The Bathroom

My love affair with bathrooms started when I was a teenager seeking to escape from my overdramatic family. We were living in a split ranch, and no one ever used the large downstairs bath off the family room but me. It wasn’t the most glamorous room. In fact, the only thing about it I really remember was the yellow rug. But, it was a wonderfully solitary space where I could escape to, relax, and read. I spent so much time there, my mother asked if I wasn’t experiencing digestive problems.

Our next house was more upscale, as my parents were advancing in their careers and putting the early years of their immigrant saga behind them. I had a bath off my bedroom and knowing it was my favorite place, my dad installed a wall mounted phone, so I could chat with my friends. It was decorated in tasteful earth tones, my mother’s second decorating period after her 1970’s green and gold phase.

A few years later, I met my first husband, a physician with a passion for hotels. It was during our global travels that I discovered what true luxury looked like.  I saw many incredible features for the first time: enormous onyx bathtubs, multiple spray showers, sunburst showerheads, bidets, and heated towel racks. However, I will always remember bathrooms at the Paris Ritz as the epitome of beauty and luxury.

Picture  glazed white walls and ceilings, a marble counter with double sinks above white lacquered cabinets, a paneled tub, and white marble floors.  Off the main room,  the toilet and bidet are placed in their own water closet where the door can be closed for privacy.  Now add thick white monogrammed robes and towels, heated towel racks, and the piece de la resistance: swan shaped silver fixtures. In 1983, when I first saw it-it was pure awesomeness. Nowadays those features, and so much more, are achievable in our own homes, though I’d probably leave the swans behind in Paris.

So what can you do to get that Ritz luxury as you stage your bathroom for sale? First, scrub the grout clean and get a squeegee for the shower doors. If you have a plastic shower curtain, trade it in for one in a clean white fabric. Recaulk everything and make sure there is no trace of mold anywhere. Give the walls a fresh coat of neutral paint. Make sure the mirrors and hardware are spotless. Check that exhaust fans are working perfectly and that there are no burnt out bulbs in the room. Toss out any mats, rugs, toilet covers and other outdated items. Replace the toilet seats with new ones. Some stagers suggest removing the wastebasket and toilet brush, but I think if those items are new, attractive and suit the décor, they can stay.

Then make sure your towels are new and fluffy. Always place clean ones out before a showing, making sure you have folded them in thirds so the seams don’t show and layer small towels over the larger ones. Clean out your cabinets, weeding out two-thirds of the contents. Buy new toothbrushes and fresh soaps. Store all of your daily products so they are out of sight, including the ones you keep in the shower. Your buyers will be opening your cabinets, so keep everything sparse and nicely organized. Even though your personal hygiene products such as hair and toothbrushes won’t be on display, they need to be immaculate when those cabinets are opened. Don’t forget to buy some organizers for your make-up that you can nest in cabinet drawers.

Now organize everything that is going to be on show. Remember that I mentioned trays and vases in the previous post. Use them to display sprays of flowers or your beautiful perfume bottles and bath oils. You can add a bamboo or blue and white Chinese garden stool next to the tub to create ambiance. Hang a few nicely framed Chinese or Japanese prints that evoke serenity, or if you have them, add a bust or a sculpture. Green plants always liven up a room and work beautifully in all settings. Seashells can also be lovely in the right setting.  Natural brushes, loofas, bath salts, and candles impart a luxurious spa-like experience. Roll up smaller towels and place them in attractive baskets or trays. There are actually how-to videos on YouTube that you can follow.

What are you to do if you have really dated bathrooms with garish tiles and a minimal budget? Don’t worry-some buyers adore retro! However, you must be wise about sprucing up the space. Again fresh paint, towels and the like apply. Replace those tiny medicine cabinets with large simple framed mirrors or wood framed cabinets; change the hardware and lighting fixtures for more attractive ones. You can buy all these elements cheaply at Home Depot, Costplus World Market and the like. If you have outdated golden oak cabinets, can’t afford to replace them, and are handy, refinish them in white.

Do you live in a developer special? In the last two, and they weren’t inexpensive, condos I lived in, developers working in hot markets had put it the cheesiest hardware and appliances. You can actually make these sow’s ears work with a minimal investment in Euro-pulls and attractive back splash  tiles, in addition to crown moldings and fancy baseboards. Rather than a shower curtain rod, have a track installed. Your small changes will have a huge visual impact.

If you live in a Victorian you can spike up that space with ferns, which always look gorgeous, provided they do not overwhelm the place. Patterned wallpaper, Staffordshire dogs and decorative plates always look great in that context and in cottages, whereas they would seem tacky elsewhere. Stay true to the style of your home and remember the bathroom is where we go to escape from kids, pets, and worries. Luxe, calme et volupte (luxury, peace and pleasure); Ritz bathroom décor may be passé, but the ideas behind it always hold true.

Next time, we will look at living rooms.

Guest Post by Lily Temmer



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