We asked Next Stage Design Manager, Sarah Gaffney, to answer a few Q&As on what constitutes a well-designed bathroom and give some bathroom design tips. Before joining the Next Stage Design team in 2016, Sarah spent more than 10 years managing Sunset magazine’s Idea House program, where she partnered with leading architects, builders and designers to design and build award-winning show homes throughout the western United States.
Q. What bathroom design element do homeowners most often neglect?
A. Lighting. Everyone knows that a bathroom needs a toilet, sink, and tile, but lighting is often an afterthought. Lighting is an essential component to good design, contributing both to a room’s ambiance and how you perform everyday tasks in the space. In a bathroom, you should have a mix of task lighting, accent lighting (such as wall sconces), and ambient overhead lighting. Lighting at the bathroom mirror is particularly important. To best illuminate your face, lighting at the vanity should be beside the mirror and at eye level. Lighting over the mirror can cast shadows on the face, not good for makeup application!
Q. What is the one feature every homeowner wants in a bathroom remodel?
A. Storage. Older bathrooms almost always lack adequate storage—except for a small medicine cabinet and space under the sink that competes with the P-trap.. Like the kitchen, the bathroom is a hard-working space with specific storage needs, specific to the person using the space. Think twice before you install a pedestal sink; they look nice, but the trade-off is the storage you lose. Before thinking about your new bathroom vanity, purge your existing bathroom and define what your specific storage needs will be. Whether your considering stock or custom cabinetry, defining your needs first will help focus your design.
Q. What is a common design mistake first-time remodelers make when planning a bathroom renovation?
A. Short-term thinking such as neglecting to anticipate your future needs. If your family expands, keep in mind; you’ll probably need more storage and a layout to accommodate multiple users. If you’re thinking about retiring in your house (even if it’s 10 years down the road), consider installing or planning for aging-in-place features such as grab bars. It’s more economical to install now or create the support in the wall for a future installation, than to have to figure it out a decade from now and possibly damage the existing tile. Another potentially expensive mistake is to create a space driven by the latest design trends. You want to create a space that you’ll love now and 10 years from now. -That “in” color could be – “out” long before then and what you loved in 2018 could become the avocado green of 2028. Try to make classic design choices that will stand the test of time. Accessories, rugs, and towels are a fun way to incorporate trends without too much commitment.
Q. How do you advise clients to handle their remodeling budget?
A. Plan for the unexpected. First, it’s important to go into a project with a realistic budget and a good understanding of what you can accomplish with that money. Many clients have unrealistic ideas about what can be done on their budget, but a remodeling professional can help you figure this out. And remember, if you go into a project with your budget already stretched to the max, you’ll have no cushion to handle unexpected issues.. Crossing your fingers and hoping for the best is not a plan for dealing with eventualities. When remodeling a bathroom, homeowners often encounter unforeseen problems with mold, dry rot, corroded plumbing, and outdated electrical wiring. You don’t want to put a half-finished project on hold while you scrape financing together. Leave a 15-20% cushion in your budget to deal with unexpected issues.
Q. What’s the fun part of bathroom remodeling?
A. The places where you get to splurge. Not everyone can afford high-end materials from floor to ceiling, but just about every homeowner can afford to add a few luxuries that make you smile every time you walk into the space. Compared to other spaces in the home, the bathroom footprint is small, enabling you to make judicious decisions on how you splurge. For instance, who doesn’t love a beautiful marble accent tile. A designer will help you determine the best spot for making that marble tile shine, without covering the entire space in it and breaking your budget for tile. New technology also gives you opportunities for luxury design. Steam showers and showers with multiple shower heads take the showering experience to new heights. Similarly, homeowners are adding heated towel bars, heated floors, and TVs mounted behind bathroom mirrors. Such features can make a bathroom more comfortable—more like a part of your home and less like a place you are passing through.