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Punch Up the Powder Room

This little space can make a big impression on your guests. Here are eight ways to make sure they leave with a good one.

You might not use your powder room every day, but pretty much anyone who comes into your home will visit it. Ellen McGauley, homes editor at Coastal Living magazine, shares her smart suggestions for turning an extra bathroom into a spot that’s stylish and inviting.

1. Do a Maintenance Check

“First, make sure everything works,” McGauley says. That means the faucet water temperature must be well regulated (not scalding!), the toilet doesn’t require any handle-jiggling, and the door closes properly—and locks.

2. Add Storage—and Hooks

Don’t store toilet paper in another room and think you’ll remember to install a new roll before guests arrive. You won’t. Instead, find a place for it in the bathroom, even if space is limited. (Woven baskets tucked under the sink are perfectly acceptable, McGauley says.) “Your friends won’t care how adorable the overall design is if they’re out of toilet paper,” she says. Another item that’s often forgotten: A hook on the back of the door for a jacket or a bag.

3. Embrace Off-the-Wall Walls

“This isn’t your main gathering space, so go ahead with a blow-the-doors-off wallpaper that reflects your personality,” McGauley says. Because there’s no shower, you don’t need heavy-duty wallpaper that can withstand moisture. You’ll have plenty of choices. And even if the wallpaper you love is pricey, a small space won’t demand much of it. If you don’t like wallpaper, McGauley suggests a fun, vivid paint color and plenty of personalized art to decorate the walls. “This is a great place to do a gallery of family photos that can give guests a little insight into your life,” she says.

4. Cultivate a Sense of Place

Vintage postcards or posters that show your hometown, pictures by local artists or framed newspaper clippings are fun ways to remind guests where they’ve landed. “These can be conversation pieces and another nice way to define your personality,” McGauley says.

5. Skip the Trendy Fixtures and Hardware

Bathrooms can look dated quickly, so stick to timeless accents to ensure your décor has staying power. Ideas for finishes: McGauley likes nickel and bronze (either polished or brushed), which she says won’t lock you into a certain style. Faucets should be streamlined without too many decorative elements: “Think simple and handsome—you can’t go wrong with something that’s curvy with a good arc,” she says. Delta Faucet’s Single Vero Handle Centerset and Addison Two Handle Widespread would fit the bill.

6. Find the Right Light

“It’s called the powder room for a reason,” McGauley says. “Guests are going to be fixing their faces, and first and foremost you want to make sure the space is well-lit and doesn’t feel like a closet.” Choose fixtures that reflect your personal style, like elegant sconces or a fun bubble chandelier.

7. Supersize the Mirror

Not only is a mirror functional, a large one will help bounce light around a small space. “I like a round one with a slim silhouette, but whatever you choose, you’ll want to go as big as you can to maximize the impact,” McGauley says.