Style: Creating a cottage bathroom that’s cozy, elegant

Mary Carol Garrity
Tribune News Service

Is it strange to get excited about your bathroom? Maybe. But I sure love this little space in my cottage.

Since the en-suite bathroom leads right to the bedroom, with its large, dark, religious paintings Dan discovered years ago in Europe, the bath also had to make a strong visual statement. My tool? Artwork. I’ve been collecting nudes for some time and had them scattered throughout my home in Atchison, Kansas. So I decided when we moved I would amass the entire collection in this private space, completely papering the walls with them.

Maybe one reason I love the nude studies so much is because they celebrate women of all different shapes and sizes, a reminder that we are all beautiful and need to feel good in our own skin.

Instead of a traditional sink cabinet, I decided to splurge just a bit and instead use a stately piece of furniture, then transform it into a vanity. Instead of just a plain-old sink, I wanted this to be the focal point of the room.

I started with this gorgeous sideboard, then had marble fitted on top. In general, I want to keep the furnishings consistent with the style you would expect to find in a lake cottage: simple, casual, comfortable. This elegant vanity was one of my few departures.

Instead of installing a light over the vanity mirror, I kept with my sideboard approach and placed a pair of lamps on each side of the countertop. Every time my sister visits she complains about this setup, declaring that it’s awful lighting for putting on makeup. But I don’t care. Even though it’s not the most practical thing in the world, I like the look of the stately blue and white lamps gracing each end, framing the mirror above.

In my family, no one ever seems to be able to hang their towels back on the towel bars. So I have given up and look for creative ways to hold my towels. In my bath, I put hand towels in a delicate crystal bowl. It makes for a lovely display, along with the silver mirror and jar, filled with cotton balls.

Maybe it comes from living in old homes, which are notoriously short on storage, but I like to keep the things I use every day out where I can see them, displayed in beautiful containers. I used one of the silver trays I inherited from Dan’s mom as a staging area for a few daily necessities and treasures that make me happy. An antique mug with my monogram holds my makeup brushes and reading glasses. Another footed bowl is my makeshift jewelry box.

Everyone in my family makes fun of me for my nightly bath ritual. They all prefer showers. But me? I take a long, hot, luxurious bath every night. I keep my bubble bath on a sweet little bench, which used to be in my mom’s house.

In Atchison, I had a beautiful pedestal tub. But I thought that would be too much in our cottage. So I picked a standard tub and did the walls in subway tile with gray grout. I splurged on the fixtures, all in a warm gold finish. In my book, you should never follow a trend when selecting hardware for your home — trends change too fast. Instead, pick a finish you love now, and will for years to come. For me, it was the warmth of gold.

When we lived in Atchison, we didn’t have closets or cabinets in our bathrooms where we could hide our stuff. A wonderful bookcase did just the trick. I used it in Atchison to hold my stack of towels and baskets filled with things like blow dryers.

I opted against traditional bathroom closets and cabinets so I could use these bookcases once again. I not only love how they look, and this open-air storage system forces me to keep my stuff neat and tidy.

This column was adapted from Mary Carol Garrity’s blog at