Designer Thoughts: 10 Bathroom Style Mistakes to Avoid

Most showroom veterans have seen it all. They’ve watched customers pick out carpet for the bathroom, eliminate important cabinets, or pair too much together in an attempt to impress their guests. Sales teams want to help customers find the best possible options for their bathrooms; unfortunately, some bathroom projects are doomed from the start.

While it’s impossible to prevent customers from making some design and style mistakes when they’re renovating their homes, there are a few basic errors that can be easily avoided. Here are the top 10 problems that renovators and sales people see when they’re called to fix bathrooms or make changes to improve a space.

They Forget About Room Limitations When They’re Shopping

Knowing any limitations or issues in a home can help customers find optimal appliances and decor. Before they even design a new layout, customers can keep problems in mind to prevent complications or re-dos.

“If we’re looking to wall-hang a product, then it’s important you ensure it can be secured to your walls properly,” Neil Curtis at Ripples Bathrooms believes. “Some homes may not be able to withstand the weight of a product, so it’s absolutely essential that this is considered.”

Buyers who can identify issues beforehand won’t end up falling in love with a piece that has no chance of fitting in their homes or working with their wiring and piping.

They Focus on Decor Instead of Usability

Customers don’t have to choose between decor and usability, but they must consider both when they're renovating. Bathrooms are used several times per day, which means they have to be convenient for whoever lives there.

“It would seemingly be clear that the most important aspect of design is usability,” the team at RWC Windows, Doors & More writes. “However, this isn’t obvious to all. One amazingly common error is installing the toilet directly in front of the sink...In the worst cases, one would have to actually stand on the rim of the toilet to access the sink.”

Getting caught up in dream features can completely ruin the flow of a bathroom. Without usability, guests will be so focused on how difficult the bathroom is to use that the decor won’t matter.

“Forget the bells and whistles – the key to a great bathroom remodel is a sleek, effective, elegant yet simple design,” Mike Bowman writes at Bath Gems.

Bowman has found that simple tends to be better, especially considering bathrooms are typically small spaces without much room for non-essential decorations. Not only can the clutter take away from the relaxing atmosphere, it can also drain a customer’s budget.

They Ignore the Design of the Rest of the Home

How does the customer’s bathroom flow with the rest of their home? Does it seem like a natural fit off the hallway or near the bedroom?

“When remodeling a bathroom it is important to consider the architecture and the style of your entire home,” the experts at C.C. Dietz Building & Remodeling write.

Isolating a bathroom and treating it as its own entity can disrupt the flow and create an eyesore when viewed with the rest of the house. Good salespeople will help customers design a bathroom that complements the whole house.

For example, if a guest bedroom uses deep royal colors like maroon, gold and navy, guests might be taken aback if the bathroom is bright blue with a tropical island theme. The whole house has to flow together as one.

They Shy Away from Bold Design Choices

Designer Kishani Perera often works with customers that are paralyzed by a fear of commitment in the bathroom. Everything from the tiles to the mirrors are treated like permanent fixtures. This means that people are less willing to take risks, in case their dream bathroom today is out of style next year.

“Although it’s true you can’t switch up tiles like you would toss cushions, nothing is really forever, so let your creativity flow and go for the colors, patterns, and fixtures that add character and interest to your bath,” Perera writes.

That being said, it’s important to balance the bold and eye-catching pieces with pieces that create flow within a room.

“As you choose toilets, faucets, tubs and sinks you do want to find some interesting selections but [they have] to be balanced with calming pieces,” the team at Affordable Comfort, a DIY and lifestyle blog, writes.

Multiple pieces, like a dramatic clawfoot tub or black and white tile, might look amazing on their own — especially in the showroom — but together they might look loud and cluttered.

They Forget About Storage

Some customers don’t realize how important storage is until they rip it out and design a new bathroom without it.

"You absolutely need as much storage as possible to ensure that your bathroom stays the most functional and uncluttered space," interior designer Tali Roth says. “If you are building from scratch, explore recessed wall cabinets and recessed shower shelves—they are clean and oh so useful!"

However, this is also where the balance elements come in. Homeowners don’t want so much storage that the bathroom feels cramped and difficult to navigate. The key is to find storage that isn’t in the way and disrupting the flow of a room.

“Having plenty of storage does not mean sacrificing space and comfort,” the remodeling professionals at Re-Bath write. “Vanities that block doorways, toilets that block doors, or cramped tubs can all be replaced with beautiful and space saving solutions that don’t sacrifice comfort for function.”

In a perfect bathroom, there should be enough cabinetry to hold a family’s items, but not so much that the bathroom feels like it’s located inside a storage unit.

They Block or Hide Natural Light

Erica Garland at Modern Bathroom firmly believes that natural light is just as much of a luxury or amenity as heated floors and a spa tub, and encourages homeowners to emphasize natural light and use it in their design choices.

If customers are unable to enlarge their windows or add a skylight, there are other ways to obtain as much natural light as possible. Encourage them to avoid thick curtains and dark wall pieces that would force them to invest in powerful light fixtures to brighten the bathroom.

Designer Mike James at Residence Style agrees. “Natural light is supposed to make you feel more relaxed, in ways that artificial light cannot,” he writes. “Taking this natural light away can make an otherwise acceptable bathroom look suffocating or even bland.”

They Choose Poor Bathroom Materials

The materials homeowners choose affect how often they have to fix or remodel their bathrooms. For example, customers using porous surfaces will soon need to replace and renovate damaged hardware.

“All surfaces in the bathroom should be impervious to moisture otherwise it will swell, rot or discolour with time,” home renovator Bernadette Janson writes at her site, The School of Renovating. Surfaces that can’t be made impervious include softwood, particleboard and fabric, but porous stone can be sealed. While ventilation helps, even the best-ventilated bathrooms are bound to face issues due to moisture and steam.

These material choices also apply to decor. Oriana Gomez-Zerpa at CONIX RDBM Architects specifically mentions wallpaper as a key material that can make or break design. Some wallpaper is made for bathrooms and can withstand moisture or humidity. If not designed specifically for use in a high-humidity environment, however, the wallpaper could run or peel away from the wall.

They Install Materials and Hardware That Are Hard to Maintain

Make sure customers are up for the challenge of maintaining certain materials or able to find help to keep the space clean. However, if they want a bathroom that’s low maintenance, then the sales team needs to make sure they show the best options for their customers’ homes.

Home design writer Scott Sowers came up with a fantastic example of this for HouseLogic. He’s seen countless homeowners invest in tiny tiles that form mosaics in their bathrooms. These tiles might create a unique look, but they also provide much more space for grime to build with significantly more grout to maintain.   

Customers who lack the patience to clean tiny crevices should avoid them or use as an accent over a vanity, where there is less humidity.

They Create Improper Ventilation Plans

Speaking of ventilation, improper airflow ventilation can cause mold growth, wear down decor, and make a bathroom impossible to spend time in after anyone uses it.

“Most homeowners forget about this aspect when they are making decisions during a bathroom remodel, and it can lead to costly repairs in the future,” Gina Bonura writes for Alure Home Improvements.

Bonura provides a list of factors that homeowners need to consider when they’re ventilating their bathrooms to make sure they have the right amount of air flow:

  • The size of the room.
  • How far the duct travels to get outside and how many turns the duct takes.
  • The CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute) strength of the fan, which correlates directly to the amount of noise it creates.

If a customer chooses a fan that’s too small for the room or ducts, then their energy bills could rise as they’ll need to run it longer. However, if the fan is too big, it could be annoyingly loud and still take up extra energy because of its sheer size. Finding a balance is key.

They Design and Install Everything on Their Own

Perfectionists with a keen eye for detail should consider hiring a contractor. Even experienced decorators and color experts turn to professionals when they need perfectly measured and assembled renovations.

“There are so few perfect bathrooms and kitchens in the average home,” decorator Maria Killam writes. “There is almost nothing as detailed as interior design and renovations. If you have a measurement that is 1/4″ wrong or even less, guess what? You’re re-doing it. Or you live with it.”

This is one of the fastest ways to turn a dream bathroom into a design nightmare. Even if the measurements are only slightly off or the paint smudge is barely noticeable to guests, it’s likely to become the first thing a homeowner sees whenever they enter the room.

By helping your customers think strategically when they design a bathroom, you can help them avoid most of these mistakes. A little preparation before they start remodeling can save countless headaches, repairs and replacements.

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