Pamela O'Brien's master bathroom

Design by Pamela Hope Designs

Bathroom upgrades are so important. It’s the most intimate room in the house, so it needs to be comfortable, practical, well-lit and well ventilated. You get bonus, happy points if it’s pretty, chic or cool, too!

For your main bathroom, you begin and end your day there. It needs to be a good experience. A kids’ bath should motivate them regarding hygiene and you’ll appreciate durable, easy-to-clean materials and surfaces. Guests deserve a comfy bathroom when they visit and, of course, the powder room needs to be a destination for visitors and family members alike.

Faucets for luxury bathroom

Design by Pamela Hope Designs

As shown above, my husband and I have a nice, open bathroom, that’s not too huge but has plenty of room for his and her vanities, a free-standing bathtub, a large shower with two showerheads and a separate water closet. Sometimes we get ready at the same time and we discuss the day’s plans or the day we had. I love that time together! There is a big window above the tub with woven wood blinds that we close each night. One of my favorite moments each morning is opening the blinds and seeing the jasmine espalier that I had planted there a few years ago. It was originally just a fence and I wanted something pretty to look at. So, those are two tips right off the bat: have a window in your bathroom, if possible, and make sure there is a nice view.

Here are some of my other tips on bathroom design, updates and upgrades:
1. Select your plumbing first: If you are building or remodeling, the plumber will appreciate knowing what plumbing you want where. Since plumbing fixtures are an integral part of the design, go ahead and start with them. Select the tub first, if it’s free-standing. The design of the tub will go a long way in defining the style of the bathroom. Also, this can be a very pricey part of the project, so knowing what you will spend on the tub is a good first step.

Secondly, select the faucets for the sinks. You will have a large variety of styles, metal finishes and price points. These, along with the tub, will also set the tone. Then, find out if your selection has matching tub and shower plumbing fixtures. If you are lucky, there will be a suite of selections available and that makes it very easy to have a coordinated look. If there are not matching tub and shower options, select a corresponding style in the same metal finish. There are usually a few nice options that blend well with various styles.

2. Picking the vanity sinks is usually fairly simple. It’s mainly a question of price, color (white or biscuit only for most people) and shape. I like the rectangular shapes because I like a big sink for my bathroom but be sure it’s also deep and that the corners aren’t too angular. Squared corners capture all kinds of yucky stuff like globs of toothpaste, etc. Sloped, slightly rounded edges make rinsing much easier.


Photo Courtesy: TOTO

3. Toilets aren’t usually that difficult either. Some are much better looking than others. You’ll generally want to match the color of your sinks and tub. One-piece toilets are sleeker and easier to clean but cost quite a bit more. If you are looking for a luxury experience, there are some interesting options out there such as the Neorest(R) 750H Dual Flush Toilet by TOTO (shown here). I’ve used these at a few showrooms and locations and they are quite the bathroom luxury! For most people though, you’ll select a one- or two-piece commode and then look for a style that works with your other selections – vintage, modern, sleek?

The Contemporary Collection wallpaper by Cole & Son is perfect in a powder bathroom

Left: Cole & Son wallpaper; Right: Design by Pamela Hope Designs

4. You may be building cabinets, purchasing a stand-alone vanity or refinishing existing cabinets. White paint is never a bad answer. It is classic, timeless and feels good in a bathroom. However, there are many other options. I selected a pear green vanity for my powder room and found a bold wallpaper with the exact same hue (above). It was meant to be!

36-inch Amora Bathroom Vanity Cabinet Base by Ronbow

Photo Courtesy: Ronbow

5. You can get creative with the vanity in the powder room. Often you will purchase this as a unit – cabinet, sink and possibly counter all in one. Many pieces have furniture qualities and add drama to your plumbing. We’ve used this vanity in both the navy (right) and the dark wood (shown further below). The shape of the drawers is quite unique, and it opens in a novel way. It’s a fun addition to any bathroom.

6. If your vanity doesn’t come with a countertop or you are building or updating, the counter selection should be made before the tile. The reason is that there are many tiles to choose from, but there will probably only be a handful of countertops that work for you. Again, color, design and price points vary, but many people will want a simple counter in white quartz or a marble look-alike. These counters don’t look dated and are very easy to live with.

Tub & brown vanity by Ronbow Amora add to a great bathroom design

Vanity Shown in Dark Wood; Photo Courtesy: Ronbow

7. Tile selection should come next. You will likely need a floor tile, shower wall tile, possibly tub-surround tile, shower floor tile and optional accent tile(s). This is such a big category and there are so many choices, I think this should be a topic in of itself. Sticking to the classics, you can’t go wrong as you can see in this pretty bathroom in blues and whites.

Clean masterbath design in blue and white

Design by Pamela Hope Designs

8. Lighting is really important in a bathroom. It needs to be bright and plentiful with the option of having softer lighting as well. Good ceiling lights that can be turned on independently along with sconces or vanity bars that can also be used alone or along with the overhead lighting, should provide everything you need.

The right lighting and vanity are crucial to great bathroom design

Design by Pamela Hope Designs

9. There is so much to say about lighting and the mirror! I don’t even know where to start. These are two of my favorite topics, so suffice it to say, lighting may be hard to choose because there are millions of choices. Look to your plumbing for inspiration. You can elaborate a little, like adding a crystal or a different metal finish. The sconces in particular can be like pieces of jewelry in the room. Perhaps you have space for a chandelier or hanging pendants. They should relate to the sconces or mirror lighting.

10. And lastly, we cover the mirrors. You may choose to have wall-to-wall mirrors installed by your contractor. We prefer framed mirrors and usually have them made by our frame shop. This allows us to do the ideal size and shape (rectangle or square in custom dimensions) and we can select from many frame designs which makes the bathroom appear very custom. There are also tons of mirrors you can purchase. If you want a shaped mirror, like a round, oval or irregular, this will be your best bet.

Just thinking about the many beautiful choices for bathrooms inspires me. Until next time, find your inspiration or call us and we’ll help you discover it!

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