When you’re getting ready to sell your home, the bathrooms might be the last place you think about actually staging.
After all, buyers will probably just peek their head in, maybe run the water and move right along. Wipe off the counters, use bleach liberally and voila, that’s one room down, right?
Well, not quite. Although the bathroom isn’t the center of the home, buyers do factor every space into their decision. And you certainly don’t want a dirty, cluttered bathroom (especially the master!) to be the reason a buyer walks away.
What’s more, 52% of real estate agents believe bathroom staging is important, according to the National Association of Realtors. And with a few simple touches, your bathroom can be more than a quick pass-through after viewing the master. Luxury hotel brands like Ritz-Carlton and Mandarin Oriental create total escapism through each suite’s mini sanctuary.
The next time you want to amp up your glam factor, use these simple, affordable bathroom staging tips to make this often-overlooked space feel like a 5-star oasis.
Take a Picture of Your Bathroom To See What You’re Working With
Before you start your bathroom revamp, snap a photo of the space (this first step won’t cost you a thing!)
“It’s really hard to walk into that room and visually see what you’ve been looking at every single day for the last month or who knows how long,” says real estate agent Tanya Endicott, who ranks in the top 5% of agents in Dallas and is experienced in selling homes 22% faster than most area agents.
“But if you take a picture of it with your phone and then look at it, that’s what other people are going to be looking at, and they’ll start noticing things that you wouldn’t notice if you were just walking into the room.”
With the picture in hand, take note of a few things with fresh eyes:
- Your gut reaction to the image (do you feel relaxed, or overwhelmed?)
- Any personal items that may distract buyers, such as hair brushes or makeup on the counter
- Your wall paint color, and the art and decor on the walls
- Whether the space feels dark or light-filled
- Items cluttering the floor—your kid’s step stool; the bathroom scale; and rugs next to the shower, counter or toilet
- The texture of your towels: are they fluffy or drab?
- Any counter stains, glass fog, or mirror smudges
- How fresh the caulking around your shower/tub appears
Compare the photo to the image in your mind from the hotel bathroom you remember from the last great vacation you took.
Womp, womp, womp. At this point you might feel disappointed, but don’t worry.
Even if your bathroom doesn’t have the exquisite luxury bones that you see in the magazines, you can get this space looking sparkling and fresh, while throwing in some budget-friendly touches that feel hotel luxury.
Let’s get started.
Remove Personal Belongings to Make Space for ‘Guests’
One of the best parts of walking into a just-cleaned hotel room is the emptiness. In the bathroom, clear countertops that leave ample room for your own things create a calming space.
Now that you’ve seen your bathroom in a new light, the first step toward transporting buyers away from the chaos of your home life is to remove clutter. This is a case where less is always more.
Before buyers come over, you’ll want to stash all of your personal belongings from the counters, including:
- Hair spray and hair gels
- Hair ties, bobby pins, and accessories
- Toothbrushes, toothpaste and toothbrush holders
- Prescriptions and medications (With strangers coming through your home, you want put these in a safe place. Consider a lockbox product like MedSafe, or at the very least remove them from your medicine cabinet and hide them away.)
You can leave the Kleenex box out, so long as it’s not on top of the toilet. Instead, put it on a shelf, in the corner of the counter, or in a cabinet—and only if the box is in good shape. No need to buy one of those Kleenex box covers, but while you’re showing your house, purchase boxes in neutral tones so they don’t distract.
Keep your current toilet paper roll where it is (if it’s on a holder), and if you have extras, put them away unless you’ve got a purposeful way to display them, such as in the shelving below:
If you don’t have much cabinet space for extra toilet paper, here’s a wire storage basket you can buy on Amazon for $10 similar to the one in the image above.
Be sure to do a clean sweep of the shower, too. Your rusty razors, damp loofahs and bottle of Suave 2-in-1 don’t exactly scream “staycation.”
To make storing all these items in a hurry easier, have any baskets or shower caddies you already own at the ready, or buy some cheap options like the following:
- Mesh shower caddy (best-seller on Amazon, $7.99)
- Tote shower caddy (best-seller on Amazon, $7.99)
- 3-piece wire chicken metal storage baskets (4.7 out of 5 stars on Amazon, $15.99)
- 12 clear plastic storage bins (#1 best seller on Amazon, $23.59)
Your lack of visible stuff will allow buyers to imagine their own items in the space.
Stick to Soft, Neutral Tones Like Spa Retreat
You might find a bright feature wall or a springy spread in some 5-star hotel bedrooms, but you’ll rarely find such colorful decor in the bathroom, where neutrals reign supreme.
Here, understated walls and linens act as a blank canvas for delicate fixtures and sparse, yet thoughtful accessories.
If you’re working with a gaudy color scheme, give the room a fresh coat of paint. Use these neutral palettes from Sherwin Williams for inspiration, and consider a theme that incorporates the following types of hues:
- Alabaster (SW 7008)
- Extra White (SW 7006)
- On The Rocks (SW 7671)
Also trade that loud shower curtain for a more subtle one, and let the room speak for itself.
Get Your Bathroom Hotel-Clean, Then Clean Again
Private homes don’t have the luxury of a hotel’s full housekeeping staff, but keeping the bathroom squeaky clean will make it feel like the room’s just been turned over.
Whether that means you toss out a mildewed shower curtain or you give the grout a deep clean, get ready to break out your rubber gloves.
“It’s a telling sign if [the bathroom is] dirty, how you might treat the rest of your house,” Endicott says.
Start with getting all the cleaning supplies you’ll need in one place. Here are some products we recommend specifically for scrubbing the bathroom:
- Countertops: Mrs. Meyers Clean Day Multi-Surface Everyday Cleaner in Lemon Verbana gets rid of soap scum and water stains, and has plant-derived ingredients rather than harsh fumes ($3.49)
- Tub/shower: Spray on, spray off, with Scrubbing Bubbles Mega Shower Foamer ($19.36 for 3 pack)
- Toilet: Lysol No-Mess Automatic Toilet Bowl Cleaner hangs over your toilet bowl and continually cleans your toilet. This product might come in handy for unexpected showings. ($19.51)
- Daily shower for in-between showings: Method, Eucalyptus Mint (no chemical residue, $18.66 for a two-pack)
- Mirrors: Windex, because why mess with success? ($3.09)
- Grout: Tilex Tile & Grout Pen, fights tough stains on grout and can also give your caulk a quick touch-up ($2.85, though the tubes are small so if you have a lot of grime, get a couple)
- Caulk: Fresh caulk is only going to cost you $3-$5.
- All surfaces other than wood: Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, great for wiping surfaces and disinfecting in a hurry. (Get three canisters for $10.64)
Focus On Texture Contrast When Staging Your Bathroom
Want to capture that spa-like experience of a luxurious hotel bathroom? Focus on how the space makes you feel—literally.
Tick all the tactile boxes by featuring three prominent textures: soft, sleek and natural. If the space has striking tile work, offset with neutral plant-patterned wallpaper and fluffy robes (this optic white robe from the Seven Apparel Hotel Spa collection is only $18.99).
Use the hook on your bathroom door (or add a cheap one) for displaying the robe in a spa-like fashion.
If stone plays heavily in the space, try adding wood elements, like a small structured table (this one from Wayfair is just $84.99) or a wicker basket (like these Whitmor Rattique storage baskets, 4.7 out of 5 stars on Amazon, $20.99), for displaying towels.
Remove Bathroom Mats and Toilet Covers, Yuck!
There’s a reason hotel bathrooms always come equipped with a small towel for the floor—to keep you from slipping and sliding after you take a shower. But bathroom mats (and their toilet-covering mates) hide key design elements that make spaces feel stylish. Plus, these materials get gross fast.
Remove these extra fabrics so buyers can take in all the room has to offer, like that beautifully tiled floor you spent hours scrubbing.
Plus no one likes fabric near the toilet, and grungy rugs are more college-living than hotel spa.
That’s not to say that you should never have rugs in the bathroom for staging purposes. The right rug can add softness to cold tile, especially if you have a spacious master bath.
But for staging, consider putting a twist on your use of rugs. Get away from the spongy bath mats, and instead place an area rug on (gasp!) the bathroom floor.
According to Apartment Therapy, “a larger rug provides a sense of grandeur to an often forgotten room of the home.” Yes, even in the bathroom!
While you’re focused making the floor look great, go ahead and take out the bathroom scale (nothing says relax and unwind like a morning weigh-in, right? Not so much.)
Update Bathroom Hardware, So Faucets and Other Fixtures Match
Although hotel bathrooms are often more plush than their adjoined rooms, you still want to make sure everything flows.
“Plumbing fixtures and cabinet and door hardware should be cohesive throughout the house,” says Joan Inglis of Carolina Spaces, an award-winning interior design and luxury home staging company in the Charlotte, North Carolina, region.
But that doesn’t mean you’re doomed if you can’t fit hardware swaps into your bathroom budget. Just make sure all the fixtures in the room match so they don’t distract buyers.
“You can have luxury in all finishes,” Inglis says. “Whether you prefer your home to be modern with chrome, or rustic with black iron, there are styles available that convey luxury. Avoid themes in your décor—like animal head drawer pulls.”
You can check Amazon for cheap bathroom hardware options. It shouldn’t run you more than $30, and you can choose from finishes such as oil-rubbed bronze, flat black, polished chrome or satin nickel, and from shapes including T-bar and mushroom knob.
Struggling to choose a hardware? For a breakdown on choosing the right hardware finish, check out this great guide from Schlage, a trusted lock and hardware manufacturer that’s been around since 1920.
Stage Your Bathroom With Items that Marry Form and Function
Hotel designers know rooms can have hundreds of guests every year, so instead of packing bathrooms with knick-knacks, they look for unobtrusive, low-maintenance ways to work in design elements.
Decorative light fixtures can both brighten the space and add a little personality to the room.
Home Depot offers a variety of bathroom lighting options, including sconces, vanity lighting, chandeliers, pendants, semi-flushmount, recessed and flushmount fixtures all for affordable prices, starting at $20.
And a statement mirror, art in itself, makes rooms feel larger and lighter. You can snag a stylish one for under $50.
Practical surfaces like ceramic tile—which withstands heavy traffic in hotels—also has a clean elegance that makes places like bathrooms feel inviting.
Bright vs. Dingy: Boost Light To Let the Bathroom Shine
The flickering-bulb look says highway motel, not 5-star resort. Find ways to fill the bathroom with clean, bright light.
In addition to swapping out any dated fixtures, replace dim bulbs with brighter ones to make the room feel larger, Endicott says.
To do so, first make sure your fixture can handle the extra heat. Remember to measure light-bulb brightness in lumens rather than watts, as new technology has made light bulbs more energy efficient, allowing lower watt bulbs to produce the same level of brightness. You can get a pack of 16 light bulbs for a little over $20.
Adding lamps is another option to boost light, but only if you’re working with a large area. Otherwise, you don’t need another item taking up precious space.
If you want to get really creative, you can add lighting behind mirrors to brighten the room without having to place another fixture. Basic backlit wall mirrors start at about $200, but there are ways to rig one up yourself.
Replace the Linens With Brand-New Matching Sets
Ahh, crisp, fresh towels in a neat stack. That’s a wonderful thing to see when you enter your hotel room as a guest.
The same goes for at home. Purchasing new towels—the fluffier, the better—is an easy and affordable way to refresh a bathroom for buyers.
“The towel configuration always adds something to the bathroom,” Endicott says. “So, that being said, you need to make sure you have matched towel sets. Don’t try to piece it together. Don’t try to make colors work. Actually match it to what you have in there.”
As you’ve see in many a hotel room—you can’t go wrong with plain white everything. But in general, choose linens that match your walls or tiles, then fold them neatly on open shelves or roll them in baskets.
To measure towel quality, you want to be looking at grams per square meter, which measures towel density. 300-400 GSM is lighter and thinner, 400-600 GSM is medium, and 600-900 is heavy and thick. Mostly you just want the towels to look nice for buyers, but you’ll also get to take them with you (and actually use them at that point), and who doesn’t love a new set of quality towels?
As recommended by experts speaking to the Washington Post, these plush Moroccan Gate Towels ($24-$44) feature a unique pattern without sacrificing the plush factor; while these bath towels from Boll & Branch ($45) are both classic and spa-like.
If the house is still in use, Endicott adds, hide the hand towels that you do use every day underneath the cabinet. “Towels that are in the bathroom are for looks; you don’t use them,” she says.
Delicately Accessorize to Create a Relaxing Vignette
Think about the little mini toiletries you find waiting for you in a hotel room. Seeing them makes you excited to get fresh and clean after a long day of travel.
This may seem like re-cluttering after your hard work, but a fresh bar of soap by the sink adds elegance to the space without overpowering it. The key is that the bar of soap should be totally fresh and new.
A liquid soap is fine, too, though some bottles are prettier than others. Method’s hand soaps have a sleek and modern look.
And what about other accessories?
Ingils suggests the following:
- If you have a vanity counter, add an attractive stool. “Make sure the stool complements the plumbing fixtures and cabinet hardware, and the style is compatible with the overall style of the bathroom,” Inglis says.
- Decorative trays, boxes and baskets to display soaps and lotions on counters. (Wayfair has some accessory trays in the $20-$30 range).
- Place a small side table next to stand-alone tubs to display candles, a book and a wine glass. Talk about the hotel experience!
Add Fake Plants for a Touch of Green
You don’t need to turn the room into a greenhouse, but a small leafy plant will make it feel calm and inviting. And to avoid adding maintenance, you probably want to go artificial.
This can add a fresh look if you have a big window space or ledge. Endicott also suggests placing a small (fake) green potted plant on the back of the toilet. This is a nice way to add a pop of color to offset all the neutral elements in the room.
Even fake plants can get pricey, but for staging purposes, you don’t need to spend a lot. These artificial home decor succulents on Amazon are just $12.99.
Choose a Refreshing Scent To Squash Any Odors
It seems like a given, but stinky bathrooms are a turnoff for buyers.
“The biggest thing you can do is make sure it smells good,” Endicott says.
Choose a fragrance that’s light and refreshing. You’ve worked to make the bathroom a soothing place so far, so forgo the musky perfumes in favor of an airy one like lavender or lemon.
You can get an essential oil reed diffuser from Target for just over $10 in a variety of scents. Some scents that might feel “spa hotel” include Waterfall, Jasmine Bouquet, Mandarin Berry and Paradise Flower.
Spruce Up Your Tub and Shower, But Don’t Spend a Fortune
Hotel bathrooms need repairs and maintenance. Luckily, you only have a few rooms to fix up, rather than upward of 300!
If the bathroom has a tub that’s chipped or cracked, you don’t necessarily have to replace it. Ask a resurfacing company to give the tub a makeover.
According to HomeAdvisor, the average cost of refinishing a tub is $460, compared to the average $3,000 it costs to replace once, if you account for demolition, re-attaching pipes, installation, etc.
“Sometimes they can do that [refinishing] for tile, too, so check into that if you’re on a budget because it makes things look brand new,” Endicott says.
No tub? That’s okay, too. Just make sure the shower glass isn’t foggy. You can use vinegar and a rag to get rid of calcium build up.
Pro tip: To make your shower head sparkle, pour white vinegar into a ziplock bag, secure the bag around the shower head with a rubber band, and let it soak for a few hours. After you remove it, run the water for a few minutes to flush out the vinegar. You’re welcome!
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: Aim for Clean, Fresh and Functional
You can’t fix everything, especially if you’re on a budget. So, embody that fresh-from-vacation peace of mind.
Just think of what hotel guests would be more angry about: a bad color scheme, or a broken shower.
Likewise, buyers will care more that the water coming out of the faucet is brown, than the fact that you forgot to hide your toothbrush.
Endicott says, “I have flipped houses before, and I always ask myself these questions: Is it something I have to do for a buyer to be interested in the house? Is it something that is going to make it sell for more? Or is it going to come up on an inspection?
“And if the answers are no, I don’t do it.”