If you’ve ever spent time in a spa, you probably recall the atmosphere of pure tranquility. There’s nothing better than wrapping yourself in a warm towel and enjoying a foot rub (from someone other than your partner), all while scents of fresh eucalyptus drift through the air. It makes you feel like an ancient Greek goddess. Too bad you can’t recreate a spa retreat in your own bathroom — or can you?
With a little ingenuity, anything is possible. For help, we turned to luxury interior designer and decorator Margarita Bravo. She’s provided Woman’s World with six simple tips for turning your private bathroom into a spa retreat on a dime. The only downside? The masseuse isn’t included.
Get Your Grow On
When designing your bathroom to emulate a spa, it’s important to get the mood just right. Incorporating natural elements will help evoke feelings of relaxation — and what better natural decoration is there than plants? “Not only are plants easy on the eyes, but they are known for their positive effects, from air purification to relaxation,” Bravo says.
Indeed, some plants possess extra air purifying qualities and can absorb harmful toxins. Two to try:
- Bird’s Nest Fern — These plants need moisture, so a humid shower room is the perfect place for them to grow, plus they purify the air of formaldehyde.
- Peace Lily — This white flower breaks down and neutralizes toxic household gasses like benzene, formaldehyde, and carbon monoxide, and likewise loves a steamy spot to sprout. It also adds an elegant touch.
“The good news is that it’s super easy to source plants — local grocery stores and hardware stores will have what you’re looking for,” Bravo says. She suggests hunting for sales on bigger plants, and using these as accents amongst a mix of smaller (and more affordable) growths in your bathroom. You should also keep an eye out for pretty plant pots that complement the color scheme you’ve chosen. “Plant stands and unique pots really add drama and depth to a space,” Bravo says.
Seek Out Lush Textures and Simple Colors
A key part of the spa experience is the dreamy-soft towels and robes you are wrapped in while being pampered. To recreate that experience in your home, you’ll want to seek out similarly lush and plush consistencies that activate the spa vibe. “Incorporating thick and textured bath mats, towels, and robes will instantly add a luxury feeling,” Bravo says. “The good news is that thin towels usually cost the same amount as thick towels!” Once you shell out for a few nice towels, keep them smelling fresh and feeling fluffy for a long time by washing with white vinegar and baking soda.
Color-wise, Bravo believes in simplicity. “Opt for white or muted monochromatic towels, so everything feels in flow,” she says, noting that subdued hues without prints or patterns reduce visual clutter and cue relaxation. If you’re searching for a particularly soothing palate, neutral blues may be ideal for your spa decor; we psychologically associate blue with calmness, and when it’s picked up by your ganglion cells, it actually works to reduce blood pressure and slow your heart rate.
Stimulate the Senses
Smell is an essential part of relaxation. A 2018 study published in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience found that smell can act as an anti-anxiety medication, affecting our brain chemistry in ways that mimic the effects of prescription drugs like Valium or diazepam.
Bravo suggests hanging fresh eucalyptus sprigs in your shower to naturally incorporate aromatherapy. “The steam of the shower activates the eucalyptus,” she explains. “It also looks very luxurious… and it’s easy to find.” Better still, eucalyptus is relatively affordable (compared to other fresh herbs and plants), and it retains its shape and looks beautiful even after it’s dried out.
Candles are another great way to enhance your bathroom’s peaceful ambience. Search for your favorite scents in oversized vessels so they last longer, and get more bang for your buck by refilling the pretty decorative containers that “fancy candles” come in with budget-friendly versions from craft and dollar stores. (An added bonus: You won’t have a ton of tiny candles cluttering up your bathroom.) You can also learn to DIY candles. “It’s not hard once you get the hang of it, and candle-making kits are readily available,” says Bravo. Try the DilaBee DIY Candle Making Kit ($27.99 from Amazon).
Light It Right
Lighting is a subtle thing, but it makes a big difference. High-end spas rarely have harsh overhead lighting, opting instead for fixtures that emit a soft, comforting glow. “Fixtures are one of the easiest ways to elevate decor without breaking the bank,” Bravo advises.
A versatile vanity light is a good bet — find one with a clean design that can be mounted horizontally over your mirror or vertically on either side (like this JoosenHouse fixture, $29.88 from Amazon). Sconces mounted on either side of your bathroom mirror are another good option. (Try the bell-shaped Keener Armed Sconces, $71 from Wayfair). “Check the internet; Facebook marketplace is known to have a few gems at very affordable prices,” Bravo suggests. “Local yard sales, thrift, and vintage stores might also have some amazing finds.”
Another consideration is hiring an electrician to install dimmable lights in your bathroom. Having different layers of light to choose from — on dimmers and separate circuits — allows you to switch between bright light for cleaning or putting on makeup and dim light for times of relaxation. Consider your intentions, too; if you plan on spending a lot of time soaking in the tub, for example, waterproof light fittings in your bathtub will twinkle through the water and make you feel ultra-serene.
Mirror, Mirror On the Wall(s)
Chances are, your bathroom is a lot smaller than a public spa. Adding mirrors helps to create the illusion of a more expansive space. Bravo suggests refurbishing a mirror frame by spray painting it gold, adding a varnish, or whitewashing or distressing it (to make the frame look more antique or shabby chic, if a more modern aesthetic isn’t your thing).
For a splurge, try a dimmable LED mirror ($269, from Lowes) with anti-fog technology. LEDs are the most energy-efficient method of lighting and will save you money off your energy bill. They also last a lot longer than regular bulbs; the average LED has a lifespan of roughly 50,000 hours. For a more natural look (that’s also easier on the wallet), consider a mirror with a wood frame ($49 from Lowe’s).
Accent hooks are another fun way to add unexpected spa-like details into your space without spending much. “I love a Turkish Towel hanging from an upcycled brass hook,” Bravo says. “It’s very functional — which is also key to enjoying your space.”
Consider whether a silver stainless steel, gold, or black hook would work best with your bathroom’s color scheme. Wayfair has a lot of affordable options for accent hooks to dangle your robe or towels from, or you can try something even more whimsical and wild, like colorful raindrop hooks (starting at $3.99 from Etsy) or brass art deco hooks (starting at $7.16 from Etsy).
We hope these tips will put you on the path to calm and enlightenment from the comfort of your own bathroom.
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