Ask A Designer: Small touches create a great master bathroom
By Melissa Rayworth
It’s easy to design a gorgeous master bathroom if you have a huge budget. But with the right choices, says interior designer Gabriel Anderson, you can have an exceptional master bath without overspending.
“Having huge expanses of marble is amazing and wonderful, but you don’t have to have that to have an amazing bathroom,” says Anderson, co-founder of the New York design firm Dean and Dahl. There are “little touches you can incorporate that really bring a master bath to life.”
We’ve asked Anderson and two specialists in bath design — Julia Walter of Boffi Georgetown in Washington, D.C., and Nadia Subaran of Aidan Design in Silver Spring, Maryland — to tell us what those little touches and smart strategies might be.
PLANNING A BETTER SHOWER
When you reach in and turn on your shower, does your hand get soaking wet? Wouldn’t it be nice if it didn’t?
“One of the things that I always do now is installing the handles for the shower in a place that’s not directly below the shower head,” Anderson says. That will require the pipes to be extended a bit further, so “the plumber will be bugged by it. But in the end, it doesn’t really cost a lot more.”
Another impactful adjustment: Design a shower that’s enclosed by a partial glass wall, with an open space but no door and no step where you enter. The floor needs to be pitched downward just slightly near the drain so that water doesn’t run out of the shower area. This is easier to do in a larger bathroom, especially if you’re doing new construction rather than just remodeling, Subaran says, but it’s worth considering.
“Folks are thinking about wanting the ability to just kind of walk into a shower,” rather than stepping over something to get in, she says.
Another option is to make room for a larger shower by skipping the tub. Some real-estate agents advise that having a tub in a master bathroom is important for a home’s resale value, and you might find that a tub is a necessity for your family.
“Designing is all about the user,” Anderson says. “We bring them into the master bathroom and have them take baths in there. For us, it’s an absolute necessity.”
But, he says, “if space is at a premium, sometimes it’s worth taking that space and having a more luxurious shower.”
RECONSIDERING THE DOUBLE SINK
When designing a master bath for a couple, Walter often asks how often they actually use the sink at the same time. It tends to be pretty rare. So for clients seeking a change of pace, she suggests a 4-foot-long wash basin within a vanity.
“Instead of two sinks,” she says, you have one sink with two faucets. So you can be next to each other when you want to, but when one person is alone they have a large sink all to themselves without taking up extra space in the room.
“You can save a little bit of money there,” Walter says, and still have “a beautiful, big, master-bath vanity.”
ADDING FURNITURE AND SPECIAL PIECES
“You always need a place to sit down to take your slippers off, or whatever the case may be,” Anderson says. This is something often shown in design magazines, and many homeowners do have a bit of space for it.
One tip is to buy an attractive chair or bench meant for outdoor use, because it will be moisture-resistant and upholstered with outdoor fabric. Anderson says many outdoor styles in teak or metal can look great in a master bathroom.
And seating isn’t the only detail you might get creative with: Try hunting for a vintage mirror in a distinctive frame, or a unique light fixture, he says.
“This is something that just takes the time of going to estate sales or antique stores or whatnot,” Anderson says. “Taking the time to go and find that special piece … can really elevate your bathroom,” and doesn’t have to cost much.
INCREASING YOUR COMFORT
No one wants to feel chilly when they step out of the shower. So many people are adding heated floors to master bathrooms.
“Radiant floor heat is no longer a trend — it’s like the norm for master-bath heat,” says Subraman.
A heated floor can be expensive depending on the bathroom’s size, but for a heating splurge that isn’t costly, consider heated towel racks.
All three designers are fans of stone on walls and vanity surfaces. It offers natural beauty that won’t go out of style and can be combined with a range of color palettes.
“Stone is always a trend,” Anderson says, “but I think right now people are wanting to use large amounts of stone as opposed to porcelain.”
If you want high-quality stone but are concerned about cost, one option is to cover just one wall and your vanity with it, then leave the other walls painted.
It’s a practical choice that’s also timely, Walter says: “The trend is going toward not having the whole bathroom tiled.”