Personal space

Today's bathrooms combine function and style even in the smallest room

Posted: Sunday, September 23, 2007


  A vessel sink can make a bathroom space more elegant. JIM WATKINS

A vessel sink can make a bathroom space more elegant.


LUBBOCK, Texas The bathroom is the last place that most people would feel the need to be trendy.

But experts say following the latest bathroom design trends not only can make your washroom more stylish, it can make a water closet feel more like an at-home spa.

According to the Trend report for bathroom design 2007 by reddot online, an organization known for recognizing excellence in design and business, today's bathroom is viewed as a sanctuary a place where we go to take care of our bodies and unwind.

What is a girl to do if her bathroom makes her feel more claustrophobic than relaxed?

That's where design comes in.

Kristi Gaines, an interior designer and instructor in the department of design at Texas Tech, and Debbie McPhail, kitchen designer at Home Depot, agree simplicity works best in small bathrooms.

"It's almost a universal design-type look," Gaines says.

Universal design is a popular option right now and is a clean, open design that not only makes a room feel larger, it is easily accessed by people with mobility issues.

For example, bathrooms with a universal design utilize open showers and sinks to create a spacious feeling.

Installing unfrosted, frameless, glass shower doors is one of the best ways to create an open look in a small bathroom, McPhail says.

"Anything that you can put glass in ... that will catch your light ... anything like that helps," she says.

Glass tiles, shower doors and shelves coupled with mirrors in a tiny bathroom fool the eye and create depth, McPhail says.

For more room, angle showers can be fitted to a corner of a bathroom. They can cost between $600 and $1,000 per enclosure and between $200 and $500 per shower floor, plus installation.

Angle toilets also are available, but many bathrooms do not have the right plumbing to facilitate them. But one-piece toilets can make a small wash room look less cluttered, McPhail says.

"The fewer pieces it has, the less visual space it takes up," she says. "It just gives you a sleeker look."

Whether picking a pedestal sink, a sink with built-in cabinets, a 15-inch toilet or a 16 1/2-inch comfort height toilet, stick with white fixtures especially for a small bathroom, according to McPhail.

"Then you don't have to worry about them matching if something were to happen," she says. "If you're looking for resale, stay very neutral."

Just as the right color is essential for bathroom fixtures, Gaines says the right paint color and accessories also are important when camouflaging a cramped space.

Light colors such as white or cool blue hues will not make the walls of a small space feel like they're closing in like warm red or yellow colors might, Gaines says.

"Light colors make spaces look larger," she says. "Even a light yellow would probably look smaller than a light blue."

When it comes to toothbrush holders and soap dishes, it is best to choose monochromatic items or accessories made from natural materials such as stone, glass or wood.

Curtains most often should be avoided in a small bathroom, Gaines says. Blinds or Roman shades are probably a better fit than patterned curtains. Too much pattern tends to clutter a tiny space.

"The natural materials definitely are in style and kind of a clean look," Gaines says. "No pattern is probably going to make it look better."

McPhail says creating a pattern with small floor tiles tends to draw the eye directly to a bathroom floor, making it feel smaller.

That's why it's a better choice to use larger tiles of the same color to give a water closet a floor that simply blends in to the rest of the bathroom's design.

Gaines says she prefers to use granite or marble slab for tiles or counter tops to achieve a natural, serene look, but cheaper alternatives are available.

The cost of granite starts at $59 per square foot, whereas ceramic tile can be purchased for as little as $1 per square foot.

Several choices of laminate are available to give the look of granite or marble at a reduced price $17 per linear foot.

No matter how one decides to decorate her sanctuary, Gaines and McPhail say planning is important.

So, before beginning demolition, Gaines suggests enlisting the help of an interior designer even if just for an hour-long consultation.

"A lot of times a designer can save someone a lot of money," she says. "Because if you're going to remodel a bathroom, you could make a lot of costly mistakes."

McPhail recommends anyone looking to remodel a bath or any other room give herself plenty of time to finish the job.

"It can take a while to fully remodel," she says. "It can be up to a three-month process, depending on what you go with."

For more helpful bathroom remodeling tips, talk to an expert from one of your local home supply stores or interior design firms.

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