented obsession with rawhide laces: Read about my Simple DIY Projects).


Above: The showerhead was replaced by our landlord and is a local hardware store plumbing aisle find—proof that you can get decent hardware without going high-end.


Above: The bathroom pared down.

9. Remove anything that doesn’t look good. After removing the ugly curtains and rod on my bathroom window (and putting them in storage), I used Round Wooden Thumbtacks found on Etsy to pin up a piece of unhemmed linen as a privacy screen. I also added a white linen roller blind.

10. Accent with white. I replaced the loud shower curtain with a plain, thick, white cotton one, and all of our towels and linens are white—this keeps the look clean and fresh.

For more bathroom inspiration, see our posts on Shower Curtains and Clothes Hangers. Considering a remodel? Read 10 Essential Tips for Designing the Bathroom.

N.B.: This post is an update; the original story ran on October 10, 2014.