A good bathroom should be, above all else, comfortable. So while I tend to favor a more modern, minimalist design in other rooms, the bathrooms I like best always have a quaint, country style. The combination of slightly rustic furnishings, light, welcoming colors, and vintage fixtures always makes me feel relaxed and at ease – which is exactly what I want to surround myself with when I take a good long soak in the bath. But how, specifically, can you create a country cottage or beach house design? It’s actually relatively simple; because white is the primary color in a country palette, most of your existing major fixtures (tub, toilet, etc.) will blend right in. It’s a design that scales excellently, from a simple swapping of accessories to a full overhaul, you really only need to invest as much as you want to into redesigning the look of your bathroom.
If your bathroom has the right color scheme to start (more on this later), giving it a real country feel might merely be a matter of swapping out accessories. It’s the little details that make a big difference – the bathroom above uses a Porcelain Wash Pitcher as a vase, which evokes an earlier, simpler time, while the flowers add a pop of warm color to the room. Other porcelain accessories, like a Waste Basket, Tumbler, or Bath Salt Jar, especially ones like these that are painted in pale pastel or gilded flowers, are simultaneously elegant and simple, and can help unify a subtle color scheme throughout the room. Even finding vintage ivory cross faucet handles adds an amazing amount of authenticity, especially when combined with a classic pedestal sink. A decorative Round Mirror helps subtly increase the apparent area of the room without taking up too much wall space. Antique or weathered frames are especially good here, creating a rough-hewn, rustic feel. If you want to go for a beachier look, opt for a mirror frame with a distressed finish if you can’t find a genuine antique, or add a layer of crackle paint to an existing Square Frame, to make it look like it’s been weathered by salty wind and blown sand on a seashore.
For a somewhat bigger project, the number one area you want to focus on is the sink and vanity. Pedestal sinks are the main staple of country style bathrooms, for a couple of reasons. A cottage-chic plays up the “cozy” part of a small bathroom, and pedestal sinks walk this line extremely well. They’re compact but elegant, simple but sophisticated, which is exactly what you need to lock in your country style, and exactly what you want if you’re limited on space. Even if you aren’t, a pair of Column Style Sinks like these from Barclay make a great substitute for a double vanity, and make room for a little extra antique furniture – especially open-air shelves that enhance the simple style.
Alternatively, a bathroom console like this Porcher Sonnet model offers a little more counter space and a little more potential for storage space (you can easily put stuff under the sink, and if you need to, hide it in a sink skirt that matches your country decor). The slim legs and table-style of this type of sink/vanity combo echoes old style dressing tables. Especially if you add a small decorative antique chair with a similar style leg, this type of sink can look incredibly homey. I like the combo in this shot with the white vanity and matching Wood Medicine Cabinet, which is another extremely common feature of country bathrooms. They add a little more functionality than a typical mirror, and the whitewashed wood look goes great with the white fixtures and horizontal half-wall paneling that are also common in a cottage bathroom.
Finally, if you really, really need your private storage and don’t want to hide the elegant legs of a console vanity behind a skirt, get something to match that medicine cabinet: simple, wooden white vanities designed to look something like an end table, like this Xylem Islander are simple and unostentatious, and work equally well with almost any type of sink. Again, for a more beach-house style, look for a similar vanity, but with a Distressed Finish, which won’t be quite so sparkly white, and will, again, enhance the weathered, sun-faded sandy beach feel. If you can stand the loss of storage, though, a more open vanity – like this one from Sagehill that matches the vertical paneling – really enhances the simplicity of the room.
If the pure sparkly white of most of the country style bathrooms I’ve shown you so far doesn’t appeal to you, don’t worry, there is a little room for color. A Black Vanity coupled with a Clawfoot Tub with a black exterior varnish or a coat of black paint can be striking, but make sure to keep the rest of the room light to balance it out. While ordinarily I’d recommend a soft neutral pastel wall paint for a cottage bathroom – blues, greens, and warm neutrals are especially good, and pair nicely with white paneling – if you opt for black fixtures and furniture, I’d stick with a very pale off-white or a warm sand color at the darkest. Light is extremely important for the feel of a country bathroom, and black highlights – especially porcelain accessories with black decals – can help enhance that, just make sure not to go overboard – in a very pale room, even a little black draws a lot of attention!
To really go whole-hog with the country bathroom style, though, you’ve gotta get a clawfoot tub. This Elizabethan Slipper Tub is great for soaking, and adds just the right amount of whimsy. In solid white, it also goes a long way toward keeping your bathroom light and bright. Elegant tub fillers and a small chandelier or chandelette can put a classier spin on the style, but try to keep it simple – one ornate piece can be nice, but too much opulence can ruin the laid-back feel of the room.
Copper tubs, like this Soaking Tub actually make especially nice centerpieces. They’re elegant and sophisticated all on their own, but especially if you buy an older, weathered one that’s not quite such a new penny, it can enhance the casual, rustic cottage feel, while still being sufficiently bold and beautiful to center your room around. Especially if you opt for a weathered look rather than a fresh whitewash style, using furniture like this Linen Hutch in place of built in cabinets can give the bathroom a pleasantly eclectic feel – so if you decide to go for the big splurge of a tub, you can do the rest of your redecorating at estate sales and salvage yards, with a nice can of antiquing paint.
However big the scope of your remodel, though, as you plan and execute it, keep in mind what this style seeks to evoke, and how those things make you feel: warm sunshine, lazy days, and maybe the occasional seaside breeze. What are your favorite country or cottage features? Do you have a bathroom like this in an actual beach house, or are you just looking to slow down the pace in your master bath? Let me know in the comments!