Saving Money: Mixing Vintage and Discount Hardware in the Bathroom

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by Robin

We've been posting in dribs and drabs about our main floor bathroom project.  Earlier this week Ed shared the reveal and how-to for our peel and stick vinyl tiles floor.  Here's the how to for our faux beadboard wallpaper treatment.  There're a few more projects to add to the mix, but today is all about bathroom hardware.

Were you wondering how it's hanging in our bathroom?  

No, I didn't really think so, but I couldn't help asking.  Today's post is about how we went all frugal on all the gadgets that hang stuff in our bathroom.  We had some problems with the rods and holders in our bathroom.  Some were ugly.  Some were missing.  And one was downright dumb.  I am baffled that we waited so long to fix it all.

Now, we have a mix of vintage and discounted hardware that we're really pleased with.

1) Toilet Paper Holder

This is the downright dumb one:

I staged this photo to show you just how far the reach was from the john to the toilet paper.  The lower pair of yellow rectangles is where the paper roll used to hang. (The lower pair of knee-shaped blobs are my knees.  I wanted a very authentic shot, for journalistic purposes.  For the record, I am wearing shorts, not actively using the toilet.  I know you were wondering.)

In order to reach the paper one needed to reach about 3 ft.  Do-able for your average adult.  Impossible for children.  You can imagine the mishaps this arrangement caused.  Two words: Dribbles.  Smears.  (Too much information?)

I can't believe we've left this so long.  Without exaggeration, I have been dealing with this problem for over three decades.  This house was my grandparents and I remember visiting as a child and staring helplessly at the toilet paper roll all the way across the room.  If I remember this so clearly, why did it take 30+ years to fix this?  I have no idea.  Especially with kids living here and their friends visiting so often.  I am as baffled as you.

Here's what we've (finally) upgraded to:

It's a freestanding paper holder.  It's the only way to get the paper any closer in our tiny bathroom.  A wall mounted option wasn't going to work.  We tried every spot we could think of, which was one spot.  But we did the "sit test" and if the toilet paper were attached to the vanity, it would rest comfortably into one's ribs, or a little boy would pee on it.  Neither seemed just right.

So, I picked this one up at Home Sense for $19.99.  (I looked for a coupon before I left with no luck.)

2)  Hand Towel Holder

We haven't had a hand towel holder in years.  Our hand towels just shared a rod with our bath towels.  It was a rod left from when my dad last updated this bathroom when he owned the house; probably going on 15 years ago.  It was pretty functional, but also pretty f'ugly.  It looked constantly messy.

When we were touring Home Depot (on the same night we picked up our flooring) we spotted these on the discount table: a hand towel holder discounted to $7 and a robe hook for $5.   That night Home Depot was singing our song.

Here's our $12 at work:

The hand towel is now more, well, handy.  The robe hook is now more existy (i.e. it now exists).

3)  Bath Towel Rods

The bath towel rods we had been perfectly serviceable.  My original plan was to simply paint the old ones and be done with it.  The most frugal choice for certain.  But damp towels on painted wood seemed less and less like a good idea.  Something new would work better, but I just wasn't excited by another big box rod (and found nothing on clearance).  For me, a big-box rod would just be too matchy-matchy.

As I wandered through my favourite architectural salvage store on my lunch break I came across a solution:

These 1930's vintage towel bars are chrome, glass and perfect.  At the time, $45 for 3 seemed a bit steep.  But after I bought them, I discovered these from Restoration Hardware:

A reproduction of the very same towel bar!  Their price: $89 each.  Plus shipping.  Minus patina.  Mine were $15 each.   Mind you I had to buy 3 and only needed 2, but a backup rod may come in handy someday.

Here's our new (old) towel bar set-up:

See how perfectly folded these towels are?  From now on they will stay that way.

Uh-huh.  Sure.

Are you like me, do you have flashbacks to that scene from Sleeping with the Enemy with Julia Roberts whenever you perfectly straighten up towels?

Cost Breakdown:

  1. Toilet paper holder = $20
  2. Hand towel holder = $ 7
  3. Robe hook = $ 5
  4. Vintage Towel Rods = $ 45 (including the one extra rod that came with the set)
Total Cost = $ 77!

To see more of our Frugal Bathroom Reno, check out these previous posts:

  1. How to Install Paintable Beadboard Wallpaper
  2. How to Install Peel and Stick Vinyl Tiles (that you can grout!)
  3. Builder Basic to Beautiful: Medicine Cabinet Makeover
  4. Bathroom Vanity Makeover


  1. I love this post! We are renovating a bathroom, too--and just got back from a late night trip to Home Depot. We're going to make a towel rod with some plumbing fixtures--because we are also frugal/cheap and because we can't find one as long as we want.

    So glad to have discovered you through the Simple Design link up.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Rita! I'm happy to meet your blog. When we're home from our trip I plan to log some hours reading about your creative projects. ~ Robin

  2. I am planning on using the beadboard wall covering in my bathroom. I just had to comment on your towel rods. I own a 1929 home and these very towel rods are in my bathrooms.

  3. Awesome tutorial. Now I know what to do for the toweling. I bought some towel but I was confused how to hang these.Thank you so much for solving my problem.

  4. I always had issues with toilet paper holder as I have a small bathroom. After reading your awesome ideas, the problem is resolved. I take this opportunity to thank you. Any idea for shower cap holder?


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