Solutions for Renters: Bathrooms

By Kate Riley April 25, 2013

Hello hello, how are you? I thought I’d continue the Solutions for Renters series today and chat about the bathroom – a space that poses challenges equal to kitchens in rentals since most everything is fixed. The cabinets, the fixtures, the tile. Yep, you’re stuck with it. So how do you make the space feel more like you? I thought about all the ways to tackle the job and came up with ten solutions.

1. Curtains with Style.  Add a happy shower curtain in a bold floral or a mod geometric and suddenly the space has more color and personality.

bathroom shower curtain bhg[2]

Better Homes & Gardens

botanical shower curtain tenjune

Ten June

floral shower curtain bhg

Better Homes & Gardens


2. Hide the floor. A stylish floor mat helps to disguise flooring and also brings comfort underfoot. There are plenty of retail options or you can get creative with a DIY project. As an alternative, ask if the landlord will allow you to adhere peel and stick linoleum tiles.

bath mats

west elm / garnet hill / east coast creative


3.  Skirt the Sink.  Fabric softens a space and also hides toiletries, think about stitching up your own version to disguise the cabinet or pedestal below the sink.

skirted bathroom sink

Cote de Texas

bathroom vanity skirt bhg[2]

Better Homes & Gardens

skirted sink leverone design

Leverone Design


4.  Add Extra Storage.  Look for extra space wherever you can find it, from the inside the vanity cabinet to freestanding containers or storage units.

shelving inside cabinet bhg

Better Homes & Gardens

rental bathroom

Apartment Therapy

wisteria table



5.  Accessorize with Your Personality.  Bring favorite finds into the bathroom like a rustic chair, table, ladder, or a storage cabinet. Turn shelves or walls into a mini art gallery. Paper the inside of the medicine cabinet. It’s small touches like these that add charm and will make the space more cheerful and more you.

bathroom table storage bhg[2]

Better Homes & Gardens

bathroom with pink accents

art filled bathroom

sources unknown

papered cabinet bhg

Better Homes & Gardens  west elm accessories

West Elm


6. Rock the Vintage Tile.  We’ve all seen those bathrooms tiled in colorful ceramics from way back in the day. Instead of fighting it, go with it and have fun while you’re doing so by either playing off the retro vibe or adding modern touches.

yellow vintage tile yhl

Young House Love 

vintage tile apt therapy

Apartment Therapy

pink tile bathroom yhl

Young House Love


7.  Refinish the Tub and/or Tile.  To save money in a bathroom remodel last year, we used an epoxy kit to rescue the dingy tub. Since it’s a permanent solution, make sure you get permission from your landlord but is an affordable way to cover tile that’s in desperate need of a facelift!

tub and tile epoxy

alma project/ rustoleum kit / homax kit / cottage in the oaks


8. Cover with Temporary Wallpapers. Get the look of the permanent versions by spending a few bucks on temporary removable wallpapers to add that dash of panache to your plain bathroom walls.

temporary wallpapers

pulp design studios / honeycomb / blue floral / jade marrakesh


9.  Hang Window Shades or Privacy Film.  Window treatments offer privacy and also the opportunity to bring fabric or texture into a bathroom space. Modern privacy films are another way to add subtle pattern and protect you from neighbor’s eyes while you primp.

window shade lonny


privacy window film

1 / 2

clementine and olive bathroom

Clementine and Olive


10.  Splurge on Good Towels.  It’s a little bit easier to forget about all the ways you’d change the bathroom when you’re wrapped in a cushy towel so treat yourself to some nice ones!

pottery barn towels

Pottery Barn

bathroom towels



Related Articles:

sfr kitchens small space home offices sfr bedroom

Solutions for Renters: Kitchens

 Small Space Home Offices

Solutions for Renters: Bedrooms

Let’s hear again from renters, former and current, how have you creatively solved your design dilemmas with rental bathrooms?




  1. I love this series! Does anyone out there have any idea what color to use in a rental that has all avocado fixtures in the bathroom Yuck!

  2. Great ideas. I have a friend with a 1950s ranch with Nile Green bathroom fixtures. She painted the walls apricot and accessorized with white and it is stunning. A little imagination can go a long way to accepting the things you cannot change. Thanks for a great series!

  3. I’m loving this series. I get so excited when I see it pop up on my reader! Great ideas for renters. I’m tackling my bathroom in the next couple weeks, so I’ll definitely look to this article for inspiration!

  4. Dear Kate,

    As an ardent followers of everything you write I have been inspired by so many things you do – and am these days especially happy for the “renters” series, since, temporarily, having moved to a States for a few years, we are renting a house. Our biggest problem so far has been the terrible looking dark brown fake wood (that is vinyl) wood paneling that covers all the walls – do you have any ideas how to update those? Painting is not really an option, since the owner of the house dissuaded us from that, and on your advice I have looked into temporary wallpaper, but they are quite pricey to cover for example the living room walls. So, I’d be grateful if in any future post, or here, you’d offer some solutions how to beautify those panels. Thank you so much in advance!

    • Thanks Veronika! Does the fake wood go all the way to the ceiling? I’d consider covering it with the 4 x 8′ panels from Lowes that come in several styles including tongue and groove. You could use a temporary adhesive, or something super sticky like Bondera Tile Mat to hold it in place. You could leave them white or paint them any color. They’re very thin so you can trim them around windows and doors too. That’s what I’d do!

  5. I love this post! We have a {small!} bathroom with the old tile. It’s a bright light blue and white. Not too bad really, but trying to make it ours as renters is tricky. Love all these tips!

  6. Awesome round up of ideas Kate! I especially love that temporary wall paper idea, I bet not a lot of people think of paper in the bathroom!

  7. Some awesome ideas! I rent (which I find really hard with all the wonderful ideas in my head). When decorating my rental bathroom I found that using neutral baskets and items that can be easily removed really, I faked some roman blinds for my bathroom and pinned them up with drawpins. I love our wee bathroom now… this is it here I’m quite proud of it.

  8. Great ideas!! Somewhat along with the towel idea, back when I rented I invested in a good shower head that I could quickly and easily switch out with the rental’s. The bathroom always seemed much better when I was getting a good shower and I could switch it back to the original when I left and bring my good one with me!

  9. This is such a great series! I don’t rent but I’m forwarding this one along to a girlfriend who does….and who hates her bathroom. She’ll love it! Thanks, Kate!


  10. Great ideas! I’ve used quite a few of these over the years. These will also work not only for renters, but also as a temporary fix for owners who don’t have the budget to re-do over the entire bathroom.

    When I bought my home, the bathroom hadn’t been touched since 1962 – kelly green and bright yellow square tiles with black trim on the walls (around the entire room), black ceramic built-in TP holder, soap holder and toothbrush holder, and black ceramic built-in soap dish on the shower wall. To match this lovely colour combo (NOT!) were black, white and cream tiny floor tiles.

    We didn’t have the budget to do it all over so we painted the wall tiles and built-in ceramic holders all white. I didn’t know about Rustoleum Tub & Tile epoxy kit back then (may have come in handy) – we used TSP to give it all a good cleaning beforehand and used good quality primer and exterior paint. We wore masks and opened all the windows and let it dry for a week – it has held up for almost 5 years now.

    For the floor, we used cheap, plain white peel & stick tiles right over the old tiles – a trick we discovered – use white caulking as grout fillers on the old tiles, then a little on the bottom of the peel & stick tiles almost like a glue, and then use the caulking to seal around the edges of the peel & stick tiles (particularly around the toilet bowl and tub). We have yet to have a tile pop up – 5 years and still holding and looks great!

    • Wow Diedre, that’s so inspiring! Good to know those budget solutions are still looking good!

  11. Even though I own a home, still a great series! Light fixtures can be changed out as well and then changed back when you move which makes a big impact! For the ones with the hideous fake wood panels, if you don’t want to buy the panels that CG suggests, how about making your own huge canvases with fabric for cheap art as well as disguising some of the wall? I recently bought this really pretty patterned neutral wallpaper, a double roll for just $13 and used it for the backs of my curio cabinets. Maybe you can built those panels (quick, cheap and easy) and use a cheap wallpaper as well. The wallpaper I’m talking about could also be painted.

  12. Dear Kate,

    Thank you for the great idea – I will definitely look into that!!!!

  13. I rent and have an original, bright pink tiled bathroom. I say when you’ve got a bathroom like that, just go with the flow! I as a designer I rarely get to work with pink (or any of those other colors you typically see in the old bathrooms). So I embraced it and I had so much fun!

  14. I used to live in a rental that had ugly shower doors in the bathroom and I was really bummed that I couldn’t hang a shower curtain to liven up the bathroom, until I realized that I still could hang a shower curtain…in front of the shower doors! I just installed a tension rod in front of the doors and hung a lovely shower curtain. It made such a difference in the bland bathroom!

  15. Oh Kate, it’s cute how you think there’s room for a chair in my rental bathroom ;-)

    For the reader with the vinyl walls, I once hung inexpensive curtains to cover cinderblock. I couldn’t drill or hammer into it or stick anything like temporary wallpaper to the rough surface, so I used heavy-duty Command hooks (removable) along the top of the wall to hang the cheapest white curtains Ikea had to offer. I actually really enjoyed the softness of it, and they came right off when I moved out. The same basic white curtains are now covering up the vertical blinds in my current rental!

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