Monday, August 15, 2011

Hand towels: where do you put them?

For more inspirational finds, please visit www.quatrefoildesign.com

This week I am selecting some of the small but important elements that go into finishing a house – the bath hardware, including the towel bars.  Given that we are nearing the end of a project that has involved hundreds (probably more like thousands!) of decisions, I am grateful for Restoration Hardware – their lines of stylish bath hardware in both chrome and polished nickel finishes have made the selections quite easy. 

My favorite design at Restoration Hardware is Chatham.  It is simple and timeless, with a nice elegant scale that works well in the new house.

Bath hardware is fairly straightforward, but I have found that the approach to the placement of hand towels is quite personal and is often dictated by the architecture and design of the space.  In general, I have observed that my designer likes to place hand towels on the counter, both in half bathrooms and the main bathrooms.  If there is a strong client preference to hang them on a wall (and the layout and design allows for this), as a general rule she prefers 18” towel bars over towel rings.  I have never really given much thought to this topic, but it has emerged that my husband has a preference for hanging hand towels whenever possible. 
I looked through my inspiration files, and saw many examples of hand towels placed on counters, similar to the way it is shown in this picture.  This is a good solution for this space - a towel bar or ring could not be mounted on the wall to the left of the sink because of the plugs and light switches. 

This powder room has hand towels on a tray.  There is room for a towel ring or bar on the wall, but the walls remain clear and uncluttered by placing the hand towels on the counter.

Brooks and Falotico[1]
I am not crazy about where the hand towels are hanging in this bathroom – draping them over the bar in the front of the vanity breaks up its pretty lines.

Many of my pictures are from magazine features, where some of the necessities of daily life are whisked away or airbrushed out.  This bathroom doesn’t seem to have a hand towel in sight, although to be fair one side of the wall can’t be seen. 

I love this picture of a sink under a window, via Belgian Pearls.  There is something so appealing about being able to look out of a window when at a sink.  Note the hand towels neatly folded on the counter.  My only issue with this is that in every day use, I suspect that the hand towels might start to look a bit messy draped on the counter.

Personally, I am a fan of a simple small towel bar if the space and style of the vanity allow for it. 

Powder rooms often have different requirements than bathrooms attached to bedrooms.  In this bathroom, a towel bar on the wall near each sink makes sense to me. Small towel bars, usually 18”, provide room for a hand towel and a washcloth.  Although harder to find, 12” towel bars are also sold in some lines.  We are cutting down 18” towel bars for a couple of the bathrooms where there is not much wall space – an advantage of having a variety of tools at the construction site.

In my inspiration file pictures, there are quite a few master bathroom spaces that don’t seem to have a designated place for the hand towel.  Designer and blogger Brooke Giannetti designed this space – I must ask her whether the intent is for the hand towel to rest on the counter or be hidden away. 

Another example of the ‘hand towel bar free look’ is seen in this bathroom. I assume it was staged for a real estate photo or a magazine shoot, but there are no hand towels to be seen.

This bathroom is another one of  my favorites, and looking at it with new eyes, I spot an towel bar mounted on the side of the cabinet.  If a hand towel bar is used, there are many who prefer to use an 18” bar rather than a ring.  Architecture by Brooks &  Falotico,  interior design by Boxwood Interiors.

Brooks and Falatico bath[1]
This is a beautiful bathroom (architecture by Brooks &  Falotico), but what strikes me the most is the abundance of towels in the space. There are towels underneath the sink, on the counter, and on a towel ring.  Interestingly, this is one of the few pictures in my files that shows a bathroom with a towel ring for the hand towel.  This bathroom has paneling, so the more compact design of a towel ring makes sense.  

So, where do you prefer to place a hand towel? Do you prefer placing it on the counter, hiding it away, or on the wall?  If you like the hand towel on the wall, what is your preference - towel bar or ring?

Things That Inspire Favorites: Cape Cod Metal Polishing Cloths

Things That Inspire Favorites: Oz Naturals Vitamin C Serum

Things That Inspire Favorites: Thera Breath Oral Rinse

To subscribe to my blog by email, click here.
To follow my blog on Facebook, click here.
Twitter: @TTIBlog
Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/ttiblog/
Visit my online store, Quatrefoil Designwww.quatrefoildesign.bigcartel.com

To see design, architecture, art, and decorative books that I recommend, please visit the Things That Inspire Amazon store.


  1. I have RH towel bars and love them they're so well made. I have towels to both sides of the sink, hate towels on the sink because they get wet when you wash your hands. You'll love your towel bars, enjoy your day!

  2. I have been looking for a square towel ring in polished nickel. Have you seen any good ones?

    1. Dillon Collection by Restoration Hardware makes a solid, beautiful square towel ring in PN.

  3. Love that your willing to talk about even the smallest details like towel bars! This topic is perfect timing for me. We have lived in our house for 2 years this month. When we were putting the finishing touches on our house towel bars/rings were an important decision for me. My inspiration bathrooms either showed the towel on the counter or a towel bar and I wasn't sure what they were using for the bar. In our half bath and kids bath I did end up putting towel rings on the wall. Honestly the thought of picking up the kids towels over and over and over didn't appeal to me. The only thing I would change about that would be to use a bar instead of ring. In the master bath I didn't do anything and thus the towels have been on the countertop. After two years I have grown tired of the towel falling in the floor and am ready to do something else. I used the Lugarno collection from RH in that bathroom and think I will try the bars in there. I think I would prefer an 12" bar to an 18" though.

  4. I like to have my towels on a bar. I think it's better, it keep them dry and easy to find. :-)

    Have a Blessed week!


    Luciane at HomeBunch.com

  5. I prefer them on a small bar or ring also. They never stay neatly folded on the sink. In one powder room, I have a small brass open box in which it is folded & that seems to work better. I have done almost all of these solutions that you show. Don't forget to think outside the box - it doesn't have to be bathroom hardware - I have used all sorts of bars - from antique stores etc. It could even be a hook, although the towel then doesn't hang as neatly.

  6. Ugh, if I kept hand towels on the sink, they'd be constantly drenched from my family. I prefer the towel bar idea.

  7. I have a master bathroom similar in size and layout to the 7th bath photo. We could not use towel bars because of the layout and for ten years we have two hand towels folded neatly on the marble counter. We do keep them folded and we do replace them regularly but it works surprisingly well for us. If a towel bar does not work, the towel on the countertop can be a fine solution.

  8. I am at a similar stage in our renovation and have to disagree with the RH products. While I like the styles, their quality is not that good and it wasn't until I saw the Hamilton Sinkler and Ginger accessories that I realized this. They are amazing and I've looked at every single hardware company out there. THere is another company, Valsan, that makes some high quality pieces as well. I highly recommend you looking at these. The RH pieces also have funny dimensions. The toilet paper holder is akwardly long, everytime it is used it rattles because of the length and the cheap quality. I've been following your house progress and the beautiful custom work being done - don't do the RH! It will not meet the same standards of the rest of your house! Sorry, just my opinion...for what it's worth!

  9. Hi Holly! Love your blog, I've followed you faithfully! Thank you for loving {passionately} beautiful design. It's such a treat to go on this journey "with you" as your dream home becomes a reality. I was wondering if you're on pinterest? If so, I'd love to follow you! Fondly--Amanda

  10. I have to disagree with the poster above. In our houses, we have both RH bathroom hardware and also a higher end hardware (Rocky Mountain). I've had no issue with the RH hardware and it still looks good years later.

    Our bathrooms run the gamut (three different houses) from rings, to bars, to on the counter. I prefer the have the hand towels off the counter. I also prefer bars over rings.

    Great inspirational photos in this post Thank you!

  11. Love a bar mounted on the side of a vanity -sort of hidden away. I hate towel rings (with a passion) but a little bar like you show is good if you have an open vanity. That said -at my own house I put the hand towel on the sink when guests are over but for everyday have it beside my bathtowel on my regular towelbar.

  12. In my small downstairs powder room there is no room for bar/ring so I am using a large antique door knocker on the inside door. It's quirky, unusual and practical (when towel is pulled out, the ring won't chip the paint!) when we have guests, I put out paper napkins on the counter in a decorative holder.

  13. That is so funny that you just posted this! I made this final selection (and it truly was the very last selection) two weeks ago! Like you, I agonized over those rings...the builder assumed I wanted them in each bath...but then I thought about how we live and how I like to keep the baths...and I realized that I absolutely DO NOT like towel rings! I think the towels get all bunched up funny in a ring. I ordered 18" bars for hand towels. I felt like this was a good length because I have some lovely linens and they have room to spread out and "breathe" on that size bar! lol! When do you move in? We are moving in 2 weeks! I can't believe it!

  14. In my Powder room I like a small holder on the counter that contains disposable towels for my guests to use. It works really well in a big gathering, since this room gets a lot of use. For my guest baths I like towel bars. I have collected some beautiful old brass french curtain tie backs with acanthus leaves. I am using these to drape big fluffy towels over in my guest room.

  15. Such a good and timely topic for me too though I think you are a bit ahead of me, so exciting! But I also know how totally overwhelming it is, with so many decisions coming at you fast and furious! In powder rooms and guest baths I like a beautiful hand towel resting right near the sink on the countertop. I even like that in my own bathroom but we normally install a towel ring for our baths (the kids and my husband and I) I love buying fancy towels, with monograms or antique lace to make a pretty statement and I always have a small stash of pretty paper towels too from a company like Caspari when we have people over.....enjoy the process Holly!

  16. I have always had mine on the counter, no drips on the floor or the wall that way and it is easy for guest too grab and put back. If I were to have a bar I would do a simple,small nondescript one as you pictured above. I just always think of dripping water spots on the floor and wall and having it on the counter eliminates that. Kathysue

  17. We like both small towel bars and placing the hand towels on the counter. Just depends on the space and if you have a good place to hang the towel bar that doesn't take away from the beauty of the space.
    Angela and Renee

  18. So glad to have your blog as a resource as I am in the middle of our home renovation! xx- Brooke

  19. Love this post and glad you are cutting down the bars. I have done that myself with a hacksaw and it worked quite well :). We will be using a variety of options probably. I too hate the rings but they work well for little kids as they can just loop them back.

    In our mud bath (what we are calling our casual half bath in the back hall), I am going to do paper towels on a wicker tray. Phoebe Howard has these in one of her stores (maybe at the beach), and I thought it was genius for my messy little boys who turn a towel black in two days (and then it won't come clean!). I asked and it was some heavier duty towel from Office Max of all places - looks nicer than your standard gas station towel but very practical. I will do that for a while at least until they get a little cleaner :) When does that happen????

  20. I'm redoing my guest bathroom and am very perplexed since we are installing a free standing vanity and I really don't want the hand towels on the counter top. I'm still pondering the issue...same with the TP holder, freestanding or mounted?

  21. My small business recently hired a cleaning company to clean our building, and they asked us if we used Cloth towels, and would we want them cleaned.

    Now, we didn't.. But having "gone green" about a year ago at home, I have been thinking about it at work too.

    So we ditched the Paper Hand Towels and got cloth ones.
    Of course I was then confronted with "Where do they go?"
    At the moment they sit on the side next to the sink, but I am looking for a rail.

    Thanks for the inspiration :)
    Good job, and keep it up!


  22. I really like this post. The features are elegant and stunning as well. For me it was a precious piece. Big thanks and keep sharing incredible post.

    Charles A

  23. My husband and I have our own bathrooms in our master bedroom. I have hand towels hanging from an 18 inch bar near my vanity; however, I have chosen to fold and stack my bath towels by the tub rather than hanging them. In our powder room off our foyer, I fold the towels even though I have plenty of room to hang them. It's just a look I prefer for this room. As to rings vs. bars, rings will hang closer to the wall and therefore any wet towel hanging from it will also. This may not be the best idea in a bath with wallpaper or a specialty finish.

  24. The bathroom with the simple pink orchid is one of my favorites, and the towel bar is perfect. Like yours from Restoration - simple and unobtrusive.

  25. Love the white bathrooms you have posted and the last vanity is gorgeous.

    In our bathrooms we use fluffy white wash cloths as hand towels. I first saw that done in some lodges in Kenya and Tanzania and really like the idea so I copied it.

    In one of the bathrooms we have a toilet paper holder instead of a towel bar and it works perfectly. It's mounted on the side of the vanity http://www.pbase.com/cjw/image/122768167.

    The master bath doesn't have bars or rings and the hand towel (wash cloth) is folded and lays on the vanity until it's thrown in the basket for laundry every day or two.

  26. I so hate towel rings too. I've been placing hand towels on the counter in our master bath. But now I'm leaning toward a small towel bar. Anyone have good sources for 12" bars?

  27. I've never been a fan of the ring... but an alternate solution to folding them on the counter is to use a standing guest towel holder. You can get it in a bar style or a ring style.

    I am currently in search of an extra long towel bar that can be used in a library for hanging newspapers or magazines... if any one has a source I would love to know about it! I may have to use a drapery rod with the towel bar brackets.

  28. I much prefer a simple towel bar - much more hygenic, and if the towel color blends well with the decor should not look out of place.

  29. Still fun to watch your thought process, Holly -- looks like it's really coming together!

    I see more bars now; a decade ago, it was all rings. I like the bars to prevent towels from bunching up as well. Not much of a fan of towels on the counter, although I did like the 3rd photo.

    Sometimes the receptacle outlet can be in the same place we need a ring or bar, which can be either annoying or perfect depending on the outlook. Some folks want to hide the outlet behind a towel; others find it annoying to work around the towel to reach the outlet.

  30. Great post as usual!! I love your blog. It depends on what the bathroom is used for. In a powder room, I do for guests what I prefer myself when I use someone's powder room, which is to have my own clean towel to dry my hands. I think it's kind of gross to have to use a towel after someone else. For a party, I leave a stack of plain white paper guest towels on the counter next to the sink, near a decanter of liquid soap. For day to day, I leave a stack of 10 or so white linen hand towels in the same place.

    For a Guest bathroom, I leave a guest towel for each overnight guest who will be using that bathroom on the counter and stack bathtowels on a Restoration Hardware "train rack." Then, I have empty 36" towel bars on the walls, as well as a few hooks either on the wall or behind the door. The biggest pain when you're a guest is going to take a shower and not having anywhere to hang your wet towel because all the bars are full, and not having anywhere to hang up your clothes/robe when you take it off.

    For the masterbath, dh and I each have a hand towel by the sink. To me, the best place to put a masterbath hand towel is exactly where you are most likely to use it. Fresh towels are stacked by the tub, and on shelves, and towel bars are ready to receive damp towels after a bath or shower.

    Think through how you and your guests actually use the spaces. Who uses the powder room? Who uses the guest baths? Who uses the masterbath? For example, if a client has a houseful of kids that use the powder room every day, a stack of paper guest towels is more practical and sanitary than a fancy arrangement of tiny fingertip towels which no one wants to use.

  31. Fantastic post. I also like to skip the bars and rings for children's bathrooms and use a single row of hooks behind the door or beside the vanity, where they fit. Love the images you included in this post. :) Erica

  32. For our powder room, I have 2 small bamboo boxes about the size of a square tissue box cover. One box has washcloths (my substitute hand towels) folded in half, rolled tightly, and wedged in a box with the folded side out. The other box is for the "dirties". I find it helpful to put one in the dirties box so guests aren't hesitant to use one and know where to put it when they are finished. i have a supply behind the vanity skirt, folded and ready to go in the empty spots. Often guests are hesitant to dirty the lone hand towel or don't want to use one someone else has used. When it's just my husband and I here, we reuse them.

  33. Gosh, what an interesting question. I do like a towel bar; it allows the material to receive circulation and to dry a bit. But I also like to go somewhere as a guest and find individual towelettes (?) -- fabric or paper -- on a tray; that's nice when there are a lot of people around.

  34. we're planning on renovating our bathroom soon so these pictures were the perfect inspiration! thanks!

    p.s. i'm hosting a giveaway on my blog for a set of fashion illustration cards, i hope you'll check it out!

  35. Holly
    I agree with design chic, that bathroom with the orchid is de-vine! I love all the photos you chose as well. I get this question all the time from clients who want to know where to put them. I really think it depends on the bathroom, and amount of space. But clearly all bathrooms have them so if done right, they can become a work of art!

  36. It's funny, when renovating our master bath I didn't even think about hand towel placement until the room was almost finished. We have a trough style concrete sink which doesn't facilitate access to a hand towel from both sides of the sink. Plus, in my world hand towels on a counter would always be a rumpled mess. I like the hand towel ring. It gives the towel a home and just enough zhush.

  37. Well I am guessing you have made your decision by now, but...as I am pondering this very decision for a bathroom reno it was great to read this post!

    I am not a huge fan of rings but have used them. I changed the ring out in my own powder room years ago just so I could put 2-3 pretty hand towels on an 18" inch bar.

    The cabinet mounted bars I like, but find it can be hard to sell because people tend to have issues with putting holes in their new wood vanitity!

    For a master bath, I am currently looking into a (bath)towel warmer system...if the price is right and it's attractive. Otherwise it's bars and/or hooks. In this same space, there is also a concern there is not going to be space for hand towel bars and may have no choice but to use rings or leave the towels on the counter.

    I do love RH for their hardware and used all their fixtures in a bathroom project. Baldwin also makes some very attractive towel bars in polished nickel, which is what I have in my powder room.

    Did you choose a pretty handle flush yet for your toilets!?

  38. i love the sink in front of the window best.
    i have always wanted one just like that.
    perfect lighting for applying make-up!!!


  39. I prefer towel bars over rings for handtowels in a Powder Room. But if you are having a party, there is a lot to be said for good quality paper towels and a waste basket if there is not staff to keep the facilities in shape.

  40. that second bathroom made my heart skip a beat. love.
    greetings from pakistan!

  41. I like a beautiful hand towel resting right near the sink on the countertop. The features are elegant and stunning as well. So glad to have your blog as a resource.

  42. I have a basket of facecloths rolled Japanese-style beside the basin - can't bear the thought of people rqndomly using my personal towels!

  43. I just love all the mirrors you featured here. They're all beautiful. Lovely!

  44. Love a bar mounted on the side of a vanity -sort of hidden away. I hate towel rings (with a passion) but a little bar like you show is good if you have an open vanity. That said -at my own house I put the hand towel on the sink when guests are over but for everyday have it beside my bathtowel on my regular towelbar.

  45. This was so inspiring. We have just added a new bathroom and I am at the point where I will be adding the following:

    Towels on the back of the bathroom door to accomodate wet towels & decorative towels. (There is no space for a towel bar on the vanity.)

    Also adding towel rings on the wall for decorative purposes only.

    I also obsessed over whether to have a TP holder, freestanding or mounted. I decided on freestanding.

    All of the fixtures, bars, towel racks and candle holders are in Oil-Rubbed Bronze.

    Has anyone else used this finish?


Thank you for your comments! I strive to make my blog positive in tone, and appreciate the same courtesy when comments are made. Thank you!


Related Posts with Thumbnails