Top Bathroom Design Features
1. Heated Floors
By far, the most recommended bathroom feature from design and building pros is heated floors. “Most people would assume the must-have bathroom amenity is a giant tiled shower or a freestanding tub,” says home builder Stephen Alexander. “We do recommend those, but the one feature that’s always overlooked is the cold tile floor that can diminish the spa experience. So we always specify heated floors.”
Many pros say the feature is relatively inexpensive and easy to install. “Every client who makes the investment absolutely loves the feature and will never go back to cold floors if they build again,” says designer Kathryn Chaplow.
2. The Right Lighting
Attention to lighting is also high on bathroom remodeling pros’ recommendation lists. They encourage a layered approach with overhead lights, accent lights like sconces, and decorative lighting like chandeliers.
If you get up frequently during the night, don’t forget to include a nightlight. “I like to do these at the toe kick or underside of a floating vanity,” says designer Jamie Leonard of Vertical Interior Design. “This light is set on a sensor so that it’s only on at night or when the room is dark. This helps with those middle-of-the-night bathroom breaks so you don’t blind yourself.”
If possible, a skylight over the shower, preferably operable for ventilation, is something you’ll never regret. And a dimmer switch for light fixtures is a must, pros say. “Sometimes you want it to be dim, sometimes you need to shave or put on makeup,” says architect Tim Barber. “We strive for several different choices of lighting to set a mood.”
And be sure to cast yourself in the best light. “Always install lighting on the sides of the mirror so there aren’t shadows on your face,” says designer Tiffany Waugh.
3. In-Drawer Outlets
Most of us use some sort of plug-in gadget in the bathroom. Hiding an outlet in a drawer or cabinet helps keep those hairdryers and other items off the countertop and can prevent them from encountering pooled water and creating a hazard. “With bathroom technology moving more and more electric, I always recommend storage with outlets in it for electric toothbrushes and razors,” says designer Selena Fitch. “That way they are off the counter and hidden. It can be a medicine cabinet that has been designed with outlets or even a plug strip inside a vanity cabinet.”
This approach also keeps unsightly outlets from diminishing the look of a backsplash or other feature.
4. Storage, Storage, Storage
A bathroom can’t function without proper storage. And most pros recommend a mix of open, closed, drawer, cabinet, niche, or any other necessary solutions. “You always need a lot of storage for towels and other bathroom accessories, and there are so many ways to include bathroom storage in a beautiful and functional way with gorgeous cabinetry,” says designer Christie Veres of CDV Interiors.
Designer Melvin Stoltzfus often recommends a hidden hamper near a shower, either in a vanity or linen cabinet, to prevent dirty clothes and towels from piling up.
5. Shower Niche
Speaking of storage, few pros these days design and build showers without dedicated space for shampoo bottles and other products. And a niche recessed into a shower wall is by far the most popular solution.
There are many different designs to consider, but you’ll want to make sure the dimensions can accommodate the height and amount of products you typically keep in the shower, and maybe a little extra room for overflow. “I recommend that clients include a middle shelf inside the typical rectangular cutout, but place it in the bottom third of the space, so that the bottom is a smaller compartment for soap and razors,” says designer Sheila Mayden. “The upper shelf is for taller items like shampoo, conditioner, and body wash.”
A niche also offers an opportunity to introduce some extra style into the shower with a contrasting accent tile or other material.
6. Natural Materials
Many people feel, either consciously or subconsciously, that natural materials have an inherent quality that’s hard to put into words. They provide a feel-good something that seems absent in synthetic materials. “Our bathrooms represent rest, relaxation, and self-care,” says designer Kymberlea Earnshaw. “For these spaces, I always look to nature. I recommend using natural materials whenever possible — real stone, wood, plants, etc. The earthy elements balance out the water element, and together they create that spa-like feel that is so nourishing for our mind, body, and souls.”
Consider wood vanities, natural woven elements or, many pros’ favorite, marble. “Marble is our No. 1 favorite material,” says designer Tracy Huntington. “If a client can enjoy a few marks and some wear, marble patinas beautifully over time. It’s a total classic. You can’t go wrong with marble.”
7. Handheld Sprayer
A handheld sprayer might seem like a small detail, but its inclusion can have an enormous effect on the shower experience. They are great for rinsing shaved legs, cleaning shower walls, and more. “I always recommend adding a handheld in the shower,” says designer Chloe Rideout of Cummings Architecture + Interiors. “It makes cleaning pets, kids, or the walls so much easier.”
8. A ‘Wow’ Moment
Every space needs a focal point or feature that makes you smile or say “wow” every time you see it. It could be a wall treatment, a decorative light fixture, a graphic floor tile, a standout vanity, or anything else that keeps things interesting. “I always try to incorporate something unexpected,” says designer Whitley Wirkkala of Oak & Linen Interiors. “This could be wallpaper or a funky light fixture. This keeps the room fresh and brings in a little flair.”
9. Quality Plumbing
Don’t judge faucets and other plumbing fixtures on looks alone. The inner components are vital to how these pieces function and how long they will last. Poorly made fixtures often have plastic gaskets and other pieces inside that quickly break down, affecting water flow and other performance features.
“High-quality plumbing fixtures are an absolute must,” says designer Carmit Oron. “This is not an area where it’s wise to save money. I usually explain this to my clients during our initial meeting, which takes place in a plumbing showroom. For me, quality plumbing is the starting point for everything, and where my design process begins.”
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