Corral the clutter on your bathroom countertops and unleash your creativity with these stylish containers.
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You can get as sophisticated as you like with your bathroom decor, but the items that clutter the counter will stubbornly remain ordinary and even unsightly, from cotton balls to disposable razors to oatmeal soaking solution.
Luckily, designers and retailers are setting new trends with bathroom counter containers that disguise the necessities while complementing trendy spa decor, luxury master baths and pretty powder rooms.
Glass is the Clear Choice
"Spa tubs with ledges are so popular, you really need a container with a sculptured look to complement the luxury design," says Cynthia Watson, owner of Accents of Salado, a Mediterranean decor supplier in Salado, Tex. "You can't just plunk down some plastic containers to hold your oils and sea salts."
There are many better-looking alternatives to Gladware, but anything glass is really hot, including the heavy, ribbed glass jars and cruets accented with brown metal sold by Watson.
"They set just the right tone on a counter in a classic or contemporary bath — so long as you're not decorating for toddlers," she says. "My two-year-old granddaughter would break a glass apothecary jar in a minute. But in a sophisticated master bath or a guest bath, they're ideal for storage and such a nice accent with so many different types of ceramic and metal fixtures."
Bill Bacnotan, an associate manager at Restoration Hardware in Maryland, says that cotton swabs, bath oil beads or even pumice stones look great in smaller, clear glass containers. His favorite from Restoration Hardware is the German lead crystal Chatham accessories that range from 5 to 6 inches tall and have a polished chrome or antique bronze finish.
And big glass jars are going over in a big way at Restoration Hardware, too. "Our Grand Scale Glass Jars are reminiscent of old-fashioned candy store jars and they're 18 to 23 inches tall," he says. "They're the perfect proportion for great big baths and they also look good at the foot of a pedestal sink in the powder room. They look really sharp holding several sea sponges or a variety of colorful bars of soap, or maybe even holding a rolled towel or several wash cloths." The jars are each anchored by a pedestal base and crowned with a finial lid.
Ceramics and Color
Clear glass is the most popular countertop container material, but new offerings in ceramic or translucent glass obscure less attractive objects, from disposable razors to an extra roll of toilet paper. At the same time, these models can add color or pattern to an otherwise drab bathroom, or even a sense of history.
Kohler, for example, makes a series of Ankara ceramic canisters that feature a delicate filigree and diamond pattern in tones of blue inspired by a 14th century water vessel unearthed near the Euphrates River in Turkey. A Fables and Flowers set populated with tulips in shades of red, pink and white is based on 17th century English botanical drawings.
Tall, cylindrical Mediterranean-style glass canisters in red or amber can bring color into an all-white bath without going over the top, says Accents of Salado's Cynthia Watson. "The colors are so bright and crisp and glass is naturally such a clean, hygienic material," she says.
As for the folks who are decorating for rambunctious bathers, be they 2-year-olds or adults, there are nice, new, non-breakable offerings, too. The Container Store, for example, sells 3- to 4-inch diameter hat-box shaped canisters made of acrylic, with white on the bottom and sporty hot pink covers. The Home Focus catalog features a vanity tower of round, frosted acrylic drawers that swing out from chrome mesh shelves that would sit well on a contemporary counter.
And no design law says the containers have to be round. The Container Store also offers a cigar-box-shaped Bamboo Lattice Vanity Box that measures 9-1/2" x 5-1/2" x 2-3/4" high; it matches an open Bamboo Lattice Vanity Caddy and dovetails nicely with an Asian-theme or spa-style bath. For clear-glass fans, there's Target's set of four square canisters with plastic-sealed glass tops, ranging in sizes from 28 to 64 ounces.
Finding suitable countertop containers is no longer limited to looking in the bath accessory section of a store. Target, for example, offers the Monterey, a set of three colorful, striped, urn-shaped kitchen canisters that will fit nicely in a contemporary bath or a folk art powder room. At 9 to 10 inches tall, they're a nice size for a medium or large bath and can easily accommodate razors, shampoo bottles or hair spray pumps that you consistently use but don't want in plain view on the counter. And the megastore's clear, acrylic Chequers canister set could just as stylishly hold bath salts and wash cloths as it could flour and coffee.
Try Mixing and Matching
If you're not quite sure how a container or group of containers will work in your bath, Restoration Hardware's Bacnotan advises matching the finish, first. "If your fixtures are chrome or nickel, pick containers with the same type accents," he says. "The chrome has a blue hue and a cleaner look and nickel gives more richness with a gold or yellow tone. From a distance, you wouldn't be able to tell the containers didn't match, but side by side it would be really evident as the containers will probably be close to the other fixtures."
In large-scale bathrooms, you want larger containers to maintain the proportions, says Bacnotan. "But don't shy away from using a big piece in a small bath — just make sure you only use one or two."
And with all those wonderful options out there, feel free to mix and match, he adds. "I recommend sticking to the accepted wisdom of using an odd number of objects in a grouping, but other than that, don't be too timid to experiment," he says. "I always say, 'Use what makes you feel good in your decor.'"