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Bathroom Vanity Countertops

Vanity tops must play the dual role of being durable and capable of standing up to water, soap, cosmetics while serving as an ample work surface for morning rush hour in the bathroom. This is no place for delicate, porous (read: easy-to-stain) surfaces. At the same time, the vanity top can be a focal point and a connecting point, where wood cabinets below meet tile wall above, for instance.

By: Kristen Hampshire

10 Things to Consider Before Remodeling Your Bathroom

Article by:  Gillian Lazanik

Whether you have a simple powder room or a master en suite, functionality should be at the heart of your bathroom remodel. Read on to learn tricks for gaining storage, improving lighting and drainage, and more to ensure that your renovated bathroom stands the test of time.

1. Plumbing. Residential plumbing typically uses 1½-inch pipes for drains. You’d be surprised how much gunk and hair goes down that drain. The larger the drain, the less likely it is to clog. The cost difference to upgrade to a 2-inch drain is practically negligible, and unless your framing doesn’t allow for it, you should consider increasing the drain in your shower to 2 inches. 

Also, If you live in a region where temperatures drop below freezing during the winter, it’s important that your water supply lines don’t get routed through an exterior wall.

2. Lighting. Consider recessed light fixtures throughout your ceiling to brighten up the room. Include one (or two) in your shower with the proper shower trim. Install a dimmer switch so you can adjust the mood in your bathroom. You’ll want to consider how you’ll be using the mirror in your bathroom and whether you want aesthetic or functional lighting. Whether you’ll be applying make-up or shaving, bright light fixtures properly placed go a long way to help you see what you’re doing close up.

3. Medicine cabinets. Do you have the space to recess your medicine cabinet? Oftentimes this is a great way to save a few inches of space over a shallow vanity, and the additional framing typically isn’t going to break the budget. If that’s not an option, ensure that you have enough room at your vanity to have your medicine cabinet protrude by 4 to 5 inches.

4. Wall-hung toilets. These fixtures have grown in popularity lately, and for good reason. They no longer break the bank, and they also save space since the tank is hidden behind the wall. But there is a big consideration with these special fixtures. Because of how these toilets drain, if you ever change your mind and opt for a floor-mounted unit, you’ll have to rework the supply.

5. A window in the shower. This is a great feature if done properly. Some things to consider: Choose a frosted-glass panel for privacy and preferably one that opens for fresh air. Next, ensure that there are stone jambs along the entire installation so that this area is watertight. Also, ensure that the sill gets sloped down and away for proper drainage. Lastly, I always specify a tilt-and-turn window in a shower, because the screen is located on the outside of the window; the handles are plastic, so they won’t rust; and the window provides full privacy even when tilted open.

6. Shower sills. Like the windowsill, what’s important here is that it is sloped properly into the shower. Try to choose a material that is solid, like stone or quartz. If you tile your shower curb, water can sit on the grout lines and eventually seep through to the framing.

7. Shower floors. Larger tiles are typically more difficult to slope properly, and unless they’re textured, they’ll be slipperier because the grout lines are further apart. Smaller tiles, whether textured or not, offer more traction and are typically the norm for shower floors — though the options are nearly limitless.

8. Shower bases. Gone are the days of boring beige prefabricated shower bases. More and more, I’ve been using shower systems that have modern, clean bases made out of acrylic or porcelain. Don’t overlook other options for your shower floor.

9. Drawer storage. Consider installing a vanity with drawer storage rather than doors. Drawers are easier to access and easier to organize. They can be cut out around the plumbing and can be extra large to accommodate large items.

10. Shower or tub? When considering a bathtub or a shower-only option, ask yourself how many baths you take a year. I often have to remind my clients that they are not renovating their homes for a future buyer, but rather for themselves. Even if you live in your house only for another five years, it’s worth it to do it for yourself. And besides, there’s no guaranteed way to tell what will appeal to a future buyer.

All the Details on 3 Single-Sink Vanities

Article by: Becky Harris

There are more decisions that go into planning a bathroom vanity than you might think. Since January is the month when the most people go in search of the right vanity, we decided to take a closer look at them. In this story we focus on three single-sink vanities designed for three different situations. We chose three fairly modest full bathrooms, ranging from 50 to 74 square feet, and looked at each vanity’s style and dimensions, sinks, faucets, color, materials, hardware, storage, countertops and lighting.

Vanity 1: Eclectic traditional-modern mix in a double-duty bathroom

“This bathroom acts as both the guest bathroom and the powder room in this condo,” says interior designer Jodie Rosen. “The vanity had to do double duty in looking pretty and functioning for a secondary bathroom with storage and counter space.” 

Style: The approximately 50-square-foot bathroom mixes elegant traditional elements like the marble countertop and glass knobs with more modern ones like the clean-lined vessel sink, square hand towel holder, mirror and faucet. “It’s fresh- and light-looking while still providing the utility required,” the designer says.
Door style: Raised panel with a beveled edge
Dimensions of vanity: Five feet long by 32 inches high by 18 inches deep
Paint color on vanity: Oxford White in a matte finish, Benjamin Moore
Hardware: Glass knobs, Upper Canada Hardware in Toronto
Sink: Ove by Wetstyle. Vessel sinks change up the height of the vanity. “The overall height of the sink should sit between 34 to 36 inches [from the floor], and if you’re working with a vessel sink, the top of the sink should sit at that height and the countertop height would be subtracted,” Rosen explains. “So a 4-inch-high vessel sink would be at 36-inches high and the countertop would sit at 32 inches high.”
Faucets: Open-top tall fixture
Counter: Statuario marble
Floor: Statuario herringbone mosaic
Backsplash: 7-inch Statuario slab
Mirror: This is a custom mirror. Its sharp lines add a modern touch to the room.
Lighting: These are custom refurbished fixtures. The finish is stainless steel.
Wall color: Oxford White, Benjamin Moore
Challenges: “We had a limited depth we could work with because of the door opening and the subsequent casing,” Rosen says. “The vanity is slightly narrower than standard, and it meant that we had to put the faucet to the side, which was not originally part of the design — it’s an interesting detail that I think makes the bathroom that much more beautiful.”

Rosen advises being mindful of the proportions of each piece. “The hardware sizing, if too large or small, can offset the look dramatically,” she says. “I always like to keep things somewhat monochromatic with the fixed finishes — too much zing can pull your eye drastically away from the overall feel of the space.”

Vanity 2: Transitional and functional for her

In this 55-square-foot bath that was the “hers” half of his-and-hers bathrooms, interior designerTracey Stephens was going for “feminine but not froufrou.” The vanity’s curves accomplish this. “The vanity is rather large for a one-sink configuration, but she wanted lots of countertop space and storage underneath,” Stephens says. 

Style: This is the Louis vanity by Waterfall Bathroom Furniture, crafted in custom extra-long dimensions and then customized by a carpenter who turned two awkwardly large doors into four. A gracefully shaped edge along the bottom adds feminine flair and throws a few curves into the room.
Dimensions: 60 inches wide by 24 inches deep by 36 inches high
Vanity paint color: Light Pewter, Benjamin Moore
Special details: Stephens included a holster for a hair dryer inside one of the vanity doors.
Hardware: The designer chose polished chrome, which coordinates with other accessories in the room. The cabinet knobs are the K-11485 Archer by Kohler.
Sink: Stephens chose an undermount sink that gives the countertop a sleek look. The sink is the Loretta undermount by Bates & Bates.
Faucets: Nexus faucet by Toto
Counter: Quartz Reflection 7141 by Caesarstone
Backsplash: A pencil line of glass tile in a color that that picks up on the wall paint breaks up the simple white porcelain 6-by-6-inch square tiles. The square tiles are topped off by a 2-by-6-inch bullnose tile. 
Mirror: “More storage was also the reason for three medicine cabinets,” Stephens says. To fill the length of the vanity, the designer used three recessed cabinets ganged together. 
Lighting: A three-light sconce over the mirror provides plenty of light for makeup. 
Wall color: Thornton Sage, Benjamin Moore

Because the client wanted an extra-long vanity top with a single sink for lots of counter space, the company customized it for her. The problem was, they could only make it in a two-door version. 
Challenges: “When the vanity was delivered, as I suspected, the two doors were huge and quite problematic due to the narrowness of the room,” Stephens says. “My awesome cabinetmaker, Jason Aksman of Fine Custom Carpentry, made four smaller doors out of the two.”

Across the room, a valance plays off the curved shape of the vanity. A polished nickel square pyramid nailhead detail picks up the other finishes in the room. 

Vanity 3: Clean and contemporary with lots of storage

This is the master bathroom for a husband and wife. “It’s their sanctuary from their four kids,” says interior designer Beth Kooby. “They wanted a clean, contemporary look.” Because there’s no medicine cabinet, the vanity needed to hold all the toiletries the couple needed at the sink and mirror. The bathroom is 74 square feet. 

“I custom-designed this to be simple, sleek and not too fussy — because my clients are not — but also elegant,” Kooby says. “I chose a warmer-colored wood to balance the coldness of the marble floor and all the glass in the room.” The style of the vanity also coordinates with custom cabinetry in the adjacent master bedroom, creating a pleasing cohesiveness between the two.

StyleContemporary
Dimensions: Forty-two inches wide by 20 inches deep by 34 inches high
Sink: Kohler Ladena in white
Faucets: Purist line by Kohler
Backsplash: 2-by-12-inch Lucian glass tile in Oxygen Gloss from Ann Sacks
Mirror: Custom
Lighting: Modern sconces in clear glass

Vanity wood: Sapele
Hardware: “I had a dream about this hardware before I found it!” Kooby says. “It’s acrylic with nickel posts, from Matthew Quinn Collection.”
Countertop: Custom concrete with bits of recycled glass, fabricated by Dex Industries. The bits of glass pick up on the glass tile as well as a Starphire glass shower niche. 
Challenges: This vanity, with its six drawer fronts and pedestal base, has the look of a contemporary dresser. But of course, with an undermount sink and plumbing hidden behind it, there’s more going on than meets the eye. 

Both of the top drawers have an L-shaped interior to accommodate the sink; the middle section is one front made to look like two separate drawer fronts, with a U-shaped interior to accommodate the plumbing, and the bottom is two separate full drawers,” Kooby explains. 

The vanity turned out so beautifully that the clients didn’t want anything mucking it up. “She insisted on a free-standing toilet paper holder so we wouldn’t drill in to the side of the vanity, because it’s so pretty!” Kooby says.

Bathroom Backsplashes Make a Style Statement

Article by: Meera Innes

The functional nature of sinks might not always inspire style, but the backsplash can be a bathroom centerpiece. Backsplashes help to protect the wall from water damage, but the myriad materials, colors and finishes also make this a small feature that can transform the feel of a bathroom and add drama, polish or character.

Create a centerpiece. Extending the backsplash over an entire wall — or, as here, a column — creates a feature wall that showcases the sink area. The use of white subway tiles throughout a large bathroom might appear too sterile, so choosing the same tiles in a different color with contrasting grout is a fresh idea that gives a pristine bathroom some much-needed zing.

Go for glamour. If opulence is your style, then it doesn’t get much more gorgeous than this custom inlaid wood backsplash. Polished natural wood inlaid with floral motifs isn’t your everyday sink backdrop and will require maintenance to keep it in perfect condition, but why not choose stunning artwork to gaze at first thing in the morning and last thing at night?

Contrast with polish. Give distressed furniture a twist by combining it with a clean, contemporary backdrop. The backsplash used here is made simply from two large, distinctly modern concrete tiles that quietly showcase the understated sink. 

Leaving the wall behind the sink bare could have rendered this area wanting in the style stakes, but the tiles make it a focal point, tying everything together with their smooth and rough finish that’s midway between the sleek sink and the Shabby Chic–style washstand.

Give it character. The vintage feel of the materials in this bathroom, from the stools to the mirrors, calls for a backsplash in a similarly antique style. The small cut and colorful pattern of the tiles used here make them an appropriate contrast to the stark white subway tiles. 

If you’re feeling bold, choosing slightly mismatched tiles in the same size and shape for each sink could also work in a bathroom aiming for this sort of bohemian charm.

Don’t be scared of brights. A backsplash is an easy way to add punchy color to bathroom decor, which often errs on the neutral side. This backsplash’s smooth, modern finish and long lines are in keeping with the overall style of this contemporary bathroom. Aim for cohesion, not clashing, in a space as streamlined as this.

Define your sink area. Backsplashes aren’t just for the wall — your floor could use the love, too. The way this backsplash rolls down into the floor tiles gives this sink the red-carpet treatment. The Moroccan design is a quirky choice that lends the contemporary feel of this bathroom a pleasing bohemian twist.

Keep it quiet. If your bathroom is a haven where you like to unwind and escape the chaos of life, then a muted palette might just hit the right tone. The gray-blue of this backsplash doesn’t fight with the striking Victorian-style ceramic floor tiles, yet quietly enhances the gray tones of the vanity unit and paneling.

Choose white in a small space. Even the simplest backsplash can make all the difference to a sparsely decorated bathroom. Here, the humble subway tile adds plenty of interest to a run-of-the-mill white suite. All-over white was the best choice for keeping the decor clean and enhancing a sense of space in this mini loft bathroom, while wooden details in the door, window and accessories add a warm edge.

Play with color and texture. It could have been tempting to follow through on the reflective theme here by creating a mirrored backsplash, but these colorful iridescent tiles provide a refreshing contrast with enough shine for consistency. The hint of art deco about the tiles complements the style of the mirror and cabinet while keeping the overall look modern.

Work a neat repeat. If you’ve used tiles elsewhere in the bathroom and you have some left over, it makes perfect sense to use the remainder on the backsplash. It’s a less adventurous choice, but it ensures that your theme is consistent, and you can be certain it’ll match the decor.

How to Choose the Right Bathroom Sink

Article by: Anne Ellard

“Eight,” I hear you say. “She can’t possibly be serious. Isn’t a sink just a sink?” But yes, I am serious — and my clients are often baffled when trying to choose from the available options. The truth is that choosing one can be a bit overwhelming, but only when you’re not sure what you’re looking for. First, you need to consider which room you are shopping for (master en suite, family bathroom, powder room), who will use the room and how much space you have. 

So before you head off to choose your new bathroom sink, grab a coffee, have a read and then go out armed with the information you need to help narrow down the best options for you and your space.

1. Top-mount sink. Probably the most commonly used sink, a top-mount, or drop-in, sink is designed to sit on top of the counter, as the name suggests.

Generally speaking, most of the sink sits below the counter, with just the rim of it sitting on top of, and visible above, the counter. The rim can be either very slim or a bit chunkier, like the one pictured, depending on the style you choose. 

Pros: Top-mount sinks are suitable for pretty much any countertop material, including wood and laminate, as the cutout is completely covered by the sink and therefore doesn’t risk being damaged by water. They are also less costly to install in a stone countertop, because they don’t require laborious polishing of the cutout edges, as with an undermount sink. 

Con: You can’t wipe water and spills straight from the counter into the sink. 

Good for: Elegant en suites and minimalist schemes.

2. Undermount sink. This sits underneath the counter. The rim of the sink is fixed to the underside of the countertop, as opposed to sitting on top of it. 

Pros: This creates a seamless, clean look, as less of the actual sink is visible. Another advantage is that water and spills can be wiped directly from the countertop into the sink without any obstruction, making it a great, easy-to-clean option for family bathrooms. 

Cons: Undermounting a sink will usually only be possible with a solid-surface countertop, such as stone, and isn’t suitable with a laminate, as it can’t be sealed as well against moisture. These sinks also tend to cost more than top-mount ones. 

Good for: Busy family bathrooms.

3. Wall-mounted sink. This is fixed directly to the wall without needing to sit in or on a countertop. It looks streamlined and gives a minimalist feeling to a room. 

Pros: A wall-mounted sink doesn’t have any cabinets below it, which saves on space and also leaves more visible floor area, making the room feel bigger. For a wall-mounted sink to work in your space, all the plumbing, including the waste, must be positioned inside the wall to have a clean look.

Cons: There is no storage space, and there is a lack of “landing” space due to the absence of a countertop. Consider your need for storage in your bathroom before opting for a wall-mounted sink and maybe reserve it for the powder room, where storage isn’t as important. 

Good for: Small spaces.

4. Pedestal sink. If your preference is a simple wall-mounted sink, but your waste pipe has to go through the floor and can’t be changed, then a pedestal sink is a great option.

Pros: The pedestal under the sink sits between the underside of the sink and the floor, concealing any pipework in between. A pedestal sink is also aesthetically pleasing and perfect if you want to give your bathroom a classical vibe.

Cons: Again, consider the fact that you won’t have any storage space under the sink or any counter space around it. This option can also be a bit tricky to clean around, as there is usually a gap between the wall and the back of the pedestal (as pictured here).

Good for: Period properties and traditional schemes.

5. Semirecessed sink. If your bathroom or en suite has limited space, but you would still like some vanity cabinets below your sink for storage, then a semirecessed option might be the solution you need.

Pros: A semirecessed sink sits proudly at the front of cabinets and the countertop that it sits on, allowing you to have much shallower cabinets — maybe even as shallow as about 12 inches (300 millimeters), depending on the model you choose. This frees up valuable floor space. It also keeps a lot of the counter space free for cosmetics and other products. Much like a pedestal sink, this is a good option for young children and people with limited mobility, as you can get closer to the sink to reach the faucet without the obstruction of a countertop and cabinets.

Cons: The storage space underneath is limited. Also, because there isn’t any countertop around the front of the sink to catch water, splashes and spills onto the floor are more common, especially in a home with children. 

Good for: Mini-me’s and beauty queens.

6. Washplane sink. Washplane sinks, often spotted in sleek hotels and restaurant bathrooms, are the simplest of the options. They’re slim, streamlined and stylish. 

Pros: Washplane sinks take up very little space, so they are great in a room where space is limited, such as in a powder room. You can buy one made of ceramic, porcelain or glass off the shelf. Alternatively, a stonemason can make them in this style from granite, marble or engineered stone. They simply mount a small stainless steel trough under the sink to catch the water before it runs into the waste pipe in the wall behind.

Cons: Washplane sinks are best suited to the powder room, where the sink will be used just for hand washing. They don’t come with the option of having a plug, plus they are extremely shallow, so they’re not designed to hold water. 

Good for: Powder rooms.

7. Vessel sink. A vessel sink is one that generally sits completely on top of the countertop, although there are some models that sit partially below the counter. 

Pros: Unlike most other sinks that are exposed above the counter a little or not at all, vessel sinks demand attention and are a great way to create a statement in your bathroom. As the name suggests, a vessel sink is basically like a large bowl, so it is a great choice if you like a deep sink that can hold plenty of water. 

Cons: Due to the height of vessel sinks and the way they sit above the counter, careful planning of the counter height, and of the height of the cabinets below, is required to ensure that the sink doesn’t end up being too high and uncomfortable to use — this often leads to less storage space under the counter. Cleaning around the base and back of the sink can also be a bit tricky. 

Good for: En suite bathrooms.

8. All-in-one sink and countertop. Many off-the-shelf vanity cabinets that can be purchased from bathroom supply stores offer an all-in-one countertop with a sink that sits on top. With this style, the sink itself is actually molded as part of the countertop. It can be made from various materials, such as porcelain or acrylic. 

Pros: The main advantage is that it’s so easy to clean. There are no ridges or seams, so it’s very streamlined and a great choice for busy family bathrooms. These sinks are generally available in set standard sizes; however, some suppliers may offer the option to have one custom made to the size that suits your space best.

Con: These all-in-one tops are usually designed so the countertop gradually slopes down and inward to create a sink in the middle. This can lead to having less flat counter space to put things on than what you would have had if you had opted for a top-mount sink sitting on top of a countertop, for example. 

Good for: Time-poor renovators, and those who need to buy something straight off the shelf and don’t have time to wait for a custom-made sink.

How to Hide the Toilet

Article by: Royston Wilson

What is the one item that no one wants to be the star attraction in the bathroom? Yes, you guessed it — the toilet! Camouflaging a toilet in a bathroom is surprisingly easy. If you have the space for the toilet to be separate, then it is very easy; however, most of us do not have the luxury of an abundance of space. This is when the trick of distraction comes in handy. 

But just how do we employ the art of distraction to our advantage? Put simply, it’s all about clever design. Installing an interesting bath, vanity, feature wall or shower, or championing an outside view, can help make the toilet practically disappear from the foreground. It will still be there — but won’t be what you remember when you depart from the space. Let’s take a closer look.

Create a Separation 

Low wall. This bathroom has been designed to maximize the view (not the toilet!). A sense of calm and contentment is present as you soak in the bath, with shelves and a seat conveniently close by for magazines and maybe a bottle of bubbly. The low wall, while seemingly insignificant, underpins the experience and ensures that at no point in your bathing experience will you notice the toilet.

Angled wall. With a tiled angled wall creating a dramatic backdrop, the toilet was never going to be the first thing you notice here. Not only is the angled wall a shield for the toilet and shower at the other end, but it also creates the feeling of more space. A stepped vanity (one that has different levels) and a beautiful freestanding back-to-wall bath keep your attention as you continue your journey through the bathroom.

Nib wall. A nib wall is a very handy addition to a bathroom. In this case it has created a logical place for the vanity to run into and has partially blocked the toilet from view. Two birds with one stone! Interesting light fixtures, handles and wallpaper combine with the various textures of the stone and timber to ensure that a feast for the senses is the primary experience.

Wow factor. This is a real case of stating the obvious. Toilet paper is used to create a divider and storage point between toilet and basin here. This is one powder room that will never be short of a roll or two!

Layout

T-shape. By planning a T-shaped bathroom, you allow the vanity to be the hero. Here, the toilet sits neatly behind one wing and the shower behind the other. Function is taken care of, while form is delivered in full.

Defined areas. Depending on your entry point in this two-door bathroom, the toilet can be seen or not seen at all. Within the layout it is essentially treated as a room within a room. The cabinet that divides the space creates extra storage and is a great alternative to a wall, cleverly giving privacy to the toilet area.

Distraction

Central focus. This bathroom is a perfect example of distraction. It instantly draws your eye to another place — the pool. Originally there was a brick wall here, but with the pool in view, a new focus was delivered. Both the vanity and the toilet have become secondary in importance, so that while walking into this bathroom, you find yourself thinking, “What toilet?”

Eyes up. Generally, a built-in bath will not take center stage in a bathroom. In its place, the vanity can be highlighted. The designer of this bathroom has made the wall-hung toilet part of the vanity, with the striking green feature tile drawing the eye to the harmonious pairing with the timber.

Feature walls. A feature shower with mosaic wall in this bathroom is enough to draw your attention past the toilet. With the toilet kept off the floor, a feeling of light and space has been created. What’s more, the timber flooring gives the room lineal interest.

Art is a wonderful medium that evokes such varied emotional responses. This natural stone is beautiful to behold — it fills the room and is framed artfully by the doorway. The whiteness in the stone also allows the toilet to become almost obscure.

Feature cabinetry. In this tight space, everything is on display. However, as the toilet is white on a white wall, it recedes into the background, while the framed cabinets catch your attention.

Decorative items. Sometimes the toilet must be on view. When this happens, embrace it! Again, decorative items like screens and lights can work wonders to redirect attention. The white floor and accessories here also mean that the white toilet does not stand out, but rather forms a part of the overall composition.

Tricks of the Eye

Floating features. It is hard not to want to touch the floor and wall here. They are so textural and inviting. Your eye is drawn to the slim sink that complements the line of the timber perfectly. Everything appears to float. The soft mirror shape follows the internal curve of the sink as though it has been lifted out of its niche. Finally, there is the toilet — last and definitely least!

Unique. Now this is different. The toilet is bench mounted. This unusual setup might lead most people to think a toilet is missing from this bathroom altogether — but they’d be wrong. A very high sink allows the single stone bench to be at a suitable seating height for the toilet, which is discreetly mounted on top. The bonus is that the bench extends into the shower, doubling as a built-in shower seat.

Dark color. The dark, moody colors of this bathroom make the toilet stand out. A brave move, but one that works with enough detail elsewhere to draw the eye.

Light color. At the opposite end of the spectrum, we have the toilet that almost disappears. With the whites of the wall and floor, this wall-hung toilet can barely be seen.

Make the Most Out of Your Small Bathroom

Article by: Robert Bollinger


small bathroom

A small bathroom doesn’t have to be cramped or uncomfortable. A well-designed bathroom remodeling project can create a space that feels big on space and on luxury.

Think beyond the usual

A traditional vanity and double sink can be beautiful in a big bathroom, but even a scaled-down version can overwhelm a room that has a much smaller footprint.  Consider options like these, which will look great without taking up too much space:

  • A pedestal sink in a classic or contemporary style.
  • A wood vanity with a rounded front that takes up less space than a typical square or rectangular box.
  • A sink and vanity that fit snugly into a corner that would otherwise be wasted.
  • A wall-mounted sink with a wall-mounted faucet.
  • A porcelain sink on chrome legs with an open shelf underneath.

Take advantage of the hidden spaces.

You may not be able to knock out walls or open up a closet to create a bigger bathroom, but don’t overlook the valuable spaces behind the drywall.

  • Eliminate a hinged door that opens inward and add a pocket door that disappears behind the walls.
  • Replace a toilet that sits on the floor with a wall-mounted version. The tank and the plumbing are tucked away between the wall studs.
  • Choose a recessed vanity. You’ll get the space that you need for toiletries without having an object protruding into the room.
  • Create storage shelves for towels, toiletries and cleaning supplies in the spaces between studs. Use glass or Plexiglas for shelving for a light, airy look.

Color it beautiful

There are a few ways you can go when choosing the color scheme for your bathroom remodel. One approach is to choose a soothing, neutral color—think natural stone colors of beige and cream—and carry that throughout the entire space with slight variations in tone or with a specific accent, like a row of beautiful handmade tiles.

If you prefer a bolder approach, look for wallpaper with a big, airy print. Large, open geometric prints area a popular choice.

You can also create the illusion of more space by adding horizontal lines, such as two or three rows of accent tiles, around the perimeter of the room.  If the ceiling feels like it’s closing in, consider adding floor-to-ceiling shelving or storage (it doesn’t have to be very wide) or adding a pop of color at the top of the wall to draw the eye upwards.

Add an interesting focal point—an unusual mirror, a shelf with a candle and a picture of your favorite beach retreat—to draw attention away from the small size of the room.

Keep it bright and simple

Clutter can make even large rooms look smaller. Stow the toothpaste, the makeup and the mouthwash someplace off the counter.

The right lighting brightens the dark corners, making a room look larger.  If your window is small, consider installing a skylight or Solatube. If that’s not an option, try adding wall sconces or even a small chandelier to typical bathroom lighting.

If your bathtub and shower are dingy and dull, and replacement is out of your budget, consider a system that lines your current tub and shower surround to make them look like new. Choose clear glass shower doors or a shower curtain that can be moved to one side so that the space within the shower enclosure adds to the space in the room.

Careful placement of mirrors will reflect light and the walls in the room, adding to the illusion of space.

Splurge a little

If you were remodeling a big bathroom you might not be able to afford radiant floor heating or beautiful glass tiles around the perimeter of the room. Since you need a smaller quantity of such materials in a small bathroom—and since their installation cost is much less than it would be in a larger space—those luxuries may now be within your budget.

When you treat yourself to something that you really want in a small bathroom, you’ll appreciate it every day—and you’ll find that you wouldn’t trade your small bathroom for a bigger space.

6 Lessons Learned From a Master Suite Remodel

Article by: Anne Higuera CGR, CAPS

Some good friends of ours just finished a master suite remodel. On the whole it went well: on time, on budget and generally to their satisfaction. Still, the process and execution were less than flawless, and as I listened to what didn’t go exactly to plan, I realized that other people could benefit from considering many of the lessons my friends learned before they embark on their own projects.


1. Have a plan. This is not just an idea in your head and some hand waving or rough sketches. A plan is dimensioned and intentional, and includes elevations showing what rooms look like from different directions. Plans are most frequently and effectively assembled by design professionals who know the amount of space required for common features in rooms, like showers and vanities, and are accustomed to working out solutions for challenging spaces.

The purpose of a plan is twofold: to show homeowners what they should expect, and to show contractors what they are expected to build. Without a plan, you have only hand waving, and that’s not much on which to base a contract, or from which to build.

Having a plan also enables homeowners to interview a short list of contractors and to evaluate their thoughts on the likely cost. Without a plan, every contractor you talk with will have a slightly different idea of what you have in mind.

Hire a design professional to create this plan. Design professionals do this all day, every day, and will put together a functional plan that 99.9 percent of the time will be better than anything you could come up with yourself. It will also have some beautiful feature or function that you never would have thought of (or would have thought impossible). Spend the money. It’s worth it. If you’re not convinced, talk with a friend or two who decided to forgo professional design and see how their project turned out.


2. Specify materials. A corollary to plans is specifications. This list of materials and methods outlines what will be installed and in what way. Specifications provide the opportunity to outline everything that will be installed and mention things like where seams will be in countertops and how many seams are acceptable. These kinds of things can have a large bearing on cost, so documenting what you expect will help contractors provide pricing for the specific things you want.

Think about cars as a comparison. Do you just ask for a 14-foot-long black car with a 6-cylinder engine? That could be a lot of different cars at different price points. Think about the kinds of details you’d consider for ordering a car, and make sure you ask for all of the features you’d like in your project, or you might end up with a base-model bath or kitchen.

As in item No. 1, hire a professional to do this. It will be money well spent.

3. Don’t be frightened. The dollar amount you will spend on your remodel can be high, particularly if the plan for the project you really want costs twice what you thought it would. It’s not unusual for homeowners to start with a wish list and then make decisions to bring the scope of work for their project back in line with their budget. Expect this to be part of the process.

The first step of budgeting for a project is to talk with your design professional about how much you are willing to spend. Make sure you account for at least a 10 percent contingency amount in that so you are aiming for a realistic number. When the first round of pricing comes back from contractors and it’s higher than your budget, it’s probably because it includes your entire wish list.

This is when value engineering (VE) comes in. When you value engineer a project, you identify parts of the scope of work (either the materials or the size of the project) that can be deleted or substituted. In most projects there’s a decent list of items that will reduce costs and allow you to bring the project into the range of your budget. 

Working with design professionals through this process will allow you to benefit from their expertise and delete or change items that won’t substantially affect the finished project.

4. See the value of CA. CA is not California. It’s construction administration, and it’s one of the key services that architects offer their clients. 

When the construction set of plans is done, the elevations and electrical plans are complete, and the project is ready to start, it is not time to bid your architect adieu. Construction administration keeps architects on through construction, usually attending weekly meetings and providing design details as needed, assisting with electrical and tile layout, and providing feedback to the contractor as they build.

Architects also provide clients with an objective and experienced eye as construction proceeds. They can scan the room and notice whether framing is installed as they designed it and whether the materials they specified are being used — particularly on the components of the house that are inside walls.

I can unequivocally say that the projects we work on where CA is part of the project go more smoothly and have more consistently excellent outcomes, because of the collaboration that is built into the process. Would you rather have your contractor work out design details, or the architect to whom you entrusted the design of your project? Let all the professionals do their jobs, and keep your team together during construction.

5. Ask how and why. If you aren’t entirely certain about how something is done or why it’s being done, ask. Construction professionals’ work is usually routine and expected. Because of that, tradespeople sometimes will install things a certain way because it’s the simplest and easiest way to do it. But sometimes the path of least resistance won’t yield the result you want.

Why does that ductwork need to go there? Probably it doesn’t. It can go in one or two other places, and having a conversation about where it will go can make a big difference in your finished space. The same thing with plumbing lines and other infrastructure.

In residential jobs, plumbing, electrical and HVAC work is almost always bidder-designed, meaning that your construction plans won’t give instructions about how to get utilities to their locations — it will just show where they need to end up. That means a deliberate discussion is needed. If you don’t ask, and your contractor is not proactive, don’t be surprised to see ductwork or plumbing in places you don’t want it.

6. Ask how long and how much. When changes are made during construction — and they inevitably will be — don’t just ask whether a change can be made, but know the cost and the impact on schedule. Change orders are supposed to detail the change made and all of its effects, but sometimes they don’t capture everything. For instance, you might like to add an outlet to an existing wall. There’s the obvious cost of the electrician, but what about the demolition where the outlet will go, patching the Sheetrock and repainting the wall at that location? Oh, and protecting the floor while the work is going on. It never hurts to ask, “Is this really all of it?”

One other thing to make sure you ask with change orders is whether the decision you’re making affects anything else. An example might be changing the size of a vanity sink base from standard to custom. There’s an obvious change in cost for the cabinet, and perhaps an adjustment to the countertop cost if the size of the cabinet makes it larger or smaller, but did you think about the sink and faucet you selected months ago for the standard cabinet? Changes to casework almost always have a cascade of effects, from countertops to tile to millwork, and can necessitate revisiting sinks and faucets to make sure they still fit.

10 Design Moves From Tricked-Out Bathrooms

Article by: Natasha Saroca

Seemingly standard cupboards with smart, unique or high-tech elements and accessories behind their doors can make a world of difference when it comes to making a bath zone more organized and user friendly.Cases in point: The 10 bathroom cabinet ideas you’ll find here. While they may look fairly basic upon first glance, take a closer look and you’ll find that the beauty (and benefits) of these bathroom storage units go well beyond the surface.

1. Bright lighting ideas. Do you often struggle to find items in your bathroom cabinet because it’s so dark inside? Built-in cabinet lighting will solve that problem. Opt for recessed downlights (use glass shelves in your cabinet or open shelving unit, rather than ones made from solid materials like wood or stainless steel, as this will allow the light to filter through to the bottom of the cabinet), or try a backlit panel that will illuminate the entire storage space, like the one shown here. 

For added functionality, rather than a switch-operated light, select a sensor light that automatically turns on and off when the cabinet door is opened or closed.

If you wish to enhance the mood of your bathroom, line the base of your vanity or medicine cabinet with LED strip lighting, which can also double as a nightlight when you need to use your bathroom late at night or early in the morning, but don’t want to turn on your bright overhead lights in case they jolt you wide awake from your sleepy state.

2. A cubby for your gadgets. Want your hair dryer, straightener, electric toothbrush or shaver to be easily accessible but don’t want them cluttering the top of your vanity? A compact nook with a lift-up door (like the one pictured) or pocket doors where you can stash your grooming gadgets may be just what you need. Position the compact cabinet on top of your vanity so that it sits at a comfortable and convenient height, and in front of an electrical outlet so the devices can remain plugged in, charged and ready to go at all times.

Alternatively, if countertop space is at a premium, you might consider incorporating a drawer with a built-in electrical outlet into your vanity or bathroom cupboard instead.

3. A slide-out step. Do you have youngsters who struggle to reach the basin — or everyday items that sit on top of the vanity, in high shelves or in tall cupboards — in your family bathroom? A pullout or fold-down step is a nifty addition for any family bathroom. (Notice how the step in this transitional space is disguised as a run-of-the-mill drawer.) Position it at the base of your vanity or other cabinetry in your bathroom that your little ones may need to access. 

It may also prove useful when cleaning, as it will allow you to dust and wipe down hard-to-reach spots, like the top of your mirror or medicine cabinet.

4. Drawer organizers. Bring order to messy drawers with inserts that divide the storage space into separate, easy-to-manage (and easy-to-navigate) sections for different bath-time and grooming essentials, like razors, brushes, combs and skincare products. This clever, clutter-free setup shows how it’s done. A deep, roomy drawer conceals two smaller drawers, each of which boasts removable organizers that can be taken out when in use and reconfigured when the need arises.

5. Innovative drawer runners and door hinges. It’s not pleasant waking up to the sound of someone slamming bathroom drawers and cupboard doors early in the morning while hurriedly trying to get ready and race out the door. Nor is the sharp, shooting pain you feel after slamming your fingers in these cabinet fronts. That’s why innovative drawer systems and door hinges (like push-touch drawers and soft-close drawer runners and doors) are a solid investment for any bathroom, especially one for families with young kids or people with motor or mobility challenges. Not only do they offer smooth and silent function, but they’re also safer, extremely durable and ergonomic.

6. Mirrors inside and out. While mirrored doors are a standard inclusion on most medicine cabinets, when you’re shopping around for one for your bath zone or talking custom bathroom storage options with your designer, we suggest opting for one that boasts a mirrored interior, too. Why? As you can see looking at this sleek cabinet, a mirrored back panel will allow you to see items that are hidden at the back of your cabinet, which means you’ll be able to find and access whatever you’re looking for quickly and with ease. This particular design also features an adjustable built-in magnifying mirror that slides up or down for users of different heights.

7. Hidden washer-dryer. When closed, this vanity appears to have six roomy drawers, but pull on any handle on the right hand side and that side’s “trio of drawers” (actually a cleverly disguised cupboard door made from three drawer fronts that have been attached together) opens to reveal a washer-dryer inside. Genius!

8. Cabinet doors that stay out of the way. Hands up if you’ve almost taken yourself out when opening a medicine cabinet door that opens outward (or is it just me?). Or perhaps you simply find side-swinging cabinet doors annoying because they block your view and get in your way when open? Either way, whether your bathroom storage woes are centered around safety or convenience, you may like to reconsider regular doors in favor of ones that lift or slide up, like the lift-up mirrored panel pictured here. Some pull-up door systems are also semiautomatic for added functionality and user-friendly appeal.

9. Space makers. In bathrooms where space is at a premium, it’s important that the storage solutions you incorporate are smart and use every last inch of room available. Take this clever bathroom cabinet, for example. Rather than the tall, deep, narrow cupboard’s being fitted with basic shelving, a pullout storage system has been used instead to maximize space and ensure that the cabinet’s contents are always visible and easy to access.

Corner drawers, rotating carousels for awkward nooks and built-in compartments on the backs of cupboard doors are other crafty storage solutions you might like to consider.

A hideaway hamper that looks like an ordinary drawer or cupboard is another neat idea that will enhance the look and functionality of your bathroom, as it will free up floor space and hide your dirty laundry.

10. Go high tech. For those who wish they could watch the news while getting ready in the bathroom every morning, or an episode of a favorite TV show while soaking in the tub at night, you might be keen to get a medicine cabinet that features a mirrored door with an integrated LCD TV screen. Alternatively, you might like to kit out your cabinetry with built-in speakers so you can listen to the radio or mood-enhancing music while preparing for the day or night ahead.

If your style is more practical, consider incorporating a mirrored medicine cabinet with built-in dimmable lights or an electric defogger.

Bathroom Countertops 101: The Top Surface Materials

Article by: Lisa Kahn

Choosing the perfect material for one’s bathroom countertops can be a bit of a brain teaser, thanks to the abundant — and quite attractive — options available at nearly every price level. But because bathroom surfaces typically don’t face the same abuse as those in the kitchen (think hot frying pans, sharp carving knives and spilled Bordeaux), the decisions most buyers wrestle with are usually more about style and cost than Herculean strength. Fortunately, the top bathroom countertop materials on the market combine beauty and brawn in equal measure. Here’s a closer look at some of the most sought-after bathroom surfaces among today’s buyers.

Granite

If your heart is set on granite, count yourself among an enduring majority. Despite encroaching competition from quartz (see below), granite remains the premier choice among the varieties of natural stone, due to its dramatic beauty and seemingly endless variety of colors and patterns.

Pros:

  • A profusion of options: With patterns from subtle to bold and a rainbow of hues, you’re sure to find a slab that speaks your language.
  • Granite is hard and scratch resistant, and requires minimal upkeep when properly sealed.
  • It’s impervious to humidity or damage from a hot curling iron.
  • It lasts just about forever.
  • Because granite is so desirable, it’s likely to add resale value to your home.

Cons:

  • Granite is still one of the most expensive countertop choices.
  • Because there’s a real chance of damaging the slab if it isn’t handled properly, it’s best to hire a professional to do the job.
  • Though granite is recyclable, its transport and mining require extensive energy resources.

 

Price range: $50 to $100 per square foot, depending on the size and thickness

Quartz

Quartz is one of nature’s hardest and most abundant minerals. In fact, nearly every type of stone contains some percentage of this ubiquitous material. Manufacturers of quartz countertops (familiar brand names include Caesarstone, Cambria, Zodiaq and Silestone) add pigments, resins and, occasionally, recycled content, to a base that is about 95 percent natural stone. 

Pros:

  • Quartz is tougher than granite and doesn’t require sealing.
  • It’s naturally resistant to moisture, stains and bacteria.
  • It has a variety of edge treatments and installation options

Cons:

  • Quartz can rival high-end granite and marble in cost.
  • Honed and textured finishes will show fingerprints and smudges, so frequent wipe-downs may be necessary.

Price range: $60 to $100 per square foot

Solid Surface

Solid-surface materials are made of acrylic resin and crushed stone. Top brands include Corian, Gibraltar, Formica Solid Surfacing and Staron. You’ll find a wide range of solid colors and subtle patterns that pair especially well with contemporary decor.

Pros:

  • Extremely durable and naturally resistant to water, bacteria and stains.
  • Realistic flecked or streaked styles can rival natural stone.
  • Virtually seamless.
  • Minor damage can be buffed out.
  • Available with integral sink and backsplash options, as well as custom color inlays and lighting effects.

Cons:

  • Requires professional installation.
  • Wear and scratches are more visible on darker colors.
  • Can be damaged by intense heat or dropped objects.

Price range: $40 to $100 per linear foot

Marble

For centuries marble’s cool elegance has been synonymous with wealth and privilege. But thanks to improvements in its production, this rare beauty has become a bit more affordable. A hard, crystalline form of limestone, marble is often white with streaks of grays, although there are many color variations.

Pros:

  • Long lasting and strong enough to resist most chips or dents.
  • Can be polished for a high shine or honed for a casual, matte finish.
  • Adaptable to nearly every style.

Cons:

  • It’s expensive.
  • Marble’s porous nature makes it prone to stains, scratches and etching from acidic substances.
  • Requires periodic sealing to maintain the finish.
  • Price range: $125 to $150 per square foot, depending on thickness and installation

Concrete

No longer exclusively an industrial material, concrete has miraculous shape-shifting abilities that allow an endless array of looks. Most concrete countertops are manufactured offsite for maximum quality control.

Pros:

  • It’s an appealing organic material that can mimic the look of natural stone.
  • Vast range of customized colors, textures and decorative inlays.
  • Can be cast in the exact shape, dimensions and edge style desired.
  • Extremely durable.
  • Reasonably ecofriendly, especially when recycled content is added.

Cons:

  • Professional design and installation are recommended.
  • Because concrete is naturally porous, countertops need to be waxed and sealed regularly.
  • Visible seam lines, although their appearance can be minimized with a colored filler.

Price range: $65 to $135 per square foot, not including installation

 

Laminate

Laminate has come a long way since the garish pastels and visible seams many of us remember from the ’60s and ’70s. Most commonly known as Formica, this easy-care product is composed of a thin plastic surface that’s pressure bonded to a particleboard or plywood base. The latest printing technologies are used for modern laminates to produce amazingly realistic stone- and wood-like finishes, as well as a plethora of solid and graphic patterns.

Pros:

  • One of the most affordable countertop surfaces.
  • Durable, water resistant and easy to clean.
  • Warm to the touch.
  • Presized products are widely available at home supply stores.
  • Relatively easy to install without a professional.

Cons:

  • Laminate tends to thin or dull over time.
  • Damages can’t be repaired; the entire counter usually needs to be replaced.

Price range: $24 to $50 per linear foot

Tile

Ceramic tile can be a charming and informal surface material, especially in a Spanish colonial– or beach cottage–style bath. Boldly patterned tiles also make wonderful backsplashes and tub surrounds.

Pros:

  • Glazed ceramic tiles are resistant to heat, stains, scratches and moisture.
  • Tile is affordable, and individual tiles can be replaced if damaged.
  • The installation and pattern can be customized.

Cons:

  • Grout can attract stains and mildew and may be difficult to keep clean.
  • Tiles can crack or chip.

Price range: $10 to $50 per square foot.