How to add storage to a small mid-century bathroom? With all the postwar focus on hygiene, why is there so little space for soaps, lotions and towels? We look at some minimal-clutter solutions today.
Stacie, who is in Texas, sends in the official question:
Hi Pam! I adore your site…it’s in my Google Reader and I read every post! My husband and I have a 1962 ranch we’re working on, and I was wondering if you had any knowledge of where to find a nice modern bathroom/over-the-toilet etagere. Our bathroom is small, (only about 30% of the original pink remains, alas…at least the tub and tile surround are still there!) so it would be great for extra storage. The only thing I can drum up online are either a) shabby chic/country or b) too contemporary. Any ideas?
Thanks so much!
Thank you, Stacie! This is a great question. I had the same issue in my small master bath with a wall sink. Some solutions:
1. Recess one or more cabinets. If you are, or can consider, opening the walls… you can use this space for built-ins. In fact, I think it is somewhat common to have 6-8″ of depth to accommodate the stack. I had 8″ to work with, so we moved a pipe that was in the way and built an 8″ deep cabinet recessed into the wall above the toilet. We used vintage window shutters for doors, and framed it in. It looks great – and I’ll tell you, there is no beating recessing storage to keep a smooth clean line in these small bathrooms. I also have 8″ to work with behind the medicine cabinet above my sink. I did not use this space because a manufactured medicine cabinet 8″ deep cost too much. In retrospect, I wish I’d had something fabricated. I bet I could have solved the problem affordably…but you know how reno’s go, I was already at wit’s end with the details. Note: In my husband’s bathroom, which is in the basement, we actually took over some space in the adjacent, unfinished basement area to build him a recessed bathroom linen closet. He loves it.
2. A vintage metal etagere. The only etagere solution I really truly have ever seen that I really liked is the vintage shelf-thingy featured in the lead photo at the top. Shortly after Stacy sent the question, Scott and Beth from S.E. Portland sent me photos of their 1962 ranch home including the etagere. They bought it at an antique store. You may have to squint – but those are metal shelf/racks on chrome-plated poles. Scott said they added the clip-on light. Readers: Let’s be on the lookout for these, they are fabulous!
3. CB2. CB2 has a shelving unit similar in concept to Scott and Beth’s. It might look good in a very sleek modern bathroom (I am assuming you can adjust the shelves to position this above the toilet). They also have a long, low sliding-door cabinet that might look good right above the toilet – a small solution for small items.
4. Very basic cabinets. Other than the solutions above, other styles of etageres aren’t really my cup of tea. I really needed the storage, opt for a simple cabinet above the toilet like those featured below from J.C. Penney and Target.
One final note: I agonized over whether to ‘cut into’ my tile to add more space for my built-in cabinet, and ultimately decided not to. I think that having one smooth line of tile all the way around a small bathroom looks much better. Too many jigs and jags in a small space is…jarring. At the end of the day: Think of this whole “problem” as an opportunity to pare back and simplify!
I’ll keep a lookout for more solutions. Hope this helps.