noun: oasis; plural noun: oases;
1. a fertile spot in a desert, where water is found.
2. your bathroom after reading this article.


Three options for creating your bathroom oasis

Does it seem like every design magazine today encourages creating a “bathroom oasis?” Ahhhh….  Yes, it sounds so lovely to take a room that has traditionally been dedicated to functionality and make it over like a spa. However, some bathroom designs require a big budget and ultimately may not be all that practical at the moment. 

I’m all about details, but also all about making any space in a home feel more enjoyable without having to tear everything out. So, here are three options to fit specific budgets: some ideas for change that move you toward that “oasis feel” without ripping up your floors and starting from scratch, a few that take a bit more design effort but are still pretty tame, and my top tips for going full-throttle toward your totally renovated oasis space. Enjoy.

1. Excavate your existing zones of bliss (the easiest changes) 

Assuming you are already cleaning your bathroom on the regular, the most important thing you can do to reduce stress in your bathroom is to declutter. 

Clear the clutter.
Most people have a lot of stuff sitting out on the counter. Sure, that seems handy, but it’s not the best solution in terms of overall design. When you let go of expired or unused toiletries, prioritize space for daily essentials, and consolidate the rest, you’ll still have what you need but you’ll find greater ease in your daily life. So clear your bathroom of unnecessary items to feel the oasis spring to life.

Contain the rest.
Want to know a little secret? You can have personal effects in the bathroom. Actually, it just looks weird if a home has nothing out at all. A part of us wonders, “Where’s all the stuff?”  So you can have things, just find a way to make it feel less overwhelming. Keep it organized.

I’m a big fan of grouping similar items together. Give your possessions a permanent container for maximum design impact. Some of my favorite tidying tools are: 

  • Acrylic boxes (so you can still see what you need, but it’s not spread all over the counter). 
  • Bags for makeup essentials.
  • Baskets for grouping other items.
  • Bins under your vanity (collected, but out of sight).
  • Trays designed to display specific items (such as perfumes or soaps).

If you’re going to create a “bath bar” made of bath bombs, soaps, and lotions, remember that even a few items can go a long way toward personalizing a space. You’re going to need a way to display it so it doesn’t look messy. Too much bathroom “stuff” always looks messy. Yes, this can get to be a challenge with husbands and kids… but it is possible with the right containers. Strive to only keep out the items that are good looking. Boxes of Advil on the counter are always an eyesore… it’s the labels with text and images designed to induce purchase that interfere with the oasis feel.  

Add some plants.
As I wrote about earlier, plants help enliven any space. Pay attention to your natural plant lighting, though. Most greenery needs good natural light, and some plants are more sensitive than others. You’ll need to know if your plants thrive on morning light, for example, or want more direct rays of sunshine vs. indirect luminescence. If your bathroom has no windows or nearby natural light, some fresh new dried botanicals could be another option to soften the space or accent an empty corner. Either way, less is generally more here. 

Use your tub!
If you haven’t taken a bath since you were a kid, you might have forgotten the simple, full-body pleasure that a bubble bath can bring. I love to dip into a warm tub full of suds. My favorite R&R move is to use a bath caddy to stand up my ipad and watch part or all of a favorite show there. I’ll bring a relaxing drink (wine, cocoa, citrus water — depending on the season or my mood), too. Bathtime is great for all ages.  

Add mood lighting.
This is one tip that could be made low-investment, high return! By adding a few candles around the tub, you completely alter the look and feel of the space. There is something so comforting about fire near water. It’s like an oasis at night. 

Add music.
A remote bluetooth speaker can create a harmonious effect in the bathroom, especially for morning routines or bathtimes. Go for a playlist of instrumental spa music, natural bird sounds, or gurgling spring water to set that oasis tone.

Restock your towels.
Oh. My. Gosh. Fluffy towels! How did I get so far down the list of inexpensive changes without mentioning this earlier? A gorgeous, plush set of towels can go a long way toward making your bathroom feel exactly like a day at the spa. You might even consider a fluffy white robe with a monogram for the uber-spa after-tub effect.

2. Design a bathroom mini-makeover (simple remakes)

When you’re ready to “level up” and make some slightly larger expenditures, here are some things you can do to change the look and feel of the entire bathroom with only a bit of time and effort. 

A new coat of paint can bring an entirely different feel to a bathroom. If your space feels too dark now, try a designer white. 

Update your fixtures.
A lot of homeowners have inherited whatever the previous owner liked or they’re still living with builder grade materials. As examples:

  • New sconces or lighting can make a huge difference at a moderate price point. Much like that coat of paint, lighting is totally transformational. 
  • Cabinet knobs and towel racks can be swapped out fairly easily and really add to the look and feel of the  space. 
  • Heated towel racks are also pretty easy yet can totally transform your tactile experience, especially if your bathroom tends to be cool. 

Buy anti-fog and backlit mirrors.
Anti-fog mirrors are also a pretty quick upgrade. Mirrors with good lighting and minimal to no fog can affect your entire shower or bath routine for the better. 

Add some wood accents.
Go for wooden planters if possible, or a teak bench if you have the room. This helps create that natural spa feeling.  

Invest in a Turkish rug.
It’s an unexpected pleasure to walk into a sleek bathroom and feel that luxurious old-world charm of a Turkish rug. This is an especially nice touch if your bathroom is big enough to handle a functional rug and a decorative one — so that you’re not worried about bathwater ruining the more expensive or delicate rug.

3. Renovate for that full-throttle retreat experience (remodeling projects)

Okay, sometimes you really do want to rip things out and start over. If you’re ready for that kind of commitment, here are some of my top tips for fully remodeling a bathroom into a spa. 

Install heated floors.
It’s nice when you can do a lot with a little, but some upgrades are simply worth the time, effort, and expense. I think heated floors are perfect for bathroom spaces. 

Build new or custom cabinetry.
The best bathrooms have lots of spots built in for everything you might need — from your hairdryer down to your toothbrush. That helps. Everybody’s got stuff. You can’t avoid it, so you might as well build for it if you can. 

Go for spa-like tiles and materials.
Continuing with the all-natural oasis theme, you can add natural wood accents in all kinds of spaces, or get creative with materials. In the shower  of the place I’m working on now, we’re adding ceramic tile that looks like small, wood panels. It’s also nice when a shower has a built-in space to sit and concave areas for toiletries and a few decorative items within the walls. 

Design around specific focal points.
When designing from scratch, it’s nice to add something innovative that brings the wow factor into play. If there’s room, add a tub that’s separate from the shower.  Consider new windows that help  bring light and natural visual effects into the space. You might even build a fireplace — it really draws in the eye, creates warmth, and adds something special to the bathroom oasis experience.


Start with the basics and go from there.

There is so much you can do to create a bathroom oasis, but I’d say decluttering is the actual number one thing to do. Even if you’ve got a fireplace and high-end tile that looks like wood, if your bathroom is covered in assorted products, it will obscure the ultimate look you’re seeking. Once you’ve decluttered, you’ll have a better idea of what your bathroom really needs to function as a more luxurious space for you day-to-day.