Lately, we’ve been crushing on cottage-style bathrooms—serene, laid-back, sweetly retro rooms that despite their usually petite size still boast major charm. We love the light, airy feeling that the best of these bathrooms evoke, and their nod to vintage—beadboard walls! Wide-plank paneling! Recycled furniture and accessories!—makes them all the more endearing. So what’s the best way to create this look at home?
1. Start with the materials. Do you prefer wood, tile, painted drywall, or wallpaper for the walls? How about tile or wood on the floors? (Skip the linoleum, even if it seems more cost-effective; it’s the surest way to tip the scales from shabby chic to plain old shabby, and it won’t last as long as tile or wood.)
2. Decide on your color palette. The most successful cottage bathrooms keep it light, which helps the space appear larger and balances out any dark tones in beams, furniture, or fixtures. Think pale aqua, seafoam, gray, and ivory for a classic look, or try a whispery lavender or pink for a modern take.
3. Find a great tub. This is one of the key elements to a cottage-style bathroom. A vintage slipper or clawfoot tub might not be in the budget, but most home-improvement stores carry a pretty impressive variety of other, more cost-effective options.
4. Add a bit of provenance. Pick up furniture with interesting shapes or details (like turned legs) from your local Goodwill or other recycling warehouse, give it a good sanding, and repaint it in an eye-catching hue or give it the stencil treatment. Old dressers make great vanities, armoires can be repurposed into storage cabinets, and orphan chairs are terrific seating for at-home pedis or makeup application.
5. Accessorize judiciously. It’s easy to go overboard with cottage style, so remember to edit yourself to keep the space from looking cluttered. Choose a few well-placed glass vases or jars in a bright color, some fresh flowers or plants, a mirror or two, some vintage lighting (we love fisherman lanterns and mini chandeliers) and a rustic basket for towels or laundry. Contain any other items behind cabinet doors, or switch them out occasionally to refresh the look. Just don’t put them all out at once. Trust us on this one.
6. Treat yourself to luxe bath linens. It’s tempting to buy inexpensive towels, washcloths, and bath mats, but it’s a purchase you’ll regret pretty quickly—the colors tend to streak or run in the wash, they lose their thickness and break down faster, and they feel rougher against the skin. Save your pennies instead for a few sets of higher-quality bath linens, which will last for years and still feel as soft as the first time you washed them. Go for pale tones to get that tranquil, boutique-hotel look, or choose a vibrant shade to contrast with your overall palette.