Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Making Base Housing Feel Like Home: Small Bathroom Decor Ideas


Anyone who lives in military base housing knows all too well how challenging it is to create a space that feels like home when painting or major DIY renovation projects aren't always an option. Even the smallest changes or DIY project is done with the knowledge that time in base housing is temporary and any change made will have to be changed back when we move out! This usually results in living with things we don't necessarily like about our house.

When we moved into our home on base, I knew the small downstairs powder room was going to be a challenging space to brighten up because of its size and shape. The room is narrow and deep in a hallway with little natural light; so it is usually dark. Like the rest of our house, the walls are bright white and textured so any DIY bathroom decor ideas needed to include color to brighten the space. We knew we would be moving and because it's on-base housing any bathroom vanity makeover needed to be temporary, removable, and inexpensive. For just a bit more than $100 and without paint, the small powder room was transformed using materials that could move with us to our next home.

Here is the bathroom when we moved into the house. The room felt cold, sterile, and dark despite the bright white walls.

small bathroom before

Because so many details bothered me, including the face-height towel bar nowhere near the sink, it was hard to decide where to begin. The 3-bulb vanity light was not very pretty and the sink itself had no storage or way to conceal the plumbing attachments. My main goal was to prevent that from being the first thing people would see looking into the room!

Vanity before photo

A serendipitous online clearance sale on rolls of blue vinyl stripes that perfectly fit the bathroom vanity wall width made the decision to create a striped accent wall an easy one. I love a red, white, and blue combination for a nautical-looking room; especially in a small one like a powder room.

I purchased two rolls of 10 pre-cut navy blue vinyl stripes for $28 for the accent wall.  I ended up using eleven stripes for the accent wall and although I was worried that it might be difficult for the vinyl stripes to adhere to a heavily textured wall, they stayed in place perfectly.


I found a wood look mirror at Homegoods for $32 and knew it would fill the area over the sink much better than the flat, boring mirror that was there and hold up to splashes or cleaning. We hung the new mirror right over the top of the old one so we didn't even have to worry about re-hanging it when we move. When I found a clearance three light vanity light with metal shades for $40 at Home Depot, the vanity area came together exactly how I wanted it to!

I shopped the rest of my house for the accessories we used. The blue whale was sitting in our toy closet.


By itself, it seemed out of place on the white wall but after adding metal hooks, rope, and a burlap ribbon, it fits perfectly next to the wood toned mirror over the sink.


After hanging the whale, the red lobster towel hook and red metal octopus joined in and basically turned the blue and white bathroom makeover into a red, white, and blue color scheme with a nautical/ocean theme I hadn't really planned but went with anyway.

Red bathroom accents

I added one of our red gas station number signs and moved the toilet paper holder back into the nook where the toilet is because it made better sense to have it there (base housing) and so it wasn't one of the first things you see looking into the room.


The red octopus looked strange to me on its own, like the whale did before adding rope and ribbon to it, so I used an old reclaimed wood frame to give it more of a space of its own.

The last things I added to the bathroom makeover were two $18 Ikea shelves that matched the same wood color of the vanity mirror and with metal brackets similar in look to the metal vanity light. The two shelves sit over the toilet and help break up the tall, plain, bright white wall.

bathroom shelves

I added a tall vase soon after installing the shelves and took away the happy sign which made even more of a difference in how stark and bland the wall looked back there in the little cave-like area where the toilet is.

For just over $100, our small base housing bathroom was transformed with a vinyl stripes accent wall, new mirror, new vanity light, and two floating shelves. Colorful wall hangings that we had on hand finished brightening up the stark, all-white bathroom. Even though it's not usually possible to make permanent or expensive changes to military base housing, try small changes like these to make your base housing feel like home!



  1. I love the nautical theme you chose for your bathroom! Even though it is a small space it really does feel bright and open!

  2. What a transformation! I love the nautical look, so cute!

  3. I love that you went with the nautical theme!

  4. I like the theme you went with. The room has so much more character now. Great job!

  5. Looks great! Love the nautical theme, it's the theme I always tend to go with when I decorate the guest bathroom. We've only lived in base housing once (overseas) as we always preferred living off base, but remember the challenges of having to decorate especially when everything is white - walls, floor, cabinets. Adding personality and pops of color can be challenging when painting the walls are not really an option.

  6. This is such a huge transformation! The striped wallpaper makes such a difference. I love the thoughtful details like the whale and the octopus. They really bring the nautical theme together.

  7. Wow, what a beautiful job. My mom never really decorated our townhouse when we lived in base. You make your unit so homey and lively!

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  9. I LOVE how cosy it looks! Such a smart idea with the stripes!

    Adore the "powder room" sign.

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