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The First Things Guests Notice About Your Bathroom, Experts Say

Leave your visitors with a good impression (and a clean towel to dry their hands on).

Our bathrooms may be the most important spaces in our home: We literally can't live without them. They're so familiar that we may not think about what guests pick up on when they pop into the bath. Beyond the basics of keeping the bathroom clean and germ-free, what stands out to someone who's seeing the space with fresh eyes? The answers might surprise you. Ahead, interior experts tell us the first things guests notice about your bathroom.

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The lighting.

white bathroom, interior design mistakes

One detail you might not notice—but your guests will—is how the space is lit. From decorative sconces to mood-setting recessed lighting, it sets the overall tone of the room.

"Light plays a big role in how guests perceive the home: Is it dark and dreary or is it airy and light, giving it an inviting feel that makes you want to stay a while?" notes Yasmine El Sanyoura, home designer at real estate website Opendoor.

"If natural light is an option for you, ensure that curtains and shades are up during daytime visits to make the space feel warm and welcoming (until the guest chooses to switch this up for privacy reasons, of course)," El Sanyoura adds. "If natural light is harder to come by in your space, consider lighting solutions such as dimmers and light bulbs with warm tones so you can set a tone that's bright and cheerful and leaves a positive impression."

The smell.

close up of candle in glass container burning with two candles behind it
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It is, after all, a bathroom. And it's up to you whether it smells like a bottle of bleach or a tranquil spa. But we can probably all agree that you don't want your guests being reminded of all the cleaning products you just used and where you used them.

"Add a diffuser, candle, or something like a Pura air freshener to ensure the scent is welcoming—especially after a smell-intensive cleaning session," advises El Sanyoura.

Jen Stark, founder of Happy DIY Home, specifically recommends a bamboo or citrus-scented candle to give the room a clean, refreshing scent.

Counter clutter.

soap dispenser toothbrush holder and towels in bathroom
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Out-of-sight-out-of-mind is a concept that definitely applies to the bathroom. Do you really want your guests to see your razor laying next to your toothbrush alongside your night guard? Not only that, but even if your bathroom is clean, clutter can make it seem not so.

"Is the bathroom vanity counter overflowing with products and hairbrushes and cotton balls?" asks Christy Biberich, founder and CEO of Christy B. Home. "If guests frequently use your primary bathroom when they visit, then investing in good organizational containers to keep clutter at bay is essential. Items that are used every day, like makeup brushes or cotton swabs, can be stored on the countertop, but in attractive display vessels that make them feel like part of the design of the room."

READ THIS NEXT: The 5 Worst Things You're Doing to Your Toilet, According to Plumbers.

The decorative details.

Bathroom Sink Dirtiest Things in Your Home

Guests will notice the little details, too. This includes additions like fresh flowers, interesting mirrors, and matching towels that can bring the bathroom to life and make it feel more inviting and stylish.

"The bathroom is a great place to experiment with home accessories, and a guest will notice if the space has some of these on display," says El Sanyoura. "Whether it's framed art, dried, fake, or real flowers in a statement vase, or a tray with folded hand towels or an assortment of perfumes and room sprays, a cohesive design with memorable decor items will go a long way."

Stark adds that small details such as artwork or plants can set the tone for the whole room. "Guests notice when tiles are laid out in a creative pattern and when there is an overall sense of harmony between the different elements."

The whole-room vibe.

bathroom with freestanding tub and green subway tile, bathroom accessories
Shutterstock/Monkey Business Images

Speaking of the tone of the whole room, this is something that Magda Rauscher, principal at My Modern Dom interiors, says will leave a lasting impression on your guests. "Is it dark and moody with darker walls and deep, rich finishes? Spa-like, with stone tile and airy feel? Fun and playful with interesting tile and creative lighting?"

Rauscher says that when she works with clients, this is the first thing she asks them—how they want to feel while using the bathroom. "From there, I select tile that will help provide a base for the bathroom and add lighting that will highlight the tile design," she says. "Finally come fixtures, which I think of as the jewelry of the entire room, that extra touch that will make the room extra special."


person wearing gloves cleaning bathroom sink
Shutterstock/Brian A Jackson

Who doesn't notice a dirty bathroom? Surprisingly, the room's owner may not, as it's something you see every day and become almost immune to.

And the biggest place you might miss is the toilet. "Guests will notice if your toilet has dirty stains in it or if the back of the toilet seat is littered with dust and black strands of hair to make anyone gag," says Hannah Sanderson, CEO and founder of product review site Clever Canadian. "This kind of thing can happen in bathrooms that have been neglected for a week or two."

El Sanyoura recommends paying attention to the smaller details you might not think about as much. "Are the hand towels and bath mats dirty and damp? Are the faucets covered in water stains? Has the sink basin been ignored? What about the perimeter of the toilet bowl? These details make a difference, so ensure that the bath is tidy before having guests over. Other areas to consider cleaning include light switches, floors, shower doors, and door handles."

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