A spacious, well-organized bathroom is truly life-changing. Take it from an editor who's moved 10 times in 10 years and tested out all kinds of bathrooms to varying degrees of amazingness (or lack thereof). A great bathroom should, of course, be visually pleasing, but most importantly, it should serve its purpose well: adequate storage for everything from bath products to towels, lighting that serves the tasks performed in a bathroom, and finishes that are resistant to humid environments.
No one likes having their medicine cabinet so packed that everything falls out as soon as you take out your moisturizer, or applying makeup in their bathroom just to find out upon walking out that they've caked on too much foundation due to poor lighting. Thankfully, we have interior designers who make it their life mission to be a resource for everything there is to know about designing a bathroom. Are you making these bathroom decorating mistakes? Find out from the best, and learn their clever solutions, below.
Every single designer agreed on one major mistake: not having enough storage. "You absolutely need as much storage as possible to ensure that your bathroom stays the most functional and uncluttered space," says interior designer Tali Roth. "Medicine cabinets, although often harder to find attractive ones, are so, so useful for storing all those small items for everyday use. If you're building from scratch, explore recessed wall cabinets and recessed shower shelves—they are clean and oh so useful!"
The designers at Studio Life.Style suggested focusing on the vanity. "Make sure to either custom make or purchase a vanity that has plenty of storage to hold things like your hair dryer and makeup. Also, make sure you have plenty of counter space if that's something you like," they say.
Laguna Beach–based designer Ohara Davies-Gaetano insisted on the importance of towel storage: "Make sure that you have allocated space to keep fresh towels. I like keeping bath towels in an antique armoire in our bathroom and washcloths rolled up in a pewter bowl on our vanity so I have a fresh one daily. I always suggest having a few robe hooks placed around the bathroom instead of towel bars—this allows you to have a place to dry multiple towels or robes."
The designers at Massucco Warner Miller suggested getting creative with storage solutions: "Even if you don't have room for a vanity with serious storage, it doesn't mean you can't sneak in some extra space elsewhere with a vintage apothecary cabinet, a train rack, or even recessed medicine cabinets for keeping toiletries out of sight. A clean and uncluttered bathroom is always better looking. The more you can get put away, the better!"
The other main bathroom design offender: lighting. "There's nothing worse than a poorly lit bathroom," says Roth. "People often forget that they need multiple light sources and end up with a single dull sconce—which basically ensures you'll leave the house with scary clown makeup. Try to incorporate both decorative and task lighting."
Davies-Gaetano agrees. "So often the importance of lighting is overlooked when designing a bathroom," she says. "It's always preferred to make sure that a bathroom has a good source of natural light as well as strategically placed overhead and vanity light. If your bathroom suffers from poor lighting, add a table lamp, floor lamp, or chandelier."
For the designers at Massucco Warner Miller, the importance is to install lighting that suits your needs: "Think through the lighting to make sure it suits your needs. If you love applying meticulous makeup, it's helpful to add sconces or even a chic lit magnifying mirror. Or, if you favor soothing baths, dimmable ceiling lights to create a relaxing mood would be a great choice."
Choosing too Many Finishes
Roth pointed out how messy designs can become when going crazy with finishes and patterns: "My theory is that in most circumstances, more than two finishes in a bathroom can look odd. Try to flow the materials in a digestible way—keep all the floor materials the same, and change up the walls. If you want a statement pattern or color, use it on the floors, or tile the inside of a recessed shelf instead of putting it everywhere."
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Planning Electrical Too Late
For New York–based designer Jane Abercrombie, the single biggest mistake when designing a bathroom is to plan the electrical components too late. "Remember: Electrical planning needs to be done very early in the process," she says. "For example, a hardwired makeup mirror is great mounted on the wall, but you need to remember this in the early phase. It's so wonderful to have outlets in drawers—for hair dryers and straightening irons so they can be tucked away quickly and neatly. If you forget to do this, you can have someone cut a grommet hole in the drawer and use an extension cord from the wall outlet. This is a game changer!"
Choosing Slippery Tiles
"A common mistake is using cool, decorative tile on their bathroom floors that aren't made for getting wet, which can make it really easy to slip on," explained the designers at Studio Life.Style. "This can be fixed by either making the flooring slip-resistant, which can be done with treatments, or making sure that the tile you choose is suitable for bathrooms."
"People forget that bathrooms can have personality just like any other room in your house," the designers at Massucco Warner Miller told us. The fix: "Add a fun and unexpected light fixture, chic art, or even wallpaper! Bathrooms are typically smaller spaces, so it doesn't take much to really spice them up and make them cohesive with the décor of the rest of the house."
Not Considering Humidity
Lastly, the designers at Studio Life.Style warned against the use of regular wallpaper: "We can all agree that adding wallpaper to any bathroom can immediately warm up a space. We love using wallpaper in all the bathrooms we design, but the biggest thing we always keep in mind is that the wallpaper needs to either be made for bathrooms (like a vinyl, for example), or the backsplash needs to be high enough so that the wallpaper won't get damaged."
Next up: Decorating mistakes you can fix in 15 minutes or less.
This post was originally published on March 2, 2017, and has since been updated.