11 Steps to a Dream Bathroom

Designing your dream bathroom calls for careful space planning, considering your needs and a sophisticated mix of materials, textures and proper lighting. Get expert tips for making your dream a reality.

  • Think Function First

    A bathroom, like the kitchen, is one of the hardest-working spaces in the home. If it's not functional, everybody suffers. Keep all of its functions in mind when choosing the sink, tub, shower, toilet and other pieces. For instance, the bathroom is a workstation for preparing for the day so plenty of storage and access to outlets is key.

  • HGTV Dream Home 2011 Master Bathroom Tub

    Make It Relaxing

    But the best bathrooms aren't all about functionality, they're also a sanctuary — a spa-like space where you can relax and wash off the cares of the day.

  • Map the Space

    Plumbing considerations will impact where you place the shower, toilet and tub. Yet, you also need to think like an industrial engineer when making a bathroom floor plan. Walk the space with your contractor and imagine the tasks required to get ready for the day. Consider the length of your arm's reach. Do you want to store objects in a vanity and, if so, would you mind bending over to retrieve them? The objects used most often, as a rule of thumb, should be closest at hand.

  • Contemporary White Bathroom

    Plan for Little Luxuries

    Consider what other functions you can incorporate into the bath with a little clever planning; perhaps you'd like a seat in the shower, a steam room or built-in storage for linens.

  • Coastal Vanity Unit

    Choose a Motif

    How do you want to feel when you're in the bathroom? Is it a formal space (consider a black-and-white scheme) or a casual area (try neutrals)? The motifs often associated with baths are water oriented, like this fish-themed powder room designed by Kate Ridder. Seashells, boats, piers, blue hues and sandy beach colors are also frequently used.

  • Reflect Your Favorite Style

    But water themes aren't the only option, it's okay to think outside of the box. Choose a motif that relates to the area in which you live (city or country?), a style of architecture you love (classic English country or New England cottage?) or a style that you're personally attached to (bohemian or Asian?). Remember: A bathroom motif doesn't have to (and probably shouldn't) knock you over the head.

  • Know Your Surfaces

    When selecting products for the bath, such as tile or marble, be sure that you know the inherent qualities and the drawbacks of each material. Will the marble or tile stand up to heavy wear? (Watch out for veins in marble, which often indicate weak points.) Do you want a polished floor or more of a honed look? Shiny floors may become slippery while natural materials may have a pitted surface that is more slip-resistant, but may also collect dirt.

  • Add Drama With Fixtures

    Plumbing fixtures are the jewels of the bathroom because they're metallic and can add a dramatic effect to any space, just as jewelry can to an outfit. There are a plethora of finishes and styles offered by today's manufacturers, from brass to bronze and all metals in between. Keep in mind your motif and maintenance as you choose your bathroom fixtures. Elaborate gold fixtures probably won't jive with a beach-inspired bathroom and may also require more cleaning than you're up for.

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    Be Careful With Lighting

    Choosing the correct lighting is critical in the bathroom, where mirrors are present and mood is important. Consider the appropriate task lighting for sink and shower areas. Keep in mind that fluorescent lighting casts a bluish tint, as opposed to the yellowish radiance of incandescent bulbs. Combine blue wall paint and blue-hued fluorescent lighting and you may look like Frankenstein's bride in the mirror.

  • Gorgeous Freestanding Tub in a Traditional Bathroom

    Mix Soft and Hard

    Use small amounts of fabric to reduce the inherent harshness of many bathroom materials. Anything from towels and shower curtains to window treatments and small upholstered pieces, like a vanity stool, will bring a soft touch to a hard space.

  • Add a Touch of Mother Nature

    Don't forget to incorporate plants and greenery in the bathroom. The asymmetrical nature of growing things (in design lingo this is called fractal) will help offset the bathroom's many right angles and straight lines.

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