Search Property For Sale

DECOR ADVICE: Bathroom designs and ideas that will move you

Google+ Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr +

One of the most frequently visited rooms in a home is also often the one that is least visually appealing. When renting a house or apartment, there are ways to jazz up this space without too much hassle and without spending a fortune

For South Africans who rent property, one of the most irritating, and sometimes hideous, drawbacks are bathrooms. Even for those who buy properties, bathrooms often do not measure up.

Brown stains in the basin or bath, cracked floor tiles or lacklustre lino, tired net curtains and ill-fitting windows do not pass muster. Stained toilets are the worst. Lighting is often inadequate, doors need TLC, and there might not be an adequate mirror.

What do you do when the bathroom in an older rented house or apartment resemble something out of a medieval dungeon? The trick is to not spend too much, or to do too much. Without spending a fortune or turning into a DIY genius, your most-used spot in the home can be made bearable. Remember, you do not own the property so generous capital outlay is absurd.

This tiny powder room just off the kitchen was originally a pantry. To add personality to the space, the homeowner put up removable wallpaper tiles by Hygge and West. The metal mirror with shelf is from Shades of Light. Picture: Mike Morgan/The Washington Post

There is an order to things:

◆ How much cash do I have to spend? Can I afford to employ an expert company, or must I do most of it myself? Perhaps a handyman can help?

◆ What are the priorities requiring attention in my bathroom?

◆ Do I buy what I need? Where do I go for good advice?

◆ What should I not worry about?

◆ Does my lease say I have to ask my landlord for permission to make upgrades?

Bathroom Furniture

Mina Starsiak, co-host of the US cable television programme Good Bones, says: “Don’t involve too much time or money.”

Daily wear and tear takes its toll on bathrooms. Painting a tired cupboard and installing a new drawer handle is cheap and does wonders, she says.

Old laminated countertops, plagued with bubbles from repeated water exposure, can be upgraded. You can buy a strip laminate cut to fit the counter. Visit or seek online help from nationwide Builder’s Warehouse. Their advice is free and professional. Also look at Pinterest and Instagram for inspiration.

If the bathroom countertop doesn’t need replacing, Starsiak says, you could get creative with wood putty and polyurethane to add interest. It’s cheap and effective. “You could wood putty it, sand it down, paint it or decoupage it. Get creative, and then use a marine-grade polymer to seal it,” she says.

These are both permanent projects, so obtain permission from a landlord and check the terms of your lease before starting.


Poor ventilation usually makes using a small bathroom unbearable, especially during a hot and often humid summer. “It’s tricky to create airflow without construction,” says US expert Jess Cooney, “You want to be able to draw the air from the window out into the main space.”

She suggests replacing a solid bathroom door with a slatted louvre door to create airflow. A dehumidifier will draw excess moisture from the air. “If you don’t have adequate ventilation in your bathroom, a dehumidifier is your best bet.” Different sizes and styles are available.

Old fixtures and appliances

The protective glaze on toilets and bathtubs can chip and peel over time, and low-pressure shower heads and taps can increase your time in the bathroom and your water bill. A new toilet seat costs about R300 and is easy to install. A peeling bath is an issue to take up with your landlord.

A water-wise new shower head is the way to go, but contact your landlord to inquire about repairs.

Inadequate storage

Take advantage of the vertical space in a small bathroom, designer Shazalynn Cavin-Winfrey says. A tall cabinet or a medicine cabinet over the toilet can make a big difference. Picture: Angie Seckinger

Many bathrooms are short of storage space. Throw out half squeezed anything and outdated creams and pills. Find shelves and cabinets with doors to hide belongings, and buy under-sink caddies and storage boxes.

Cooney suggests removing shampoos, conditioners and lotions from their original containers and pouring them into refillable bottles.

Ugly floors

Easy on the eye and on the feet is a nonslip bathroom carpet. Choose something absorbent, easily cleanable and mould resistant. Cooney suggests durable porcelain tiles, but advises against white grout as “it will never be fully white once it wears.”

Colours, odd spaces

To add interest to a neutral, monochromatic bathroom, Cooney likes to layer with texture. “Get pretty, neutral linen curtain for the window and then a chunky bathmat and layer the textures, but don’t add colour,” she says.

Keep the look consistent with quiet artwork and add interesting textural decorations such as coral pieces or baskets.

The Washington Post and HOME