Your bathroom is a place to unwind and let the troubles of the day disappear as you melt into a hot bath of luxurious bubbles with a well-earned glass of wine. Here, I’ll show you the main ingredients for creating a beautiful shabby chic bathroom that you’ll be dying to get home to every night. Even if you can’t afford to throw away your plastic tub in favour of a beautiful roll top or cast iron bath, it’s easy to create the look by updating your furniture and adding a few accessories that have the vintage mismatched shabby chic feel.
The shabby chic colour palette tends to be white and soft neutral colors such as sky blue, rose pink and beige tones. Having a predominantly white theme with hints of colour works best in the bathroom – for example, opt for white walls and a white bathroom suite, set off with soft mint accessories, towels, tiles or vinyl and the odd splash of rose pink. If you have floorboards that are fairly smooth and sound, rather than covering them up with vinyl consider painting them and then ‘aging’ them with sandpaper to achieve the look. Take care to treat the floor with a suitable varnish to preserve it, and choose a good quality hardwood floor vacuum that won’t nick or scratch your beautiful boards. Avoid a vacuum with rough, scratchy bristles as these are the worse culprits for making a mess of your floor. Try the Furniture Connoisseur’s guide to choosing a hardwood floor vacuum which has some very good suggestions.
If you have the option to change your bathroom suite, a rolltop bath is an easy choice and metal ornate traditional taps are of course the natural option if your budget will allow. If you have children and also want a rolltop bath with a shower attachment, this can be tricky.
The only way you can make this work (without having a river on the floor every time they use the shower head) is to use a metal hoop over the bath which holds a circular shower curtain, that can be tucked in the bath when they want to use the shower attachment. It can be pinned back canopy style when it’s not in use – but be warned, it can still get pretty messy.
Lighting is a bit of a problem in the bathroom. We’d all love to stick a chandelier in there, but unfortunately you’ll be hard pushed to find one that can safely go anywhere near the bath area. The illustration below shows the various lighting zones and most fancy lights just won’t be suitable for going above the bath. A good way around this is to have a chandelier with candles over the bath, which looks absolutely stunning and risk free – you can then add electric lights into other parts of the bathroom to give you brightness when you need it.
Here’s a beautiful candelabra that would look stunning over the bath and at £65 £32.50, it’s a complete bargain:
It’s easy to create the shabby chic look in the bathroom by purchasing cheap pine furniture, painting it and roughing it up (see my guide to painting furniture shabby chic style). Consider painting up the bathroom cabinet, shelving, shelving units or storage units and the sink surround, if it is wooden (e.g. tongue and groove). For cabinets, take off the old boring handles and replace with some beautiful vintage looking metal or porcelain handles. Give a chest of drawers mixed handles for a really eye-catching piece. If you have room for a chair, this is a great opportunity for the aged paint look with some pretty fabrics and cushions – and decals can be used to add pretty floral details or stencils used to add interesting lettering.
In the bathroom, there will be towels, curtains, a bath mat and perhaps a cushion or two if you have a lovely aged chair in there. The shabby chic fabric look is old, worn, faded, and soft in the same palette of muted neutrals, with mismatched prints working fine. Try and pick prints and fabrics that have at least some elements of your main colour scheme. Give the bathroom window a grand look by creating a curtain swept to one side with excessive amounts of fabric.
Although plain white tiles work fine as a backdrop to other shabby chic accessories, you can add a little interesting detail using tile transfers or stickers. A tiny floral print or lace style design is ideal for a shabby chic bathroom and is simple and quick to apply.
Introducing one or two of these will bring authenticity, style, and interesting detail to a space. For example, a ceiling rose, iron brackets, unusual cabinet handles or ornate scones all add extra details that will add a sense of elegant grandeur to the bathroom. If you don’t yet have curtains or a blind, shutters can look very charming.
Accessories must be elegant and/or romantic but they may be flawed, damaged, or painted as is the shabby chic way. Rather than choose a bathroom mirror, opt for an eccentric framed mirror that would be more at home in the lounge. Hunt down large ornate candlesticks to paint white and rub to allow bits of the old iron finish to show through. Accessories that are painted or stencilled with ornate lettering look attractive – such as bathtime related messages, old cosmetic product names or french words. Pretty china with floral prints also creates the perfect look, such as the washing jug and bowl on the right which I found on eBay for just £5.50. Look for old glass bottles and cosmetic containers – a row of pretty cut glass perfume bottles makes an interesting feature on the bathroom window ledge where the light can filter through and you can pick these up on eBay for around £5 each.
Flowers always feature heavily in any shabby chic room. The easiest way to maintain these in the bathroom is to buy artificial flowers. Opt for big handfuls of pink roses plopped into an aged container or painted rubbed bucket.
Style file: top shabby chic details for the bathroom
|Ornate mirror – an ornate mirror in white like this one looks amazing and unexpected in the shabby chic bathroom, adding instant glamour and elegance whilst reflecting light around the room. Rococo style mirrors also work very well. For the larger bathroom, the addition of a full length cheval mirror can add a touch of grandeur, or opt for ‘his n hers’ sinks with grand individual mirrors over each one.|
|Dressing the bathroom window is about an excess of fabric – choose gathered ruffled blinds or opt for sweeping curtains with pretty tie backs that make use of ribbons like these ones, or lace/beads/crystals. Notice the matching ribbons that have been added to the top of this window to finish the look. Fabrics should have a vintage faded look in plain linen or pretty floral patterns in soft pastel shades.|
To make these beautiful curtains, follow the step by step instructions on ‘House to Home‘.
|The shower curtain is another area to add some shabby chic charm. In this bathroom, white fabric embellished with fabric roses has been used. Pretty pastel floral prints also look good – they don’t have to match the other fabric in the bathroom but it is a good idea to try and have a common colour in each of the prints you choose. Look for an ornate tie back and hook to pin the shower curtain out the way when it isn’t in use.|
|Although ornate lights and chandeliers are typical of the shabby chic look, this is more difficult to achieve in the bathroom where the correct light must be used for the correct zone and chandeliers over the bath are a no-no. This lovely candle chandelier is a happy compromise, allowing beautiful soft lighting over the bath. The spikes keep the candles in place and the curved cups help to catch the drips. [NB: This lovely item has unfortunately been out of stock online for quite some time]|
Candle wall sconces are also a great way to bring ornate lights into the bathroom safely. Combine these options with ordinary bathroom-safe lights so that you have the light there when you need it.
I also recommend a lovely candelabra in the Shabby Chic Guru shop which would look amazing over the bath.
|Architectural features like these old coat hooks add interest to the room – and the shabby chic look is all about mixing the styles and colours. Hooks can be hung with towels, bath rooms or pretty beads and necklaces as a style feature. Handles are another great way to do this – transform old boring pine bathroom furniture by painting it up, aging it with the sandpaper and adding mix and match handles in vintage metal or pretty coloured porcelain.|