Utilitarian & chic #1 – The bathroom

I’ve always had a daily bingeing and purging problem – house-wise. I buy a TON and then purge it out/sell it off. Well, I’ve gotten help and kicked that habit – I got rid of anything that wasn’t awesome before we moved into this house. I threw away (or donated) mops, buckets, waste baskets, dust pans, baskets, ANYTHING that was ugly/cheap even if it was functional. I’m not encouraging you to do this, I just needed to. I wasn’t bringing a 2-year-old stupid Swiffer to this new life of mine – those things are just expensive pieces of garbage anyway.

I really wanted to start fresh and have nothing in the new house that was gross, loud, messy or just distracting from the calmness that I’m trying to create. I mean, there will be a lot of distracting artwork and accessories but I didn’t want my paper towel holder to be center stage.

Well, welcome to the new series called ‘Utilitarian and Chic’ where I post functional things that are designed very simply and pretty.

My theory is, if you HAVE to have a toilet paper holder (which you do) why not have one that is simple and kinda ‘goes away’. Sure, if you live in Downton Abbey-esque castle you might want something more decorative, but for my house right now, I’m digging things that are wood, white and simply designed, like these:

Utilitarian & Chic Bathroom

1. Bath bowl | 2. Hand mirror | 3. GLA Nature Bodywash | 4. White lacquer bathroom accessories | 5. Porcelain toothbrush holder | 6. Soap dish | 7. Toilet roll holder | 8. Shaving cup | 9. Teak bathroom accessories

Utilitarian Bathroom

My bathrooms are SMALL, but somehow I will manage to take 6 baths a week in them … whilst watching or reading something with either teenagers in it or suppressed Brits.  I’m toying with my bathroom design (still pinning away … bathrooms are HARD) and right now I’m loving all these refined/warm woods, polished white marble and brass, naturally.

Utilitarian Bathroom

Utilitarian Bathroom

Utilitarian Bathroom

Or maybe some white, stainless and concrete finishes… I don’t know. Part of me needs color (obviously) and then part of me is all shhh … be quiet .. make it white,organic, soft and spa like. The color part of me says, ’But why not make bath time fun? and then the spa part of me says, ’What are you 6? Do you want to play with tickle me Elmo in the bathroom, too? And then color me says, ’Will Tickle me Elmo do anything interesting in the bathtub? like massage my …. feet? 


Utilitarian Bathroom

Utilitarian Bathroom

Images pinned from: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10

Regardless I’m shopping for really simple, clean necessities and accessories that won’t distract from the relaxing/entertaining times I will be having in said bathrooms. Gone are the days of hot pink flower embossed toilet plungers … My only criteria is that it has to be functional (the copper/wood ‘bath bowl’ up there is probably not going to fly…but so pretty) and simply designed. Oh, and not expensive. I may post some things that are, but if you think i’m buying a $220 bath mat you are wrong, buster.

Stay tuned for lots more Utilitarian/Chic posts  - including for the mud room, laundry room, kitchen, cleaning supplies and general household goods (and yes, more bathroom … this was just my first mood board).

I’m on the hunt ..

  1. Anna

    This is a post after my own heart. I’m currently living without a broom because I just moved and haven’t found the perfect one. I can’t wait to see what else you find, because “wood and white” are right up my alley!

  2. Katie

    Hi from Perth, Western Australia! Love reading your blog and getting daily insights and inspiration. Just curious if you’ve had any feedback or heard how wood goes in bathrooms? I would have thought it rots/warps?

    On another note id love it if you could do a post on the benefit (or not) of using an architect for renovations. Im currently trying to decide if this is a worthwhile service to invest in.

    • We are researching it now to see what our options are. Will blog about it!

    • Bek W

      Oh Katie – I’m from Perth too! Hooray! It’s not often you meet a fellow West Australian on international blogs :) haha

      Ohhhh so so inspired Emily – loving these posts!!

  3. Carol

    I vote for the marble, white and brass!

  4. Chenell
  5. Amanda

    I love beautiful white marble bathrooms with brass details! I highly recommend using a dark grout… not only will it highlight the tile and the lines, but it will ALWAYS look fresh and clean instead of grungy after a little while. Just make sure that you love it all the time, not just when you first finish it! Good luck!

  6. Miranda

    Would you please, amongst your cleaning and simplifying posts, write a little something about living amongst a black cat (or more specifically cat HAIR). I’ve often wondered how you’ve kept your house so clean what with having white things and velvet things? I’m trying to vacuum everyday (ha ha, not really but I SHOULD) and am constantly shooing my cat off my vintage blue velvet wing-backed chair (not an easy task). I would love any ideas. And speaking of bathrooms, where do you keep that litter box? I dare you. ;)

  7. katie

    bathrooms are so hard! everything is essentially in a fixed spot & leaves me terrified of making the wrong decision on placement! would love stand alone tub but have no idea best place to put one (cue the usual “don’t move the plumbing unless you wanna spend truckloads of dough” advice running thru my brain). thoughts? the bathroom in question is more awkward than my teenage years! i know placement is important, but i am much more excited about the bathroom’s “jewelry” like brass faucets!

  8. AndreaU88

    Lots and lots of white, over & over & over & over & over, but still it is very nice and clean, but just so white.

  9. Wendy

    You crack me up! I just finished our bathroom and I’m in the “sshh, be quiet category” and I’m trapped there in this beautiful gray and white and silvery chrome world. I said to my fiancee that it makes me think of “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” Everytime I consider adding yellow, it feels like I’m trampling in the virgin snow…so I got a good laugh at your inner spa vs sshh struggle. How do you want to feel in the bathroom? Happy or calm or that all-time popular “cozy?”

  10. CAT

    No offense, cause I really like you and your blog, but I LOVE my Swiffer. It really curtails all my cat fur “tumbleweeds” that seem to blow across the kitchen floor all the time!!! On another note, I love your idea of adding concrete bits.

  11. s.montgomery

    I was tickled pink (or shall I say white) by this post! I just moved and am having that inner color/calm battle! I’m going from room to room goodwilling all of the ugly…it feels so good, kind of like an organizational high. I get so inspired to decorate/ ruthlessly organize/ research beautiful home things after reading your posts!

  12. Though not a fan of the more Modern design, I’m dig’n No. 6, that looks to be a near perfect soap dish: easy to clean, up out of the way, and most importantly drains the water. So I guess I’m more of a ‘function’ rather than ‘looks’ kind of person.
    Oh, and I have one of those Swiffers, the one that sprays a cleaning solution….sitting in the garage for 3 years….never used it.

  13. suva

    Also tuned to this.. In my new house bathroom there are grey/brown large tiles on the floor, large white tiles/white mosaic on some walls and grey paint on other walls, wooden cabinets and ladder. It needed flowers and colourful mat, but now, to me, it is perfect. Except the ceiling light. Now it is too small, too utilitarian. I want something more glamourous, but suitable to this style and bathroom safe at the same time. Were you already thinking about lights?
    I love your new year diligent writing, especially about your house, brilliant!

  14. jolene

    I’m diggin’ the new series! Should provide lots of inspiration for those mundane useful objects.

    I’d be SO impressed if you did something along the lines of pic #6. It seems to fit the architecture of you house perfectly. And if you added an orange flower or something, your need for color might be unexpectedly be satisfied! Although, frankly, I have NO experience in this because I am 100% unable to do the spa, calm white thing. I love it, but just can’t live with it!

  15. Nicole M.

    I love the Utilitarian Chic, especially when it comes to bathrooms! I always say go neutral and natural with all the “fixed” items (tile, hardware, sink, etc.). It creates a clean and simple space that you can personalize with accessories…for a few years you might like the whole Utilitarian Chic, but in 3 years, you might want to changed it up….it is soooo much cheaper to buy a new rug and towels instead of new tile!! I know this isn’t news to you, but thought I would throw my 2 cents in. I love seeing your design process and can’t wait to see how it evolves :)

  16. amy h

    I hear you on the small. My master is 69″ x 72″ and I’ve been living with a pedestal sink for almost 13 years. I wish I had someplace to put all those cute boxes and trays. I love the marble, but I do think we’ll be sticking with chrome because it seems to be the most timeless and most available (read inexpensive).

  17. Love this! I have been thinking a lot about my new bathroom as well and that first photo with the subway shower and brass hardware was one of my main inspirations. So pretty. I’m all about a calm space in my new house as well, so I am super excited to follow along.

  18. Makaya

    Love all of it! We are renovating our bathroom on a serious budget…it has light blue tile on the walls….what are your thoughts on painting tile? Have never seen it but heard it can be done.

    • kate

      Yes, I’m curious about this too! We have yellow tiles and I want to paint them white but I don’t want it to look like “oh they painted their tiles.”

  19. kate

    This gave me a total lightbulb. Like, WHY have I never thought of buying pretty versions of the things you have to have? Like a trashcan. Or that toilet paper holder up there. I just use the boring plastic thing that’s attached to my wall. But these things would be so much more fun to use if they were beautiful! Let’s talk about cleaning supplies next, okay? Thanks!

  20. Emily, you are a freakin’ genius. I’m in the process of designing/outfitting a new home for our family and it’s been beyond helpful seeing your eye for design as you navigate these waters yourself for your own home.

    And that toilet paper stand thingy from West Elm? Not sure something designed to hold the paper that cleans our bums can reach perfection, but that one comes close. So thanks for that. Can’t wait to see what you post next.

  21. tata

    i agree with you on keeping everything in the house simple and functional. i don’t like anything plastic, cheap looking in my bathroom or anywhere in the house (especiallyyyy kitchen!!). with that being said, i was a little surprised by you essential baby item list. with my first born, i didn’t need more than half of that stuff you listed and i only kept it around the house if i really really couldn’t live without it. it’s hard cuz some items do add an extra 20mins of alone time or sleep but some of these baby items are such eye sore… sorry, a little off topic but had to share. thanks!

  22. Love that you’re doing these posts! I’ve been trying really hard to slowly replace ugly functional things over the last few years. It makes such a difference in day to day living!

  23. amyks

    My bathroom is very spa like. Pale grey walls, pale blue glass tiles in the glass walled shower and on the”wet wall” areas, a silver gray “argento” large format tile floor with light wood vanity and crisp white tub and and sink. I just love it, it is very “neutral” and calming, but it still has the slightest color because of the glass tiles.

  24. Uuuugh, I’m the same way about “necessary” items that are ugly. I’m even irritated that the vinegar solution I clean with isn’t in a pretty bottle. I’m ridiculous. (Or awesome?)

  25. Ann

    I just finished a master bath remodel: grays, white, and very thick marble counters. I love LOVE the look of the thick marble counters. Adore the look.

    But I admit they are a maintenance headache. Every bottle or glass leaves a ring, even though the counters are well-sealed. Every drip of toothpaste is dangerous. They are dramatically veined and (I didn’t know this) thus are prone to iron coming to the surface, which can’t be removed. So this gorgeous counter has some stains and some unobtrusive (to everyone but me) rust stains.

    If I had it to do over again, I would look a lot harder for a marble look alike made from silestone or something similar. Real marble is a real maintenance issue, unless you are the sort of person who can accept what my neighbor calls “the patina of life” and overlook the rings, spots, and rust stains.

    Also? I think bathroom surfaces should be wiped with something strong, like vinegar or bleach. Marble only tolerates warm water and microfiber cloths. I don’t think the germs mind that a bit.

  26. I looove this. I went from living with my parents to owning a home. While house hunting we started buying and wow did I make some horrible decisions. I had no idea what I really needed. And somehow at the age of 20 I didn’t know there was such a thing as pretty toilet paper holders. Seriously. I’m ashamed!

  27. Erica

    Toilet bowl brush and plunger- Have you found beautiful versions of the grossest things in the bathroom?

  28. Such great options! I feel like I have the tickle me elmo conversations way too much when it comes to design decisions in my life:)

  29. Sarah

    gross, loud or messy? You mean like a baby? hehe well mine is anyway! x

  30. Rachel

    Bless your soul. I was just searching through your blog for any bathroom inspiration a couple days ago, and here you are answering the requests I’ve been sending you via brain waves. Our crappy rental bathroom is in major need of some attention, and I needed a little inspiration/validation that I’m not crazy for only loving the white/brass/wood combinations I generally trend toward. Can’t wait to see what you come up with – finding bathroom advice and inspiration is hard! Thanks for sharing!

  31. Emily, those are amazing finds. I too have the internal battle of neutrals versus colors. We’re wrapping up a full bathroom remodel and went with dark gray slate floors, white marble herringbone shower surround, Benjamin Moore Wrought Iron walls, and we’re working on a walnut vanity. We’re avid DIY-ers, so we’re certainly not on par with your awesomeness. BUT, if you want to check it out, here’s a link with our progress posts: http://ourhumbleabodeblog.com/category/our-mountain-house/master-bathroom/ I’m seriously crushing on warm woods, white, and brass, too. :)

  32. Tina Miller

    I agree. Marble is too high maintenance. Never loved subway tiles but white has always been my fav color. Question….. I have a historical home but don’t like antiques or ” busy” looking rooms. How do I mesh modern with some historical perspective to a bathroom renovation?

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