Easy Ways to Freshen Up Your Bathroom Countertop

From a new surface to simple decorative touches, try these clever, budget-friendly countertop tips from designers and DIYers.

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October 12, 2016

Photo By: Jenn Ryan

Photo By: Jo Torrijos

Photo By: New River Building Co.

Photo By: Lori Johnston

Photo By: Jo Torrijos

Photo By: New River Building Co.

Photo By: Austin Lineberry, New River Building Co.

Photo By: Terracotta Design Build

Photo By: NKBA/Mark Lohman

Photo By: Susan Sully

Photo By: Susan Sully

Photo By: Susan Sully

Photo By: NKBA/Dave Adams

Photo By: Dwell with Dignity/Thomas S. England

Photo By: Michele Gratch

Photo By: NKBA/Russtana Lutt

Photo By: Jo Torrijos

Photo By: Lennar

Photo By: Jennifer Foster

Photo By: Eanes Foster Design

Photo By: Lennar

Photo By: Dwell with Dignity/Thomas S. England

Photo By: Lennar

Photo By: Christopher Oquendo

Photo By: Lowe's

Luxury for Less

Look for affordable alternatives to luxe materials. River white granite is one of the most reasonable and durable substitutions for white marble, says Jenn Ryan, owner of Jenn Ryan Designs, an Atlanta custom design build firm.

Right Place, Right Time

Save with your materials and color choices. These bathroom countertops are Silestone, a quartz material that can get pricey. But Atlanta DIY blogger and stylist Jo Torrijos purchased them from a home improvement store at the right time -- when there was a special offer. Plus, she says the color she chose was in the “A” category, so it was one of the less expensive color options and comparable to lower-priced granite.

Past Becomes New

Usher an heirloom into the 21st century by turning it into a vanity. The wash basin belonged to the homeowner’s parents, so metro Atlanta builder Austin Lineberry fitted it with a vessel sink to turn it into a wash station flowing with character. 

Au Naturel

Use live-edge wood slabs for a rustic countertop, like in this intown Atlanta bathroom designed by Karen Hott Interiors. You can find live-edge countertops for bathroom vanities for $200-$300 via online artisan marketplaces. You can also salvage wood from fallen trees and work with a craftsman to get the finish you want, depending on your budget.

Flawless Finish

Think outside the box with vanities in small spaces. Jo Torrijos, an Atlanta DIYer and stylist, created a makeup vanity area in her spa blue bathroom with a shelf that’s deep enough to hold the essentials. She used a small slab of Silestone for the shelf.

Secret Design

Take a close look at this toe kick. An arched design makes the vanity look furniture-esque, which allowed Austin Lineberry of New River Building Co. in Atlanta to tighten the width and reduce the cost of the vanity and countertop.

Saved Leftovers

A small countertop in a guest bathroom is an opportunity to use remnant pieces, achieving high style with huge savings. Metro Atlanta builder Austin Lineberry did just that to save money per square foot on this granite counter. The gorgeous gray tile complements the counter and looks more expensive than it was, because it was stock glass tile from a home improvement store.

A Bit of Bling

Put your jewelry on display with a stylish bracelet or necklace holder centered on your countertop. That way, you’ll add a bit of glam, even if you can’t splurge on expensive cabinet hardware or light fixtures.

High-Design Dispensers

If your bathroom has a high contrast color scheme, find artistic lotion and soap bottles that reflect that. The accessories to the right of the sink are shiny and almost sculptural, adding a chiseled brilliance to the sleek lines of this bathroom, a 2016 National Kitchen + Bath Association Design Competition winner, designed by Haefele Design.

Hint of Color

A great way to spruce up your counter space is by switching out your accessories to incorporate new colors and shapes. “Hunt down different bottles of all different kinds,” says author Susan Sully. “I think adding that one cranberry bottle in with the rest really brought that to life.” She says putting family photos in mismatched frames can also give decor flair. 

Unexpected Items

A collection of antique and vintage grooming tools, displayed in an old fashioned barber’s jar, accessorizes this vanity. The spray of coral against the marble panel and a bronze cross, used to hang jewelry while the homeowner is washing up, add a touch of quirky panache. 

Age Can Be Beautiful

On one side of the sink, a miniature antique chest holds hairpins and rings to keep the area tidy. Salve jars, a porcelain cold cream jar and a vintage dish filled with antique buttons finish off the space. Author Susan Sully says that the lids on these jars are probably made of Bakelite, an early plastic that is now a collectible. 

Sleek Shelves

Instead of using the typical bathroom counter with cabinet underneath, follow Unique Techniques designer Cindy Garten’s example and sandwich a stylish sink basin between sleek shelves that match your bathroom. This eliminates the usual bulkiness that comes with a bathroom countertop and cabinet and creates a more eclectic design. 

Shiny Space

A lamp is an offbeat and unexpected feature in a bathroom, but it can really change the feel of the space. A warm light and pretty accessories added to your counter can also add pizazz without any expensive structural changes. Add a mirrored tray to spread that warm light even farther. This bathroom was redecorated by designers volunteering for Dwell with Dignity, a non-profit organization.

Floral and Fresh

When you have a bathroom with gorgeous wallpaper, like this chinoiserie print, you don’t have to splurge on the countertop or sink details. Atlanta designer Michele Gratch installed a faucet from a home improvement store with an antique bronze finish and a tiny vase with fresh roses to match the wall’s pink palette.

All the Senses

Even something as simple as a new tray and soap dispenser can spruce up your counter style in a moment. Add a fragrance, like incense or an oil burner, and a color-coordinated tissue box and you have an instant update that packs an unexpected visual punch. This bathroom, designed by Stephanie A. Bruntz of Studio B. Design, was a 2016 National Kitchen + Bath Association Design Competition winner.

Tile Accent

Top it off with tile. A small band of tile in spa blue and a hint of green is a smart finishing touch to the Silestone countertop in Atlanta DIY blogger and stylist Jo Torrijos’ renovated bathroom.

Spa-Like Scene

A great way to balance your counter’s decor is to have similar or identical containers holding different items. Here, sponges and bath salts add a pretty, spa-like quality to the decor without overwhelming the visual space, and the silk flowers in the center add a soft, organic touch.

Decorative Towels

If there is no room on the walls near the sink for a hand towel ring or hook, take it to the countertop. Atlanta designer Jennifer Foster filled a red tray with a small towel stand for a boy’s bathroom. Decorative hand towels also are an easy way to make a bathroom look more polished, and designers often opt for ones with simple patterns such as stripes.

Red Hot

If the countertops are in good condition and a neutral color, a simple bright tray can really jazz things up. Designer Jennifer Foster redid this 1990s builder bathroom for a client who did not want childish decor that her two sons would soon outgrow. The red metal tray fits with the primary colors in the pictures of Matchbox cars hanging on nearby walls, which Foster’s husband photographed specifically for the space. 

Winning Textures

If you’re decorating your counters with several similar color tones, it’s important to add interest with textures and size. This large coral piece and wooden bowl make a beautiful display, and the bowl is a great place for sponges, soaps and other spare toiletries for guests.

See and Touch

Coordinate textures, like in the lampshade and canisters here. Lamps are unexpected decor for a bathroom, and they add warmth and interest. This bathroom was done as part of a Dwell with Dignity apartment makeover project. 

Plant Life

Orchids are one of the best plants for a bathroom if you have a window, because they love the humidity but need light, says Atlanta designer Cindi MacPherson of The Interior Partners. Add a touch of nature to your bathroom decor with an orchid like this one, and pull color from other parts of the room into your counter decor. This hammered gold tray mirrors the gold Roman shade. 

Treasures on Display

Even small powder room counters deserve a little panache. A powder room rarely requires space for toiletries or cosmetics, but that little piece of countertop is sometimes an overlooked spot for decorative accents. Clinton Rice, owner of Clinton Lane Rice Design in Atlanta, brought this collection of blue and white Chinese porcelain into his powder room, adding another layer of pattern against the existing geometric wallpaper.

Integrated Look

Even if you can't afford to do a tile wall, a small band of tile above the countertop pulls together the hues of the vanity and countertops. If you have a vanity with drawers, you can decorate the countertop with items such as vintage-looking bottles in the free space that makeup and other bathroom essentials would otherwise occupy.

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