Bathroom Organization on the Micro Level

The bathroom is a collecting point for countless toiletries and knickknacks that can make for a big mess. Here's how to keep them within reach but out of the way.

By: John Yates
Small Contemporary Bathroom With Built-in Shelf

Contemporary Neutral Bathroom With Custom Storage

Custom-built shelves provide handy storage for colorful toiletries in this small contemporary bathroom.

From: Designed to Sell

If the devil is in the details, your bathroom could slide into perdition at any moment. Too apocalyptic, you say? Consider your assortment of toiletries and knickknacks: tweezers and Band-Aids; lip balm and makeup; medicines and Q-tips; toothbrushes, hairbrushes, and toilet brushes; cotton balls, bath salts, and aspirin-everything that you have brought together in one 5 x 9-foot space.

If it takes you more than 15 minutes to find needed items in your bathroom, you may need to impose bathroom organization at the micro level. Here's how:

If There's No Room to Organize, Make Some

The basic principle of micro-organization in the bathroom is obvious: Sort items into appropriate containers and find a place for the containers. Take the attitude that there is room for the containers, and that you have to either find it or make it.

Thompson Price, president of Callier and Thompson Kitchens, Baths, and Appliances in St. Louis, says space for cabinets or shelves is often available over the toilet, above the shower head or even in the walls.

"We've done doors on a wall in the bathroom," he says, "where you open it up and basically build a cabinet that fits in between the studs in the wall." Thompson says this type of built-in storage is well within reach of low-end bath remodeling budgets.

Floating Shelves In Small Blue Bathroom

Blue Bathroom With Floating Shelves

Designer John Gidding transformed this bath on a budget, adding floating shelves and a spa-style blue hue.

From: Designed to Sell

Organize and Accessorize All at Once

Designers say that once you find or create space, it pays to make organizing your stuff part of an effort to improve the look of your bath. There's an opportunity here to use your storage containers as design elements, says Sabrina Foulke, architectural designer at Point One Architects + Planners in Old Lyme, Conn.

"That's why going into the walls and getting that extra space is very valuable," she says, "because it can hold the little jars of Q-Tips and cotton balls and extra soap."

All the jars, bottles, baskets and other containers that hold your things are potential accessories in your bath's overall look, just like the towel bars, robe holders and toilet paper holders that are normally used to accent the room. Not surprisingly, manufacturers have designed plenty of products that can improve both the organization and look of your bathroom.

Use Colored Bottles

When you buy body lotions, bath salts, shower gels, shampoo or conditioner, there is no law that says you're stuck with the manufacturers' packaging. Put the products into containers that support your look.

Buy Decorator Jars

Chateau and Two's Company offers a set of three covered botanical jars.  Made from hand blown glass, these jars can be brought into your bath's color scheme with decorative ribbons or by taking advantage of materials, such as colored bath salts, stored in the jars.

Go Natural With Basketry

Some storage containers fit better with specific looks than others.

"I think the natural earth tone look is very popular now," says Janice Costa, editor of Kitchen & Bath Design News. "Everybody kind of has that feeling that they want the sense of the great outdoors, the sense of natural materials." Baskets go well with this look, both in terms of color and natural texture.

Get Down to Brass Tacks

Of course, sometimes the best approach to storage is to just find the most efficient use for the space available. Not every knickknack in your bathroom is so attractive that it merits being kept out in the open.

Lipper International offers an expandable bamboo cosmetic tray for every bathroom utility. This tray allows for convenient storage of cosmetics in shallow, stacked trays that make the most of space while allowing easy access to what you want. This is a great place to browse for the items you need to organize your bath down to the last nail file.

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