Project Spotlight: Small But Unboring Bathrooms

While we've previously covered a small bathroom makeover on this blog, today's post expands on it by digging into ways to inject personality into private spaces that are best known for function over form.

Earlier this year, I worked with my clients in Rockville to help them add new life to two of the bathrooms in their lovely home. While it would be easy to go with a standard 3x6 subway tile surround and standard pre-fab vanity, these homeowners were open to ideas and finishes that would add style to these smaller spaces. (You can see one of the before and afters below.)

While each homeowner and space is unique, I want to challenge you (whether you are working with a designer/decorator or not) to take these tips to heart before you start your own bathroom project:

1. Find At Least One Feature/Finish to Splurge On: As with any room, you want to have a focal point or feature that draws the eye initially and that is complemented by the rest of the design. In small bathrooms, one easy way to do this is through floor and accent tile. In both of these bathrooms, we chose conversation-worthy tiles — a black and white cement tile for the hall bathroom (LiLi's Marrakesh 1 from Architectural Ceramics in Chevy Chase) and a blue-toned marble chevron tile from TileDaily for the master bathroom.

 LiLi's Marrakesh 1 Tile in Bathroom Niche (Also Used on Floor)

LiLi's Marrakesh 1 Tile in Bathroom Niche (Also Used on Floor)

 Chevron Mix Blue Marble Mosaic Tile from TileDaily

Chevron Mix Blue Marble Mosaic Tile from TileDaily

2. Make Small Changes That Feel Custom: You may not have the budget for custom cabinetry but consider swapping the hardware or adding a custom countertop to a pre-built unit. In the master bathroom, we swapped out the silver hardware for a square-shaped brushed gold finishes to match the other hardware and paired it with a quartz top (Emerstone Quartz Carrara White from Architectural Stones in Rockville) that matched the in-shower bench added during the renovation. Other ways to add a custom feel without spending too much include using tiles in different shapes (we used 3x9 in the hall bathroom and 3x12 in the master bathroom) or with a contrasting grout (as we did in the hall bath to complement the cement tile floor).

 Strasser Woodenworks Vanity (from Wayfair) with Updated Hardware

Strasser Woodenworks Vanity (from Wayfair) with Updated Hardware

 Custom Quartz Countertop Added to Pre-Fab Vanity

Custom Quartz Countertop Added to Pre-Fab Vanity

3. Include Contrasting Elements to Add Interest: As in other spaces in the home, don't hesitate to play with tone and texture to add personality. In the hall bathroom, we paired a more modern natural wood vanity with the starker black and white tile work. My client chose to go with brushed silver hardware but another option is to add matte black/iron finishes to tie together the modern vanity and the vintage-feeling tile. Contrast can also come in the form of color, like the Behr Vintage Mauve paint in the aforementioned bathroom or the blue towels in the master bath (bringing out the blue tones in the chevron tile and contrasting with the Behr Sandstorm paint).

 LiLi Cement Tile from Architectural Ceramics Contrasts with Fresca Milano Vanity (from Wayfair)

LiLi Cement Tile from Architectural Ceramics Contrasts with Fresca Milano Vanity (from Wayfair)

 Behr Vintage Mauve Contrasts with 3x9 Goose Down Matte Tile from Sonoma Tilemakers via Architectural Ceramics

Behr Vintage Mauve Contrasts with 3x9 Goose Down Matte Tile from Sonoma Tilemakers via Architectural Ceramics

Project Spotlight: Focusing on Function & Family in Southeast DC

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While interior design is thought to primarily be concerned with aesthetics, some of the biggest transformations when working with a designer or decorator are measured by the function of the space for the person(s) that call it home.

That is exactly the case with the family I had the pleasure of working with in southeast DC recently. While they loved their DC rowhome, with two rambunctious kids, the space (and more importantly the furniture) they had did not match their style or need for flexibility. At the heart of this challenge was a beautiful, traditional six-seat dining room table that rarely was used partially for fear of it falling prey to adorable but potentially destructive young hands. This piece was creating a physical and emotional block that was preventing the space from meeting their needs. 

Other challenges that came up through our consultation included:

  • Frantic feel when you entered the house and a need for organization;
  • Limited space for kids to play (especially important with all the rainy days we've had lately);
  • Multiple dining spaces but none of which met all their needs; and
  • Untapped space in the kitchen that housed a mostly unused desk turned drop area.

To tackle these problems, we identified a few keys tasks and pieces that would transform the design and function of the home:

  • Consolidate dining spaces from three to two, including adding a cost-effective dining nook and new, kid-friendly drop-leaf dining room table (allowing the dining room to become a larger playroom, when needed);
  • Bring more modern lines and finishes to the space, playing into existing wrought iron elements and adding more casual/weathered wood elements;
  • Modernize the color palette, while working with the existing wall color (Benjamin Moore's Spanish Olive);
  • Incorporate flexible pieces that can work in multiple spaces and be moved easily, as well storage options (primarily for toys); and
  • Add sophistication by juxtaposing patterns and textures.

And here's where we are now (photos by Beth Caldwell):

While there is still room for some more touches (new/updated upholstered cornices above the windows, removing baseboards in dining nook for a more custom look with the benches, adding a console in the dining room for extra serving space, etc.), the transformation has helped my clients enjoy their home even more...which is always priority number one from the outset.

Goods Guide

Living Room

Dining Room

Dining Nook

Amber Harris is the owner of At Home DC, an interior decorator and a licensed real estate agent with Keller Williams Capital Properties working with clients in DC, Maryland and Virginia.