Your Home: 100 ideas under $100

Designer tricks for the bathroom

Architects and interiors specialists share their secret sources, strategies for clever styling, organizing tips, and other home updates you can do yourself.

By Marni Elyse Katz and Deblina Chakraborty
June 12, 2009
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Rack 'em Turn a wooden shoe rack into a towel holder. Designer Kelly McGuill found one with casters at a flea market; you could use almost any vintage rack. "The worn wood is a great contrast against glossy white bathroom tiles and soft, fluffy towels," she says.

Heat it Hang a rack or a row of hooks above a panel heater or radiator and you've got yourself a towel warmer, says Newton architect Stephen Reilly. He likes the Electric Panel Heater by Econo-Heat; it's 24-by-24 inches, slim, and can be painted to match your wall. It's about $110, and the running cost, Reilly says, is just 2 to 3 cents per hour. Available at

Grout it out Dingy grout is a design detriment. You'll need to get detailed regrouting instructions from a book or supplier, but tile installer Paul Grubb of Waltham has some trade secrets to share. Work one wall at a time, from top to bottom, cleaning before and after removing old grout to eliminate soap scum. Mix new grout to the consistency of mayonnaise. When smoothing the new joints, rinse your sponge with clean water after every two swipes. Finally, buff the tiles with terry cloth, and don't forget the sealer.

Miniskirt your sink Consider a miniskirt -- not a long, dowdy one -- for your powder room sink. To make Westford interior designer Deborah Farrand's version, you'll need about a yard and a half of fabric. Measure the sides and front of your sink and add 12 inches for each inverted pleat. Cut the fabric, finish the sides and lower edge, then attach the skirt to the underside of the sink with Velcro. Use silicone caulking on the back of the sink-side strip to ensure a lasting bond.

Divide and conquer "Separating small rooms into two halves," says Brad Dufton, owner of interior painting and wallpaper hanging company Color Theory in Boston, "offers the impression of more space." To get the look of wainscoting, run a piece of molding horizontally around the middle of the walls, then paint the bottom and molding portions one color and the top another. Or skip the molding and paint a thin stripe in a third color instead.

Shine on Stylist Kara Butterfield believes in the power of chrome. A spiffy new shower rod -- available at hardware stores -- helps create a luxe look, she says, with little investment of time or money. Don't forget the coordinating curtain rings.

Stow away Linen cabinet about to burst? Reuse the basic square vase from your last flower delivery to store washcloths in the bathroom. If you have a cylindrical glass vase that's tall and wide enough, use it to hold toilet paper.

Go green Bring the outdoors inside with earthy bathroom accessories -- especially if the room doesn't have a window. Pick up a leafy tree-pattern shower curtain, replace your old towels with bright green ones, and use a patch of "grass" ($10.50 at Bowl & Board) to hold your toothbrush. Bowl & Board, 255 Elm Street, Somerville, 617-661-0350,

Take a stripe Not only do horizontal stripes make a small space like a bathroom seem larger, they're easier to execute than vertical ones. Decorative painter Danika Herrick suggests a dozen 8-inch-wide stripes if you have 8-foot ceilings, since the wider the stripe, the less taping you'll need to do. Start with clean, mildew-free walls, measure the increments, and mark with blue painter's tape, pressing firmly to prevent bleeding. When the color is dry, apply clear acrylic to extend the life of your paint job.