Keep away clutter and make your space more functional with this five-point plan for bathroom storage that’s both hardworking and pretty as can be.
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You might not think about them often, but your bathroom shelves deserve some attention to detail. All those little items (ones you actually need on a daily basis) shouldn't be jumbled up in a drawer or left in the back of a dark, deserted cabinet. They should be front and center and add to your bathroom's decor.

So how do you keep all those bathroom odds and ends at the ready and with a company-worthy presentation? Enter: perfectly styled bathroom shelves. It might seem easier said than done, but we called on the expertise of Birmingham, Alabama-based stylist Kathleen Varner to give us all the tips on how to decorate bathroom shelves. She shares her no-fail advice for styling bathroom shelves with solutions that focus on storage that's both smart and attractive.

small bathroom with black and white tiled floor
Credit: Edmund Barr

1. Opt for Adjustable Shelves in Small Bathrooms

Varner loves built-ins for larger bathrooms but finds the ability to easily switch up the height and location of shelves to be key in tiny areas. "Brackets or floating shelves are nice for a smaller space and adjustable as your needs change," she says. There are myriad shelving options for bathrooms, including glass options, freestanding shelving units, ceiling-grazing towers, and small accent shelves. Determining how much storage you need, your space parameters, and your aesthetic will help you determine which style of shelf is best suited for your needs.

open wood shelving bathroom decor storage
Credit: Kim Cornelison

2. Make It Functional

When it comes to bathroom shelves, their purpose should be twofold. "I love to add in a few special items like small picture frames, maybe a few pieces of small artwork, but I also want to be sure it's usable for everyday needs," says Varner. To accomplish that, think about what should be most accessible. Brushes, makeup, and a safe spot for jewelry are all items that should have a home on your bathroom shelves. Cotton swabs, cotton balls, bath salts, and more can be removed from their store-bought containers and placed into pretty glass canisters to instantly elevate their appearance while making them easy to grab when needed.

Bathroom with dark brick and marble
Credit: Annie Schlecther

3. Use Boxes and Bins to Keep Clutter in Check

One of the biggest drawbacks of open shelves—regardless of whether they're in the kitchen, laundry room, or bathroom—is visible clutter. That's why Varner says boxes, bins, and baskets are a must to contain all the small accessories. "I wouldn't collect too many patterns, but keep the containers in a similar color story and have a balance of solid and glass items," she says. Varner also advises that containing similar things together (think makeup brushes in one area, cotton swabs and cosmetic pads in another) keeps things looking tidy but also helps you find items more easily. It's a win-win.

Close up of various objects arranged on wooden shelves
Credit: Adam Albright

4. Go for the Unexpected and Add Personal Flair

Decorating bathroom shelves is all about elevating what you're working with. Using antiques and vintage finds in lieu of store-bought plastic containers can make your shelves look like they were professionally styled. "Try an unexpected piece like a teacup saucer in your favorite china pattern to give your favorite small earrings a pretty landing spot and small cups to corral makeup items," Varner says. She also loves using vintage etched wine glasses for makeup brushes or as an unexpected vase. When it comes to your bathroom shelves, the more personalized the details, the better. "I do think this is a fun area to add in those super personal items that make you smile," says Varner. "I have a little pink Herend bunny I bought for my daughter's first birthday that I'm keeping on her bathroom shelf until she's old enough to not break it!"

bathroom with wooden shelf
Credit: Stacy Zarin Goldberg

5. Incorporate Fresh Flowers

Whether Varner is styling a photo shoot or helping a client fix up a ho-hum area in their home, details matter. And to create a space that looks finished, flowers are usually in order. "Just a few stems of something are all you need," she says. Varner always has a slew of small vases at the ready for little, hand-picked arrangements. "My daughter likes to pick flowers lately and the bathroom shelf is a great spot for them." And, of course, no bathroom shelf is complete without a candle. "Why not let your bathroom feel a little spa-like?" she asks.

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