A bathroom question: What looks good on the counter?
May 3, 2013 1:40 PM   Subscribe

It's a weird question, I know, but my bathroom has a weird counter. The sink sits on the far left. On the far right, there's a hand-towel hung from a loop on the wall. But there's an awkward empty counter space between the two. I'm not looking to fill the space. I just feel like something should be sitting there against the rear of the counter to make the space look not so empty. But what? I'm a single bachelor, so yeah, this is as much a question about style as it is about functionality. Even strange suggestions are welcome! I have a nice dispenser of hand soap by the sink. Other than that, there's nothing on the counter and it looks like there should be. Like I said, it's a weird question, but it's bugged me for a while so I figured I'd ask the hive mind. What looks good on a bathroom counter?
posted by Mr Ected to Home & Garden (50 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
A simple tray of some kind with a jar of reed diffusers.
posted by mibo at 1:44 PM on May 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

Seashells, duh
posted by oceanjesse at 1:44 PM on May 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Well, what do you use in your bathroom? On my bathroom counter, I have a big vintage casserole dish with a lid (in the style of this one, but blue to match my bathroom), in which I keep my toothpaste and deodorant and some q tips and hair stuff and other bathroom junk that would otherwise make clutter on the counter. So I'd suggest getting a big decorative container and putting all your bathroom nonsense in it. Form and function in one.

Alternatively, you could start a collection of spare toilet paper roll cozies.
posted by decathecting at 1:47 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I use an electric razor which is kept in a drawer, and toothbrush/toothpaste/floss, which is kept in a medicine cabinet. I guess that's why the only counter item I can think of is the liquid hand soap dispenser which sits all alone on the otherwise naked counter.
posted by Mr Ected at 1:51 PM on May 3, 2013

A potted plant (or an orchid!). Something that grows in a container that looks good in your bathroom.
posted by marimeko at 1:53 PM on May 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

A giant conch shell.

A hot-lather dispenser and/or a fancy shaving setup with brush, mug, old-style razor.

A radio/iPod dock.

A little tray to put all of your old coins, etc. in.

A book or two.

A lovely tableau of action figures.

posted by Madamina at 1:54 PM on May 3, 2013 [5 favorites]

Yes, an orchid. A big orchid in a nice pot.

Two or three canisters. One with Q-tips, one with flossers, one with cotton balls or bath salts, or whatever you may like.

A tray or basket that holds stuff -- tip towel, a nice candle, some shells or other objects from nature, your razor, shaving cream, nice bath stuff that you would like to display.
posted by Fairchild at 1:54 PM on May 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Moisturizer that people can use after washing their hands.
posted by windykites at 1:58 PM on May 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

Personally, I've lived in so many cramped spaces that a vast expanse of nothingness is about the prettiest thing I can imagine in a bathroom. Yes, flowers or plants or nice-smelling potpourri or whatever, if you're inspired, but don't feel ashamed to show off your clean minimalism.

My backup plan would be functionality - what kinds of things do you not have excess space to store, and is there some sort of aesthetically pleasing way to store them? A magazine-rack or basket of reading material; a wine-rack filled with rolled-up towels; a cute set of mini-drawers that holds little doodads and spare soap; a set of cannisters that hold q-tips and cotton balls and so forth. Lotion? Antique decorative hand mirror for checking out the back of your head?
posted by aimedwander at 1:58 PM on May 3, 2013 [5 favorites]

Tissue box? They have pretty decorative covers for 'em but even just sitting there it can be nice. Also it's utilitarian!
posted by Lady Li at 1:58 PM on May 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

Handtowels, either disposable or cloth. I also get those bundles of washcloths in decorator colors and roll them up and put them in a basket for guests to use.

If this were 1972, I'd say fancy, shaped guest soaps.

Something fragrant, a large candle in a pleasing scent, a jar of bath salts, etc.

Fresh flowers

Your bottles of cologne, if they're pretty. If it's Old Spice...leave it in the drawer.

A nice boar bristle hair brush.

Box of tissue.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:01 PM on May 3, 2013

Response by poster: OH! I should add that my bathroom has no windows. An orchid could be awesome, but I have to assume it'd die due to the darkness in there.
posted by Mr Ected at 2:03 PM on May 3, 2013

A nice silk one won't!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:04 PM on May 3, 2013

posted by oceanjesse at 2:07 PM on May 3, 2013

What looks good on a bathroom counter?

A mug for Mr Corpse to keep his toothbrush in, changed frequently without consulting him, never discussed.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:07 PM on May 3, 2013 [19 favorites]

posted by oceanjesse at 2:07 PM on May 3, 2013

Lamp (think functional)
posted by oceanjesse at 2:07 PM on May 3, 2013

Tissue box OR lotion (not both or you will send the wrong message)
posted by rmless at 2:08 PM on May 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

A tray with three chunky, interesting items on it of varying sizes–as mentioned above–candles, shells. Or even vases (one of the vases being large enough to hold a 'bouquet' of sticks/branches).
posted by marimeko at 2:20 PM on May 3, 2013

Interesting rocks.
posted by Pallas Athena at 2:33 PM on May 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

A candle, which looks nice but also smells nice - an important feature in the bathroom.
posted by TrixieRamble at 2:40 PM on May 3, 2013

A bottle of bourbon and a glass?
posted by mr. digits at 2:42 PM on May 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

A clock, a cool little sculpture or two, a pretty bowl or basket with seashells or coral, a pretty vase with some dried decorative branches, an empty vase, a lantern. This sort of stuff. More.

Not just to have stuff around, of course - things you LIKE! You probably have stuff around in your closets already. Cool stuff, pretty stuff, stuff you like to look at and show people.
posted by amaire at 2:44 PM on May 3, 2013

Here's a blog post that shows a bathroom vanity counter (fifth photo down) redecorated with budget items from Walmart, to surprisingly good effect.

You can see that she's mixed a few textures (clear beads with a candle in a tall glass, a wooden tray, a natural sea sponge, and the yellow flowers) to make a nice set-piece, almost like a hotel. None of the items are expensive, but they're combined in a way that is clean and aesthetically pleasing.

You can scroll down further to see close-ups of a few more decorative bathroom items.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 2:45 PM on May 3, 2013

- A candle that smells good and maybe looks good.
- A big glass bowl or jar with interesting things in it (whatever your tastes are, rocks, baseballs, first aid supplies)
- Reading material in a little holder (I have a lot of zines in my bathroom for bathroom readers)
- a little bowl with some sample-sized stuff if you frequently have guests
- a cool looking radio

My favorite thing recently is people who have a tall flower-vase or other pitcher like thing and put something that is vaguely plant-like but doesn't need light/water such as eucalyptus branches or pussy willow branches or whatever's outside right now. Especially in a windowless bathroom, something that reminds you of the outside but doesn't need tending might be nice. Alternately: go the other direction and put in a lava lamp or something totally from elsewhere and use that instead of whatever light the room has.

On preview, what everyone else is also saying!
posted by jessamyn at 2:45 PM on May 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

My wife decorated my bathroom (which is on the ground floor, and next to my office) with many of the above mentioned items. This includes a conch shell we got in Bermuda, a kind of framed net with shells and starfish she made herself, a basket of more sea related stuff on the toilet tank, a shelf on one wall with yet more sea stuff, a picture of a diver over a coral reef, an egg shaped glass seascape paperweight, a picture of a palm tree on a beach also gotten in Bermuda. The aforementioned reed diffuser set up. And a couple of sorta potpourri paper envelopes that smell good as well.

I still get to have my badger brush, soap bar in a glass container and my double sided safety razor "because they don't disturb the esthetic".

A bit of overkill, maybe. But hey, it's our first real house together. She loves this kind of stuff and I love her.

You don't want to know what I would have put in there. :-)
posted by Splunge at 3:40 PM on May 3, 2013

Don't put something there because you think you should (candle, shell, incense, etc.), as it could look like you are trying to hard. Rather put something there that inspires you or is useful. A generic shell will look fake. A shell you collected from a fabulous trip to wherever, that has a story or memory attached, will be awesome. A candle that your best friend made for you will be so much better than a candle from Target.

(I personally love the idea of a bottle of bourbon and a shot glass. That's brilliant.)
posted by Vaike at 3:54 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: "Don't put something there because you think you should (candle, shell, incense, etc.), as it could look like you are trying to hard. Rather put something there that inspires you or is useful."

That's precisely why I asked this question. I'm looking for ideas that inspire me. I'm terrible at decorating anything if I don't an idea. But once something clicks in my brain, my sense os style shines.

"(I personally love the idea of a bottle of bourbon and a shot glass. That's brilliant.)"

I do too! ...but I'm not that guy :)
posted by Mr Ected at 4:07 PM on May 3, 2013

A home stager told me that a clear jar with lid with cotton balls makes your room look more spa like. So do rocks in a long, low dish. And an orchid. Not all jumbled up.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 4:13 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Do you have any gifts from people that are just sitting in the closet? Or is there another area of your house that has too much stuff that you could take something from?

I love to "shop" from other parts of my house. It always surprises me that I can actually find something.
posted by Vaike at 4:50 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

A cool basket, maybe grey in color, filled with fine quality, color-coordinated washcloths or hand towels rolled like sushi.
I have a cool lamp with silk shade on my very long vanity top. It has a night light option which works well. The lamp is bulky, bulbous, but low height so it doesn't look like it should be on a living room end table!
Like someone suggested, a mammoth conch or two.
posted by Lornalulu at 4:58 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Why not just put some sort of framed picture/photo in there? If your bathroom isn't too moist that mildew grows, a frame should probably do fine. I'd just get a cheapish frame and get some favorite photos printed or pick up some inexpensive small art prints at a museum.
posted by that girl at 5:12 PM on May 3, 2013

Are you the decorative kind of person or more the practical sort?

Shells, a porcelain fish, a candle, a fountain, etc. are typical items, but make the place look welcoming enough and lived in.

Something unique and decorative--maybe a porcelain Buddha, a big pottery cat, or something you have that you like living with, although not bathroom related, maybe more your style.

If you're practical, get three glass jars and fill them with cotton balls, Q-tips, and bath beads, or extra floss, etc. Something like this or this. You may not use them much, but guests might. Seconding a nice hand lotion, in a decorative pump dispenser or the original container. (not etsy-oriented, just the links that came up)
posted by BlueHorse at 5:19 PM on May 3, 2013

A toilet paper cozy.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 5:54 PM on May 3, 2013

I have an odd bathroom shelf. There is an old radio sitting on it.
posted by cmoj at 6:00 PM on May 3, 2013

Several people have mentioned a tissue box. My tissue box makes me smile every time I see him.
posted by evilmomlady at 6:30 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've got a small bronze statue of an owl and some fake (but nice-looking) iv twisted in a line behind the sink. Fairly simple, but it helps the bathroom not look as plain.
posted by Gneisskate at 6:34 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh oh! To expand on the candles, either big pillar candles, something in glass (Ikea sells these by the ton) or maybe some of those that float in water. One of my old boyfriends used to buy those Ikea candles by the aforementioned ton, but natural foods places will also sell yummy scented ones like Big Dipper Waxworks or otherwise (I love their orange clove stuff, and I normally hate anything scented).

Because... do I have to spell it out here? You're a boy. (Or, you know, a human.) You make that place stink.

Also, why not an old-style fish bowl? You don't even need a real fish. You could even do a terrarium.
posted by Madamina at 9:58 PM on May 3, 2013

An air plant or terrarium! You can find them along with nice containers on etsy. Less work than an orchid and they love the humidity.

A Buddha machine for shy pee-ers.
posted by thirdletter at 5:50 AM on May 4, 2013

You're going to have to dust whatever you put there, so it should be something you like. Do you have any collections of stuff, or would you like to? Some large canning jars, one with with flossers, and others with maybe some of your old Star Wars action figures, army guys, dice, game tokens, polished rocks, whatever. The lids of canning jars can be painted any color, or with a zinc finish. Start a collection of hip flasks and keep them there. I've seen some mirrors mounted on a stand that are useful. If I had a blank spot like that, I'd fill it with a nixie clock.
posted by theora55 at 7:58 AM on May 4, 2013

Now I may die of the 'satiable curiosity if you don't post a pick of your final choice...
posted by BlueHorse at 12:08 PM on May 4, 2013

I wouldn't do the jar of cotton balls that some people have suggested, because I have no idea what people do with cotton balls. I guess if you're someone who uses cotton balls then you could go for it, but otherwise they're just weird.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:23 PM on May 4, 2013

I have to chime in that I would be totally freaked/turned off if I saw candles and/or shells on the counter of a single straight guy. I'd go for one of the quirkier suggestions above.
posted by kestrel251 at 7:39 PM on May 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'll second Kestrel251 on the candles and shells, but if you like it cool.

Straight-razor shave kit sounds classy.

I have the rolled up washcloths (and a basket for used ones) because we have a lot of company and they are appreciated. I think it's weird now to dry my hands on a wet towel.
posted by ibakecake at 7:51 PM on May 4, 2013

Response by poster: "I have to chime in that I would be totally freaked/turned off if I saw candles and/or shells on the counter of a single straight guy."

My thoughts exactly Kestrel. I was kind of hoping more women might chime in with things they saw (and liked!) in a guy's bathroom. I do like some of the quirky ideas above though. I'll have to give it some more thought.
posted by Mr Ected at 7:51 PM on May 4, 2013

I think it could be a good place for displaying a collection of whatever it is you collect, so long as it can take humidity. It could be manly. Think thrift store or antique store, not spa.

Instead of a glass jar of cotton balls, make it a glass bowl of, uh, billiard balls? Or View-Masters? Or whatever it is you like looking for.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:00 PM on May 4, 2013

Response by poster: Lots of people mention displaying things I collect. The problem is, I don't collect stuff. I suppose that's part of the reason why decorating has always been a challenge for me. I don't collect any sort of nicknacks. I tend to be logical almost to a fault ("almost?"), meaning that all of my stuff serves a purpose. I'm not saying the bathroom decor idea I'm looking for needs to serve a purpose though.

There are some great ideas above. I'm going to have to give it some thought!
posted by Mr Ected at 9:37 PM on May 4, 2013

You may be back at thinking about whatever your personal style is. It's possible you have no style at all, but unlikely. If you tend towards the functional one of the more obvious options would be to put a storage container there for things you need for the bathroom. Many people have mentioned things from glass jars to large bowls to little sets of drawers. I have an ammo box in my bathroom that I use to keep prescription medication in (and could double as a first aid container) you might want to think about a neat way to have an on-view first aid kit (and get a first aid kid if you don't have one) and put it in that space.
posted by jessamyn at 7:42 AM on May 5, 2013

I put folded or rolled washcloths in a low bowl or basket in my bathrooms. The guests can use them to wash their faces, to shower, or as hand towels. Women who wear makeup will often appreciate them, and some men use them while shaving. I also keep a little collection of hotel/travel toiletries for guests.
posted by PrimateFan at 7:46 AM on May 5, 2013

Bachelor here. I have a very small cactus and a tealight (with holder) in mine.
posted by knile at 3:46 PM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

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