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How to design a bathroom: expert bathroom planing, layout and design advice.

Updated: Jun 23, 2022

Style & Structure Fall 2021 award winning home in Stillwater, MN

There are 2 areas in your home that are deemed the most important rooms...the kitchen and the primary bathroom. When building or renovating these spaces, we notice that clients can be a little intimidated by these rooms, because they want to make sure they are perfect, not only for resale value, but because these are the room where people spend most of their time. It also can be more overwhelming, because there are many items to consider in the bathroom such as plumbing fixtures, lights, tile and making sure everything is installed correctly!

Bathrooms (and kitchens) are where people spend most of their time. Style and finishes matter.
herringbone wood floor, white vanities, gold and matte black fixtures, soaker tub
Style & Structure Spring 2021 award winning home Stillwater, MN

layout of the bathroom

When designing a bathroom, it is best to start with the layout. Here are some questions we always ask clients:

  • Do you want 1 large vanity or 2 separate vanities?

  • Do you want a make-up vanity (shorter counter height with seat)

  • Tub or no tub?

  • Would you like a separate room for the toilet? (we always prefer this)

  • Do you want closet access from bathroom?

  • How much storage do you need?

  • What are some unique design features you would love to have?

These questions start to help us come up with a game plan for the layout of their bathroom. We really learn what is important to the clients and how they use their space. Some clients don't really use the bath, so they focus more on a bigger shower and leave out the tub. Some clients have no desire to share their counter space, so they want 2 vanities. Some clients absolutely hate cleaning glass shower doors, and want a doorless entry. You need to think of the must haves for your bathroom, and then it is easier to come up with the layout.

When renovating, the layout may be more tricky because it is more costly to move the existing plumbing. That is why it is always good to call in the professionals, like Style & Structure, to see what options are best.

thinking about Design during layout planing:

  • Symmetry in layout: Think of how the layout can be aesthetically pleasing. Whether it be 2 vanities on both sides of the tub, or where you position the shower. It is always nice to have some form of symmetry in the layout.

  • View when you enter: The view upon entrance is such a key element of the design. When thinking about the layout, we always like to showcase something beautiful like the bathtub...not the toilet. That is why we always suggest a separate closet or wall to block the view of the toilet, and it is also nice for privacy.

  • A wow factor: This could be the tub, unique tile accent and/or lighting fixture. Think of that fun design element while planing out the layout so it is a showpiece and you can plan around it.

Selections: picking out the finishes

Now that you have the hard part out of the way, this is where the fun comes in. Picking out the finishes can seem daunting, especially when there are so many options to choose from. This definitely depends on the client, and what they would like their bathroom to feel like. Here are some helpful design tips:

  • Bringing in trends, while keeping it safe: You can still have fun with design and bringing in personality, and keep the base of the design neutral. Think about the tile, counters and the plumbing fixtures as the base. Those are the most expensive and the hardest to replace. Have fun with wall color, wallpaper, lighting fixtures, cabinet hardware and decor. Pictured below is an example of how the wallpaper and decor can transform the design. If this is something that you would want to switch out for a more spa like retreat, it would be very easy to paint the walls white with everything else in the bathroom so classic and neutral.

  • Spa like feel: This is a tend that will never go out of style. Keeping everything white, fresh and clean in design. With this look, think of mixing up the tile shapes and adding in seating and window treatments to give the whites a layered look.

  • Natural retreat: This look is all about bringing in the natural elements. Think about bring natural wood tones in the vanities, floors or beams. Adding in natural greenery for a touch of the outdoors and exposed stone.

  • Just throw design and trends out the window: If is is your forever home and you just want to have the bathroom you have always dreamed of, do you what you want! This is something we always say to clients. Of course we will give them suggestions for timeless design and great resale value, but at the end of the day you have to love it if you are paying for it! Here is one of clients kids bathrooms. They have always dreamed of having this concrete trough sink for their 3 boys. The word "bros" is stamped in it. If this house was on the market, families with girls might not necessarily love to replace this 600 lb piece, but it sure is FUN!!!

Concrete trough wink with bros stamped on the face. White oak vanity, starburst tile, checkered floor and hanging pendants.
Style & Structure award winning home
  • Unique Tile: Another tip we give clients, is that if they are nervous to use a bold tile in their master bathroom, you can always have a little fun in the powder room or basement bathroom. With smaller rooms or areas that are less used, it is your opportunity to do something that shows your personality! We always say, the powder room should be a show piece, like a jewel box.

Photo credit: Dane and Zoe Cartwright of the Illawarra construction group

Have fun designing!

Instead of having a million choices for our clients and overwhelming them, we take what we have learned from our shared Pinterest boards & meetings to create mood boards & a lay flat display of all the selections. Designing should be fun, and we would love to help you on your next build or renovation!


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