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Accessorize Well
By Tracy Dickinson
home :: home & garden :: kitchen & bath

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Updating a bath doesn’t have to require major remodeling.

Updating a bath doesn’t have to require major remodeling.

Last issue, we highlighted creative ways to update your kitchen by rethinking the accessories. This time, we’re doing the same for the bath. Whether it’s the master, the guest bath, or the half bath in the hall, accessorizing well can be the difference between the same old same old and a room with panache.


According to Showplace Kitchens’ Sarah Nielsen, “Hardware is a game changer for any project. Simply switching to a different finish and style can give cabinets a major makeover.”

Corey Gersdorf of AIM Kitchens & Baths adds, “Changing out or adding hardware is a quick and easy way to help give your bathroom a fresh look or updated feel. And if you’ve updated faucets, adding matching hardware is a great way to keep the design flowing through the entire space.”

Accessorizing your cabinets follows that classic rule—if your base style is classic, accessories can make the look whatever you want. “The homeowner needs to take into consideration the overall look and style,” explains Nielsen. “If you want a modern feel, simply putting sleek chrome handles on a traditional oak cabinet is not going to give that look. But if the cabinets are in good shape, refacing them is a more economical update than replacing them.”

“Transitional looks seem to be the most popular right now,” says Cheryl Arganbright of Woodharbor. So a classic cabinet style actually can become “transitional” with just a change of some hardware.


Another minor change that can have major impact is updating the lighting. “Simply going from recessed can lights over the vanity to wall sconces on either side of the mirror can make a significant change in the style of your bathroom,” Arganbright says.

If removing existing lighting is not on your to-do list, Sunderland Brothers’ Sarah Young suggests, “With recessed can lighting, a pretty chandelier or sconce can be added simply as a decorative piece.”

Too often, homeowners only see lighting as an afterthought, instead of an element of the decor. And good lighting is crucial to the design as well as the room’s efficiency.

“Not all bathrooms have a good natural light source,” explains Gersdorf. “You want to make sure you have enough light. And more lighting companies are coming out with styles that have multibulb options to really brighten up what can be a closed, poorly lit space.”

Moehl Millwork’s Tina Noel advises, “Be creative. There are no set rules for lighting.” So if the room is well-lit, throw in something fun or eclectic to add a little character to the room.


Color is one of the first design elements to indicate a change in trend. So if you followed the trend in the late ’80s and early ’90s, golden oak may be the theme in your home. “Changing that golden oak to a gray wash or painted cabinet is a great look,” says Nielsen.

And in a bathroom, that’s not an overwhelming task because the amount of cabinetry and trim is often less intimidating than elsewhere in the home.

Sunderland’s Young suggests glazing the cabinets is another option for updating the look. “But using too much color in cabinets, tile, or countertops can make the room look outdated again quickly,” she warns. So sticking with neutral finishes allows you to create that classic backdrop.

You can, after all, have too much of a good (trendy) thing. Gersdorf says, “I think it’s really important in the bathroom to not go with a very trendy look. When you have a whole room designed around a particular finish or style, in a couple of years it can already look outdated.”

Noel agrees. “Gray is huge right now, but instead of using it in everything, use a mix. Maybe use a mix of white and gray or add in some dark espresso as an accent or even a color.”

Changes, big and small

In addition to these elements, our professionals suggested a few other areas to consider if you want to make bigger changes or just tweak the small things.

  • Fixtures: From faucets to showers, fixtures have come a long way, Nielsen says. “There are more finishes to choose from and more features available,” she adds. “Some companies offer digitally controlled temperature and touch-free options.”
  • Accessories: Even the items you put in the bathroom can help update the look,” Nielsen adds. Replacing your shower curtain and sink accessories, updating towel racks, and adding open shelving are small changes that can really enhance the look.

    Arganbright says, “Removing a large, full-width mirror and replacing it with two framed mirrors is a great, easy way to add updated style in the bath.”
  • Paint: “If you’re updating bath accessories, it’s a good time to paint the space while you have everything off the wall,” Gersdorf says. “Sometimes new accessories don’t match the same footprint of the old ones, so touching up the drywall and repainting may be necessary anyway.”

Perhaps because the space tends to be smaller and enclosed, a dated bathroom can seem overwhelming. But it doesn’t require much to give a small space an updated look. New cabinet hardware, new towel racks, and some fun decor accessories can give you a whole new style.

Take it from the experts—provide a classic backdrop and accessorize well. You can’t go wrong.


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