8 Steps to the Perfect Bathroom

Decorating today's bathrooms calls for a sophisticated mix of colors, materials, and hard and soft goods. Take inspiration from these professionally designed bathrooms.
By: Mark Mccauley

Think Function First

A bathroom is one of the hardest-working spaces in the home. It's a workstation for preparing for the day ahead and a refuge for resting and recovering from the hectic day behind. (Room design by Lou Ann Bauer. Photo by Andrew McKinney)

Map the Space

Plumbing considerations will impact where you place showers and tubs, but you also need to think about daily use when making a bathroom floorplan. The objects used most often should be closest at hand. Even a small bathroom like this one by Jennifer Charleston can have little luxuries, such as a seat in the shower, if the space is mapped out efficiently.

Choose Colors and Motif

A bathroom motif, whether coastal or Asian or Victorian, can be simple and straightforward. The sky blue paint and framed photo in this bathroom by Sue Adams whisper a subtle "sail away" theme. (Photo by Sam Gray)

Know Your Surfaces

When selecting products for the bath, such as tile or marble, be sure that you know the inherent qualities and the drawbacks of each material. Shiny floors may not be very slip-resistant; natural materials may have a pitted surface that is more slip-resistant, but also more likely to collect residue. (Room design by Jeanese Rowell. Photo by Mert Carpenter)

Add Drama With Fixtures

Think of plumbing fixtures as the jewelry of the bathroom. Touches of gold in the mirror, fixtures and picture frame bring Old World glamour to this modern home's powder room designed by Thomas A Conway.

Be Careful With Lighting

Consider the appropriate task lighting for sink and shower areas. Keep in mind that fluorescent lighting casts a bluish light as opposed to the yellowish radiance of incandescent bulbs. Strategically placed custom sconces light up this neutral bathroom designed by Kenneth Brown. (Photo by Mayer & Bowden Photography)

Mix Soft and Hard

Use dashes of fabric and other softer goods to reduce the inherent harshness of many bathroom materials. Anything from towels and shower curtains to window treatments and pieces upholstered in terry cloth can bring a soft touch to a hard space. (Room design by Douglas Dolezal and Robert Miller. Photo by David Duncan Livingston)

Soften With Natural Elements

The asymmetrical nature of growing things helps offset the square edges of tiles or marble. Greenery in the form of lucky bamboo softens the edges of this renovated Asian-style bathroom by Thomas A. Conway.

Mark McCauley, ASID, is the author of Color Therapy at Home (Rockport Publishers) and Interior Design for Idiots (Great Quotations Publishing Company). He is senior designer at Darleen's Interiors in Naperville, Ill., www.darleensinteriors.com.