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PostHeaderIcon Rejuvenate Your Bathroom - June Designers Log

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Recently, clients have started kitchen or bath renovations. They get this glazed, lost look on their faces when asked what they want. But, "more space" "the lighting is bad" and "it's so dated" I hear over and over. For many these are the most personal, yet frustrating areas to work with. I started my business back in the late 80s as a kitchen and bathroom designer and have renovated and restored over 25 homes, so I know these rooms can be real problem areas.

Bathrooms seemed the perfect subject for this months Designers Log. We are caught between needing functionality and beauty and often end up doing the same tired look over and over. I always push my clients to think outside the box and be open to something different, but when it comes to kitchens and baths, most of us tend to be safe as they are not rooms we renovate more than once in a home.

Baths are, for me, the ultimate challenge. Unlike kitchens, which tend to be a gathering place, bathrooms are our private space and ought to be both intimate and comfortable. A full bathroom renovation can cost thousands, but there are things you can do for a quick pick-me-up. Try these 5 easy ideas to update and transform a boring bath.

Pull on it - Changing hardware is something anyone can do. Grab a screwdriver and take off the existing knobs and pulls. Replace them with updated finishes and styles. Knobs are the most functional for wet hands. For a modern, minimal atmosphere, use brushed nickel. For kids baths or for a funky look try different shapes and colors, mixing it up. While you are at it, remove all the traditional towel bars. Install hooks and stack or roll towels in a basket or open shelf. You'd be surprised how the space opens up without the standard, run of the mill towel bar.

Be ready for your close up - One of the most important features of any bathroom is the effective use of lighting. Whether you are shaving, putting on make up or just like a bright room, use a mix of different light sources. The single light bar above the mirror is not enough. And never use the so called "make up" bulbs that are usually the standard fixture. They leave shadows or hot spots and are unflattering. Try a combination of small recessed lights spaced 30" apart over the vanity. Add sconces left and right and you will have good illumination that covers your whole face. Make sure you have light in the shower and in the water closet. Surprisingly, these can be the darkest areas of a bathroom, and are not only needed, but add drama to your lighting scheme.

Small space, big look - Bathrooms can be tricky because there is rarely much continuous, uninterrupted space. Mirrors, shower doors, tub and tile surround can all make the room seem cut up. A good solution to this is to use big tiles, 18" or more if possible. Keep grout lines to a minimum and match your grout to your tile for a more cohesive look. Laying tile subway style elongates a room while big squares are currently a trendy look. Be careful with mixing patterns. If you like granite counter tops, use a simpler floor tile. I've never been a fan of the vessel sink, the ones that sit on top of the vanity. They add another dimension that is just not needed. Use simple, wide white porcelain under mount sinks instead. And always use frameless shower doors. Another easy and effective change, it will modernize your room like nothing else.

Make it personal - One of the most asked questions in bath renovations is what color to paint. No one likes gawdy colors first thing in the morning but it depends on the space. I would recommend that the master bath be a soothing color, like ochre,cream or anything organic in base. In this case, you want to feel that you are in a spa or Zen retreat. But in a powder room or guest bath? Go crazy! Use color blocking or stripes. Make your wow statement with green or blue. Show your sophistication with eggplant or gloss black. One of my favorite powder rooms had vertical stripes in black, brown and purple, a white pedestal sink and a black and gold Federal style framed mirror. Just this little change took a tract home half bath from blah to stunning.

Stow the stuff - The most fun bathrooms are the ones with unexpected and inspired storage. As mentioned above, find new ways to store guest towels. Cut out niches in the walls for candles and soaps. You can break up that boring double sink area by installing a floor to ceiling cabinet in the middle of the vanity. It can be shared and gives a nice feeling of privacy for each sink. Clutter can be the enemy, but not everything has to be behind doors either. Use racks, open shelving and stacking storage bins in brights colors. This is especially great for kids' bathrooms, combining fun and easy access. An upholstered bench that opens up allows storage for all that stuff normally found in the cabinet and gives a warm feeling to the room.

So whether you are a family or this is your own personal escape, the bath is where you start your day and often end it. Done right, bathroom renovations can make a huge difference in your home. From the powder room to the master suite, let it be the place that rejuvenates and calms you as well as a room you can be proud to show your guests. 



An established Interior Designer for over 20 years, Steve Wallace Design is based in Walnut Creek, California.  His work has appeared in Palm Springs Life and other interior design publications, and he is the author of a soon to be published book about design and the way we live. He can be reached at  925 915 1005, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  or visit www.SteveWallaceDesign.com.  Follow on Twitter @swallacedesign.


Last Updated (Tuesday, 05 June 2012 00:40)


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