8 Design Lessons from 8 Great Bathrooms
Beautiful powder rooms and master ensuites to inspire.
Whether you’re freshening up your powder room, giving the master ensuite a reno or just dreaming of a change, these eight sweet bathroom designs from designers across the West offer plenty of inspiration.
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1. Make your storage work for you.
Like most master ensuites, this room needed great storage, but good lighting was just as important for the busy-morning prep. To get both, designer Andrea Rodman added lighting boxes to the triple medicine cabinet configuration in this Vancouver bathroom, behind the mirrors above the vanity sinks. “We figured out that if we built the medicine cabinets out, we could do integrated lighting,” she explains. Boxes at either end of the cabinets have doors with cut-outs of light-diffusing glass—softening the light for a more flattering glow—which also open easily to make changing the fluorescent tubes inside a snap.
2. Reach high.
When designing this 70-square-foot master ensuite as part of a Vancouver Special house reno, architect Allison Holden-Pope of One Seed Architecture and Interiors accentuated the vertical to create the illusion of space and to connect with the outdoors. A corner window extends to a sloped cedar ceiling that’s a continuation of exterior roof eaves. “The high window allows daylight, treetops and a field of skies to form part of the architectural experience of the space,” says Holden-Pope. Tall and narrow vanity mirrors reiterate this effect, breaking the upper plane of the tiled backsplash, drawing eyes upward and reflecting sky views.
3. Float it.
In this 200-square-foot master ensuite, Javier Martinez of Cridland Associates in Calgary exaggerates the scale of the seemingly floating vanity, making it 12 feet long. “Floating vanities are made more successful and dramatic by accentuating the floating look—it’s not floating if all it has is a 12-inch-high kick space.” And because this extra-long and -heavy vanity couldn’t be actually mounted to the wall, he added mirror and under-cabinet lighting to the recessed base to make it appear suspended.
4. Replace a traditional vanity with a beautifully made table.
Spare, furniture-like pieces, like the one featured in this powder room by Vancouver’s Falken Reynolds, free up visual space and bring the fine details of design elements such as faucets, lighting or patterned wall tile to the fore. “The powder room was a considered selection of straight lines and curves to create a casual but balanced space,” says designer Chad Falkenberg. The wall-mounted Dornbracht Imo faucet and spout help keep the countertop surface clear, “creating the feeling of openness and space,” says Falkenberg, and enhance the ovate form of the vessel sink (a Halo Blu-Stone unit from Blu Bathworks). “The soft curves and the very generous proportions of this sink allow a bit more visual counter space and contrast with the oiled teak of the vanity,” he explains. Wiry Bocci 28 wall sconces in copper were selected to pull out the warm tones of the teak vanity and the elm door.
5. Create a retreat within a retreat.
The master ensuite is often the one area of respite for grown-ups with little kids in the house, and designer Denise Ashmore wanted to create just such a getaway for her clients in this Vancouver home. By surrounding the stand-alone bath—already a luxury—with the same wood used on the flooring throughout the home, she’s designed a cozy, integrated niche that’s made for a little me time. “It’s almost like going to a cabin,” says Ashmore. “It’s really perfect to relax and unwind at the end of the day.”
6. Let there be light.
The expansive 6-by-5-foot window in this master bathroom is of a scale typically found in a living space, but for designer Susan Barstow, it’s exactly right: “I’m from New York, and it reminds me of windows you see in a brownstone, with their crossed lines.” Barstow, who with husband Russ runs Barstow Construction, designed the bathroom for their own home in Steveston, B.C. The window was custom-ordered in a shade of deep charcoal to set off the herringbone marble floor tile, gallery-white walls and the clear-coated walnut cabinetry fabricated by Richwood Kitchens. Mirrors over the vanities were taken up to the ceiling, further bouncing and reflecting light, and a skylight was positioned over the cast iron soaker tub from Randolph Morris to drive home the theme. “We use skylights so often, especially in Vancouver where it tends to be grey,” says Barstow, who notes that there are nine skylights in the home in total. “They’re really not that expensive, given what they achieve.”
7. Go dark…with light.
Designer Stephanie Brown converted an odd-shaped study into a 110-square-foot bathroom in her Vancouver townhome—and created a space her husband would also find comfortable. The resulting masculine-yet-warm bathroom includes grey hues, leather-like floor tiles and an onyx mosaic wall, but these rich tones “are offset with lots of white—tub, countertop, walls, ceiling—to prevent the space from feeling dark,” says the designer. A skylight, pot lights and attention-grabbing pendant light fixture also keep the space bright.
8. Do more with less.
The diminutive dimensions of a powder room mean less square footage to cover and thus more freedom to indulge in otherwise-prohibitive tile or wallcovering. “The powder room is the perfect place to use finishes that you love but consider too pricey, trendy or even risqué,” says designer Reena Sotropa. In this 35-square-foot Calgary bathroom, she added a “riot of colour” with whimsical butterfly-adorned wallpaper. Bonus: “The powder room is a ‘public space’ in your home—the perfect opportunity to show off your big splurge!”
Designer, Andrea Rodman, Andrea Rodman Interiors, Vancouver, andrearodman.com
Designer, Allison Holden-Pope, One Seed Architecture and Interiors, Vancouver, oneseed.ca
Designer, Javier Martinez, Cridland Associates, Calgary, cridlandassociates.com
Designers, Chad Falkenberg and Kelly Reynolds, Falken Reynolds, Vancouver, falkenreynolds.com
Designer, Denise Ashmore, Project 22 Design Inc., Vancouver, project22design.com; Builder, Furtado Contracting, Burnaby, furtadocontracting.ca
Designers, Susan and Russ Barstow, Barstow Construction, Richmond, B.C., barstowconstruction.com
Designer, Stephanie Brown, Stephanie Brown Inc. Vancouver, stephaniebrowninc.com
Designer, Reena Sotropa, Reena Sotropa In House Design, Calgary, reenasotropa.ca