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If You Think Your Rental Bathroom is Beyond Help, This Post is For You

Photo by Tessa Neustadt for EHD | From: Brady Gives A Refresh To His Vintage Bathroom

We thought it about time to do some good ol’ fashion budget content. I have now been a renter for about 12 years with no sign of that changing anytime soon. So unless I want to dump an obscene amount of money renovating a home I don’t actually own, I need to make the most out of my small yet happy bathroom. This post is really for us all.

I may have ranted about this before but unless you live alone (and even if you do) your bathroom is your sanctuary—away from your kids, animals, partner or whatever else you live with. It’s the time for just you and your phone. And should your private sanctuary be a place you love being in? Well, we think yes. So here’s how to achieve the bathroom you deserve at a price your wallet will be happy with. So before the shopping begins let’s get into our five EHD approved bathroom refresh tips.

bathroom ideas
Photo by Tessa Neustadt for EHD | From: Sylvia’s Makeover: A Quick Refresh

1. Color Palette

Pardon if we sound like a broken record on this one but if I have learned one thing from Emily it’s how important a consistent color palette is. It’s really the easiest/only way to have your space look pulled together. If you have a consistent color palette then you can easily mix styles and textures. Emily typically recommends choosing 3-4 colors so it feels fun but not chaotic.

2. Pick Your Moment

What we mean by this one is have a key decor moment. It may seem like in a small bathroom that that’s impossible but it could be something as simple as a bold floor mat. What you want to stay away from is choosing a bold mat, a crazy patterned shower curtain and also paint your wall a bright color. Your eyes need space to rest and if they don’t have a chance to your brain will go into overload quick.

bathroom ideas
Photo by Tessa Neustadt for EHD | From: Guest Bathroom Reveal

3. Mix Up The Matching Set

This goes for both towels and sink accessories. Sure it seems like a no brainer to buy matching sets but if you want to up your style game don’t be afraid to mix and match with other styles. As long as it’s in the same color palette and the pattern scales/textures are varied you will have a beautifully customize bathroom that is special to just you:) A budget hack is to buy a simple inexpensive solid bath towel and then with the money you saved choose a more visually interesting handtowel. This way you still get the style but for less doll hairs.

bathroom ideas
Photo by Tessa Neustadt for EHD | From: Scott’s Bathroom Makeover With Parachute

4. Use The Vertical Space

Again with another tip we say a lot but that’s because it’s IMPORTANT. Especially if you have limited space and say only a vanity for storage, you should absolutely install some shelves, put up an over-the-toilet cabinet or a tall leaning ladder. Your bathroom should feel peaceful so use your vertical space to keep things organized and your ceilings feeling taller.

5. Paint Your Walls

Unless you have an all tiled bathroom or it was freshly painted upon moving in, do yourself a favor and give those walls a fresh coat. Even if you want to keep them a similar color. There is nothing like freshly painted walls. They make your space feel brand new, clean and it’s a very easy (and affordable) way to customize.

bathroom ideas
Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp for EHD | From: Refreshing Your Bathroom With Target’s Project 62 Line

Now that we have the tips down, let’s get to the shopping. We have EIGHT categories for you to mix, match and spruce up the heck out of your bathroom. Ready, set, refresh.

Shower Curtains

Wanna make a bold statement quick? Go for a bold shower curtain. It will be the quickest and most noticeable change in your refresh. Plus shower curtains can get kind of gross over time so you are probably due to treat yourself. My personal favorites are #11, #14 and #15.

bathroom ideas

1. White And Ivory Embroidered Pom Pom | 2. Organic Dobby Ombre | 3. Tufted Makers | 4. Magical Thinking Pompom | 5. OTTSJON | 6. Agneta | 7. Tufted Dot | 8. Georgina Floral PEVA | 9. KINNEN | 10. Antique Rose | 11. Textured Stripe Black | 12. Allover Fruits | 13. Organic Offset Lines | 14. Patterned | 15. Striped

Shower Rods & Hooks

Despite popular belief, you can’t hang a shower curtain without a shower rod. I know so annoying. So since you need one you might as well pick a cute one. I have personally seen #1 and thought it was really great looking for the price and if I didn’t already have perfectly great rings I would snag #3 right up.

Names Price & Lines 3 Across Roundup Template Copy 3

1. Bamboo Curtain Rod | 2. S Curtain Hooks | 3. Shower Curtain Ring | 4. Dual Mount Curtain Rod | 5. Matte Black S Hook | 6. Aluminum Curtain Rod | 7. Metal Curtain Rings | 8. Metal Tension Rod | 9. Metal Ball Hook | 10. V Hook Curtain Ring | 11. Spring Tension Rod | 12. Shower Curtain Rod | 13. Tension Rod Stall | 14. Rose Gold S Hook | 15. Expandable Large Curtain Rod

Bath Mats

Let’s move to the ground, shall we? I personally love making my bath mat “my moment” in my bathroom. It feels less of a visual commitment than a bold shower curtain but still makes an impact. I really love all of these mats but if I had to chose I would say #1, #6 and #9. Yes, I am very predictable.

bathroom ideas

1. Rust Bath Mat | 2. Striped Bath Mat | 3. Diamond Bath Mat | 4. Textured Diamond Bath Mat | 5. Stone Washed Indigo Bath Mat | 6. Grid Bath Mat | 7. Bamboo Bath Mat | 8. Linen Bath Mat | 9. Brown Striped Bath Mat | 10. Geometric Bath Mat | 11. Woven Dot Bath Mat | 12. Black Jacquard Bath Mat | 13. Black and White Tasseled Bath Mat | 14. Two-Piece Bath Mat Set | 15. Khaki Bath Mat

bathroom ideas
Photo by Tessa Neustadt for EHD | From: Our Classic Modern Master Bathroom Reveal


O, boy, do I love a pretty towel and these ones fit the bill. I do want to say that there is nothing wrong with a towel set and sometimes that is 100% the way to go. However, I do want to show you what I mean by mixing and matching. You could pair #4 and #8 or #11 and #12. Their pattern scales are varied and the colors or tones talk to each other.

Emily Henderson Budget Towels Copy Copy

1. Cotton Terry Hand Towel | 2. Diamond Nala Bath Towel | 3. Woven Pattern Washcloth | 4. Traditional Floral Towel | 5. Diamond Jacquard Bath Towel Set | 6. Striped Towel With Fringe | 7. Color Block Hammam Hand Towel | 8. Embroidered Hem Towel | 9. Opalhouse Towel | 10. Textured Stripe Bath Towel | 11. Cotton Terry Bath Towel | 12. Knotted Fringe Bath Towel | 13. Taupe Bath Towel | 14. Dot Bath Towel | 15. Organic Textured Towels


Is there any such thing as too much bathroom storage? The answer is just simply no. Somehow the bathroom is the ultimate collector of things and here are some options to help make those things look nice. I personally love #3 and #5.

bathroom ideas

1. RAGRUND | 2. Etta Over-The-Door Multi-Hook | 3. Leaning Ladder Rack | 4. Devon Bath Leaning Storage Rack | 5. Raskog | 6. Wesley Over-The-Toilet Storage Shelf | 7. Floating Shelves | 8. VILTO | 9. Bathroom Cabinet Organizer | 10. Bamboo 2 Tier Shelf | 11. Over-The Door Tiered Storage Rack | 12. Trails End Over the Toilet Storage Cabinet | 13. Rosella Towel Rack | 14. 3-Shelf Bathroom Organizer | 15. DYNAN

bathroom ideas
Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp for EHD | From: Portland Reveal: How The Bathroom I Was Most Nervous About Turned Out To Be My Favorite


So I was recently confronted with the fact that I am sort of wastebasket collector. I have two and only really need one but still am constantly tempted to buy more. It’s weird and it’s a problem but when you see a cute little trash bin how do you say no?? #2, #4 and #8 really have my heart.

bathroom ideas

1. White Wood | 2. Solid Faceted | 3. Umbra Aspen Treela | 4. Umbra Droplet Smoke Acrylic | 5. White Resin | 6. Umbra Spruce Woodrow | 7. Black Plastic | 8. White Eco Cocoon | 9. Woven

Toilet Paper & Towel Holders

An easy way to make your bathroom feel elevated and custom is to find pretty hardware. When I officially design my bathroom it will be the first thing I choose because it feels permanent and sets the tone for the space. I love love #5, #11 and #14 (it’s ceramic you guys).

bathroom ideas

1. Matte Black Contemporary Towel Bar | 2. Minimal Rose Gold Toilet Paper Holder | 3. Modern Toilet Paper Holder | 4. Harlow Toilet Paper Holder | 5. Set of 3 Dot Towel Hook | 6. Toilet Paper Holder and Dispenser | 7. Black 2 Arm Hook | 8. Gold Towel Bar | 9. Rough Cast Black Toilet Paper Holder | 10. Simple Wood Toilet Paper Holder | 11. Black Triangle Toilet Paper Holder | 12. Toilet Paper Stand + Tray | 13. Hexagon Towel Ring | 14. Corin Toilet Paper Holder | 15. Cleat Polished Nickel Wall Hook

Sink Accessories

Did I save the best for last? Yes, yes I did because the accessories are like the jewelry of the room and I think it’s safe to say most of us love at least a little bit of jewelry. We just recommend that you keep it simple. Don’t go overboard with too much stuff. A simple soap option, cup and toothbrush holder is plenty (especially if you have limited real estate). It’s so hard to choose but I really love #10, #11, #16 and #20.

bathroom ideas

1. Glass Toothbrush Mug | 2. Solid Soap Dish | 3. Gold Soap Dispenser | 4. Ribbed Toothbrush Mug | 5. Sandstone Soap Dispenser | 6. Corin Storage Jar | 7. Resin Bathroom Tumbler | 8. Toothbrush Holder | 9. Divider Toothbrush Stand | 10. Toothbrush Holder | 11. Plastic Soap Dispenser | 12. Toothbrush Holder | 13. Marble Toothbrush Holder | 14. Toothbrush Stand (set of 2) | 15. Solid Soap Dispenser | 16. Wooden Soap Dish | 17. Glass Soap Dispenser | 18. Porcelain Toothbrush Mug | 19. Cement Toothbrush Holder | 20. Ceramic Soap Dish | 21. Ceramic Soap Dispenser

Well, now I think it’s time to click the purchase button and wait by the door for your lovely delivery person to hand you your (what feels like) a present…to yourself. I hope you found this roundup helpful and a little inspiring. One small change can make a big difference so don’t feel like you need an overhaul. Let us know in the comments if you have any questions and have a beautiful budget-friendly day.

Love you, mean it.


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35 thoughts on “If You Think Your Rental Bathroom is Beyond Help, This Post is For You

  1. We had a small wall space where we were looking to add storage and also wanted to switch from towel hooks to a bar, but had very limited space We took an over-the-toilet freestanding rack (like #12) added a towel bar under the bottom shelf and placed it along the wall where our hooks had previously been. It was a simple, effective, and affordable way to get a 2 for 1 win in that space and with the towel bar added, it no longer looked liked a garden variety toilet-hugging shelving unit.

    P.S. If a trash can in the bathroom will be out in the open, I prefer it to have a lid.

    1. Agree. Bathroom trashcans need a lid. In my case, the bin is right next to the toilet, so if I’m sitting there I’d be looking straight down into the trash. Ugh.

    1. Ha, same here! I am definitely guilty of a taking a few extra minutes scrolling through my phone in peace 🙂

  2. Am I the only one who puts a bag in their bathroom trash can? It immediately ruins any pretty ~look~ but idk what else to do. I mean, it’s trash! I feel like it has to go in a bag!

    Love this post. My NYC apartment bathroom, however, is sooo small that it’s almost impossible to fulfill any of these ideas. So sad.

    1. I stayed in an eco-conscious hotel recently, and I noticed that the trash cans were lined with a sheet of brown (probably recycled) flat paper that had been expertly folded to provide a lining for the bottom and a few inches up the sides of the bin. I thought that was a thoughtful way to offer a disposable lining that didn’t provide much aesthetic impact to the bathroom garbage bins that were made from local wood by local carpenters.

    2. Someone on another design blog wrote a post about these trash can rubber band things that keeps the bag from falling in and also makes it look neat. I’m thinking of trying that in our bathroom.

    3. I found a nice woven trashcan from Target that had a plastic liner inside. I just put my small trashbag/plastic grocery bag in the liner and tuck the offending loose plastic between that and the woven outer. So many words. Hope that made sense!

  3. Love this post and nearly all the suggested items. I have one additional request: long shower curtains that fit the criteria of the listed ones (great to look at, simple, but design-y, and inexpensive). It is shockingly difficult to find a good looking long shower curtain for less than $XXX. It’s a shower curtain! Thank you!!!

    1. I bought two of the same shower curtain from Target (so many good ones!) and had a seamstress sew them together. Perfect.

  4. Love that bamboo towel rack from Urban Outfitters! Nice selection. Thanks!

  5. Very lovely bathrooms and ideas! Unfortunately, most rentals have ugly bathrooms with little
    room for improvement – nonetheless, changing fixtures and towel/toilet bars will make a big difference. Some of the old Spanish places still have this rose colored bathroom you showed in picture #2 and it can look very
    nice with the white accents.

    1. Rental bathrooms are tough – a few things that worked well for us that I didn’t see above:
      -Plants – orchids work well in most bathrooms if you have a window/skylight for indirect light
      -Fancy metal command hooks – the rentals never had a hand towel hanger (WHY?) and one place the only spot for a towel was the middle of a giant wraparound mirror. Half of our rental doors were too high for over the door hanging hooks to boot.
      -Mirrors – to make the space feel larger & brighter, show the back of your head, and echo your style. Cluster several slightly different ones to make the standard rental mix and match feel more intentional.
      -Glassware as holders – We’ve been given some handblown and antique glass and it’s hard to want to use them for consumables if you don’t know the lead content. If there aren’t many (any) drawers, these are great as brush holders (tooth, hair or makeup) and catchalls (nail clippers, hair ties/clips, chapstick) while looking beautiful and easy to clean.
      -Fan/heater – rentals never have enough ventilation – and while we like our little combined unit, we’ve never found a PRETTY counter top combo. If anyone has suggestions, please share!

    2. So true, betty!

      And Laurie, those are all great pieces of advice! I am in the middle of moving to a new apartment and will definitely use some of your tips, so thank you 🙂

      1. Goodwill has so much glassware in small, kooky sizes. You can find just the right size for q-tips, cotton balls, nail clippers, razors, etc. They’ll cost about 50 cents each.

  6. Thank you for this post. I never understood why, even if you don’t need to buy “budget” items, people expect you to buy expensive things to use in the bathroom. I remember when Oprah had a designer on her show and even she said there are some things she’s not going spend lots on, and one of them was a bathroom rug!

    Quality items are important to me, however quality doesn’t have to have a high price tag.

    I really enjoy these features where you present us with a “multitude” of items to choose from, just like an in-person interior designer would!

    1. Painted my tiny bathroom Sea Salt by Sherwin Williams, including the ceiling, hung pictures I had taken in the Caribbean in white frames and painted my cabinet white. I love old Persian rugs and plants too! Switched my light fixture from a down position to an up position and got a curved shower rod and new curtain from World Market. Love it so much and wasn’t hard to make the changes! Great post as always from the Henderson team.

  7. With all due respect, the bathrooms in these pics have “good bones”. Can you make suggestions for inexpensive renos on baths that need new sinks etc.? Ours is tiny and ugly

  8. I am not going to say I hide in the bathroom from my 1 yr old but… I hide in the bathroom from my 1 yr old. As I am in the throes of… dear god this bathroom is terrible but I have little to spend but DEAR GOD! This is exactly the post I needed! I spent last night putting peel and stick tile down to cover some impressively ugly linoleum after my kiddo went to sleep. Now I am just going to shut the door and hang out there for a while!

  9. Great post. We are still in the process of figuring out our bathroom rug situation since I’ve changed them a few times. The door to our tiny bathroom is so low that when the door opens, it moves the rug in front of the sink. This means no tassels, and it’s hard to find a cute rug with a low enough pile that doesn’t have them.

    FYI, we had that black and white Target rug you have linked up above. It’s extremely cute but fell apart during each wash. We had to throw it out after the 4th or 5th wash because it was shedding big chunks.

    1. Ugh yes, I have the same issue with the door catching on my rug in my bathroom. Luckily, my boyfriend and I are moving so we hopefully won’t have the same issue anymore! It is very frustrating.

  10. The vintage tiles in my bathroom are blue and yellow (including the countertop and bath surround); I would love to know what to do to not hate it for now ?

  11. This is amazing! Thank you for doing this… our bathroom is 1950’s tiled rust/ yellow and beige walls (gross!), not renovating anytime soon though. I’m thinking I can paint and add a plain shower curtain and fun rug or visa versa … Thank you Thank you for the EHD approved options 🙂

  12. I’m remodeling my bathroom now and I’m trying to find an affordable place to buy a pretty rectangle mirror like the one in the Portland house. I’ve looked everywhere and decided to just come straight to the source; anyone have any ideas? Our contractor is almost done and I’m getting desperate! I’m so glad you guys did this post, I desperately needed it!

    1. When my parents renovated the existing bath and added a second one they had a heck of a time finding the mirrors they had in mind. Ultimately it was most cost-effective and closest to their vision to buy new medicine cabinets with “the” mirror and remove the part that’s supposed to be inset to the wall.

      Perhaps start looking at things that aren’t “meant” for over sink mirrors, like… Table top vanity mirrors or keep an eye out for cabinets you can borrow from, old buffet toppers… Maybe even price the fancy backless/glassless frames at craft stores and research local hardware stores that cut mirror/glass?

  13. Oooh, when I read the title of this post I got excited! I recently found an apartment for my daughter who is in University, and the bathroom is pretty gross. Not in a dirty way, but just ugly. Old, chipped cabinets with a terrible paint job, ugly linoleum, bad tile. She’s not allowed to paint. The bathrooms in this post are hardly that! I challenge you to really take a look at more typical, realistic rental spaces and make them pretty. Like COME ON!!!

    1. Sometimes there’s just not much you can do – the second worst rental bathroom we had seemed fine at first glance, but the shower siding had spiders trapped in the semi clear resin. At eye level. Horrifying every time.

      Try contact paper or adhesive wallpaper for the chipped cabinets, LARGE rugs that make everything look less dingy (aka not white rugs), big art pieces and mirrors, and stick with colors that work with the things you can’t cover or replace.

  14. wow, great design very interesting your ideas are awesome. I bookmarked your blog for the nest post.

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