Over the past few weeks, we’ve completely demolished our master bathroom and walk in closet. I know most people find this part of the process terrifying (and it IS scary to see something that was livable become completely uninhabitable), but this is the most exciting part for me: starting with a clean slate, where the possibilities are endless.
Since designing any space can be daunting, but a bathroom especially, I’m going to take you through my process. Hopefully this is helpful for any future projects you have upcoming. I find it easiest to break everything down into digestible steps.
Step One: Identify the current friction points for the space and compile a wishlist for the new space.
Some questions I ask in this phase are below.
Q1. How is the room currently functioning for us? Where is there friction in the space?
The room is not functioning well for us: the single sink makes getting ready together on the weekends difficult, we never use the tub in here, the layout feels really tight and claustrophobic, the lighting is very aggressive, and we don’t have enough storage so our products are always on the counter. We often find ourselves trying to navigate around each other when one person is standing at the sink. Oh, and we don’t have a heat source in this room so it’s very cold.
Q2. Given what isn’t working in the space, what’s our list of essentials?
- A double vanity to allow us to each have our own space to make getting ready together more efficient
- A walk in shower that feels luxurious and grown-up
- A more open layout that allows the space to breathe and facilitates flow throughout the room
- Thoughtful lighting throughout the space that’s zoned (e.g. flattering sconces at the vanity, recessed lighting in the shower and dimmable lighting throughout)
- Storage designed to hide away all our toiletries, hair tools, and towels
- The addition of a radiator to keep the room comfortable in the winter
Q3. What are the upgrades that would make this room feel really special, but that aren’t necessities?
- Radiant flooring to add some extra warmth to the space
- A freestanding soaking tub for the occasional bath
- A rain shower head in addition to a standard shower head
- A towel warmer for toasty towels when you step out of the shower
- Wall-mounted faucets that add a touch of glamour
Step Two: Figure out the floorplan.
You really can’t make any of the fun decisions before determining how the space is going to lay out. Once you’ve got the floorplan and detailed measurements, you can make informed and realistic decisions. Here, you need to think through how you’re going to use the space and how it’s going to flow with the other rooms surrounding.
In order to determine the floorplan, prioritize your list of essentials (Q2 above) and then start thinking through if any of the nice to have items (Q3 above) are viable without compromising your essential needs for the space.
I have a detailed post over here on how we thought through the floorplan for the space. And below is where we finally landed. The area where the shower is located, we stole from the original walk-in-closet, which allowed us to gain a double vanity where the original shower/tub combination lived. Note that in the floorplan below, we haven’t decided yet how the doors are going to open up and will likely invert them so they open towards the master bedroom and not towards the bathroom.
One more note, some floorplan changes are admittedly more costly than others. But, from my perspective, if you’re taking the time and money to remodel a space, the layout is the single thing that can revolutionize the space and make a room work that much better. Plus, once you’ve spent the money to lay pretty new tile, you’re not able to go back and reconfigure a space. This may be a byproduct of lots of small-space living, but if you nail the floorplan, everything else will work so much better.
For instance, our guest bedroom is a space that gets a lot of internet and IRL love, and we also adore the space. But, we made some big changes to the layout in this room (e.g. narrowing a closet door, removing built-ins to free up floor space) that makes us also LOVE living in this space. Without a doubt, we could have skipped over that construction phase, but the room never would have worked properly and the design wouldn’t have flowed so well from my ideas into reality if we were constantly fighting an awkward floorplan.
When you’re thinking through the floorplan, also think about the smaller details that tie back to the functionality of the space. Sometimes the answers will mean small tweaks to the layout and may have a domino effect of changes. But, these details are critical to how you’re going to use the space. The questions I asked for the bathroom include:
- Where are the towels going to be hanging when I exit the shower? In my case, I need to shorten the depth of the shower slightly to create enough space to mount a towel hook on the wall between the shower and the window.
- Where’s the toilet paper going to be mounted? If we’re doing edge to edge glass on the shower, I’m going to have to get a freestanding toilet paper holder. Or potentially it can be mounted on the wall beside/behind the toilet. If we aren’t doing edge to edge glass, then I can mount it on the wall that contains the shower.
- Where am I going to flip the switches for the room? They should be the first thing you access when entering the room, so they will need to go above the toilet, to the left of the doorway. This means we can’t have the doorway swing to the left, and should just have it open into the closet.
- Which way is the door going to swing? See above.
- Where are the outlets going to be when I’m at the vanity (and are they in compliance with code)? We need one in the vanity itself for hair tools and other small electronics, and another one to the left of the vanity on the adjacent wall, and likely one near the right sink. Code requires you to have one outlet per sink, within 3 feet of the sink and either on the same wall as the sink or on an adjacent one (but not an opposite wall).
- Where am I going to charge small devices (e.g. electronic toothbrush or razor)? We’re going to add an outlet inside a vanity drawer for charging those devices and keeping them out of sight.
- Where are the toiletries going to live in the shower? We’ll add a niche with a shelf in the shower on the same wall as the shower head.
- Where are you going to turn on the shower? Ideally, we’d like the control for the shower to be on the wall where you enter the shower so you can let it warm up before stepping into the water.
Step Three: Determine the vibe for the room.
What words come to mind when you describe the room? For our master bathroom it was: calming and glamorous. And combining that with the overall bones and vibe of our house, for cohesiveness I added in classic with a modern edge. So the goal is now for the finished room to be described as: A glamorous retreat that’s classic with a modern edge.
Step Four: Determine a color scheme for the space.
Make sure to consider how this room is going to interact with the adjacent spaces, and any other similar rooms in the house. For bathrooms, I like to repeat colors and materials within the same home where possible for cohesiveness. Don’t feel the need to make them twins, but they should feel related.
So, in our case, I want to repeat the marble, matte black, white and brass. But, unlike the guest bathroom that feels more playful, this should be more grown-up and adult. Also, knowing that I’m going to be painting the walk in closet blue all-over, which is how you access the master bathroom, going neutral in the finishes and then layering in more colourful textiles and accessories that relate to the walk in closet will be crucial. Additionally, I’m going to repeat the same hardware in the closet as in the bathroom to further link the two rooms together.
Step Five: Gather inspiration
To be fair, you should start gathering inspiration from the start, but make sure that before you’re finalizing finishes that you’ve edited that inspiration down to your absolute favourites and that they tell a cohesive and tight story.
This is my inspiration and some of the things that really speak to me about the images and how it relates to my own space, in addition to the trends I’m seeing across the photos:
The location of this shower is identical to our bathroom and I love how open it feels with the glass running edge to edge. I love that the floor is seamless and how the curbless shower makes the bathroom feel so much more expansive. I also love the black floors, but I worry about how masculine they read in the bathroom and how that might impact resale and potentially make the bathroom feel smaller.
I love how the herringbone pattern continues up the wall in this bathroom, but I worry that it might not look quite as classic and true to our house’s 1940s bones. There’s that cubrless shower floor again and I still love it.
Clearly I’m loving oversized herringbone floors. How bright this bathroom feels and the trimwork on the left wall feel really true to the rest of our house. I’m loving how timeless this design feels.
I love how luxe this shower looks in Danielle Moss’s bathroom – the niche is gorgeous, the lack of a door is also similar to what we were thinking, as is the control on the opposite side of the shower head. The marble elongated subway tile is really speaking to me. I also love that rectangular drain and that she sunk the shower instead of adding the curb to keep water out of the bathroom. These floors are also a showstopper.