Tricks of the Trade: The Master Bath

How many of us really love our master bath?

We asked three design experts for their advice on how to make the master bath the tranquil, functional and fabulous space you deserve it to be. As with any scenario, there’s the dream and then reality.

If you’re lucky enough to redo your master bath, here are some rules to renovate by…

Choose what you want—not what you think a prospective homebuyer wants.
“You’re going to use your bathroom every day and if you are making the investment  in renovation, make it a room you will love every single day,” insists Peggy Schweller, an independent design consultant in Lake Forest. Instead of the standard double vanity, one client asked for a single sink. By adding a marble apron and adding heft with furniture styling, she was able to give the single vanity ample substance while saving space for a larger shower and commode with a door.

Think outside the box.
Victoria Lidstrom and Carol Carani of Leggy Bird Designs encourage taking a second look at your floor plan to maximize space, natural light and comfort. Where can you add or enlarge a window? Can you bump out a wall to make room for a larger tub? Can you transform dead space in a wall to a built-in dressing table or inset shelving?

Put your money where it will have the most impact.
And remember, quality first, since this is one room that gets a lot of use.

From heated floors to detailed edging on your stone, find a balance between function and aesthetics. Kathleen Nelson, senior designer at NuHaus, helps clients achieve their design goals within budget. For example, instead of using a custom paint finish, she’ll suggest furniture detailing and distinctive hardware. Or she might recommend a freestanding tub instead of a decked whirlpool.

Don’t skimp when it comes to the tile guy.
Water can be your worst enemy, so make sure to use a reputable tile and stone installer. Ask them if they’re using the proper wallboard behind your shower walls. Are they pitching the shower floor to ensure good drainage? Is the veining in the marble being book matched so it flows at the seams?

But what if you don’t have a renovation in your future? There’s still hope…

Start with the knobs and move on to the faucets.
Even if you’re committed to your cabinets and countertops, changing out your vanity, tub and shower faucets and fixtures can transform dated and faded to classic and clean, and rarely involves more than a couple hours of the plumber’s time. Keep it simple by noting the current faucet set-up (for example, single hole mounting versus three; wall or deck mounted) and sticking with it. Same goes for the cabinet knobs or pulls, and all you’ll need is a screwdriver.

Paint is the fastest, cheapest and easiest way to make a major design impact.
When choosing your paint color and finish, Nelson stresses the importance of connecting the materials in your bathroom through tone and substance. For example, pair creamy marble with a soft paint finish to keep the space serene and give it a timeless quality. Take into account the colors in your marble or granite, and think about the effect this color will have when you look at your face in the mirror.

After paint, lighting could be the easiest thing to switch out or add in.
From a functional standpoint, Nelson adds that you need more than just overhead lighting that can cast shadows on the face. Side lighting is important for shaving and applying make-up. And always use dimmers.

Feel free to choose lighting that adds glamour and impact, and remember that unless the light is in the shower, you can expand beyond bathroom fixtures. For one client, Schweller chose an oversized polished nickel lantern to add formality and sophistication to a master bath. She paired this with simple candle sconces above the tub, making sure to stick with the same finish for her lighting, plumbing fixtures and cabinet hardware to ensure a clean look.

Add a personal touch
The gals from Leggy Bird Designs like to balance hard and slick bathroom surfaces with softer textures. Ditch the bathroom mat and lay a luxurious rug in a style that complements your bathroom. Wallpaper the back of your linen closet in a fun pattern, even hang a precious oil painting above the commode. If your kids use your tub, make sure there’s a comfortable chair for you to sit on while they’re soaking. And don’t forget to dress your windows for more than just privacy (and if you’re concerned about moisture, use an outdoor fabric—there are hundreds to choose from).

Remember, whatever touches you add, make sure they are authentic and reflect your personal style. And get rid of the fake ivy.

Lead photo credit: Kathleen Nelson, NuHaus

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