Creating A Shabby Chic Bathroom

Green medicine cabinet
A colorful medicine cabinet adds style. Michal Venera / Photolibrary / Getty Images

When it comes to mixing trendy and personal, there's nothing like the shabby chic style. With shabby chic, you can have heirloom pieces, stuff you find in garage sales or on the street, and more modern things you buy in stores. There's no "requirement" for this style, except one: it has to be meaningful to you.

A shabby chic bathroom is a space where you can connect with yourself and the things you love, relax, and simply let go of your daily troubles.

It's a space where vintage bottles live next to ultra-modern soaking tubs, and where both make sense together. Shabby chic is the style for those who like to be eclectic and to save money; but most of all, it's the style for those who like to be themselves.

Shabby chic colors: the foundation

If you're going to do a shabby chic bathroom, you should choose a foundation color palette that supports a somewhat eclectic style that might change from season to season.

That's why I suggest a soft, neutral color palette that allows you to add any shade you want in the room. I especially like these beautiful palettes by Design Seeds: City Tones, Color Escape and Color Reflect.

Note how all these palettes have a soft, creamy look. Shabby chic works better if it looks a little aged, a little retro, and those faded blues, whites and neutrals are perfect to give your bathroom this specific look. Shabby chic is a mostly feminine style, but keeping the colors neutral can help balance the more feminine aspects of the look.

 

Never forget how important it is to set up the foundation of your space with the proper colors. If you like a little more pop on your walls, you can always add a bathroom-appropriate vinyl wallpaper or install some tiles. A retro subway tile would work really well for the shabby chic look. (Learn more about retro bathrooms here.)

Furniture and appliances

When it comes to choosing your furniture (cabinet, vanity, etc.) and appliances (bath and/or shower, toilet, sink), you can certainly indulge in your retro desires.

However, you certainly don't have to go retro for everything: even a beautifully modern soaking or stand-alone tub will work perfectly fine, if you want it to. But if you have a retro bath on legs in mind, it's all right too. It'll actually add to the shabby look, especially if you apply a crackled paint finish to it.

What's really cute in a shabby chic bathroom is a freestanding tub with a shower that uses the old all-around shower curtain. It's quaint and retro and you can change the curtain to suit your mood or the season.

I've seen shabby chic bathrooms use desks and old vanities, repainted to the owner's tastes, to hold a sink and serve as a vanity. If you're adding something that isn't meant for a bathroom, you can have a professional fit a sink in it, or do it yourself

If you have the chance to change/update your toilet, you can actually buy retro wall-flushing type toilets to fit in the retro style of your bathroom (if that's what's your going for). If you want to know about the wide choice of toilets you have nowadays, visit my Ultimate Toilet Buying Guide.

There certainly is one toilet there that'll strike your fancy.

As you determine colors for your appliances and furnishings, I suggest you stick to the color palette you chose. The furniture can be a little more colorful, but don't stray too far from the soft and neutral, as changing the color of a big vanity is more difficult than simply changing the shade of your towels or shower curtain.

To add softness and comfort (if you have space), think about having a chair, bench or pouf to hold your towel and bathrobe. In true shabby chic fashion, reupholster an old wooden chair or farmhouse style bench in a soft fabric that fits your color palette. It'll add a touch of retro style to your bathroom, and give you an extra piece of practical furniture for your cat to watch you on.

Decor items and accessories

Now that you have the basics covered, you can go all out with accessories and decor items.

It's really in the small details that shabby chic comes to life: old-style lace, vintage bottles, old advertisements and posters on the walls, retro flower-patterned curtains for the windows, etc.

One thing you might want to put some thought into is your bathroom mirror. The mirror serves as a focus point in most bathrooms, and a good mirror will go a long way towards establishing a beautiful shabby chic aesthetic.

Handmade, vintage or recycled mirror frames work perfectly well in the shabby chic style, especially if you keep one color in your palette exclusively for the mirror. Or, if you want to keep it simple, a flat, undecorated mirror frame will bring the eye on the wall around it, and not the mirror itself. 

Flat, unframed mirrors look very modern and minimal, so it's perfect if you want to keep the mirror as a minor rather than major feature. And since this is shabby chic, you can mix and match old and modern without feeling like you're making a decor faux-pas.

You can also use a retro, repainted medicine cabinet to add some style AND storage space. Browse your local garage sales or antique shops or rummage your local websites for people selling old cabinets that you can reuse and repurpose.

As for extra small touches, anything that has meaning to you can be added to your shabby chic bathroom. Love old apothecary bottles? Set them up on a shelf for a retro feel. Add a fresh bouquet of wildflowers for a touch of innocence and femininity. 

Space for you

If most decorative styles seem a bit too prescriptive for you, maybe shabby chic is the one you've been waiting for. It lets you decorate with meaning, with objects that tell stories and connect with your heart, rather than decorate to follow a certain "style". As long as you think it's beautiful, there are no real "rules" when it comes to shabby chic.

What does the shabby chic bathroom of your dreams look like?