I used to think that happiness was a soaking tub and double vanity. However, recently as I've made amends with my modest bathroom, I've become increasingly aware of the impact that small luxuries make in a bathroom. And I've also taken notice of the impact that budget-savers have on style.
In my decorating work, I find that even creative types tend to be a little hesitant to think outside the box when it comes to decorating the bath. Because bathrooms have to be so functional, people get nervous about straying from the norm. However, just like you don't need paintings of fruit in the kitchen, you don't need to stick to the bath aisle of Target to decorate your bathroom. In fact, most items in bathroom aisles tend to be overpriced and a bit flimsy. A lot comes down to personal style— I tend to prefer relaxed imperfection over pristine matchy-ness— but there are a lot of areas where you can save without sacrificing functionality, and a few that are worth the splurge...
Where To Save and Get Creative:
• Vanity Mirror. If it's not a medicine cabinet, there is nothing different about the blah mirror sold in the hardware store's bath aisle and the unique mirror scored at the estate sale. Wood will endure in the bath, and so will gilt. Thrift stores are bursting with mirrors— and frames waiting to be made into mirrors— so put that money into something you really like.
• Bath Mat. Any rug that can be cleaned can be a bath mat.
• Shower Curtain. Granted, shower curtains seem to get cuter by the millisecond, but if you don't find one you like, think about using a queen size sheet or a fabric remnant with a pattern that you're crazy about. Hang it with curtain clips, and you're all set.
• Waste Basket. The place where you throw your trash doesn't have to match your soap dispenser. A vintage champagne bucket, a cool flower pot, anything awesome with some depth will do the trick.
• Containers. Anything worth storing is worth storing in style. And style doesn't mean $50 worth of matching faux metal boxes. The thrift store (and probably your house) is full off containers waiting to look cool while housing your q-tips. Tea tins, vintage cigar boxes, mason jars, pewter goblets: your thrift store has them and your bathroom wants them.
Where to Splurge and Get Comfortable:
• Faucets and Shower Heads. Skimping here will probably end up costing you money. Cheap faucets tend to leak and loosen with time, and cheap finishes flake off. Plus, there is something very satisfying about a sturdy faucet that doesn't twist or shake when you turn it on and a shower head with perfect water pressure. You don't need to go designer, some middle of the road manufacturers, like Kohler, are fabulous. In general, order these, they're worth the wait. The offerings in big box stores tend to be flimsy.
• Bath Linens. Again, quality ones will last for years and years, while cheap towels will turn threadbare after one, so splurging may end up saving you in the long run.
That's my short list. I purposefully didn't include toilets and sinks because there are plenty of low cost options that are just as good as their designer counterparts, and some that are as cheap as their price tag. Please feel free to chime in with a favorite or a worst.
(Image: Leah Moss)