How to Create a Classic Bathroom Design That Lasts

classic bathroom design by The Decorologist

Bathrooms and kitchens are the spaces in our homes that most show their age. Creating a classic bathroom design that will be both lasting and “modern” can be a challenge. Design trends are fickle beasts, and choosing the right finishes can leave you overwhelmed by all the possible options. This recent bathroom remodel in my client’s hundred-year-old home is an example of how to accomplish a look that will stand the test of time, yet isn’t cookie-cutter at all!

classic bathroom design by The Decorologist

1. Start with function, follow with form.

There’s a lot of important work that must be done in the bathroom, you know? Bathing, brushing, grooming, primping, and other unmentionable actions must be successfully accomplished in a relatively small space. Start with your needs, then consider your desires. A separate bath and shower aren’t necessary, but can be quite a luxury if you’ve never had one!

free standing tub in classic bathroom by The Decorologist

Do you need a place to sit down and apply makeup? Be sure to consider the counter height and space for a stool or chair beneath. The tall homeowners wanted higher countertops for brushing teeth and grooming hair, but we decided to drop down this make-up area to a comfortable height for seating (lighted make-up mirror not pictured).

makeup area in classic bathroom design by Kristie Barnett, The Decorologist

2. Find one design element that you LOVE, then build the room around it.

For this classic bathroom design, that element is the star-studded encaustic floor tile. It was chosen first, and everything else followed. It’s the lead actor in this show, while all the other elements have supporting roles.

3. Insure a classic bathroom design by choosing elements that are not simply “popular,” but are rooted in history.

Just because some of what you see in this bathroom is currently popular or trending, that’s not the same as “trendy.” Marble-like quartz countertops; brass and iron metal finishes; encaustic, hex, subway, and brick tile are all rooted in bathroom history. Although there is an ebb and flow in their popularity throughout the decades, these kind of elements give a bathroom historical gravitas. Sure, it’s obviously a new bathroom. But there’s a nod to the past, such as the Art Deco-inspired encaustic floor tile and plumbing fixtures.

gray owl walls

gold brass tub faucets

4. Pick finishes that visually tie in with one another to create a cohesive look.

It’s so important for a classic bathroom design to pick elements that repeat similar shapes, colors, and motifs – but NOT EXACTLY. This isn’t like Garanimals or Rooms to Go, where you should pick “matching” sets.

star encaustic floor tile and brick wall tile

Rather than using the exact same metal finishes, I typically choose two for most bathroom and kitchen designs. With so much black in the design, we opted to pair it with brass/gold. I know some of you may have strong feelings about “not being ready for brass to come back,” but it truly is back in vogue. Every other bathroom in this home sports satin nickel or chrome, so we wanted the master bathroom to be set apart and SPECIAL. We fell hard for this gold and iron lantern fixture from Visual Comfort:

iron and gold light fixture

The sink, tub, and shower faucets followed suit:

gold faucets in bathroom design by Kristie Barnett

While the sconces are also gold, we chose iron finishes for the round mirrors and shower door handle and hinges.

Sherwin-Williams Iron Ore bathroom cabinet

5. Choose what you love. Remember, it’s YOUR bathroom! 

bathtub with gold fixtures

Who is it who’s spending hours every day in your bathroom? It’s YOU, not your neighbor or your friends – and certainly not your Facebook friends. You should choose what YOU love, rather than the latest trend in bathroom design.

Try bringing in some organic elements, like a potted plant, wooden stool, or favorite art to warm up your special space. Take a chance and juxtapose slick Art Deco shower fixtures with rough-textured painted brick like we did in this shower (just make sure it’s ceramic “brick” tile). The decorating police are NOT going to raid your house, so quit fretting so much about whether other people will like it! Unless of course you are planning on selling in the near future . . .

gold shower fixtures and brick tile shower wall in bathroom by Kristie BarnettIf loving these gold shower fixtures is wrong, I don’t wanna be right . . . 

 

classic bathroom design by Kristie Barnett, The Decorologist

Really quickly, let me show you the “before” of this bathroom project:

This is one of my favorite bathroom remodels from this year – I hope you like it, too! What’s your favorite part?

Registration is now OPEN for my next in-person Expert Psychological Stager™ certification course, March 5-7, 2020 in Nashville. If you want to kick-start a career in home staging and redesign, this RESA®-approved certification course is for you! Find out more here.

 

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Briana
Briana
10 months ago

What a huge difference! It’s so beautiful! I wish that this was my bathroom.

Laura P.
Laura P.
10 months ago

Hi Kristie, There is SO much to love about this design! My favorite is the encaustic tile. To me (I have no design experience except for remodeling and decorating my own home) the tile is a nod to the classic black & white floors with a modern twist. Absolutely love the floor! I also like the mixed metals and the tip to design for oneself. I am so glad you like brass! I have some beautiful brass pieces that have stood the test of time over 33 years, and they seem to play nicely with some more modern touches. When… Read more »

Laura P.
Laura P.
10 months ago

Hi Kristie, Yes, I can see the need for drawers! I am admittedly low maintenance, and don’t need a lot of storage right near the sink, but I know that is just me! I really love your design and would totally use encaustic tile when it’s time to remodel. Lovely!

Yvonne Fawehinmi
Yvonne Fawehinmi
10 months ago

Really pretty! May I ask what the wall color is?

Rhonda
Rhonda
10 months ago

Wow! You did a terrific job of remodeling this bathroom! Love the gold fixtures and the lantern especially!

Jenny Abrams
10 months ago

Great information as always!!

Sandy
Sandy
10 months ago

Beautiful – I love the patterned tile with the simplicity of everything else, and the just-right touches of geometry with the glowing brass drawer pulls and the X of the seat. The flower pot is a marvel! It snaps everything into focus.

Kate
Kate
10 months ago

Are bathtubs popular except with families with children? We just bought a 100-year-old house and the main bathroom had been recently remodeled. There is no bathtub, just a large shower. I was concerned at first (but it wasn’t a deal breaker) and now I really like it since I don’t have to step over the wall of a tub to in. I can see it being very useful as my husband and I age and when my elderly mother visits. I am concerned that my future grandchildren won’t have any place to bathe. We had a claw foot bathtub in… Read more »

Jacquie P.
Jacquie P.
10 months ago

I believe it is also against most building codes not to have at least one tub in the house. That is what our building inspector said when we were applying for our occupancy permit on a new build. He said that a house has to have a least one. It may also play in the resell of a home if it is found out. Check your local city, it may have changed.

Sarah Adams
Sarah Adams
10 months ago

That floor tile is awesome — I’m inspired. Glad to see the enormous mirrors above the counters GONE! That’s the first thing I want to do to my own master bathroom when we remodel “some day.”

Tina
Tina
10 months ago

Really beautiful! What is the wall color, please?

Jacquie Parker
Jacquie Parker
10 months ago

Hello Kristie,
My favorite is the tile floor. May I ask who made it and what the pattern is called? I am thinking this would be perfect for a bathroom of ours! 🙂

Linda Merrill
10 months ago

“Insure a classic bathroom design by choosing elements that are not simply “popular,” but are rooted in history.” – perfect advice! And what a fantastic bathroom Kristie!

Carla Aston
10 months ago

Lovely makeover here. The brass is gorgeous and that floor is so fun. Great job!

Lisa Peck
10 months ago

This remodel is so well done. I agree with your advice to work with an element you love as a starting point

Leslie Carothers
Leslie Carothers
10 months ago

This is absolutely beautiful, Kristi. My favorite element are the shower fixtures. I just love them.. .and then that Visual Comfort pendant…. what a WOW! Your clients must be thrilled!

Janet Lorusso
10 months ago

Be still my heart…that VC lantern…!! Beautiful bathroom and lucky clients! What a fabulous classic look that is anything but boring!

Mary Ann Benoit
10 months ago

Great transformation and love that floor tile!

Wendy
Wendy
10 months ago

I love how we, as designers, think about the function and not just the beauty.

Donna Mancini
10 months ago

Such a great post! I love that you distinguished between trendy and popular/trending. There are often great reasons why things are popular and it’s not about being trendy! Beautiful choices and finishes in this project!

Sheri Bruneau
10 months ago

What a gorgeous transformation! I really enjoyed your explanation for choosing classic elements. It truly is a beautiful space!

Diane
Diane
8 months ago

I always enjoy reading and looking at your remodels. Love the mixture of metals. I was interested to see that your clients kept just a single sink in what I presume is the master bathroom. I’m in the process of remodeling a master bathroom that is not very big. It presently has two sinks, but not a lot of storage space. Would love to go with only one sink so I could build in some great new storage, but I feel for resale many years down the road, the idea of two sinks in a master bath will still be… Read more »

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