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Bathroom storage solutions keep essentials handy

Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | November 21, 2013

Bathrooms come in all sizes, colors, and conditions -- from cramped and damp, smart and spa-like, large and luxurious to just a tiled room with a sink, toilet, and tub. But if your extra towels and toilet tissue are down the hall in the linen closet, there might come a day when you are caught short, one way or another.

You need to be able to store an assortment of items in your bathroom for it to be functional and convenient, and if space is limited you might have to start by assessing just how much of an assortment you actually need.

Kat Reichmuth is a professional organizer who owns The Simplified Life in the San Francisco Bay Area. It's a service that helps people who are emotionally paralyzed by the effort to contain their possessions achieve control over clutter. Kat has helped organize mansions to mobile homes, and she has the same advice for all of her clients no matter the size of their living quarters -- to "…downsize a bit and let go of items they are no longer using. Then," she says, "We work on organizing what is left."

So even in a large bathroom, if you think you need more storage, think again. What you might really need is a little less "stuff," and according to Kat, there is always something that you can pitch out. In the bathroom that means heading straight for the medicine cabinet to get rid of medications that are past their expiration date. "That's half the clutter I come across," she says.

Clearing off the counter comes next. If there's drawer space, she recommends putting things that are used daily in the top drawer. And she's a big fan of bins and baskets. If you keep your manicure supplies in the bathroom, for example, put them all in one bin that you can grab knowing that everything you need for that task is in there.

Freestanding solutions for bathroom storage

So what if you have a sink but no vanity -- no drawers, no counter and no place to store bins? Look up -- for wall space to hold shelving or a shallow, mirrored cabinet -- and then look down -- for a place to put freestanding shelves, a narrow cabinet, or a rolling cart, all of which can be found in abundance with a quick survey of the Internet or a trip to your favorite big box store.

  • IKEA sells an elegant, transitional-style metal shelving unit for $39.99, tall and narrow with removable shelves.
  • Less than 18" wide and 13" deep, Target's 65-inch tall Fieldcrest Armoire has doors, a drawer and three shelves. Made of wood composite in a white or espresso finish, it sells online for $139.99.
  • Pottery Barn's Mason Reclaimed Wood wall-mounted medicine cabinet for $449.00 is a far cry from the mirrored medicine cabinets you might find at the big box stores.

Of course, if you are up for remodeling the bathroom, have a vanity with drawers installed. Or put in a smaller tub or shower and convert the extra space into shelves, or fill it with a tall, narrow cabinet.

Remodeling for more bathroom storage

Interior designer Pamela Farnsworth Smith of Avallon Design has been working with clients to redesign and remodel their homes for 36 years, many of which have room for luxurious bathrooms with plenty of storage space.

"If your budget allows," she says, "you can truly create a bathroom that feels as finished as a living room. If you have a small space, however, with perhaps a pedestal sink, then add a custom built-in."

bathroom storage

Credit: Pamela Farnsworth Smith, Avallon Design

For Pamela's clients who already know how to curtail clutter and want to display a few of their chosen collectibles, "a graceful top arch and molding-trimmed open shelf unit built into the wall is a stunning addition to showcase key accessories. The rich warm wood finish invites guests to browse," she says.

Pamela also advises shelving for her clients who don't want to build in more cabinetry, but instead of the storage solutions mentioned above, her recommendation has a touch more class. "Find a lovely wrought iron étagère or bookshelf and place it on an empty wall to double as linen closet for your towels, accessories and bath items. Adding metals and glass to a bathroom that already has a lot of wood cabinetry will lighten the room and add unexpected panache."

Bathroom shelving

Credit: Pamela Farnsworth Smith, Avallon Design

And "panache" may be the way to go. It's a leap from limiting yourself to bathroom storage solutions to cover your…well, to keep from being stranded without a roll of toilet paper.

About the Author

Iris Price is a single Baby Boomer whose antidote to a lack of retirement funds was to launch a long-delayed career as a writer. While others her age concoct bucket lists and travel the world, she bought a new-construction home and obsessively creates lists of must-have home improvements and personal realization goals. She specializes in writing about home services and self-motivation.