Consider style, form and function when approaching a bathroom makeover.
By Jenny Martin
Some of the most common queries I get about bathrooms are requests to revise dated or spartan builder-bathrooms. There have been many advances in bathroom design and function in recent years, giving bathrooms inviting, spa-like qualities.
Luckily, there are many ways to update these boring bathrooms, whether you want a simple refresh or a complete renovation. To bring in modern luxuries and conveniences, you can focus on functionality and esthetics, as well as sensory considerations. All of these elements can make a big impact.
Smart Storage Solutions
A major drawback of many older bathrooms is their lack of storage, which is often limited to a small basic vanity. From a functionality standpoint, replacing the vanity and adding extra built-in storage is a great place to start. It’s now common to add specialized drawers for towels and linen, for example.
Dirty clothes often end up in the bathroom, so hamper storage is also a smart option. Roll-out drawers beneath the main sink cabinet are popular additions, so instead of wasted space, that area becomes storage for surplus shampoos or cleaning products.
Consider programming drawers for better organization. Where do your hot tools live, and how do you deal with the cords? There are pull-out drawers that can go beside your sink that kill power to the outlets when they are closed, so you don’t have to worry about whether or not you unplugged your curling iron. You can even set up his-and-her sides, where she has the stainless-steel cups that hold all the hot tools, and he may have space for an electric razor and toothbrush.
Another functional update to consider for dated bathrooms is adding outlets. With the number of gadgets we enjoy today, people often find too few plugs to accommodate this reality. When adding outlets, be sure they are tucked away, either low on the wall, or down on the side of the vanity, for a clean look.
In older bathrooms, the counters are often quite low. Nowadays, we aim for a minimum of 34 inches, but in a house that was built in the 1950s, they’re often sitting at 31 inches, which can feel drastically different. With higher counters, you aren’t leaning over as far when you’re brushing your teeth, and it’s closer to the ideal working height — typical kitchen counters are at 36 inches. A slightly higher counter also creates more space beneath for a stool to accompany a makeup station.
Older bathrooms often present lighting problems. The standard bath bar across the top of a mirror is a challenge, both for adequate illumination and esthetic, and is often considered one of the least flattering types of lighting available. I recommend switching to cross illumination by putting sconces on either side of the mirror. You want a light source with a good quality of light and temperature, then diffuse it with a shade or cover. This will give you flattering, even lighting for applying makeup or shaving.
Another element people are adding is an illuminated mirror, either one of the smaller magnification mirrors with a built-in LED or one inside a medicine cabinet with a perimeter LED. It’s amazing the difference this can make for grooming tasks.
When considering lighting, wet pot lights in the shower are wonderful extras. Dimmable fixtures are another element to include, so you can create a candlelight esthetic for a bath without being in complete darkness.
If you wish to add personality to your bathroom, you can employ many fun techniques rather than starting over completely — even just replacing the stock mirror with one in a more interesting frame.
Another simple way to make a big visual difference is to add bold wallpaper or wall panelling. Installing bead board or a board-and-batten motif can add a coastal flair. Bringing in natural elements, such as arrangements of botanicals, is a great way to add that spa-like atmosphere.
Layer textures with baskets and textile elements, or add a linen Roman shade or another natural texture to the windows.
Adding dynamic sensory elements is one of the easiest updates you can make. Options for this include techniques like chromotherapy — shower or whirlpool systems that make your water change colours with different lights. Aromatherapy can be a wonderful addition in steam showers. You can also create that spa-retreat experience at home in different levels, with diffusers, candles and plants.
When it comes to making your ideal bathroom edit, it’s all about making it your own.
Jenny Martin, founder of Jenny Martin Design, specializes in the creation of high-end luxury homes. She is dedicated to helping homeowners define their personal style while optimizing their daily routine through bespoke systems.