Find Inspiration for Your New Bathroom

Planning is the best way to ensure your new bathroom lives up to your dreams and budget.
By: Alicia Garceau

If the powder room sports last decade's colors, the family bathroom's showing wear, the guest bath no longer welcomes or the master bath adds stress instead of taking it away, a bathroom remodel is in order. Before diving headfirst into the project, however, a little prep work is needed. Here are five tips to get you started.

Define Your Objectives

The first order of business is to determine who will be using the bathroom. "Take a look at when it's used and how many people will be using it," says Sara Ann Busby, NKBA president-elect and owner of Sara Busby Designs in Elk Rapids, Mich.

Next, define an objective for the project. Because visitors typically see a powder room, this bath can be dramatic or whimsical. A family bath, on the other hand, will be more practical, as it will have to work hard to meet the needs of many users. The aim for any guest bath should be to create a welcoming space for overnight company. A master bath should encourage relaxation and renewal.

Create a Style Book

Perusing home design magazines will get the creative juices flowing. While flipping through publications, tear out photographs of eye-catching bathrooms. Love the frameless shower? Drooling over a vessel sink? Rip away. Then slip the pages into clear sheet protectors and assemble a stylebook using a three-ring binder to keep ideas organized.

Another good source for bathroom inspiration is the Internet. Simply print the project photos and add them to the stylebook.

Once a collection of photos has been amassed, flip through the book. Certain elements will repeat page after page, and your design style is likely to emerge.

Build a Budget

Gutting a master bath and starting from scratch obviously requires much more money than freshening up a powder room, so keep the project's scope in mind when budgeting. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) offers an online worksheet that makes number crunching easy. After establishing a budget, research prices of wish-list items and compare costs to the budget to make sure your dream bathroom matches your financial reality.

Weigh the Remodel's Impact on Your Life

Unlike a kitchen remodel, during which homeowners can dine out or relocate many of the room's functions to another part of the house, bathroom remodels can mean some major disruptions in family life. There's no way to set up a makeshift shower or toilet in the living room, so give careful thought to how long being short one bathroom is feasible and how much of an impact that will have on daily life. A couple living in a two-bathroom house will obviously be less affected than a family with three teenagers.

Want a quicker fix? No matter what type of bathroom is being remodeled, the best way to shave time off a project is to work with existing plumbing rather than relocating fixtures.

Talk Honestly With Your Designer

At the beginning of your project, you'll meet 30 minutes to an hour with a designer to discuss your remodel. "This meeting is where you tell me what you're looking for," says Max Isley, owner of Hampton Kitchens in Raleigh, N.C. "I find it helpful when clients bring a style book — the more research you've done, the better I like it."

By the time you meet with your designer, you may have done so much research that making a choice seems impossible. "Most of my clients suffer from paralysis by analysis," says Max. "I help them sort through and make decisions. Then I help them get what they want within the limitations they set, like budget and personal style."

Expect your designer to ask some personal questions during your interview. "A bathroom remodel requires us to ask more personal questions than any other room in the house," Max says. "You're discussing personal hygiene, privacy and modesty issues. Sometimes people are awkward about getting into these subjects." In the end, candid responses will result in a better built bathroom.

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