The work that has to go in to making a great bathroom can be taken for granted. Until we actually go through the process, we don’t realize how many important decisions have to be made. And unlike decorating, renovating your bathroom has little room for error. Any mistake in layout, or choice of material, or lighting can completely ruin your experience. So, we turned to SVKID designer, Senalee Kapelevich, who shared this gorgeous project she completed, to give us some tips on how to master the bathroom renovation. Take notes because her advice is good!

Where is this bathroom located and what was it like when you found it?
This bathroom is in a house in the Santa Cruz Hills which is just west of San Jose in the Bay Area. The clients are a family of five, and the house is actually an old farmhouse that has been in the family for two generations. The owners’ parents built the house and didn’t renovate it since it was originally built. We’re updating the house in phases – this bathroom is the first stage. See the before picture at the end of the slideshow.

Where should a bathroom renovation project begin?
I always ask clients if they have gathered any inspiration images before I start to create a design for them. Both the husband and the wife love modern design. And all of their inspiration were pages torn from DWELL magazine and other modern sources. I loved combining modern elements in rustic surroundings.

If there is a limited budget, where should people splurge and where should they find cheaper options?
I usually start by designing the sink console which is the focal point of the room. So that would be my first place to spend money. And then the next most important element would definitely be the floor and shower tile.

Here’s my rule of thumb when it comes to splurging or saving:

Invest in:

  • Sink Console
  • Floor & Shower Tile

Items that can be in the mid-range:

  • All Plumbing fixtures – faucets, and tub & shower plumbing
  • Lighting
  • Vessel Sinks

Save on:

  • Toilets
  • Bathtubs
  • Under-mount sinks
  • Mirrors
  • Hardware (towel bars, hooks, etc.)
  • Ventilation

Are there any rules to bathroom design that you think are necessary?

  1. I like to put sink consoles by windows. Having natural daylight next to your mirror is great for getting “ready”. 
  2.  I like to try to tuck toilets into a semi private area if I can’t put them in their own compartment. I hate walking into a bathroom and having the toilet be the first thing that you see. 
  3. I prefer to have the sink console be the first thing you see when you walk into a bathroom.
  4. I really try not to have showers be any smaller than 36 in x 36 in wide…but you also don’t want to have them be too big either…so going beyond 60 in x 60 in starts to feel too vacuous sometimes.
  5. Having all lighting in the bathroom on dimmers is great. And having multiple lighting sources is key. Overhead ambient lighting combined with task lighting at the sink console. Just relying on one source of light in bathroom can kill a good design otherwise.
  6. Floors typically need to be slip resistant. And you can do this one of two ways. You can have larger format tiles like 12 in x 24 in that have some traction to their surface, or you can do smaller polished tiles that will ultimately need a lot more grout, and the grout will give you the slip resistance. So you do need to avoid doing combinations like polished marble tiles that are 24 in x 24 in on your bathroom floor. That can be really dangerous.
  7. On the opposite note…you want to avoid doing tiles that have too much texture inside your showers. They will be really hard to clean. But doing polished tiles, or tiles with a more slick surface, will be much easier to clean and keep soap scum off of the shower walls.
  8. For the most part, you need to avoid wall paper in bathrooms with tubs and showers. Wallpaper is amazing in powder rooms, but steam is the enemy of wall paper – so a small bathroom with a shower or tub plus wallpaper = disaster. If you want a pattern on your walls – paint a pattern instead.
  9. Whenever possible, always go to a showroom and see and touch plumbing in person. It is so easy to order everything online these days, but having the interaction in person can be key to deciding what you actually like. If you can’t go see things in person, just make sure that the source that you are purchasing from has a good return policy, and maybe order two different style faucets, and send one back.
  10. When you are designing a bathroom, what you are designing needs to have about 15 year life span (or longer!) I am much more conservative when it comes to designing “hard surfaces” than say a living room or bedroom. Try to stay away from anything too trendy. You can be modern and updated without being trendy.

Wood is often a material that people steer clear from when it comes to kitchens and bathrooms. What kind have you used here and how did you make sure it is bathroom-friendly?
If you go into any cool restaurant these days, you are most likely eating off a beautiful wood table that they have to set cold, hot and wet things on all day long. This is possible because of matte-finish varnishes. So people don’t have to be afraid of a wood sink console, you just have to put the right finish on it AND maintain that finish, most likely you would want to re-apply a varnish every five years or so.

Tell us about your choice in lighting for this project? Are there any tips you can share with us on how to master lighting for bathrooms?
I hate fluorescent fixtures, and avoid them like the plague. I stick to a combination of LEDs and incandescents. And I always have ALL fixtures on dimmers. Not only does this allow you to be more green and save energy, but having control over the amount of light you have in any room is key. When you are doing your makeup you need a different level light than when you are using the toilet in the middle of the night. When you purchase any LED make sure to have the following specs: 3000K, 80 CRI or higher, and dimmable. (This means a light that is very warm, the lower the Kelvins, the warmer the light).

How many different materials for finishings are too many?
My favorite bathroom designs are probably the most simple. You don’t have to have a lot going on for a bathroom to be beautiful. 2-3 tile choices per bathroom is certainly enough. 1 floor tile, 1 shower/tub tile, and 1 shower niche tile. 1 wall color.  For the most part tubs, toilets, and sinks should be white – keep it simple, don’t order a biscuit or ivory toilet. I am not afraid of wood in the bathroom because it adds warmth to a usually cold place.

Love this bathroom’s look? Check out our slideshow to see where Senalee sourced each item!