Real Solutions: the Perfect Bathroom Shelf

February 18, 2015

Admit it: There's something invariably exciting about seeing what's behind a normally closed door, whether entering a neighbor's home for the first time, stealing a glance inside the kitchen cupboard of a cook you admire, or poking around the bathroom cabinet at a dinner party. We're here to open more of those doors and share their secrets. 

Today: Lauren Kelley, Food52's Director of Customer Experience and Operations, tells all about her tiny city bathroom and the one genius upgrade that makes it really work.

As a city dweller, I've learned that it’s better to forget that I once had a yard with a raised bed garden and a finished basement for storing holiday décor. I don’t mind small spaces -- in fact, I relish that cleaning my apartment takes 20 minutes, tops. But sometimes, just sometimes, I wish there were more to it.

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Lauren Kelley's Bathroom Shelf

Case in point: My urban apartment for two has a single bathroom the size of most suburban half-baths. It’s 45 inches by 80 inches. (Total!) I might even be exaggerating the measurements to make myself feel better. Yes, there happens to be a claw foot tub in it, but it’s one of the most diminutive ones ever made and it takes up over half the floor space. Add in the toilet, wedged in the corner, and the smallest standard vanity on the market (or so our super once proudly told us; it just barely fits), and we’ve got ourselves some cramped quarters.

I remembered the bathroom differently when we went to see the apartment, so you can imagine how I must have felt when we got the keys, and I realized I had doubled its size in my head. Where will we store extra toiletries? How can this space be functional and somewhat attractive? How can I ever let a guest see this? I throw a lot of dinner parties and love having people over. Panic.

The only thing going for the bathroom is amazing light -- it’s got a giant, south-facing window with glorious brightness. In the morning, it is a photographer’s dream. When we first searched for a way to improve the tiny space, our goal was to get some storage in there while maintaining the loftiness brought on by a flood of natural light. We found cool hanging shelves for the back of the door and installed towel hooks, but were still stumped by how to bring it all together. 

That’s when I fell in love with an acrylic shelf. Yes, it’s basic. Yes, it’s affordable. And yes, it changed our bathroom for good. The light streams through, and it stores just enough to be practical, yet showy. It wins through simplicity. It won’t work for everyone, but in a room where there were no other options, we’re now able to store an extra roll of toilet paper, a candle, plant cuttings from friends, and extra vases for décor. 

Our bathroom will always be a tiny, strange space -- but now it’s got a little something to it. 

What normally closed doors in your home are you actually brave enough to let us see inside? Tag pictures of your well-stocked shelves, shoe storage, and inspiring freezer drawers with #f52home. 

Photo by Lauren Kelley

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • deb ernst
    deb ernst
  • Adrienne
  • Sandra Thebaud
    Sandra Thebaud
  • Sameshirt
  • Sallyann Tinfow
    Sallyann Tinfow
Lauren Kelley

Written by: Lauren Kelley

Dairy + spatula = snack


deb E. August 13, 2019
Where did you find this gorgeous shelf? It’s so useful and beautiful!
Lauren K. August 15, 2019
It's the Single Acrylic Shelf from the Container Store. Who knew?!
Adrienne January 9, 2017
I wish I could see a floorplan. I can't imagine such a micro-mini bathroom. I just moved into a new apartment here in the city and might borrow this idea for my own light drenched mini bathroom. Thanks!
Sandra T. February 23, 2015
very nice!
Sameshirt February 23, 2015
For additional bathroom storage: my husband makes lovely handcrafted wood medicine cabinets at his studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Lauren K. February 23, 2015
I love those! If only I weren't renting -- but I'll bookmark your husband's work for the future.
Sameshirt February 24, 2015
Thanks! Glad you like them, Lauren! We think they're ideal for small bathrooms--but they work in big ones, too.
Sallyann T. February 19, 2015
What a sweet touch! It makes me feel good just looking at it.
Brian M. February 18, 2015
This seems really practical and attractive. Also, I NEED to own that beaker-like apparatus. Maybe two of 'em: one for the bathroom shelf and one for the kitchen.
Marian B. February 18, 2015
This is gorgeous. I recently put a shelf up in my bathroom -- with a plant and everything! -- and it makes me feel like more of a grownup.
Kenzi W. February 18, 2015
I finally feel like I can start my small bathroom support group. Thank you for this!
Lauren K. February 18, 2015
Small bathroom love! Mostly!
Posie (. February 18, 2015
so clever, particularly using something so lightweight for a shelf! i want them all over my apartment.
Lauren K. February 18, 2015
They make them in all sorts of sizes and even a double-shelved option! It was hard to pick, but in the end, the small one was extra perfect for our space.
Kelsey L. February 19, 2015
Might I ask where the shelf is from? It's lovely!
Lauren K. February 19, 2015
Shockingly, I found it at The Container Store. I'm so glad you like it!