Abode: Turning around a bad bathroom


Though it’s small, we expect a lot out of the bathroom. It’s a place where we go to escape, to groom, to pamper, and to well, you know. If you’re a renter, or living in a small space, you most likely only have the one bathroom to share. We can’t lock the door and ask our guests to do their business at the Shell Station down the street—and to make things more challenging, when it comes to rentals, most bathrooms are designed for function over form. From dealing with dated tile to conquering your clutter, a quick, inexpensive bathroom makeover can keep sound design from slipping down the drain. 

Photo by John Robinson.

Many renters and owners alike are plagued with unattractive bathroom finishes and fixtures, from soap-scummed shower tile to dingy peel-and-stick flooring. The key is to work with what you have. When possible, make “mistakes” look purposeful.  

For example, one of the bathrooms in my house is covered in Pepto pink deco tile. Unable to remove the tile, and unable to ignore it, I embraced it. By selecting a new shower curtain, towels, and accessories that complement the pink tile, I made it part of a deliberate scheme. 

If you’re able to paint, awesome. (Semi-gloss works well and still cleans in damp conditions.) A contrasting color will help draw the eye away from your eyesore and make the old feel new again. Pink and gray are a beautiful combination, or pink and green if you’re feeling particularly preppy. Add a fun and colorful bathmat to distract from the lackluster floor. Make your own vinyl mat by priming, painting, and cutting a shape out of a roll of vinyl flooring. Seal it with some marine varnish for a unique, waterproof floor covering. 

Measure your towel bars and hooks, and then swap them out for new, inexpensive, stainless steel fixtures. They’ll add a fresh, modern touch to the space, and if you stick to the same size, you won’t have to drill any new holes. If your landlord left you hanging out to dry, consider an over the door towel bar or some command adhesive hooks. If you’re stuck with a dirty and depressing glass shower enclosure, consider masking it with peel and stick frosted window film on the outside of the glass (allow it to dry out/adhere before using the shower). 

With all the “functions” that happen in the bathroom, there can in turn, be a lot of clutter. You don’t want to feel claustrophobic in what’s already a small space. Start by sprucing up your vanity. Empty out your cabinetry. Toss all of the products that are unused or expired. Remove excess packaging for a cleaner look. Replace cabinetry knobs with new ones to add a personal touch to dated fixtures. (Anthropologie is great for inspiration.) 

If you’re short on storage space, avoid cluttering surfaces. A few wicker baskets are great for storing paper products, and necessities. Or how about an over-the-door, clean vinyl shoe organizer to hold your extra toiletries and smaller items—a fun and efficient way to stay clean and organized. Avoid unnecessary items like knick knacks and picture frames. They’ll only take up space. 

With a few easy steps, and a few bucks, you can take your dated bathroom from washed out to overflowing with style.—Ed Warwick

Before joining the ABODE team, Ed Warwick was the author of “Simply Cville,” a blog about D.I.Y. design, entertaining, and home improvement projects. A UVA grad, Ed currently works as the Coordinator of LGBT Student Services under the University’s Dean of Students.

On tape

Is duct tape really all that it claims to be? I think not.

In my experience, the adhesive on this supposed “cure-all” inevitably turns into a gummy, gooey mess and often makes the problem worse.

In fact, duct tape was never intended for use on ductwork at all (for that, you’ll need a fire resistant, foil tape). Duct (or “duck”, as it was more likely originally named) tape was created for military use back in the 1940s and has been used for emergency, in-field repairs on Army Jeeps and boats, and has even saved lives aboard NASA spacecraft. 

Civilians, it seems, tend to use duct tape more for fashion and hazing than anything else. Yes, you can patch holes in inner tubes, hoses and kiddie pools—I’ve done it and it wasn’t worth the effort. You can also bundle things such as computer cords and use it to hang stuff from walls, like posters and small children, apparently. But getting the stuff off cleanly and without further damage is a major hurdle. 

If you are looking for a strong, useful and removable, fabric-backed tape, I recommend gaffer tape. True, you might not find it in hot pink zebra stripes, but when you need to keep your vehicle’s taillight in place until you get to the mechanic, it will do the trick. Traditionally used in television, film and theatre, gaffer tape can be precisely torn by hand and is employed in “the industry” to keep cables and cords tidy (among myriad other uses). It comes in a variety of widths and several colors. In the home, the tape can be used in small pieces as labels for containers of fasteners and tool drawers, to create an ant trap, to fix holes in everything from hoses to pants, and the list goes on. 

The big benefit of gaffer tape is that it is made with synthetic rubber, offering the bonus of clean removal (read: no sticky mess). You can use it, just like duct tape, to tape a dorm room shut. But at least with gaffer tape, you’re more likely to get your deposit back at the end of the year.—Christy Baker

Christy Baker is a local Jane-of-all-trades. Whether it’s fixing furniture, building a chicken coop or maintaining her roller skates, this creative mom of two always keeps a toolbox (or at least some gaffer tape) handy.