Before You Start That Bathroom Remodel

People love renovating their bathrooms. It is a trend that is bordering on obsession. There are so many things that people are looking for in a bathroom nowadays. I mean, it’s a bathroom. The goals should really be that everything is functional, easy to clean, and looks nice. But that isn’t what the people want anymore. They’re looking for walk in showers big enough for three people (remember when they were just called showers?). Heated floors, fancy toilets, and smart showerheads are all the rage now.

Because of this new emphasis on bathrooms, especially en suite bathrooms, it can get incredibly expensive to do a bathroom renovation. This holds true even if you decide to do it yourself. But here is the thing that I tell my clients: quality is better than complicated. Most homebuyers would rather have a low-flow toilet and water conserving showerhead than a heated seat on their throne and multiple showerheads. Take notice that I said most. I advise people who want those types of amenities (and let’s face it, luxury is nice and some people just have that kind of money or preference) to plan on staying in the house until the end of time before expecting to get their money back on bathroom upgrades like that. Don’t get me wrong, I think all that stuff is great, but I also know that it is expensive and not to everyone’s taste. In other words, updating your bathroom=moneymaker. UpGRADING your bathroom=dicey.

Personally, I prefer a good detachable showerhead to the multi-head walk in showers that seem to be the in thing. A quality handheld shower head with different settings can work and feel just as good as the high tech ones yet be a fraction of the price. And if you get a low-flow showerhead, it will cost even less to operate than one of those multi-jet numbers. Those are the types of thing people remember at an open house and every time they look at their water bill. Besides, if you use a shower curtain or smoked glass doors, nobody sees your shower unless they’re physically inside it anyway—regardless of how much it cost you—and typically at that point they would just like to be clean. I would rather spend that money on a gorgeous bathroom sink, vanity, and mirror. You spend an awful lot of time in the bathroom, so having a quality vanity to hold all your toiletries will be a time and space saver. And anyone who has had to suffer without one knows the value of a good quality bathroom mirror. Also, think about how many times and for how many reasons you use your bathroom sink. Now you see where I am going with that? Put the money into the stuff you use the most.

My final advice is this: don’t let bells and whistles distract you from the fact that your bathroom needs to be functional, more so than many other rooms in a home or workspace. Fancy features are great but look for durability and quality over simply good looks or complicated settings you might never figure out, never mind use.

Tricks to Brighten Up a Room

I am often asked to “brighten” up a room. Believe it or not, there are simple things you can do to brighten a room without having to knock a hole in the wall and add another window. Many are simple tweaks that can be done in a few minutes or with minimal costs. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Look at the furniture. If you are surrounded by pieces that are dark or bulky, they are absorbing the light in the room. Light furniture, metallic features (more on that later), and glass tabletops or shelving will help change the whole feel of the room and create a lighter space.
  • What color is on the walls? Is it a dark, rich color? That could also be the culprit. A light color is especially important in rooms that have little or no natural lighting. Evaluate what is on the walls and consider changing the color if it is a problem.
  • If the room has windows, evaluate your window treatments. Are you using heavy brocade drapes? You could be unintentionally blocking your greatest source of light. Try using a lighter material, or pushing the heavier material to the sides and putting something sheer in the middle. There are plenty of options that allow light but are not see through. If you have blinds, think about replacing them with a shade that allows some light pass-through.
  • Next,evaluate your light sources. This includes any hanging lamps or wall fixtures, as well as free standing wall or table lamps. Turn them all on. If there are still dark corners, you need more lighting. If they cover the whole room but not well, you may need different bulbs. Check the lumens and increase them accordingly (lumens are light output, which is different than wattage because of things like energy efficient bulbs). I like to have softer lighting in table lamps and brighter bulbs in ceiling lights. Three-wayor dimmable bulbs are also a good idea if your fixture/switch supports them.
  • Add mirrors strategically. I don’t mean that you have to add a tacky mirror wall, but even something with metallic features will help. Place them opposite a window and they will reflect and multiply the room’s natural light. If you have two windows on the same wall, put a mirror (preferably around the same size as the windows if you can swing it) in between. It will trick the eye into thinking it is another window in the room and it will feel brighter. If you don’t have any windows or can’t put a mirror across from one, put it on the wall directly behind a table lamp. Whenever the lamp is on, it will reflect the light.
  • Is the room cluttered? That can also make a room feel cramped and dark. Do a sweep of the room and relocate things that don’t need to be in the room. If there are open spaces, the room will feel airier and lighter. If you must have tchotchkes laying around, make sure that they are white or light colored and that their proportions don’t overwhelm the room.

So go through your room with a discerning eye and see what you think can be tweaked a little here and there. You would be surprised at what some new curtains, a quick coat of paint, a new bulb, or some decluttering can accomplish!

Adding Splashes of Color

It may not be typical advice, but as an interior designer, I often recommend that people choose classic and neutral color furniture. I know that it sounds boring, but hear me out. It can be tempting to get a gorgeously rich sofa in lime green, and it very well could be the finishing touch to your room. However, if you maybe have to replace your rug because someone spills wine all over it at a party and you fall in love with a loud orange print, or you inherit your grandfather’s mahogany bookcase or something, that dream sofa might look like a nightmare. It could be more of a commitment than you really should be making. You know how often you get tired of looking at something, and how often it is financially feasible for you to replace something, so keep that in mind.

The advice I give to all my clients is to go bold with accents. There are so many places throughout the room that you can add color, and it is fun to use your imagination to find ways to add stylish and bright pieces that will add personality to any room in your home.

I love bright, vibrant throw pillows and rugs. If you are a throw blanket person, that is another way to add wonderful color to your room. Window treatmentsare another excellent chance to add fantastic colors that will make the room pop or bring in an interesting pattern to attract the eye. My favorite part about using color as an accent feature is that these items can be inexpensive, which encourages you to change them out every season, or if something gets spilled on it or they fade. Or you can just replace them on a whim! I keep different sets in storage and just rotate them as I see fit. All the colors coordinate, so I can mix and match as I go. I bought most of it at a big box store, and it always looks like a million bucks!

I also love to add art to the room, something bright and colorful—especially to offset a larger piece of furniture in a solid color. For people who frequently want to change out the art in the room, I recommend using an easel. It is much easier to switch out one painting for another, especially if they are different sizes or orientations. You never have to worry because there are no holes in the wall whatsoever!

One last idea is to paint an accent wall. It is not as big of a commitment to paint one wall as it is the whole room. It also enables you to paint it with a bold, bright color that might not work in the whole room. The color will stand out more in contrast, and if you decide that you don’t like it—you only have to prime and paint one wall instead of four.

I hope this has given you some ideas on ways to add color to your décor. If you are hesitant or unsure, talk with a designer or look at a color wheel to get an idea of what colors look good with the pieces you already have. Start small with a curtain change or some pillows and build onto your look from there. Experiment with it and have fun!

Design With You in Mind

Interior design may feel intimidating to most people. There are too many options out there: materials, patterns, colors, designs, and features. Even buying something as simple as a lamp can be incredibly complicated. People are afraid to make the wrong decisions, and that’s why they hire someone like me. Of course, I am a professional designer with a fancy education and years of experience, so I have a better grasp on what is going to look good together and what will go nicely in the space you have.But a well put together, color coordinated home isn’t necessarily what everyone wants. Let’s face it, some people are going to go Frat Boy Chic whether they are paying me to help them or not. But that is because that’s what appeals to them for whatever reason, bless their poor misguided little hearts.

Here is the secret to interior design: it is all about personal taste. If you are the type of person who likes pink walls, green curtains, and a purple sofa, then that is what you should have. And if it is what you tell a designer you like and they don’t listen, you shouldn’t work with them. Modifying or or tweaking your vision a little may be necessary based on what they can find in your price range, so you could end up with pink walls, lime green and pink stripes in the curtains, and purple cushions on the couch, but it should reflect what you were going for. It should still be what you want. If you walk into your living room and think it is the greatest place in the world to be because you have a couch that is the same color as your favorite team’s jersey or because it has the perfect light for you to read by or it has storage so you never have to see all of your kids’ toys—that is what really matters.

It doesn’t matter if your room is never going to make the cover of a design magazine. Most rooms won’t. And you want to know the thing about rooms like the ones you see in design magazines? They’re usually for show. Or they’re taken at the end of a design project before the client comes in and decides to move stuff around or add their books and knickknacks to the shelves. In other words, they look good because they aren’t actually lived in. They may reflect the client’s personal taste, but they are typically lacking in the client’s personality. You can’t compare your room to a space like that. It’s like comparing a house cat to a tiger. Sure the tiger is a magnificent and gorgeous creature, but you can actually sit with a cat in your lap and pet it. One is something you visit and admire and the other is something you can actually live with.

Whether you hire someone or you do it yourself, design the room with yourself in mind. Know what you want in the room and what your vision for the space is. It will give you a jumping off point and a goal to work toward.