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Create a Rustic & Romantic Bathroom

One of my favorite décor styles is the pairing of soft, feminine fabrics and furniture with distressed and primitive items. It’s what I call rustic romance. There is something very appealing about the contrast between smooth, delicate surfaces and rough textures. I think this style works especially well in bathrooms. Here’s how I created this look in the bathroom of my 700 square foot cottage in Portland, Oregon.

NOTE: As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission (at no cost to you) from qualifying purchases made through some of the links in this post. I only recommend products I have personally used, or which are very similar.

Start with a soft, pastel color palette

In every bathroom I’ve had the opportunity to decorate, I’ve added a little pink. In this bathroom I used the same color as the living room and kitchen, Sherman Williams Barely Peach (SW 6336). The color is so subtle, it’s more of a neutral that makes my pink things pop. The trim color is Alabaster (SW 7008).

I’ve had the same white eyelet shower curtain for over 30 years. I love it for its shabby chic elegance that never goes out of style. Eyelet shower curtains are hard to find these days, but a curtain adorned with large ruffles or one with small ruffles creates a similar shabby chic look. Backed with a pale pink shower curtain liner it blends beautifully with the walls.

Don’t be afraid to get girly

Crystals are the ultimate shabby chic touch. I paired a pink crystal chandelier with matching scones on either side of the mirror. Pink depression glass knobs and drawer pulls from the House of Antique Hardware were added to the IKEA vanity and the tall cupboard. Such a simple change gives these modern pieces a vintage look.

An additional wall hook topped with acrylic crystals fits with the overall look.

Shabby Chic bathroom
Because I was renting my house on Airbnb, I used a different shower curtain. This one is by Rachel Ashwell, the creator of the Shabby Chic style.

Add texture and depth

Although I love the color pink and feminine décor, too many cutesy items can make a room look childish and a little too light and breezy. Warmer, deeper colors, especially for the floors, can help ground a room. Although the floors are actually porcelain tile, their look of weathered wood fastened with silver nails creates a visual texture that contracts nicely with the smoother items like the IKEA vanity and cupboard.

The contrast of natural, warm, rustic items brings the room down to earth. Woven wicker baskets are another way to add contrast and are useful storage in the bathroom if you have the space.

I continued the contrast of white and brown in the bathtub/shower. Classic subway tiles are paired with a dark brown grout and caulk to match the floors.

Another way to add texture and contrast is with distressed items like this row of wall hooks made from an old piece of painted wood and vintage crystal doorknobs. This well-loved piece embodies the rustic romantic style of the room. And it’s the perfect place to hang towels and my bathrobe. The distressed glass in the vintage mirror over the vanity adds another layer of textural interest to the room.

Add vintage items

Instead of buying a matching set of bathroom accessories (toothbrush holder, cup, etc.), search thrift shops and antique malls for unique containers. My English rose jar holds cotton pads. Lipsticks are held in 1950s pottery. They are not only functional, but some of my favorite vintage pieces I enjoy looking at each day.

Small table next to bathtub.
A small antique table next to the tub stores toilet paper and my bath-time reading materials.

Accessorize to create the right balance

Once you have the main pieces of your bathroom in place, or you’re redecorating an existing bathroom, stand back and take a look at the overall space. Is there a good balance between smooth textures and rough textures, between the colors you’ve chosen, between rustic and romance?

Adding the right accessories can help you create the perfect balance. For instance, if you need more texture, add wicker storage baskets. If you need more color and pattern, add a vintage-inspired tissue box. If you need more smooth surfaces, add a shiny pink trash can. By combining contrasting elements you'll create a beautiful bathroom filled with rustic romantic elegance.



Hi, I’m Lori Cronwell. As a writer and frequent traveler, I admire the values most Europeans embrace: choosing quality over quantity; residing in smaller, more sustainable homes; working less and spending more time with friends and family.

Those values were key in my decision to drastically downsize to a 700 sq. ft. accessory dwelling unit (ADU) with the goal of creating a simpler, more sumptuous life with time for travel.

Slow travel, that is. Spending more time in one place — even if it’s just a week. You'll not only spend less, you'll discover a deeper and more meaningful travel experience.

Please subscribe below and join me on a journey to find affordable ways to explore Europe in the slow lane and to live a more European lifestyle every day of our lives.

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