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