While the bathrooms aren’t the most glamorous rooms in your home, they happen to be some of the most important. Just think about all the time you and every member of your family spends in them. If you’ve been struggling with a bathroom that’s simply not up to par, then you know what a pain a poorly designed and unattractive bathroom can be! And, if you’ve got a new home that you’re building or designing, then you already know that you want functional bathrooms that appeal to your aesthetic sensibilities.
There’s a lot that goes into bathroom design; it’s a topic that could fill volumes! But, we’ve decided to put together a handy guide that should give you all of the basics you need to know. In the end, you’ll understand the basic principles of laying out a bathroom well, maximizing storage, and even choosing a style. We’re going to cover everything from the different kinds of tubs you can choose to the different kinds of light fixtures you can use above your sink or even in the ceiling.
So, if you’ve got a bathroom design project coming up or underway, read on! We’re sure that you’ll find all the information contained herein to be immensely valuable.
Table of Contents
1. Getting Started
2. What Kind of Bathroom?
3. Assessing the Room
4. Creating the Look
5. Shower and Bath
6. Maximizing Storage
As with any other home remodel or design project, when you’re starting with a bathroom design, you have to begin at one place. You have to assess what your needs are.
To do this, you’ll need to have a conversation – unless you live by yourself, of course! For example, if you’re going to be tackling the master bathroom, you should speak with your spouse. What’s insufficient about the current bathroom, and what are you hoping to accomplish? Is it simply more space? Do you need a his-and-hers sink? Do you need a larger shower? Is a claw-foot tub a dream that needs to come true?
Whatever the case, you need to know what the nitty-gritty needs are, as this will help you when it comes time to budget, which is the second most important thing to tackle. If money’s no object, then you can accomplish whatever you want with your bathroom design – within the limits of the space, that is. Otherwise, some sacrifices will have to be made along the way.
As far as setting a budget is concerned, there are some costs that you should be aware of from the get-go. Unless you’re going the DIY route, you can expect that a significant portion of your budget will be taken up by labor, both for demo and construction. Second to that, you’ll have plumbing to consider, especially if you’re going to be drastically altering the flow of the space – moving the shower, toilet and tub from this place to that place.
Therefore, before you get going, try speaking with a contractor or someone else who’s “in the know” so that you can get a sense of how much it’s going to cost between demo, installation and plumbing to accomplish your needs. From there, you’ll know how much money you’ll have left over to actually purchase things like new flooring, new hardware, new backsplash, and things of that nature. If the figure you get back is too far outside your budget, then it’s time to reevaluate your needs and start over.
Finally, when you are speaking to a contractor or someone “in the know”, you’ll also need to come to an understanding of local building codes. In almost every case, a bathroom redesign is going to involve tearing things out and moving things around. You need to make sure that whatever it is that you do is within the bounds of the law, otherwise you’re going to cost yourself a lot of money!
Provided you’ve taken all of these initial steps, though, you’re ready to begin the process. So, let’s move on.
There are four essential kinds of bathrooms, each with their own unique quirks. Your design process will be specific to the kind of bathroom you’re remodeling or creating. So, let’s explore each of the bathroom types.
Master: In almost every case, this will be the largest bathroom in your home, as it’s designed to accommodate you and your spouse or significant other. As such, there are a lot more considerations with this kind of bathroom than there are with others. In crafting a design for such a bathroom, you need to find solutions for the problems that you and your spouse or significant other are having with your current bathroom. Do you need more shower space? More room at the sink? Do you need more storage? Is installing a tub a necessity? These are all questions you’ll want to ask as you begin the design process for your master bathroom.
Full: A full bathroom will either be as large as the master bathroom or slightly smaller. It’s unique in one way, though. A full bath is (or should be) designed to accommodate heavy traffic. If you have a family, for example, this will be the bathroom where all of your children get ready in the morning. It’s also the bathroom that overnight guests will most likely use. Therefore, your design considerations with such a bathroom should be focused on accommodating heavy traffic. This means focusing on maximizing the efficiency of the design and also choosing materials and hardware that offer exceptional durability.
Three-Quarter: This kind of bathroom is very similar to a full bathroom, in that it’s one that’s design for heavy traffic, either to accommodate family members or overnight guests. However, unlike the full bathroom, there will be no tub. Instead, you’ll have a shower, a sink and a toilet. In addition, the three-quarter bathroom will generally occupy far less square-footage than a three-quarter bath. Therefore, you’ll have to focus even more intently on maximizing the efficiency of the design and also upon using durable materials.
Half or Powder Room: The half bathroom (also known as a powder room) serves one function and one function only. It’s a place to go when nature calls, as it’s only home to a toilet and a sink. Therefore, the design considerations for such a bathroom are generally more aesthetic than they are practical. Provided you’ve located the sink and toilet in such a way as to maximize space and comfort, your focus should really only be upon providing as attractive of a space as possible. Given that the room is exceptionally small, you’ll also want to have adequate ventilation to get rid of offensive odors.
Once you’ve determined what kind of bathroom you’re working with (or what kind of bathroom you’re converting an existing bathroom or room into), you need to go about the process of assessing the room. Generally speaking, the below three factors will be limiting to your design, as the cost of changing what your given will add to the expense of your bathroom design project overall.
Plumbing: Given that everything in your bathroom is about running water, this is most important thing to assess. You want to know where all of your drain lines and supply lines are. For this you’ll need to work with a plumber, unless you have the expertise yourself.
Ventilation: This is important to your bathroom for a number of reasons. For one, if your bathroom is home to a shower or tub, you need a method of venting out wet hot air; otherwise, mold and mildew will form. Therefore, figure out how your ventilation system works and what, if anything, can be done with it.
Electricity: Finally, you’ll need to figure out where all of your outlets are. This is important because, as everyone knows, water and electricity don’t mix. You want to make sure that whatever design you go with, you won’t be putting yourself in a position where you’re allowing cords and plugs to come into contact with running or standing water.
With an understanding of how these elements are laid out in your bathroom, as well as any changes you might be making to them, you’re reading to begin the process of laying out the bathroom.
Bathroom Layout Tips
In laying out your bathroom, you’re trying to meet all of the needs that you outlined earlier. However, there are four essential things that you should consider as you decide the placement of different bathroom elements.
- Start with the toilet. Sure, it’s not the most glamorous thing in your bathroom, but it gets the most use! If it’s possible, consider creating a separate room for the toilet, as this will allow the other design elements to shine through better. If this isn’t possible, make sure you’re placing the toilet in such a way as to make it not the first thing you see when you enter the room.
- Consider storage. Think of all the things you need to keep in your bathroom – blow-dryers, straighteners, toilet paper, linens, cleaning products, etc. You’ll be able to make the most of your bathroom if you’re able to provide yourself with adequate space for all of these things. We’ll be covering storage tips later.
- Use the walls. With any bathroom design, you want to maximize the amount of floor space available in order to make the bathroom as comfortable as possible. No one likes feeling crammed in when they’re in there! Therefore, consider how storage and things of that nature can be built into the walls rater than in bulky vanities, for example.
- Is there room for an entrance? If so, this is always a solid idea for your bathroom, as it prevents the space from being too “in your face” when you enter. You could, for example, add a small dressing area that transitions from one room into the bathroom. If there’s no room for an entrance, carefully consider how the door is going to interact with the different elements of that bathroom.
Every bathroom is going to be different depending upon the budget in question, the size of the bathroom itself, and the goals of the design process. Therefore, we cannot recommend one shower or one bath type over the other. However, we can show you the full range of options that are out there, and you can decide what is best going to work for your bathroom design and the space available to you.
Different Types of Showers
Multi-Piece: If you’re going the DIY route, this will probably be your best option. These types of showers come in multiple pieces, meaning that they’re easy to get into a bathroom where they can be subsequently installed. There are inexpensive options for these out there, although there are some that can become more expensive.
Corner Multi-Piece: These kinds of units are relatively in expensive, generally consisting of two pieces of glass that enclose one corner of the room. With respect to the inside of the shower, you can go with cheaper, pre-fabricated walls, or you could elect to tile the walls.
Singe-Piece: These pre-fabricated showers can be quite expensive. However, they offer the benefit of being watertight, as they’re built as one continuous solid piece. Depending upon the size of the room and the layout of your home, though, it might be quite difficult to get one of these into the bathroom that you’re designing. They’re a solid choice for a new home construction, though.
All Tile: This is the most luxurious and expensive option available. As with any project made with tile, the opportunities for customization are virtually limitless. However, an all-tile shower must be installed by hand and by a professional, thus much of the expense. Don’t skimp if you go this route, as the water-tightness of your tile shower is incredibly important.
Tile and Single Piece: If you want the look of the tile shower, but you’d like to save yourself some of the expense, then this can be a good option. Generally speaking, the walls will get the tile treatment while the basin will be installed as a single unit.
Different Types of Baths
Claw-foot: This is the classic tub, and one you don’t see as often anymore. However, if you have the space to accommodate one, they can be a thoroughly luxurious touch. Given that these tubs float in the middle of a room, though, you’ll need to make sure that you’ve deployed a watertight flooring solution.
Freestanding: A freestanding tub functions in a bathroom in the exact same way as a claw-foot tub, however the bottom of the tub will be flush with the ground. For this reason, they tend to be a bit deeper than a claw-foot tub. Also, the look has more of a “modern” touch to it, which means they’re more ideal for people going after a contemporary bathroom style.
Drop In: These kinds of tubs are deigned to drop into an existing structure. If you’re looking to match the look of your tub to the overall design of your bathroom, this can make the drop-in an excellent choice. Generally speaking, you’ll drop this into a built-in structural element, which could then be covered in tile or another material.
Corner: The corner tub is essentially a drop-in tub that’s been designed to fit into a corner space. Because of this, the shape is more square rather than rectangular. Because of this, the corner tub is ideal for people who are seeking a tub solution that can accommodate two people and not just one.
3-Wall Alcove: If you’re looking to pack a tub and shower into a bathroom, but space is at a premium, this is going to be your best bet. Such a tub is positioned in the corner of a room, and a wall-mounted shower is then installed over it, to provide both at once.
If you’re going big, then the shower and tub that you have installed in your bathroom will be the most expensive things that you purchase. Therefore, your overall look will, in many ways, be decided by what materials you choose to build these pieces out of. So, in terms of creating the overall “style” of your bathroom, you want to start there, and then move on.
But, what is it that you’ll be moving onto next? That’s what we’ll be exploring below.
Wall Color / Wallpaper
The overall “feel” of your bathroom is going to be determined, in large part, by how you decide to paint the walls. There are a number of different ways that you can go with this. Light colors, like powder blue and sea-foam green, will help to create a cheerful and spa-like atmosphere in the bathroom. Contrarily, if you’re attempting to create a more modern, masculine look, you may prefer darker colors.
Here are some examples of bathrooms using different wall colors:
A deep blue is always an attractive color choice, no matter how large or small the bathroom you’re designing is.
Sea-foam green and deep brown give this bathroom a beautiful and serene vibe.
Neutral colors like beige and cream are always a great accompaniment for lots of tile.
In a half bath or powder room, you can look into using wallpaper to really set off the look. That’s not to say that these elements can’t be used in a larger bathroom, but the fact that they’ll be used as rooms for showering and bathing means that the wallpaper will be exposed to warm moisture, which isn’t the best thing.
Here are some examples of bathrooms that make use of wallpaper:
The wallpaper used in this powder room gives the whole space a thoroughly luxurious vibe.
The birch tree wallpaper used in this powder room is an interesting but ultimately rewarding choice.
Wallpaper can work just as well in a larger bathroom, you just need to be conscious of moisture.
Overall, though, you’ll want to consider how the design of your bathroom fits into the overall design of your home. For example, if your home is outfitted in the Craftsman style, then you’ll want to consider using exposed wood significantly in your bathroom, and perhaps balancing that out with some of the color choices we discussed earlier.
Backsplashes aren’t just for kitchens; they’re something that you can use in your bathroom too! In fact, they can really be used to great effect in order to create a truly unique and colorful look.
Applied modestly, a backsplash can simply exist behind a vanity or a wall-mounted sink. Above you can see an example of how a backsplash can be used to really at interest to a bathroom design.
Of course, your backsplash can be integrated into the walls of the bathroom itself. Wrapping around the room to offer protection behind the toilet, in the shower, around the tub and elsewhere, as you see above.
In either case, the options are numerous and can run the gamut from relatively inexpensive to quite luxurious. It all depends upon your needs, what materials you’d like to use in terms of creating the backsplash, and how large or small it will be.
Sink and Fixtures
Choosing a sink will depend upon whether or not you’ll be installing a vanity. With a vanity, you’ll have a number of different shapes and styles available. However, if you’re not going the vanity route, you still have choices. Here are the various sink types that you can choose from:
Wall-mounted: If you’re working with a small bathroom, this may be the best option, as the sink will be literally mounted into the wall. This preserves a maximum of floor space, and presents some opportunities for storage underneath.
Pedestal: This is another option available to you if you’re foregoing the vanity. These sinks, as their name suggests, come out from the floor. There are a range of styles, shapes, and colors available, just as there are with wall-mounted sinks.
Top Mount: As far as sinks for a vanity are concerned, this is the simplest option. They literally drop into a hole created on the counter surface of the vanity. With this kind of sink, your choice of hardware will be very important.
Under Mount: These kinds of sinks are similar to top-mount sinks, but instead of being installed form the top of a vanity, they’re installed from the bottom. This allows you to conserve valuable countertop space, which can be really useful if you’re working with a smaller vanity.
Vessel: This kind of sink has really caught on in recent years, and for good reason. They sit on top of the vanity, creating a unique and distinctive look. If you’re trying to craft a bathroom design that has modern and contemporary appeal, then they’re something you’ll absolutely want to look into.
When it comes to lights, the options are pretty much limitless, as you’d expect. However, bathroom light fixtures basically break down into one of three categories: bar, sconce and recessed. Let’s take a look at each.
Bar: This is most common type of light fixture that you’ll see in a bathroom. The lights are arranged in a bar that’s affixed to the wall above the vanity, mirror and sink. Generally, bar lights range from three to six different lights and shades, and can be used for vanities with one sink or two.
Sconce: These kinds of lights are also affixed to the wall, but rather than being situated above the mirror they’re placed to the side. These can be great for bathrooms with low ceilings, or for ones where you’re going for a darker and moodier appeal.
Recessed: For a clean and modern look, you may consider using recessed lighting within your bathroom. This can keep the space well lit, while letting the simplicity of the bathroom’s contemporary feel shine through.
When it comes to choosing the floors for your bathroom, there’s one bit of advice that you should take. Rather than going bold with your floors, you should consider going subtle. The other elements of your bathroom that you’ve spent so much time on should be drawing the eye, not the floors themselves. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t pay attention to the floor’s style, but you shouldn’t go crazy as this will cause the room to become unbalanced.
There are a number of different materials you can consider for your bathroom floors, with the most common being:
Ceramic Tile: This is, without a doubt, the most common option. Interior designers advise going for a mix and match of different sized tiles to create a subtle but visually interesting look. When choosing style, consider how the different colors you choose will work with the colors you use elsewhere.
Stone: For a really luxurious touch, you can consider going with stone floors in your bathroom. Be aware, though, that stone can be quite slippery! So, you’ll need to make sure you’re incorporating rugs and slip mats in an attractive way to keep people from falling!
Hardwood: Like anywhere else in your home, you can use hardwood floors in your bathroom. This is a great choice for a half bath that’s attached to a living area with hardwood floors itself. You can use it in larger bathrooms, like a master or full, but you’ll want to make sure the wood is properly protected from moisture.
Carpet: Believe it or not, there is carpeting available that’s mold, mildew and moisture resistant and can be used in a bathroom. If you want your feet to be comfortable, this is a great option. Just remember that carpeting in a bathroom can be a pain to keep clean. At the very least, you can incorporate carpeting around the vanity.
Storage is incredibly important in a larger bathroom. Think about all those appliances, toiletries and linens. They have to go somewhere!
While the easiest solution is to store things like linens in a closet outside of the bathroom, if you can bring all of those things into the bathroom, you’ll have much more efficient and enjoyable space! So, if possible, consider a place (or a way) in which a closet can be added to your bathroom design. When you do, consider turning the shelves of that closet into drawers, providing easier access to everything contain.
Of course, absent an in-bathroom closet, you’ll have to get creative with how you maximize storage, and the starts with the vanity.
What you need to get out of your vanity will depend upon what bathroom you’re working with. It all comes down to how the bathroom is going to be used, and what those using it will need easy access to.
Half Bath: You don’t need to find storage for much, as those bathrooms will be used mostly for you-know-what. Therefore, as long as the vanity you select provides ample storage for cleaning products and basic toiletries, you should be good! In terms of style, it’s always a good idea to work from the same style as the adjoining rooms. For example, if your half bath is attached to a rustic living space, then try to select a vanity that has a rustic design.
Three-Quarter or Full: Here you’ll need your vanity to accomplish more in terms of storage. Therefore, you’ll want to make sure that whatever you select includes drawers, as these are the most efficient storage option for bathroom vanities. Here, the need is less pressing to mirror the style of adjoining rooms, however, you may want to consider doing so if it will be receiving heavy traffic from family and guests.
Master: More so than in any other bathroom size, you’ll want to make sure that vanity you select offers an exceptional amount of storage. Think about all of the things you keep around in the bathroom! With a master bathroom vanity, especially one with two sinks, try to select something that has as many drawers as possible, with a few cabinets for bathroom essentials.
Cabinets and Shelves
If space allows, you can consider adding cabinetry to your bathroom design. You’ll want to think about how those cabinets are going to be used before selecting them, though. If you’re simply storing toiletries, you can do a shallow cabinet or medicine cabinet. On the other hand, if you’re going to be storing bulkier items like towels, you’ll have to go with a more traditional cabinet size. Exposed shelves can also be used to great effect within your bathroom design too!
Here are some examples of bathrooms with cabinets that might open up some ideas for your bathroom design.
Here you can see a vanity that’s functionality has been increased ten-fold due to awesome drawer design.
Here, a wall cabinet is used over the vanity to preserve counter space while adding storage space.
Open shelves provide easy access to towels and face cloths in this beautiful bathroom design.
In this bathroom, crate shelving is used to give the room visual appeal while at the same time solving storage problems.
Get More Inspiration
With the principles outlined above guiding your bathroom design process, you should be well on your way toward creating a room that’s functional and attractive. However, the range of styles that you can with are simply too numerous to cover. So, we’d like to encourage you to check out these stunning photo galleries of various bathrooms. Among them, you’ll likely find something that achieves the style that you’d like your bathroom to have!