So, you’re convinced that your ugly, messy bathroom is ruining your life. Great! Now let’s do something about it.
Small aesthetic changes can make a room feel dramatically different. Yep, I’m talking decor! ….which might seem counterintuitive if you’re struggling to keep the space clean and tidy. But I’ve seen time and time again that when a space looks good and makes you feel good, you feel more motivated to maintain it.
The good news is you don’t have to do anything time consuming, expensive, or drastic to give a drab, uninspiring space a face lift. Implement a few of the strategies outlined below and take your home from 😭😖😫 to 😍🤗😌
Protip: I’ve created Pinterest boards with ideas, images, and tutorials for every category. If you don’t already have a Pinterest account, go ahead and sign up with your email, or click “continue with Facebook” to login with your FB credentials (one less password to remember!)
1. Bring in some nature
You don’t have to be a botanist to keep a cactus alive, so get yourself a few plants. Houseplants instantly liven up a space by adding color and texture, and it’s so satisfying when you’ve kept them alive long enough to see them grow! Here’s a great source for some indoor varieties if you’re not sure where to start. Ikea is a surprisingly good source for indoor plants (both real and fake), but you can find them at your local plant nursery and most home improvement stores.
Alternatively, if you travel a lot or are particularly afraid of commitment (no judgment), start buying some long-lasting flowers or cut greens. My favorite are Alstromeria (if you purchase them when the flowers aren’t yet open, they can last – and actually look good – for 3 weeks). Trader Joe’s sells a huge bunch for $5 in our market, but most grocery stores carry them as well.
My favorite cut green is any type of Eucalyptus. We used a ton of Eucalyptus in our wedding, so they’re sentimental (awww), but they also smell great, keep for a long time, and even dry beautifully. Our Trader Joe’s sells several varieties for $3 or $4 per bundle.
Pinterest board: Plants & Florals
2. Don’t fear the hammer
If you prefer the minimalist look of empty walls, you do you. Me? I hate blank walls. Walls only stay empty in my house if I’m waiting for inspiration, because I don’t feel a room is done until the walls are being utilized for something. I’m not recommending you just hang up any old thing for the sake of it, but I also don’t want you to be afraid that you’ll mess it up or you won’t like it. You’ll never learn to hang things if you don’t try, and you won’t know if you like it until you see it. (Do be cautious hanging things above toilets or other places where water pipes may be located. If you puncture a pipe, that is a very inconvenient and pricey mistake so do your research!)
If you’re renting, or haven’t made friends with a putty knife yet, use command strips or hooks (pay attention to weight limits and definitely follow the directions on the package!) For larger pictures, use Monkey Hooks (in My Day they were called Hercules hooks); they make a very small hole in the wall, but are strong. If you like to switch things up and can’t commit to one set of pictures or prints, hang a picture ledge so you can swap out the frames all you want.
And don’t limit yourself to just photographs or artwork. Utilize mirrors, decorative shelves, small objects, candle sconces, plant hangers, laser cut words or letters….the list goes on. This is the perfect project to scour Pinterest or Instagram for inspiration. And seriously, get a can of spackling paste and some touch up paint. You’ll need it sooner or later!
Pinterest board: Gallery Walls, Entryways & Mudrooms
3. Dress your windows
Naked windows are sad windows. Now, I’m referring to your basic standalone framed window. If you have a whole wall of windows or something gorgeous like that, you may not need curtains (unless the windows face the street, which was a poor design choice to begin with, but I digress).
Your basic window usually gets blinds or a cellular shade, or plantation shutters if you’re fancy. These are functional and they do their job well, but nine times out of ten, the room won’t feel finished until you layer on curtains or a valance as well (Roman shades are often fine on their own).
And when you’re hanging the curtains, please make sure the bottoms brush the ground (they can even puddle on the ground for a soft, romantic look). Do not hang the curtains where the bottoms are a foot off the ground. That’s like highwater pants for windows. Don’t do it. Say it with me: “High and Wide.” Hang ’em high to make your ceilings appear taller, and wide so your windows appear larger. Win win.
Ikea is a great source for curtains. They’re affordable, they come in many colors, weights, and textures, and they’re very very long. That last part is a good thing because that whole “high and wide” thing we were just talking about. Once you determine the correct length, you can have them hemmed by a tailor, hem them yourself (this is like, the easiest sewing project if you have a machine), or you can use an iron-on adhesive like Stitch Witchery.
Actually, a lot can go wrong here, so here’s a handy guide so you don’t make any rookie mistakes.
Pinterest board: Textiles
4. Lighting matters
Oh boy, do I have big opinions on lighting. I’m kind of insane about it. And I’m not talking about lighting fixtures (yet). I’m referring to the actual lightbulbs in those fixtures.
I will only allow GE Reveal bulbs in our overhead lights (no this is not sponsored, but if you know someone with GE, send them my info). They are the Goldilocks of light bulbs, not too yellow, not too blue, which is why they’re the perfect choice for overhead lighting. I think it makes my rooms feel larger and cleaner and makes colors appear more vibrant than soft white bulbs or CFLs. (If they’re too bright for you, they also make one called “Relax” that’s a tad softer, but I’ve never tried it.)
Soft white bulbs produce a warmer, cozier light, which makes them appropriate for bedroom or living room lamps that you primarily use in the evenings or for ambient lighting (task lighting, however, should be a clearer, brighter light).
I’m super anti-CFL. It’s bad enough to have to put up with fluorescents in office buildings and dressing rooms, so they have no place in my home (seriously, does anyone look good under fluorescent lighting?) And now that LEDs are so widely available, I believe that CFLs are on their way out. (In case you were wondering, yes the GE Reveal is available in LED, and yes it is worth the extra cost, I promise).
5. Please tell me you have lamps
Another rant on lighting? Yup! You need lamps! Probably more of them than you think!
They supplement overhead lights, they create ambiance and mood, they help transition between daytime and nighttime, they help create depth in rooms, they can draw attention to artwork or architectural elements…plus they can be really pretty. We have 12 lamps in our 1400 sqft house, and my only regret is that my bathroom counters aren’t large enough to put lamps in there too.
You can spend as little or as much as you want on lamps. For very affordable options, check out Home Goods, Ikea, Target, or Pier 1. If you live near an At Home, they have an awesomely overwhelming mix-and-match lamp section, so you can choose a base and shade separately (you can also buy affordable replacement shades for your current lamps if they’re in need of a refresh.) Just be sure to pay attention to what kind of fitting you need to find.
Pinterest board: Lighting
6. Tie your room together
Take the Dude’s advice and get a rug! Rugs add warmth, depth, and texture; they anchor furniture, create zones within large spaces, and can add a fun color or pattern into your space. Plus, you can sit on them! When I’m working on a project or my husband and I are playing a board game, we always sit on the living room rug. It provides expansive space for a large project, and adds an element of fun and playfulness to game night.
Accent rugs are just as important. In entryways, they’re both practical and decorative. They absorb debris from our shoes and protect our interior floors while also creating an inviting and homey feeling to visitors. Accent rugs and doormats are a great way to inject some fun into your space for very little risk – go for that bold color or print. If it makes you smile in the store, it will likely make you happy when you see it after you come home from a long day at the office.
But even area rugs can be really affordable. I love Wayfair, Overstock, Target, and Ikea. Also look into outdoor rugs or natural jute for higher traffic spaces, or if you prefer the natural look. Here’s a handy guide to measuring for a rug. (I always use the tape trick and it’s never let me down!)
Pinterest board: Textiles
7. Soften things up
For a lot of people, the master bedroom gets the least attention. Guests rarely see it, so things tend to get dumped in here. You also probably get dressed in here multiple times a day, and clothing management is a #struggle. But most importantly, this is the last thing you see before you fall asleep at night and the first thing you see when you wake up in the morning.
My hope is that you love your bedroom, but at the very least, it’s essential that you love your bedding. If you can’t say that, let’s revamp. Pick up some new sheets, and change them every week or two. Clean sheets are luxurious, and you deserve luxury. And you don’t need to splurge on the 12,000,000 thread count or whatever, but do go to the store and touch them before you buy them. Read reviews to make sure they hold up after washes. Have two sets in classic colors or patterns that you love and that coordinate with your room.
This is one category where I’m gonna steer you away from Ikea. I personally love Target’s Threshold sheets, and I’ve used them on my beds for years. They feel so silky and hold up beautifully. They’re currently only $60 for a king set!
If you’re feeling a little more spendy, replace your duvet cover or comforter. And, yes, you need the shams (if you don’t like matching shams, then get a coordinating pattern or solid color in a textured fabric, but don’t skip them altogether. It’s like putting on all your makeup then forgetting the mascara, but, like, when you’re making the bed…idk just get some shams). If you love love love your duvet/comforter, you will be so inspired to make the bed everyday simply because it’s so damn beautiful!
And don’t neglect your living room! A few cozy throw blankets and pillows go a long way toward making your living room a place you love. They’re also great items to swap out seasonally to bring in some variety or pops of color. I love to use the same pillow form and just change the covers seasonally. That way, I don’t have to find a place to store extra throw pillows, and it’s less expensive to just buy (or make) the covers.
Pinterest board: Textiles
Seriously, stop leaving your makeup (or shaving supplies, or hair stuff) all over the bathroom counter. It’s impossible to clean a bathroom counter that’s constantly littered in BB cream or whatever the kids use these days (and you need to wipe down your bathroom counter at least daily. Trust me.)
You can use a Mason jar, acrylic dish, wicker basket, old shoebox, whatever. If the container is pretty and you have ample counter space, you can leave it out. If not, stash it under the sink or in a drawer as soon as you finish using it. Then, take advantage of the extra counter space to up your decor game: add a small potted plant, real or faux flowers, a fun soap dispenser, an elegant candle, etc. It’s so worth it to keep your counters clear if you have gorgeous objects to show off.
This rule of course applies to basically everything, but a recent addition that I’m loving is this desk organizer from Target. I always sit by the same end table in our living room to read, use my iPad, journal, or watch TV, so the table was constantly scattered with those accessories, plus stuff like hand lotion and glasses wipes. I tried using an antique tray to corral the mess for a long time, but it always looked junky. So I picked up this super cute desk organizer and I. Love. It. (In fact, I went back and got a second one to use on my actual desk!)
If you like to read in bed, something like this could work beautifully for your drawer-less bedside table, or to organize magazines, notepads, and brochures to local attractions in your guest room.
Pinterest boards: Bathrooms, Home Organization
9. Let’s talk about your closet
First, get matching hangers. I know you’ve heard it before, but it’s seriously so great. I bought these several years ago and haven’t looked back. Your closet will look nicer, that cami won’t slip off every time you take out the shirt next to it, and you’ll never have to deal with those damn WIRE HANGERS EVER (again).
Second, get some hooks. We all have those “in-between” clothes that we wore for like an hour to run an errand, only to be faced with adding yet another pair of jeans to Clothing Purgatory (aka your bedroom chair). Here’s three solutions:
- Hang some hooks (on the bedroom door, the inside of your closet door, the master bathroom door, on the wall of your closet, or wherever makes sense for you). Many clothes have looped tags or belt loops you can use to hang them by. If not (and your hooks are substantial enough), drape the garment over the top. You can also gather the sleeve of short sleeve shirts and hang from the hook that way.
- If you can’t drill hooks, or wear a lot of garments that are delicate or easily misshapen (sweaters, blouses, etc), use a thing like this so you hang them properly (and away from your truly clean clothes). Sweaters, pants, or anything that you normally fold can be draped over the bottom bar of a hanger (which is another reason I love those velvet hangers rather than the wood ones with no crossbar).
- Finally, if you have absolutely no wall or door space, use an extender bar in your closet. I use one to hang outfits I’ve planned for the week, as well as more delicate minimally worn clothes.
10. Style it
It doesn’t matter how much you paid for that fancy crystal thing from Anthropologie; if it’s not arranged well, it’s going to look like junk. Thoughtfully arranging your decorative objects, books, and any tabletop accessory can transform the most mundane objects into a unique and attractive vignette.
If you don’t think you have an eye for this, there are some principles you can rely on. I’ve collected a few on this Pinterest board. This is such a fun way to “shop” your own house and find new ways to combine and display souvenirs, mementos, and even consumables you use regularly.
It’s also a great way to display collections, sentimental items you cherish but don’t know what to do with, and hardcover books (remove the dust jacket to class it up). Layer in plants, candles, small pictures, or art work. Bonus points for using a trays, chargers, or plates as a base for your arrangement!
The possibilities are literally endless, and you can change the arrangements around as much as you want (not to mention it will cost you ZERO dollars to get started!) The best part is, the more you practice this in your home, the more possibilities you’ll start to see everywhere you turn.
You’ll also realize there are some objects that you don’t like anywhere, and that realization makes it easier to let go of items that no longer serve you or your home. Since you start to view your belongings as a curated collection, rather than just stuff, you tend to make more intentional choices when you’re shopping. And, in my experience, this helps you appreciate every object so much more.