Living With Style: A Bath Made Better

By Sasha Witte
Gazette Columnist
Oct 7, 2017 

Do you have a bathroom you'd like to make better by putting every inch of its space to work — and stylishly?

Here are a few ideas to consider if you are looking to improve one or more of your home's bathrooms.

Open Plan

Open plans are all the rage for family rooms and living spaces these days, but to make a small bath seem larger, you can also consider elongating some sight lines.

Some good ways to do this include using a claw-foot tub that is open underneath. It appears to take up less space than a built in tub.

Utilizing pony walls to separate a vanity from a bath or shower area can also give you a wall for your cabinet to sit against while also opening the space up considerably from a full-height wall.

Pony walls (typically 32 to 40 inches high) are also a great way to give a bit of privacy for a toilet area, while still keeping the space open and bright.

An Open Sink Area

Consider an elongated sink area that is open underneath to increase your sight lines and sense of spaciousness. Open shelves below the sink can also provide extra storage. Be sure to consider the finish on any exposed pipes and to make sure they are perfectly centered to the sink faucet.

Custom Cabinetry is often a wonderful way to maximize the usefulness of a small space. Consider doing built in shallow upper cabinets above your regular vanity cabinets and to frame your mirror and sink area. 

+7   Living With Style Bathroom Storage
Maximize storage by adding upper cabinets for shallow, practical and easy to access to items.—Gazette photo by Sasha Witte

Equip these cabinet interiors with electrical outlets to keep electric toothbrushes charged while out of sight.

Centering the sink on one wall and flanking it with cabinetry both below and above provides fabulous storage for multiple users - and certainly much more than a standard recessed mirrored medicine cabinet.

Shower storage doesn't have to be shiny, metal baskets that are out and exposed. Consider recessed shelves on either side of your shower head for shampoos and conditioners as well as smaller one for bars of soap and shavers.

One of my favorite places to sneak in a tiled-in recessed niche is in a pony wall facing the tub or shower. It will be invisible when outside the shower and right where you need it when in the shower.

+7   Living With Style Historic Bathroom Detaisl
Consider adding historic looking details if your bathroom is in a historic home.—Gazette photo by Sasha Witte

Consider Your Door Swing: For one thing, make sure your door swing minimizes the likelihood that a guest will accidently surprise someone on the toilet (Awkward)! If it's a small bath with a toilet near the door, make sure the door opens shielding the toilet from immediate view.

Also consider the direction the door swings for maximizing your layout for cabinetry space!.

Make It Feel Historic

History is cool! Bead-board wainscoting is a great way to add a classic touch and these days bead board panels are easily available at your home store and pretty easy to install.

And don't feel limited to just painting it white. Consider the color of your cabinets and/or your tile and come up with a finish that best accentuates your bath space.

+7   Living With Style Recessed Niches Bathroom
Recessed niches are a great way to maximize shower storage and to add a touch of art—Gazette photo by Sasha Witte

And speaking of history inspired, consider a wall mounted soap dish and toothbrush holder to add a little visual interest and to keep your sink area clean. 

Conceal More

+7   Living With Style Bathroom Toilet Paper Niche
A recessed toilet paper niche and storage unit helps in a small bath.—Gazette photo by Sasha Witte

Look for hidden space. There is more than you might think.

Acquire hidden space within a paneled tub surround by putting in a tilt out bin that looks like a recessed panel matching the other panels surrounding your tub. Use it to store towels or bubble bath.

Another fun way to maximize space is to recess your toilet paper niche along with an additional storage shelf within the studs of the wall adjacent to the toilet.

One of my favorite great storage cabinets we've done in the past year came from a client that wanted to maximize a short wall by adding a tall cabinet built in between the studs. It introduced an amazing amount of storage 18" wide by about 7' high. Yes, it's shallow, but sometimes deep cabinets are just an opportunity for items to get lost in the back. 

Consider in setting a mirror inside this tall cabinet door and you now also have a full height mirror.


+7   Living With Style Shelving
Studs can be adjusted to add shallow wall storage - perfect for most toiletries!—Gazette photo by Sasha Witte

And speaking of mirrors, the bigger the mirror the more light you'll reflect in your space making it feel bigger and brighter. Just don't feel you have to go corner to corner with your mirror to make this happen. Let your mirror also be an artistic element in the space with a beautiful frame that accentuates your space.

And yes, there are lots of fabulous mirrored medicine cabinets with lovely frames that can also open to reveal additional storage. If your bathroom space is small, this is a great thing to consider! 

Match Your Finishes! This seems obvious to me, but I am sometimes surprised when I'll enter a bath where folks have mixed polished chrome shower fixtures with satin nickel wall sconces.

Keep it all matching in finish to make it feel like a harmonious design idea!

Looking to Expand?

If you need to explore literally making the space larger, start by exploring closets and other spaces that adjoin your bathroom's plumbing wall (the wall that contains the plumbing pipes) and look to explore moving non-load bearing walls that have few or no utility lines. These are much easier and less costly to move.

Consider a Soft Touch: Typically bathrooms are primarily hard materials - tile, mirror, drywall, metal... For a more balanced and harmonious space, consider ways to add a bit of fabric and texture. This might be a fabric window treatment, or a chair or ottoman at a vanity area. 

Just be sure to use fabrics that won't be sensitive to potential moisture in the space and you'll have a nice counter balance to those harder surfaces.

Light It Up!

+7   Living With Style Lighting
Light fixtures are necessary to create even and attractive lighting in the bathroom.—Gazette photo by Sasha Witte

Lighting, lighting, lighting... I should have started this list with lighting!

Remember to ideally add lighting at both the ceiling level and at the wall. It will not only be more flattering (and who doesn't want that?) but it'll also be much more practical and useable light for when you are getting ready to go out.

Place wall sconces so the lighting distributes evenly from both sides of your vanity mirror. The last thing you want is weird shadows when you are getting ready!

And as you are comparing fixtures, consider the lumens/wattage of the various fixtures for which offer the brightest lighting. 

If you have a small space and limited options for adding lighting, then be sure to use a white sink and light counters to also reflect light up onto the face.

And if you can maximize a bit more natural lighting via windows or sky lights, this is terrific on so many levels. For one thing, less power usage during the day, but also brighter and better lighting for getting ready for the day!

And Dimmers! Yes - make it dimmable so you can have romantic soft light when relaxing in the evening and nice bright light when you are doing your makeup for a night out!!

Care to Splurge?

If you have the space, consider a tub that is comfortable for two. Perfect for a romantic evening, or just for settling in comfortably with the New Yorker for one and a detective novel for the other and a couple of glasses of champagne... Yes. That is a perfect Friday Night.

+7   Living In Style, Soaking In A Tub
Soaking tubs for two make for a perfect Friday night—Gazette photo by Sasha Witte

And if you are looking to spend on a couple of extra bells and whistles, I must say the new air-baths are wonderful. But the Chroma-Therapy units impressed me much more than I anticipated. I thought it sounded so gimmicky — light changing color in the bath as a way to relax — But wow! I use that more than the bubbles now.

A shower space for two that includes a Steamer unit is also a wonderful way to splurge in a smaller space.

Personalize with Paint

If you aren't changing anything else in your bath this year, but want to make it feel fresh - Consider a new coat of paint in a color of you’re choosing. Light blues and greens can feel spa like and relaxing. Warm tones bring in a relaxing energy of their own.

+7   Living With Style Paint In The Bathroom
Soft blues or greens can create a tranquil and spa-like bath.—Gazette photo by Sasha Witte

Color is the quickest way to make a profound difference. It is one of the most affordable and flexible decorating tools around.

I hope there were a few thought provoking ideas for you here.

And remember, if you'd like some help planning out a new bath, consider hiring a designer for a consultation or to manage the full remodel of your space!

Sasha Witte can be reached at Sasha Witte Design or (562) 434-8824.

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