By Lisa Batson Goldberg, Houzz
Design professionals, who field the same questions from clients day after day, know that a little upfront knowledge on the part of homeowners goes a long way in smoothing the construction process. Here, designer Stephanie O’Donohue of smarterBathrooms+ in Port Melbourne, Australia, reveals the three things she wishes every client knew before starting a bathroom project, along with the answer to her most-asked question and a golden nugget of wisdom for the memory bank.
1. Minimalism (almost) never comes cheap.
“Clean, sleek lines” is what my clients ask for — think single sheets of material, no [seams], no handles and no grout lines. The most common misconception I come across is that this is a cheap look to achieve. People are fooled by the apparent simplicity of the aesthetic. But to achieve a truly beautiful minimalist look, the detail in the build needs to be precise.
Some of the simplest-looking spaces I have worked on have been the most expensive, due to the immense detail and meticulous planning required.
Specifying no cabinetry handles often means expensive opening mechanisms or hand-cut joinery. No [seams] in stone means buying oversized slabs and having an expert stonemason on hand to book-match the ends perfectly. And no grout lines means either huge, expensive tiles that take two tilers to lay (which doubles the labor cost) or porcelain sheets that can be cut and installed only by a stonemason — onto a wall that most likely has to be straightened instead of just packed.
2. Unless you’ve done it before, and done it well, don’t DIY the tile.
It’s just not worth it. Planning the tiling and tiling itself are both art forms. I have seen far too many new bathrooms that only look good when you’re not wearing your glasses. Once you see a crooked tile or uneven grouting, it cannot be unseen.
A tiler who plans the space, tile by tile, to ensure the placement of cuts and grout lines will be perfect is worth their weight in gold. You may be tempted to tackle a job that seems straightforward, but don’t do it. Especially if you have contrasting grout.
A good tiler will work more quickly than you could ever hope to, and they will be able to correctly use epoxy grout, giving you a superior and longer-lasting finish than you’d achieve yourself with a regular cement-based grout. They will also be able to disguise an uneven wall or an unsightly edge to a degree.
The tiles and grout are your first defense against water damage. Inferior tiling puts your whole room and subfloor at risk. Step away from the tiles and call an expert.
3. Tight budget or short on ideas? Go big!
This is one of my favorite tricks. Sometimes you can’t afford the Rolls-Royce of every element in your space. But if you can distract from your more economical, practical design decisions with a wow feature, you can save yourself thousands in upgrading everything unnecessarily.
Oversized handles, for example, can add a touch of drama and interest to an otherwise plain bathroom. Have you got a high bathroom ceiling? Find the biggest pendant light your electrician can lift, and fill the bathroom with an object so demanding of attention that it develops a personality of its own. You’ll find it gives your bathroom a real designer edge and detracts from the cheaper elements in the space.
You could also distract the eye with repetition, where you take one design idea and use it several times over in a space. Do you love penny round tiles? Pick a round basin, rounded [faucets], a round mirror and towels with a circular pattern. Repetition of a theme will give the space a cohesive, thought-out feel where every design decision is deliberate.
It will also help you shop better as you won’t fall into the trap of picking 10 things you love and finding none of them work together.
“How long does a bathroom renovation take?” Many people are surprised when they hear that a quality bathroom renovation takes about four weeks. Renovation shows are not reality!
Many people don’t have a spare bathroom they can use while the renovation takes place. If that’s the case for you, plan ahead. Hire a portable toilet or shower from a reputable builder, join a nearby gym (there are often free trials you can take advantage of) or consider renting elsewhere for a month while the job is done. None of these are ideal, but if you’re going to build a bathroom to last 20 to 30 years, that month of inconvenience will quickly be forgotten when you step inside your gorgeous new space.
Golden nugget of advice. Unless it’s a color other than chrome, a [faucet is a faucet]. Something basic will be fine, so don’t spend your hard-earned cash there. Funnel your money into custom cabinetry instead. Having a smart drawer that fits your lipstick collection perfectly, in a color you love and with a concealed bin, will be worth so much more than the bragging rights for Italian [faucets].