The Best Over-the-Toilet Storage That Doesn’t Feel Like Your Post-College Setup
No wobbling metal frames in sight.
Updated Mar 2, 2023 4:42 PM
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We admit that over-the-toilet storage may spark memories of college dormitories or shoebox-size starter apartments. But no matter the square footage you’re working with (or the volume of stuff you need to tuck away), there is an art to crafting a visually pleasing area atop the loo. “What goes above the toilet is really dependent on your storage needs,” designer Emily Sanford tells us. If you’re graced with space and can use this as a purely decorative area, she suggests hanging art or installing a floating shelf for decor: “Fill it with a mix of pretty objects like a beautiful candle with a cloche, a chic glass match striker, a reeded diffuser, a plant, or even a beautiful tissue box cover.”
On the other hand, if you went a little too hard on your last Costco run and need somewhere to put all of your bulk toiletry goods, there are solutions for that as well. Sanford recommends hiding eyesore items—like extra bars of soap or toilet paper—in pretty baskets or behind the closed doors of a wall-mounted cabinet.
Whether you go for a freestanding cupboard or set of floating shelves (more on those different categories ahead), the material can also help it look more polished and less like a second thought. “Cerused white oak and natural walnut are our two favorite woods,” says Dekar Design cofounder Caroline Grant. “We also love doing painted shelves to pick up a color in the tile.” Sanford adds that she tends to gravitate toward a mix of wood and marble, or glass shelving and brass hardware, but with a hint of natural materials in the form of a rattan tray.
And if the layout of your bathroom doesn’t even have space above the toilet to spare, don’t forget about the tank lid. “If there is a window above the toilet or the space does not allow for anything to be hung on the wall behind the toilet, opt for a pretty tray on top of the tank lid,” Sanford says. Ahead, a quick overview of the categories to pick and choose from when planning beautiful (and efficient) over-the-toilet storage.
If ever there was a polarizing over-the-toilet storage piece, it’s the freestanding unit. According to Sanford, it’s better placed away from the toilet and in another area of your bathroom, if possible. “Freestanding furniture pieces are one of my favorite storage solutions for a bathroom,” she says. “If you have an empty wall and the space allows, vintage wood armoires or reeded glass cabinets can be beautiful. The options are endless.” That said, for those who live in especially snug spaces but have their sights set on something OTT (over the toilet, that is), look for options in modern silhouettes and materials that will complement and elevate your bathroom.
Our top picks include a bamboo slatted cabinet with an adjustable shelf; a slim, leaning shelving system from West Elm perfect for small spaces; a modern black sturdy frame initially designed to fit over a mini fridge with enough clearance for a toilet; and a metal-and-wood combo that shoppers can’t get enough of.
“Adds a ton of storage with a very small footprint,” one reviewer writes. “I’ve tried out a variety through the years and most require threading behind the toilet and getting on the floor to fasten a bar, which is gross. Most also take up a ton of space above and around the toilet and make it a little uncomfortable sitting and difficult when cleaning. Finally, most are a little wobbly from baseboards, and since being flush against the wall is what adds sturdiness, they can be flimsy. This one, however, is a breeze to install. No getting on the floor. You won’t notice it’s even there while sitting, and it’s easy to mop around. Its design makes it superstable.”
“If you are going to opt for a cabinet or storage piece, attach it to the wall,” Sanford says. You can buy one that’s prefabricated or tap a local carpenter. “Usually custom-made cabinets are very expensive when creating an entire kitchen or vanity, but a single cabinet for a bathroom is worth the investment, especially when it comes to practical storage solutions,” she adds. If a custom build feels like too much, you can also play around with an existing cabinet to make it mirror the feel of your bathroom. “Ways to dress it up include painting or wallpapering the interior for a pop of color or swapping out the knobs,” she notes.
Installation note: If you’re installing a unit, Sanford says that the bottom of it should be at least 14 inches above the top of the tank (this frees up enough room to remove the tank lid if needed). “You also don’t want the cabinet to be any deeper than the tank itself. As a rule of thumb, we like to cap the depth at 10 or 11 inches from the wall (counting the 2 inches of space between wall and tank, and about 8 to 9 inches for the tank), but it depends on the style of toilet you have,” she adds.
For a bathroom installation that’s less involved than a mounted cabinet, Dekar Design cofounder Dolores Suarez suggests shelving: “We love adding floating shelves above the toilet for towels (nicely folded, of course).” You can also incorporate artwork and decor alongside storage baskets and bins to optimize the shelving space. “Trays can help break up a space visually,” Sanford notes.
Our recommendations use different materials, including clear glass and powder-coated steel, which is what the shelving that our deputy shopping editor owns is made of. (Her hot tip: Add on the attachable swivel shelf for extra toiletry space.) We also found a handy unit that includes a built-in railing for towels.
Hooks and Baskets
If you’re feeling clever and crafty, you can incorporate hooks above the toilet in lieu of a shelf or cabinet and hang a basket for extra storage. “A hanging basket from the ceiling is also a decorative and practical way to store additional toilet paper,” Suarez notes. And while you can’t go wrong with a simple IKEA setup, why not elevate the look by pairing up ceramic pieces by Virgina Sin with handmade braided jute baskets outfitted with a handy loop.