5 Tips for Designing the Perfect Bathroom

Time Several Hours

Budget $ $$$

Skill Level

WORDS BY Gillian Grefe

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Published on December 2, 2020

The bathroom. Often overlooked, yet frequently used, the bathroom, water closet, powder room, loo, what have you is a place we all spend plenty of time in—from waking our bodies with our morning rituals, to slowing down in the evening, and intermittent moments of respite in between. Make your time in this private place more pleasant with these bathroom design tips for spaces both big and small, minus the expensive renovation.

1. Let There Be Light

Set the mood of your space—while making it look even larger—with lighting. The proper light fixtures can instantly uplift a bathroom, update its style, and enhance the calming ambiance. For a more peaceful place, forego overhead lighting for softer options such as a backlit mirror or sconces. Open-top sconces can also create the illusion of higher ceilings by sending the light skyward, and keeping lighting elements on just one wall by the sink or mirror can make a small room seem larger. Eliminate pendant lighting as it tends to drop the ceiling and close in the room.

2. Mind Your Water Features

The shower is a central element to the bathroom—we use it nearly everyday (even if you can’t remember your last quarantine hair wash). If you prefer a gentle rain while your partner likes a stronger downpour, consider changing out your shower head to one with multiple functions. Replace your shower curtain with a glass door to open up the room.  

Updating your sink faucet is also a quick way to give your bathroom an instant facelift—try one of our on-trend favorites: gold hardware. Make it even more glam with a mirror outlined with a thin gold frame to match.

3. Get Fresh

Adding spa-like features to your space can help ease you into the day or wind you down at night. Bonus points if they also cleanse the air. Bringing plants into your bathroom creates an instant vibe. Golden pothos vines, snake plants, air plants, spider plants, and monstera all thrive in medium to low indirect sunlight and high humidity levels. Not only have houseplants been proven to improve your mood, they also help filter stale air. If your bathroom lacks a window or natural light, tie up a bouquet of fresh eucalyptus leaves to your shower head for an aromatherapeutic rinsing. Replace weekly. 

To keep the air smelling fresh, top your toilet back with a seasonal scented candle or reed diffuser instead of setting out a bowl of dusty potpourri or overly-perfumed scented plug-in.

4. Deck the Walls

The bathroom is an important room we don’t often give all the credit to, yet it greatly contributes to the personality of your home. Don’t let all that style space go to waste! Create an accent wall out of the mirror-side of the room. Try a funky wallpaper with large patterns or floral elements, or a darker glossy paint. The best part is, it can easily be changed up according to shifting trends and tastes. 

Framed wall art, such as a curious photo, cute quote, or landscape also adds visual interest to the space—especially when placed opposite the toilet. Just make sure you’re not hanging the most expensive items in your collection, as bathroom art can be more easily warped by humidity and subject to water damage. 

5. Step Up Your Storage

Bathrooms tend to collect a lot of clutter, from bath and body products to makeup and toilet paper. The trick to designing a relaxing bathroom you actually want to spend time in lies in strategic storage—whether you have many square feet of space or a mere cupboard under the stairs. 

Over-the-toilet units maximize the use of typically-empty vertical space while giving prime goods you reach for often a place of their own. Roll up or neatly fold towels on the shelves and add baskets to keep spare TP rolls out of sight. For a more permanent option, consider installing open shelves at least two feet above the toilet top to prevent bumped heads. Further preserve your precious wall space by tacking towel racks or hooks to the back of the door. 

Cancel clutter by keeping your counters clear. Tuck much-used items such as toothbrushes, razors, cotton swabs, and cotton balls into Mason jars and line them up in the medicine cabinet. Toiletries can be arranged on a lazy Susan or organized by category into clear bins under the sink for easy grabbing while keeping unsightly bottles off your counter. No shelves in your cabinet? Opt for stackable containers or a drawer unit. A small ceramic dish by the sink can act as a catch-all for jewelry, and a stylish tray stocked with your most attractive items (such as perfume bottles and fancy lotions) adds personality to the countertop. 

Words by Avery Johnson