Category: Bathroom

Small Can Be Beautiful—Even in the Bath

Just because your bathroom is petite, doesn't mean it has to be inefficient or unattractive. Award-winning designer Leslie Lamarre shares her pro tips for getting the most out of any bath.

Ideas for Small Bathroom

NKBA's "Best Small Bath 2013" by TRG Architects

When it comes to bathroom remodeling, small can be beautiful. With smart planning, a petite bath can be attractive, efficient, and luxurious. And here’s another beauty point: Working within your current bathroom’s footprint rather than bumping out a wall or adding on will help keep your budget under control, even if you opt for luxe materials—a real plus in these financially uncertain times.

Designer Leslie Lamarre, co-owner and principal of interiors at TRG Architects in Burlingame, Calif., and winner of the first place award for Best Small Bath in the 2013 design competition sponsored by the National Kitchen & Bath Association, enjoys the challenge of making the most of a small space. Working around size constraints requires “creative solutions to make the design outstanding and unique,” she says. “It makes things more interesting and less predictable. Take advantage of every square inch: A little gap in the wall can become a storage niche; an awkward jog in the floor plan might make room for a built-in bench or window seat.”

A creative approach to picking out fixtures is key to making the most of a tight space. The size and shape of the room, your willingness to move plumbing connections, and personal style preferences are among the factors that will influence your fixture choices.

Ideas for Small Bathroom - Corner Tub

Neptune WIND 60" Customizable Corner Bathtub.

Lamarre recommends sticking with an average-size bathtub. “A too-big tub is a real space waster. Most people sit upright in the tub, so a five-foot tub is sufficient for practically everyone. There are all kinds of ways to use the space that you save with a smaller tub,” such as adding a mini storage unit. Consider custom pieces to best utilize small or oddly shaped spaces: “The more you can build in, the better.”

If the average five-foot-long rectangular tub doesn’t appeal—or won’t fit—some readily available options are 48-inch tubs (including some extra-deep, claw-footed Victorian-style models), corner tubs, and square or oval Japanese soaking tubs.

Related: How To: Create a Spa Bath at Home

Or consider getting rid of the tub entirely. “It’s actually more comfortable to take a shower if you’re not standing in the tub,” Lamarre says, “and a frameless glass shower makes the space look bigger.” A clear glass shower enclosure visually expands the space more than etched or frosted finishes will. Using the same wall and floor covering throughout the whole bathroom, including the shower area, lends an open, spa-like ambience.

Older homeowners or those with mobility issues will find it convenient to enter a shower without climbing over the side of a tub. But think twice about eliminating the tub if you don’t have one in another bathroom; if you decide to sell later on, a totally tub-free house may be a turnoff to some buyers.

Whether you want—or have room for—a vanity will influence bathroom sink choices. Lamarre says a vanity has to be at least 24 inches wide to accommodate a full-size sink and provide some functional counter space. But the hidden storage even a petite vanity offers is still a plus if you can make do with a smaller sink and don’t need much counter.

Vessel Sink Vanity

Photo: Columbia CabinetWorks

If you’re pro vanity, a vessel or above-surface sink maximizes below-counter storage—a flush or undermount unit can take up as much as a third of the vanity’s internal area. And a vessel sink “doesn’t need a deck around it,” according to Lamarre, yielding more usable counter space.

The standard depth for a vanity is 21 inches, but you can go shallower if you choose a semi-recessed sink installation. These sinks are designed to be positioned about halfway into the vanity, and protrude several inches beyond the counter’s front edge. Besides being space-savers, they look great.

Corner sinks, with or without vanities, are another way to make the most of limited space. “When you’re remodeling, you’re handed the space that you’ve got,” Lamarre says. “Once I had a jog in the vanity wall, so I carried the countertop across the space. It feels cohesive, and created a dynamic design aspect.”

Related: 7 Easy Ways to Boost Bathroom Storage

If you don’t have room for a vanity, or just don’t want one, check out a pedestal or wall-mounted sink. These styles have a lighter, less solid look than a vanity, and may be ideal for truly tiny spaces. “There are some really cool options; some wall-mounted sinks are only 11 inches deep,” Lamarre says. Some have broad, integrated ledges or shelf-like surfaces at the side; some come with built-in towel bars.

There are lots of ways to incorporate storage into the open space below pedestal and wall-mounted sinks: open shelves, prefab or custom cubbies, even decorative baskets and bins.

Lamarre advises that wall-hung toilets or those with round rather than elongated bowls are the best picks for compact spaces. But keep in mind, “Your choices have to fit the design aesthetic,” she says. A wall-hung unit “has a contemporary aesthetic; a round bowl works better with a traditional interior.”

Don’t overlook the storage potential above the toilet—there’s plenty of wall space for open shelves or shallow cabinets. And there are lots of over-toilet storage units available at big-box stores and storage specialty shops.

Small Bathroom


Once you’ve picked your major fixtures, focus on the smaller but still important details, such as the medicine cabinet. You can stash more items in a deep cabinet, but one that’s flush with the wall might be a better pick. A protruding cabinet “will make the space feel smaller,” Lamarre says. Depending on the room and your cabinet choice, it may be possible to install two identical cabinets side by side. Besides doubling the storage, the expanse of mirrors can make the room look larger.

Last but far from least: lighting. A light, bright space is always more attractive and inviting, and in the bathroom in particular, light improves functionality. Recessed ceiling lights are a good starting place, but be sure to provide task lighting—Lamarre recommends sconces—around the mirror. If you like to shave in the shower, good-quality lighting will make the job easier and safer. She also recommends installing motion-activated accent lighting in the toe-kick area. It provides a gentle glow and can increase safety when someone enters the room in the middle of the night.

With careful shopping and planning, it’s possible to have the bath of your dreams in a compact space—without breaking the bank.

The Basics of Bathroom Design

Good bathroom design, starts with the basics. Here are twelve pro tips to consider in your remodel or renovation.

Bathroom designs

. Photo: Comfortable Home Design

The fun part of bathroom remodeling is ogling vessel sinks, walk-in showers, towel heaters, translucent tiles and graceful faucets. Even the newer toilets on the market are pretty cool. But when it comes to putting together bathroom designs in plans that you (and your building inspector) will be happy with, there are some recommendations and rules you should follow. Here is a selection of a dozen, courtesy of the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA).

1. Minimum entry door size
It’s smart to design for all eventualities. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, a bathroom door opening should be at least 32″ wide when measured from the open door to the opposite stop. That means the door itself should be at least 34″ wide—unless you’ve opted for a pocket door.

2. Door interference
It’s not a good idea to slam the bathroom door into a loved one. Make careful measurements so that doors won’t bump anyone standing inside the bathroom. Similarly, no door (entry, cabinet, or shower) should bump into any other door. In a very small bath, change the hinges so the door swings out.

3. Ceiling height
Bathrooms must often be shoehorned into tight spaces where ceiling height is less than the general code calls for. For bathrooms, the minimum height is 80″, except in places where occupants can’t walk. In these cases, the ceiling can be even lower. Talk to your building department about what they will or won’t permit.

4. Clear floor space
A little extra space goes a long way in the bathroom, especially when two people must use it at the same time. NKBA designers recommend a 30″ clearance between the front edge of a fixture, such as a vanity or toilet, and any other fixture or wall. The building code allows for a minimum of 21″.

Bathroomdesignz White Bathroom Vanities35. Lavatory placement
The bathroom lavatory, or sink, should be placed far enough from a wall or shower wall that it’s comfortable to use and easy to clean. The NKBA recommends 20″ measuring from the center of the lavatory to the wall. Code is a minimum of 15″ (with 4″from the edge of a pedestal sink to the wall). In a double-sink vanity, the sinks should be 30″ to 36″ apart, measured from center to center.

6. Lavatory height
A comfortable height for a lavatory depends upon the height of the user, but when two or more people of varying heights are using the same sink, you’ll have to compromise. A 36″ height is standard. The NKBA says the height can range from 32″ to 43″. What you choose is up to you, but it’s probably not a good idea to install a low vanity for small kids. They grow up quickly and can use a stool in the meanwhile.

7. Lighting
A single light in the ceiling of a bathroom will put shadows under your eyes, even when they don’t exist! Add lighting above and to either side of the vanity mirror. Called cross lighting, it will eliminate shadows and provide enough light for grooming. You may consider a recessed light with a waterproof lens over the tub or shower, as well.

8. Countertops
Avoid sharp corners on countertops for safety. Top edges should be rounded over. Corners should be rounded too, or “clipped”.

9. Shower size
For user comfort, a 36″ x 36″ space is recommended. Codes will allow a minimum 30″ x 30″ stall. A shower with an angled door should be at least 32″ x 32″.

10. Tub and shower controls
The height of shower controls should be 38″ to 48″ from the floor, depending upon the height of the user. Tub controls should be between the rim of the tub and no higher than 33″ from the floor. This, of course, poses a problem if your tub and shower are controlled by the same lever or knob. In such cases, this author’s opinion is to keep the controls below 33″. In an emergency, it can be quickly reached by someone sitting in the tub.

11. Toilet placement
A toilet should have some elbow room between it and another fixture or vanity. The NKBA’s recommendation is at least 18″. Codes allow a minimum distance of 15″. If you’re placing your toilet in a compartment, it should be 36″ x 66″, although codes will allow 30″ x 60″.

12. Toilet paper holder
Even the toilet paper holder merits a recommendation. The NKBA says to put it 8″ to 12″ away from the front edge of the toilet bowl. It should be 26″ above the floor.

For more excellent information about bathroom design, visit the NKBA.

Bathroom Floor Tile: Which Is Best for You?

While there are many bathroom floor tile options, knowing the pros and cons for each will help you make the right choice in your home.

Bathroom Floor Tile

Vinyl floor tiles are among the most popular choices for the bath, and for good reason.. Photo: BathroomDesignIdeasX

Don’t miss Bathroom Floor Tile: 14 Top Options

Bathroom floor tile is available in a surprising number of materials. Ceramic, porcelain, and vinyl tiles are what come to mind first, and for good reason. They are the most popular choices and perhaps the most practical. But there are many options available today, from wood and cork to stone and glass. Here is a quick guide to help you determine the best floor tile for your bath.

Vinyl is the most popular bathroom flooring material, because of its low cost and high degree of practicality. It is well-suited for every bathroom in the house, from the master bath to the powder room. Hands down, it beats other popular choices for safety, comfort, and durability. Almost as important, vinyl tiles have come a long way in aesthetic appeal and ease of installation. The material is self-adhering and can be cut with a utility knife. Prices start at $.95 per square foot.

Nothing looks better than ceramic or porcelain, whether your tastes run to stone or wood lookalikes or brilliant colors and surprising patterns. Ceramics score high with regard to maintenance, too, but they are not nearly as comfortable to the bare foot as vinyl. Installing radiant floor heat helps to change that, but a hard surface is hard whether or not it’s warm. Ceramics are not as easy to install as vinyl, though it is a job the adventurous do-it-yourselfer can tackle. When protected with a high-grade glaze, ceramic will resist wear and scratches. Porcelain tiles are harder than clay-based tiles and may have through-body color, an advantage if chipping occurs. Prices start at around $1.09 per square foot.

Bathroom Floor Tile - Laminate


Plastic laminate tiles (more commonly available as planks) are also a good choice, especially if you’re remodeling. Similar to the laminate material that covered kitchen countertops for a generation or two, the tiles don’t significantly raise the height of the existing floor, which makes it easier to plan transitions from room to room. While durable and easy to keep clean, laminate falls short when it comes to moisture. Standing water can infiltrate the fiberboard core, causing the material to expand and buckle. With laminates, it’s critical to caulk gaps along the walls, around the tub, and surrounding other fixtures to prevent water infiltration. Another con: Laminates don’t come in the same variety of styles you’ll find with ceramics and vinyl. From $.49 per square foot.

Stone tiles were once confined to the foyer. In the past decade, however, they have become popular in other rooms as well, bathroom included. Made from limestone, marble, granite and slate, stone tiles are available in colors that range from creams to blues, reds, greens and golds. Available textures are nearly as numerous and include cleft, tumbled, sandblasted, etched and flamed variations. Stone requires more maintenance than ceramic tile; regular cleaning and sealing are recommended. Plus, stone is typically more expensive than similar-looking ceramic or porcelain tiles. Prices vary.

Slideshow: Bathroom Floor Tile: 9 Top Options

Wood is only for the fearless. Once water penetrates the finish, it will stain—probably for good. During installation, the wood parquet tiles must be carefully sealed around the room perimeter and at all other joints. Two coats of polyurethane must then be applied as protection. Use it in a powder room but avoid wood floor tile in full baths that get a lot of use. Prices vary.

Linoleum is made of linseed oil, cork powder, wood flour, ground limestone and pigments. It is at home in contemporary or retro settings and well-suited to the bathroom. It’s touted as naturally inhibiting the growth of microorganisms and being able to repel dust and dirt, all while retaining its color. In my experience, that’s hype. Click-in-place plank designs make it easy to install, and there is no doubt that the stuff looks great. The look comes at a cost, however, as linoleum is relatively expensive. Average cost per square foot: $4.

Bathroom Floor Tile - Cork


Cork is warm to the touch and very easy on the feet, and the tiles come tinted in a variety of colors. Installation is not difficult, but if you purchase unfinished tiles, expect to protect them with two coats of polyurethane. Generally, cork tiles are installed with a troweled-on adhesive, but click-in-place floating floor products are also available. Average cost: $2 per square foot.

Glass floor tile is about as different as you can get. Installed properly, this type of tile holds up well and if textured, it can resist slips. Small glass tiles with lots of grout joints are also slip-resistant. The aesthetic appeal is twofold: Covering the floor in a thin layer of glass creates the illusion of depth, and if the glass is tinted, you get a lovely stained-glass effect. Prices vary.

Tips: When buying glass, ceramic, or porcelain tile, be sure it’s rated for use on floors. Choose ceramic tile with a grade of 1 or 2 for floors. Ceramic tile also comes with a coefficient of friction (COF). For safety, choose one rated .50 or greater. The Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) rating system counts the other way; opt for tiles that are at least PEI III.

Bathroom Decorating Ideas

Read up on exciting, easy-to-implement bathroom decorating ideas for every budget.

Bathroom Decorating Ideas


Whether you consider it an in-home escape from your hectic day or simply somewhere to wash up, the bathroom is one place in your home everyone is sure to visit. Making the most of  a small space is always a good idea, and turning larger master bathrooms into spa-like getaway rooms is a growing trend.

The following are some bathroom decorating ideas for any bathroom, no matter how much or how little you are looking to spend.

Make Simple Things Count
One of the easiest ways to update your bath cabinets—and add pizzaz—is to swap out the old hardware for new. You will have no problem finding an abundance of designs at retailers, which fit your style and budget. Before you fall in love with a new pull, knob or handle, be sure to measure the distance between holes to make sure the swap requires nothing more than a screwdriver, and consider the finish on the hinges to prevent clashing.

A simple can of paint can also go a long way in transforming your bathroom. As Executive Editor Larry Bilotti shared in a blog post, a coat of Ralph Lauren paint was all it took to freshen the look of a bathroom in his weekend home. Not sure which colors to go for? Consider black and white, a classic kitchen trend that has made its way to the bathroom.

Adding a new piece of furniture can also spice up the room. Consider putting in a new vanity table or mirror; go all the way and install Electric Mirror’s Visionary™ LED & TV Medicine Cabinet, which features LED lighting, audio system, 15-inch television, and waterproof remote. Anyone want to watch the news?

Bathroom Decorating IdeasAdd Some Ambiance
Spa elements—including showers that double as steam rooms, Jacuzzis and decadent soaking tubs, mini-bars and warming trays for towels—are all common bathroom decorating ideas nowadays. “People are spending more time in their baths because it’s a retreat from busy lifestyles,” says Susan Marinello, Principal Design Director of Susan Marinello Interiors in Seattle, WA. “It makes sense that they want the spa elements that help them to relax and rejuvenate.”

Although the sky’s the limit, you can have a luxurious master bathroom even on a budget. “There are some really low-cost tricks you can use to create a spa environment,” says Los Angeles interior designer Leslie Harris. “All lights should be on a dimmer, and a sound system or even an iPod if you can’t wire for speakers goes a long way towards creating a relaxing environment.” You can also install electric heating pads under the flooring material. “You can just heat a three-foot by three-foot pad in front of the vanity or shower and really enhance the bathroom experience,” Marinello explains.

Of course, don’t forget that little luxuries go a long way. Place fresh flowers and scented candles on your countertops, stock up on wonderful soaps and body scrubs and a few super-fluffy towels. Natural and soothing blues, greens, and gold are perfect. Touches of nature go a long way, as well;  add a window garden or hang framed photographs of your dream mountain getaway.

Planning Guide: Bathroom Remodeling
Bathroom Essentials: Tubs, Showers, and Sinks
Bathroom Flooring: A Wealth of Options
How To: Create a Spa Bath at Home

Bathroom Remodeling 101

Bathroom remodeling is one of the most common home renovations.

Bathroom Remodeling

One of the most common home renovations is the addition of a bathroom. Most older houses were built with no more than one bath; in today’s world, there’s almost no such thing as too many baths. In new construction, the rule of thumb is at least one bath for the master bedroom, one bath for every two additional bedrooms, and a half-bath (toilet and sink) near the relaxation area of the house. If you have fewer baths, that may be why you’re reading this article.

You know whether your bathroom facilities are adequate or not. But there are other questions you need to ask yourself as you continue your inspection tour. Is there an electrical outlet in the bathroom and, if so, is it a ground-fault interrupter (GFI) receptacle? This is a safety device that functions as a second fuse and will, in the event of a fault in the ground, shut off power to the outlet and prevent electrical shock. They’re recognizable by their small, rectangular reset buttons located between the plug receptacles.

Is the water pressure adequate? Run the cold water in the tub or shower and then flush the toilet: If the volume of running water diminishes noticeably, the pressure is low. Do you need a second sink? Is there enough ventilation, or does the bathroom fill with steam and remain damp for hours after every shower? Is the tile around the bath or shower tight or are there signs of deterioration at the corners or at the junction between the tile and the tub or shower base? Use the heel of your hand to exert some gentle pressure on the tile walls at the point where they join the tub or shower pan. Is there any give? Springy tile may indicate the wall has gotten damp and deteriorated over the years. The absence of a grout line and the presence of mold are signs that water may be seeping into the wall cavities.

Are the porcelain fixtures in good condition or is there cracking or pitting? Are any of the fixtures of a certain age? Older fixtures, even if they have age lines, can add character. Pedestal sinks, claw-foot tubs, and pull-chain toilets are cherished by some home renovators.

Examine the floors around the toilet: Irregularities in the floor (dips, discoloration, softness) may indicate leakage that has caused decay in the subfloor or even the structure around the toilet. That will need to be repaired. Examine the floors around the perimeter of the room, too. Like kitchens, bathroom floors require wet mopping and if the joint where the floor abuts the walls isn’t watertight, moisture can be wicked by the walls and produce peeling paint or wallpaper and, over the long term, deterioration of the wall itself.

Bathroom Flooring: A Wealth of Options

Find the type of bathroom flooring that withstands moisture, looks attractive and feels good underfoot.

Porcher Lutezia Collection. Photo: Porcher

When it comes to bathroom flooring, you’ll find a wealth of options to fit any budget and style. Keep in mind the needs of the people who will be using the bath as you make selections, then let your style preference and budget be your guide. Choices abound, but stick with materials that can withstand moisture, look attractive, and feel good under bare feet. Some of the more popular options include:

Ceramic tile. This material tops many lists because it offers variety, durability, and good looks (a few even mimic stone). It is also fairly inexpensive and highly waterproof. On the downside, ceramic can be cold and slippery when wet. Choose textured finishes or smaller tiles that require more grout, thereby providing better traction.

Vinyl. A budget-conscious favorite (about $10-$13 per square yard), vinyl is available in 6- or 12-foot wide sheets or as tiles that are typically 12- to 18- inches square. While sheet vinyl is seamless and won’t come up like tiles tend to do, it is more difficult to install than the DIY-friendly vinyl tile. Both are soft underfoot, resist moisture, and are easy to clean.

Hardwood. Few materials can match the warm, inviting characteristics of wood, but moisture issues give reason to be cautious. Consider it a viable option if you’re willing to put on extra coats of varnish, make sure there are no gaps where moisture can sneak in, wipe up any water spills right away, and install a high-efficiency vent to help keep humidity in check. If you’re not up for that kind of maintenance, take a look at engineered wood, which has a plywood base that better withstands moisture.

Carpet. In general, carpet and baths don’t mix, but modular carpet tiles—like Flor—are one exception. Super easy for do-it-yourselfers to install on top of existing surfaces, these tiles have an antimicrobial backing to inhibit the growth of mold and bacteria. Plus, they come in numerous colors and patterns and can easily be pulled up, dried, and replaced.

Natural stone. Flooring like marble, limestone, and granite requires a strong subfloor and some deep pockets, but there’s no denying it makes an impressive style statement in a bath. If you’ve ever walked on slippery wet rocks along the coast or in the woods, you’ll know firsthand that these natural beauties require textured or honed surfaces to make them safe.

Cork. If you’re looking for something a little different, check out this natural material that readily resists mold and mildew and feels soft and natural underfoot.

For more on bathroom remodeling, consider:
Planning Guide: Bathroom Remodeling
Bathroom Essentials: Tubs, Showers and Sinks
How to: Create a Spa Bath at Home

Bathroom Essentials: Tubs, Showers, and Sinks

Consider lifestyle when shopping for tubs, showers and sinks.

Bathroom Fixtures

Kohler Blove Cast-Iron Bath in White and Loure Deck-Mount. Photo: Kohler

Lifestyle is an important consideration when selecting tubs and showers. For instance, while people often fall in love with the looks and the idea of a sculptural soaker tub or air tub, both units require lots of water as well as ample time to truly enjoy. Likewise, while a cultured marble tub (a limestone and polyester resin material coated with a gel) mimics the look of marble without the high expense or the worries of cracking and etching, this material would be ill-suited to a family bath where kids would quickly damage the surface.

Cast iron and acrylic are popular and reasonable material choices for most bathrooms. Cast iron is highly durable, retains heat well, and is built to last, but it is more expensive than most other materials and requires sturdy floor support due to its heavy weight. Acrylic (also called fiberglass) has a high-gloss finish that is similar to cast iron, but is more affordable and lightweight enough to be molded into various shapes and designs. It won’t retain heat like cast iron, and it will scratch easier, though repairs are generally inexpensive.

Showers, like tubs, come in varied shapes and sizes. You can opt for inexpensive shower units that are installed with a tub, or indulge in a large shower for two with spa-like rainheads, chromatherapy, and beautiful floor-to-ceiling tile.

Bathroom cabinets and sinks are also hardworking components that need to be chosen for their function as much as their style. Otherwise, you might just find yourself steaming as you attempt to balance toiletries on the edge of a pedestal sink. Expect to pay anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars on cabinets, realizing that you usually get what you pay for. Here are some things to consider when choosing cabinetry and sinks for different types of bathrooms:

A family bath will have multiple users and incur a steady amount of wear and tear. Consider a double sink vanity that will increase efficiency if you have room. Think twice about vessel sinks in a family bath, as you’ll likely spend a lot of time wiping up after the kids. Choose durable countertops like laminate, solid surface, or engineered stone and quality cabinets with ample storage. Conventional cabinetry that is floor mounted with a toe kick is a good choice for family bathrooms. Just avoid cabinets made from processed wood products as they do not stand up well to moisture.

For a master bath, you have more options, but will still want quality cabinetry and ample storage. Furniture-style vanities are an attractive choice, as are vessel sinks. If you opt for a pedestal sink or two, consider building stylish floor-to-ceiling storage towers nearby.

For a powder room, you have the most varied material choices because moisture is not an issue, and you’ll need less storage space, too. Pedestal sinks, vanities made from antique dressers, and small vanities with marble tops are all options here.

For more on bathroom remodeling, consider:
How to: Create a Spa Bath at Home
Planning Guide: Bathroom Remodeling
Bathroom Flooring: A Wealth of Options

Quick Tip: Budget-Smart Bathroom Remodeling

Five tips from the pros to help keep your bathroom remodeling budget in check.

Photo: Delta

As with any home improvement project, it’s smart to approach bathroom remodeling with special attention to budget—particularly since the national average for a bath redo is around $16,634, according to Remodeling magazine’s 2010-2011 Cost vs. Value Report. But a new bath will not only provide greater comfort, appeal and usefulness for you and your family, it will also offer a good return on investment. A mid-range bath remodel can see a 70% return on investment—even higher in certain regions of the country.

You can do a lot to control expenditures as you plan. Here are five “budget-smart” tips from the pros to help you plan your best bathroom remodel:

Go with classic style.  Choose fixtures and materials that are classic, in timeless colors and made from high-quality, natural materials. Ornate decorative tiles, vessel sinks and bright, bold colors may appeal to your taste, but not a prospective buyer. Wall color can be changed easily enough, but avoid permanent fixtures and materials that are too exotic or extravagant. The investment will be more recoverable if you stick with the classics.

Consider stock options.  Take advantage of stock cabinetry and vanities that come in standard sizes, which lowers the price.  Stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s have a full array of bathroom cabinetry. Look for well-built, solid wood cabinets to make certain they will hold up to bathroom moisture conditions and daily use and abuse.

Use tile selectively. ”Tile is really the thing that makes a statement in a bath,” says Julie Williams, CKD, CKB, owner of Julie Williams Design in Novato, California, but it can also add considerable cost. “Consider finding an affordable field tile and combining it with more extravagant accent tiles,” she adds.

Evaluate space and needs. Check out adjacent closets or hallways to see whether you can annex some extra square footage. Or rethink how you use current fixtures. “In master baths, lots of people are foregoing a tub in lieu of a bigger shower and more space,” says Anissa Swanzy, co-owner of SKD Studios in Lusby, Maryland. “They realize it takes a lot of water to fill a tub, and they don’t have time to soak anyway.”

Put your money where it counts. Most professionals agree that you want to put your money into permanent things, like good solid cabinets that meet storage needs and any plumbing behind the walls. “No one wants to break through a beautiful tile wall to fix the plumbing,” says Nanae Nakahara, CKD, CKB, owner of Elegance Redesigned in the San Francisco Bay Area.

When planning your remodeling project, take advantage of online tools.  For a ballpark figure of what a bath renovation costs in your area, check out the bath estimating tool on Improvenet. For space planning, consider Kohler’s virtual bathroom planning tool as an alternative to playing around with sketches on paper.

For more on bathroom remodeling, consider:
Bathroom Flooring: A Wealth of Options
Bathroom Essentials: Tubs, Showers and Sinks
Planning Guide: Bathroom Remodeling

Planning Guide: Bathroom Remodeling

Bathroom remodeling ideas you might consider, including approaches to design, storage, materials, and fixtures.

Bathroom Remodeling Ideas

Kohler Tresham Collection. Photo: Kohler

Bathrooms continue to top homeowners’ lists of popular rooms to remodel—and for good reason. As more Americans are carefully investing in their homes rather than selling, they realize the value of a bath redo extends beyond enjoying new decor. Per Remodeling magazine’s 2010-2011 Cost vs. Value Report, midrange bath remodels get a 70% return on investment—even higher in certain regions or neighborhoods. That means if you spend the national average of $16,634 to remodel, you will not only enjoy a new bath, but you’ll also recoup $11,643 or more when you sell. (And having an updated bath just might give you a seller’s edge in a slow market.)

As with any home improvement project, it’s smart to spend with care. Begin the process by deciding how much you’d be comfortable investing in a bath, then do some research and familiarize yourself with the basics. This guide will provide useful information about design considerations, storage solutions, and tips for choosing materials and fixtures.

Most baths are modest in size (50-70 square feet), but that doesn’t stop homeowners from dreaming big. To get a realistic perspective on what’s possible, look through design books, magazines, and websites for ideas. Visit home shows and designer showrooms where you can open drawers, feel jet sprays, and really ‘kick the tires.’

“I always ask what it is about a client’s existing bath that they don’t like,” says Nanae Nakahara, CKD, CKB, owner of Elegance Redesigned in the San Francisco Bay Area. “Are the cabinets too small or do they not like the colors? Some people think that if they just put in everything new, they’ll be happy. But you need to carefully consider the space and budget to get the very best out of it.”

Here are some key points to get you started:

How will the bath be used? It may sound obvious, but first take note of who will be using the bathroom and how, says Nakahara. Are you redoing a family bath that receives lots of wear and tear? Or are you going for a spa-like master bath to soak your cares away? Determining the needs of the inhabitants will give you key direction on materials, storage, and space needs.

Set a budget. According to the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA), a non-profit trade association, bathrooms can be one of the priciest rooms to remodel on a cost-per-square foot basis, partly due to the fact that there are numerous water, electrical and plumbing issues. Still, there are options to suit almost any budget. “To share a few examples: a master suite with all the amenities and luxurious materials in a major metro area could reach $100,000,” states the NKBA Bathroom Planning Guide (available as a free download at “However, a lovely yet modest makeover in a smaller town might be achieved for less than $10,000.” For planning purposes, the NKBA recommends allotting 20% of your budget for installation, 16% for cabinetry and hardware, and 15% for fixtures. For a ballpark figure of what a bath renovation costs in your area, check out this estimating tool at Improvenet.

Make a plan. “One of the first things we tell clients is to look at the entire space rather than how it’s being used right now,” says Anissa Swanzy, co-owner of SKD Studios in Lusby, Maryland. “Lots of times people can’t imagine it any other way or they can’t see the full potential for themselves. If you’re doing a cosmetic update, then it’s expensive to move the toilet, but if you’re doing a major remodel, then moving the toilet is a small price to pay to have an efficient floor plan in the end.” Check out adjacent closets or hallways to see whether you can annex some extra square footage. Or rethink how you use current fixtures. “In master baths, lots of people are foregoing a tub in lieu of a bigger shower and more space,” says Swanzy. “They realize it takes a lot of water to fill a tub, and they don’t have time to soak anyway.”

Whatever choices you finally make, leave room to breathe. The NKBA suggests at least 30 inches of space in front of any fixture. Play around with sketches on paper or try out Kohler’s virtual bathroom planner.

Find storage solutions. “When you’re looking at cabinetry, try to get as much storage as you can,” Swanzy advises. “We’re doing big tall armoire cabinets between two sinks and floor-to-ceiling pantry-style cabinets.” The right depth of storage is important, too. “Most people provide too deep of storage, but then things just get piled up in front of each other,” says Julie Williams, CKD, CKB, owner of Julie Williams Design in Novato, California. “I tend to go 15 inches deep but 30 inches wide. That way you can see everything at a glance.” Williams also tries to create a separate toilet room whenever possible, adding floor-to-ceiling storage on one wall of that room for things that aren’t used everyday. That leaves the vanity storage less crowded.

Review safety matters. In the interest of health and safety, baths need proper ventilation, good lighting, and non-slip flooring to prevent falls.

For more on bathroom remodeling, consider:
Bathroom Essentials: Tubs, Showers and Sinks
How to: Create a Spa Bath at Home
Bathroom Flooring: A Wealth of Options

2011 Bathroom Trends

Read for trends from the 2011 Kitchen & Bath Industry Show.

2011 Bathroom Trends


Cleanliness, conservation, and comfort—welcome to the 21st-century bathroom, which was highlighted prominently by many new products at the 2011 Kitchen & Bath Industry Show in Las Vegas.

For those seeking an enhanced shower experience, an array of new products were on display.  For instance, Jason International’s new Zero Threshold-TZ3260 shower base is designed for new and retro-fit installations, with easy, barrier-free entry, a seat where one can rest while showering, and a slip-resistant floor.  Another company, Jet Pro Shower Spas , offers a unit that replaces the existing shower valve with a unit that provides a rainfall-type shower experience. And Moen ’s Flushmount body sprays feature adjustable spray faces that can pivot the water up to 20 degrees in any direction, providing a multidirectional, full-body shower experience, with a design that fits against the shower walls to facilitate installation and servicing.  QuARTz by Aco is one of the shower manufacturers that aims to balance design and function considerations, with its linear drainage systems that allow level shower designs and, in some cases, provide water-activated lighting.

And when you think bath, think “micro bubble.”  Cashido Corporation ’s Cabozi system, which installs under your bathtub, provides a whirlpool function at the touch of a button.  The company describes the product as a body-friendly experience in which billions of micro bubbles cleanse, soften, and smooth your skin and aid relaxation.  Jason International , meanwhile, promises similar benefits for mind and body with its Microsilk™ system, offered on 53 of its bathtub models, promising the therapeutic effects of billions of micro bubbles.

The bath massage experience is also the focus of several manufacturers, including Kohler , CG Air Systems and Foshan Korra Bath Ware .  Kohler’s Elevance Rising Wall Bath, which comes with a Bubble Massage option to supplement its main features, including easy entry and chair-height seating.  CG’s installations allow the upgrading of an existing bathtub with its electronic Integrated Air Massage System, while Foshan offers a line of computer-controlled massage bathtubs, featuring a modern acrylic/fiberglass design and six or eight massage nozzles.

It would seem that efforts to build a better mousetrap have been overtaken by the attempt to build the ultimate toilet—a toilet that never overflows, conserves water, eliminates bathroom tissue, cleans easily, and, in some cases, offers entertainment.

Function figures most strongly in Penguin Toilets ’ Model 524, a Water Sense-rated unit that features built-in overflow protection and, in language that a plumber would love, “good bowl rinse.”  Inax USA offers eco-friendly toilets for a variety of budgets and design schemes, including its Eco-X series, with a powerful flushing system that minimizes water usage and has an easy-to-clean antibacterial finish.  The Regio integrated toilet takes toilet technology up several notches:  a sound system, heated seat, double power deodorizing, automatic flushing, and dual nozzle bidet, and antibacterial finish can be yours for $7,000 and above.

The universal presence of toilets is clearly an invitation for add-ons.  Brondell ’s Swash 1000 advanced bidet toilet seat, which fits an estimate 98% of toilets, offers varied nozzle positions, wide spray option, and nozzle oscillation for optimal cleansing and hygiene.  An adjustable heated seat, warm air dryer and automatic deodorizer complete this “ultimate bidet seat experience.” And  Jon-E-Vac offers its Toilet Ventilating System as an easy-to-install product that uses fans and antimicrobial agents to remove bacteria and odor directly from the toilet bowl.

The “Ultimate” Experience
For the “ultimate” bathroom experience, Electric Mirror offers its Visionary™ LED & TV Medicine Cabinet, which has LED lighting, an audio system, a 15-inch television, and a waterproof remote.  Anyone want to watch the news?