When I visited Japan, I fell in love with the Zen vibe that infused so many places I visited—especially the Japanese bathhouses!
When I got home, I was determined to bring the same Zen sense of peace, privacy, tranquility to my bathroom. After all, whether I’m showering, bathing, or doing my hair, I want my bathroom to be a place of restoration and calm.
The great news is that turning my bathroom Zen didn’t cost a fortune. In fact, there are lots of Zen bathroom ideas that are extremely affordable.
10 Steps to an Affordable Zen Bathroom
Let’s take a creative journey to transform your current bathroom into a Zen bathroom that you’ll never want to leave. And the best news? You won’t need to spend much money at all.
Zen derives from a spiritual form of Buddhism that values nature, simplicity and peace. So your first step in creating a Zen environment is to hide or pack away any products or ornaments that clutter your bathroom and subconsciously amp up your anxiety when you gaze on them.
You don’t need to throw everything away, but it would be good to sort the things you need, from the old, unnecessary items. Store the items that you still use in bathroom cabinets.
2. Focus on Neutral Tones
A Zen bathroom has neutral tones instead of bright colors. If your bathroom walls are too colorful, consider finding subtle earth-toned paint over bright colors. The colors of Zen introduce the natural elements of air, stone, earth, and water into your home. These colors include:
- Shades of blue (light or dark)
- Shades of green (light or dark)
The colors of your Zen bathroom should instill you with calm. Aim to balance light and dark shades of color.
You can use a few brightly colored accents. However, these should not overwhelm the neutrality of the bathroom but instead draw your eye to its fresh color infusion. Accent colors can add to the aura, mood, and energy of your Zen bathroom.
3.Use Natural Materials
The materials you use in your Zen bathroom should be fresh, natural, and earthy. Whether it is a bath caddy, towel rail, mat, or ornament, the best materials to bring in the Zen vibe are marble, granite, stone, and concrete (matt or polished finish).
Any type of wood or bamboo (which is technically a grass) can greatly enhance the peaceful feeling in your Zen bathroom.
Here are some of my favorite wood bath accessories:
4. Add Mood Lighting
Lights can give any room an ambient feel. You could ask an electrician to install a dimming function to your current lighting, or for a very inexpensive fix, get a strip of LED lights. Put the strip out of sight under the bathroom cabinet or behind the vanity. This technique can create a soothing atmosphere.
For more on how to create mood-enhancing bathroom lighting, read the Secrets to Achieve the Best Bathroom Lighting by bathroom designer Kathleen Stacy Finley.
5. Try Ikebana
Of course, it would be ideal if we could buy everything we desire, but unfortunately, this is not always possible. DIY to the rescue!
One of the most beautiful and simple additions to a Zen bathroom is Ikebana, another Japanese concept—and an easy décor that won’t cost anything. Ikebana is the Japanese art of making sculpture from leaves, sticks, stems or flowers.
All you need to do is go outside and find dried branches or small twigs. Place these branches in a glass vase or any container that has an earthy vibe.
If you want, you can even paint the branches white or black to make a bigger statement. The branches against the cool wall tones can give your Zen bathroom a warm but sophisticated feel.
6. Make Stone Sculptures
Whenever you bring nature inside, you add to the tranquility of the space. For this craft, you need stones and pebbles (light and dark) and stone glue or epoxy glue.
Then search beaches, riverbeds and forests for stones that are relatively flat. Glue your largest, flattest stones to the bottom of your container. And then glue the next largest stones on top of those. Make sure that your sculpture is not top-heavy, so it doesn’t fall over.
7. Add Bathroom Plants
Green plants are an essential feature for a Zen bathroom. In addition to bringing nature indoors, plants oxygenate and clean your bathroom air.
But don’t think you need full light for bathroom plants. You don’t even need any natural light at all! To find the perfect plants for your bathroom, assess your bathroom light: is it direct, moderate, indirect? Or do you have no natural light at all?
Once you’re clear on that, consult my post on bathroom plants. I interviewed 23 horticulturalists from across the US. They each shared their favorite bathroom plant for various lighting situations. Get suggestions for the best bathroom plants here.
And take it from me, the pothos Ivy is perfect for a windowless bathroom. I got this one a year ago. It comes in a really cute planter and mine still looks great.
8.Infuse the Air with Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy does wonders to instill tranquility—the objective of Zen.
There are several ways to introduce essential oils into your bathroom. You can use a diffuser like these (pictured above) on the bathroom vanity counter.
You can get a showerhead that releases essential oils and vitamins into your shower water. (This is great for skin and hair!)
Or you can add essential oils into your bathwater—as long as you know the safe way to do it.
Try lavender to decrease anxiety; ylang ylang to bring down blood pressure; and cedarwood to relax and prepare for a deep sleep.
9. Illuminate with Candles
Candles are calming, and there are so many ways to incorporate them into your Zen bathroom.
Try placing different-sized pillar candles on a metal tray. While bathing, you can place the tray on the floor next to the bath and light the candles. You can even put small stones around all of the candles. This will give the finished product a more earthy finish.
If you have a mirror panel to spare, use it as the base of your tray. This will give the lit candles an infinite look and greatly enhance the Zen vibe. When not in use, display the Zen tray on your bathroom vanity or even on top of your toilet tank.
Or else set a dozen tea light candles around the rim of your bathtub. Allow yourself to get mesmerized by the tiny flames as you enjoy a long soak.
However, if the idea of fire in the bathroom is anything but relaxing to you, not to worry! There are gorgeous LED flameless candles you can try. They cost far less than wax candles. Plus, replace the batteries every few months and they’ll last for years.
10. Use an Eco-Friendly Bath Mat
Try a bath mat made from a new material called “diatomaceous earth.” It’s a mouthful to say, but the material itself has the perfect minimalist look for a Zen bathroom. And honestly, since it’s 100% natural and eco-friendly, it truly conforms to the reverence for nature that is inherent in Zen.
Plus, this bath mat is quite budget-friendly. And even better, it’s mold and mildew resistant. But unlike a bathroom rug that can be unsanitary, you never have to worry about washing this material; it dries so quickly and doesn’t absorb water.
Your New Zen Bathroom on a Budget
As you can see, you truly can create a Zen bathroom on the cheap. All you need is a bit of creativity, nature, and a bit of guidance. Zen is ultimately about the flow of energy and the feeling of being in sync with your thoughts and your emotions.
For more ideas on how to create a Zen sanctuary, read about how to design your Zen bathroom with the four ancient elements in mind: earth, water, fire and air.