Buyers of newly built homes and those who are designing a custom home have numerous choices to make throughout the process, such as deciding on flooring, kitchen cabinets and the colors of their walls. But one of the most personal and important spaces to consider is the primary bathroom.
“Now more than ever before, homeowners are looking to escape the stresses and realities of daily life,” says Jayson Simeon, director of industrial design for the Global Plumbing Group, which includes Moen and the House of Rohl. “Bathrooms can be transformational spaces; they are one of the only rooms in the home that we enter in one emotional state and leave in another.”
Your Dream Bathroom Starts with a Dream
Whether you’re building a custom home or choosing from an array of design center options, it can be challenging to know where to start with your bathroom project. While a daydream about what the finished space will look like can be pleasant, Simeon recommends that every buyer start by establishing their budget.
“In the end, your budget will determine much more than you may think,” Simeon says.
After the budget is established, the floor plan of the house will guide your decisions about the layout of the primary bathroom.
“Consider the people who will frequent the space and the needs they have as you make decisions,” says Simeon. “Here is where you will make the biggest decisions, like the number of sinks, plumbing locations, the tub style if you choose to include a tub, lighting needs, storage, counter height, electrical needs and, of course, the code requirements. These decisions lay the foundation for your room that will greatly affect your style choices down the road.”
Keeping your focus on who will use the space before focusing on design can help you avoid what Simeon says is the biggest mistake homeowners make: Not striking the right balance between style and functionality.
“Everyone wants the perfect Instagram-worthy bathroom, but no one wants to live with it,” Simeon says. “Hotels are great examples of this. Think about how quickly that exquisite-looking vacation rental you picked online got cluttered up and messy once when you unpacked your suitcase. The same thing can happen in your home if you don’t find that right balance.”
Enduring Design Trends
While an annual in-and-out list of what’s trendy in bathrooms can be a place to look for inspiration, you’ll want your bathroom to last for a decade or more – rather than just a season. Trends that respond to homeowners’ needs rather than a particular color scheme are more likely to endure.
“Now more than ever we are more acutely aware of cleanliness in our spaces,” says Simeon. “Owners will be looking for ways to simplify cleaning by considering all of the ‘public’ touch points in the bathroom, such as fixture handles, doorknobs and light switches. They’re looking for finishes that are easier to clean, germ-resistant or touchless solutions altogether.”
Homeowners are increasingly interested in sustainability, especially if they live in areas where water is scarce, and regulations require homeowners to reduce their water usage.
“Owners and designers can seek out fixtures that provide optimized water experiences but still meet ultra-low-flow code requirements,” says Simeon. “Products like our Nebia by Moen shower system are a great example of low-flow consumption meets high-performance experience.”
Bathroom Design Do’s and Don’ts
Simeon offers several general suggestions for getting started on your primary bathroom choices:
- DO: Start with your vision for the space. You want the space to reflect your vision and style.
- DO: Get inspired! There are so many great places to find inspiration: Pinterest, blogs, HGTV, magazines, etc.
- DON’T: Get overwhelmed by the details; instead, consider the whole when designing the parts.
- DO: Get to know your style. Options are infinite; knowing how to focus your search can save lots of time.
- DO: Make a realistic budget for the size of the effort but be prepared to be flexible when the unexpected happens.
- DO: Consider the people who will use the space most and what they want and need.
Key Elements in a Well-Designed Primary Bathroom
As you work through the decisions for each area of your bathroom, Simeon offers some experienced advice to consider:
- Tub/shower/wet area: Walk-in showers are nice in theory, but the reality is that showers feel colder in large open spaces, forcing you to use more hot water in order to stay warm. If you do a walk-in, make sure it is closed off in some way with a glass door or something similar. If doors aren’t an option, consider multiple shower head installations and heat lamp bulbs to provide more actual warmth to the space.
- Water closet: Separated water closet spaces are great for privacy, but they are notoriously difficult to clean because the space is often too tight to maneuver. Consider alternative ways to create privacy in an otherwise open space.
- Storage: Strike the right balance between style and functionality in the storage space. You need enough to be livable, but not so much that it squelches the personality of the space. Use open shelving sparingly, as it tends to get cluttered and ruin the aesthetic intent.
- Lighting: Dimmers are great mood-enhancers in a bath space and provide functional light when needed. Make sure to choose the right bulbs and fixtures to avoid annoying LED flicker issues. Spend more on name-brand dimmable LED lights where dimmers are installed. You will get longer life from the bulb and better dimming performance without the annoying flicker. You can save on cheaper LED lights where basic on/off switches are installed.
- Flooring: There have been great advancements in flooring in recent years, particularly with their durability and thermal properties. Consider flooring that is warmer to the touch for bath spaces over the typical ceramic or porcelain.
- Walls: Wall-mount faucet fixtures and toilets – along with floor-mount tub fillers – are all the rage, but plan ahead. These are major remodel jobs if they aren’t built into the space plan from the beginning.
A common issue for most homeowners is deciding where to splurge and where to save on their options. While the primary bathroom can be an indulgent space for homeowners, Simeon also suggests saving a little of that splurge money for other bathrooms.
“Homeowners should consider spending more for high-quality fixtures in spaces that get used by more people, like a powder room on the main floor,” says Simeon. “These also are great spaces to take more style risks, as they are smaller rooms and can be less of an investment to upgrade.” Your primary bathroom should reflect your personality and your taste, a place where you can relax and rejuvenate yourself. Taking the time to carefully plan this important space in your home can make it match your dreams and add value to your property.
Michele Lerner is an award-winning freelance writer, editor and author who has been writing about real estate, personal finance and business topics for more than two decades.