7 Red Flag Bathroom Mistakes Designers *Never* Make — And How to Fix Them

Time Several Hours

Budget $ $$$

Skill Level

WORDS BY Kelsey Clark

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Published on December 12, 2023

As the smallest room in any given home, bathrooms are often last on the list of design projects (especially en-suite baths that rarely see house guests). But this reality is precisely what makes them a prime candidate for design mistakes. From lighting faux pas to a lack of decor, bathrooms often get the short end of the stick when it comes to design love.

What’s more, bathrooms pack a variety of materials into a tiny space, including floor, backsplash, and shower tile plus stone countertops, metal hardware, wood, and porcelain. Considering that mixing wood tones, metals, and patterns can take an expert eye for style,  DIY bathroom makeovers are some of the trickiest (and most time consuming) to bring to life.

But have no fear! We’re here to help. Ahead, Havenly lead designer Toussaint Derby shares the common bathroom mistakes she always notices, plus what to do instead:

Bathroom Design Mistake #1: Improper Lighting

classic bathroom with green paint

Lighting requirements vary from room to room, and bathrooms have their own unique set of criteria — dim, dark, and moody is not the design directive here. Instead, opt for exposed glass, frosted bulbs, or even light-filtering rattan shades above the bathroom vanity to create a well-lit, getting ready-friendly room. If space allows, add a cute table lamp or decorative wall sconce for added ambiance, but always check the “function” box first. 

Bathroom Design Mistake #2: Wasted Wall Space

Bathroom design mistakes to avoid

Taking advantage of prime wall real estate is crucial, especially in small bathrooms. If your half or full bath lacks storage space, go vertical and add shelving or a hanging cabinet to stow extra knick-knacks and products. Function aside, bathrooms deserve design love, too — don’t forget to hang artwork and wall decorative to make your space feel welcoming.

Bathroom Design Mistake #3: Too Many Focal Points

Bathroom design mistakes to avoid

Compact powder rooms are a great place to punch things up a bit design-wise, but within reason — going all-out can lead to competing focal points. Rather than embracing statement floor tile, an equally loud shower tile, bold paint, ceiling wallpaper, and an ornate vanity mirror, let one or two standout elements shine. At the very least, order samples of all of your materials, prints, and colors in advance to make sure your maximalist look feels thoughtful, not chaotic.

Bathroom Design Mistake #4: Wall-to-Wall Tile

Bathroom design mistakes to avoid

We often notice wall-to-wall shower, floor, and backsplash tile in dated bathrooms, and the look can feel incredibly sterile and one-dimensional. Don’t forget to mix materials in bathrooms, too — adding linen window treatments, wall paneling, marble floor tile, and warm wood accents can make a world of difference!

Bathroom Design Mistake #5: Skipping Contrast

Bathroom design mistakes to avoid

Traditional half baths often have your standard white walls, white porcelain toilet, and white pedestal sink. And while we certainly don’t hate the classic look, don’t forget to add a touch of eye-catching contrast somewhere. Above, the bold penny floor tile, matte black wall sconces, and brass picture frames make this small guest bath feel warm and unique.

Bathroom Design Mistake #6: Cluttered Vanities

modern vanity with blue wainscotting in bathroom

We have a thing for aesthetically-pleasing home products, including basic bathroom essentials. Rather than throwing a single-use plastic hand soap and Kleenex box on the sink and calling it a day, consider a matching bathroom set for a more curated, homey look. You can even take things a step further with vintage canisters and antique artwork!

Bathroom Design Mistake #7: Sterile Decor

Bathroom design mistakes to avoid

Yes, bathrooms are primarily functional spaces where welcoming decor matters less than say, a living room. But that doesn’t mean they can’t feel warm, inviting, and relaxing — especially guest bathrooms. Bring in texture with natural materials like rattan and wicker, and create ambiance with candles, fresh flowers, and hints of rich brass. Even a tiny half bath can feel like a natural extension of your design style with a little effort!

Looking for a way to overcome your unique home dilemmas? Work one-on-one with our expert interior designers for just $129 per room. Get started today with our style quiz.

Words by Kelsey Clark