(Gender) Neutral Ground: A Design Expert On Decorating a Bathroom to Please Everyone

published May 2, 2017
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Showering, shaving, putting on makeup, removing makeup, brushing teeth, trimming beards—we spend a lot of our days in the bathroom. With all that time spent there, it should be a place where you feel comfortable and happy. It’s a room that should reflect your personality and aesthetic, but when two people share the same bathroom, it might be hard to keep them both happy if they have opposing styles.

Enter Lisa Schulner Fine and Michael Fine, the husband-and-wife team behind bath accessories brand Quiet Town; the duo are experts when it comes to decorating a bathroom that speaks multiple languages, and they learned from their own experiences. She’s a fashion stylist and he’s a photographer, and their creative sensibilities lent themselves well to establishing an out-of-the-box bath company based more on fashion than interior trends.

“We started Quiet Town because we couldn’t find any shower curtains that felt like us,” says Lisa. “Everything was either too contrived or too conservative. All we wanted was something that mixed our love for natural textures and a bit of color in a simple, modern way.” Their own home’s aesthetic of geometric shapes, clean lines, and natural canvas with pops of mint, pink and yellow parlays itself into Quiet Town’s designs for shower curtains and bath rugs—the best way to make an impact in a bathroom, especially if you rent and have cosmetic restrictions.

Read on as Lisa suggests a few ways that will keep your bathroom gender neutral so anyone using it will feel right at home.

Lisa & Michael’s bathroom in their Brooklyn home showcases beautiful textiles from their company, Quiet Town. (Image credit: Courtesy Lisa & Michael Fine)

Color Theory

Giving your bathroom a gender-neutral makeover doesn’t have to mean saying goodbye to your favorite pattern or hue.

I think having a gender-neutral bathroom has to do with balance rather than eliminating specific colors or patterns. For instance, a pink bathroom can appeal to both men and women as long as the other elements are clean and simple. Leave the flourishes behind and keep things really minimal. On the flip side, if you run with a very neutral color palette, make sure to add tons of texture. You can have a lot of fun with pattern here as well.

Au Naturel

Keeping textures and materials organic and neutral can go a long way in creating balance.

I’m obsessed with mixing manmade and natural materials in neutral hues; it’s the easiest guideline to infuse maximum texture without ever overdoing it. Materials like concrete, wood, brass, stone, acrylic, plants, natural light, and woven materials are some of my favorites. For instance, a concrete floor with a rumpled canvas or linen shower curtain, a braided palm frond rug, brass fixtures, and tons of plants is my idea of heaven no matter who you are.

A Scandi-Inspired Vintage + Modern Mix in Cape Town (Image credit: Lana Kenney)

Objects of My Affections

Think outside of the box when accessorizing your bathroom.

I love bathroom accessories that look like everyday objects you’d find in an office, living room or kitchen. Things like beautiful ceramics, powder-coated wire mesh, wooden vessels, woven baskets, pendant lamps, and, of course, plants. Forget the idea that you need to buy a matching vanity set (toothbrush holder, soap dish, trash can) and you’ll always find your way to the pieces that speak to you rather than those that are forced on you.

Balancing Act

When it comes to fixtures and surfaces, mixing aesthetics can help achieve a gender-neutral look.

Again, I think it’s all about balance. If you’re in love with an ornate faucet, make sure the sink is very clean and modern. If patterned cement tiles are your thing, go with a neutral color palette like gray and white and then explode that color story with opposing textures and materials within the same zone. I’m not one to make rules or follow them—I just know what I like and try to not go overboard in any one direction.

Out of the Ordinary

Everyday essentials like Q-tips, cotton balls and razors don’t have to be hidden away inside drawers.

I prefer clear counters with nothing on top of them but that’s not real life. It’s good to identify the items that you both use daily and make those easily accessible rather than rummaging through a drawer or medicine cabinet. I’m also a sucker for a tight color story and bathroom necessities are a gift of all-white antiseptic loveliness. I love Group Work Project 003. It’s this genius (and beautiful) storage system that is built off a towel rack where you can put everyday necessities at your fingertips without feeling cluttered. If essentials like Q-tips, cotton balls, daily contacts, and tampons (why not) are on your list, and if you have the space on a shelf to display these items in clear vessels, I’d say go for it. There’s a certain level of honesty and humility in a bathroom and it’s generous to share this candidly with your guests (and yourselves). Don’t hide who you are, but maybe do try to speak the truth with some style.