How to design a bathroom

Many people are dreaming of a spa-like bathroom, a relaxing oasis away from the chaos of daily life. At the same time this bathroom should function for different people, have enough storage, and be able to keep up with the busy times of day when everyone has to get ready. Designing a bathroom like that should be a thoughtful process to make it both functional and beautiful.

What you’ll find here

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Hi, I’m Nadine

Interior design expert, globetrotter and the creative mind behind this blog and NH.DESIGN.

I’m originally from Germany but have been living abroad for over 10 years, from Canada and the UK to Sweden.

So I ask myself the question what “home” means every day.
I have made it my mission to help as many people as possible to find their own answer to this.

Join my creative world on Instagram @nhdotdesign or find out more about me

Analyse your space and needs before diving into designing your bathroom

You won’t know what you need until you analyse your space and write it all down. Imagine doing all the daily things you do in your bathroom and write them down, even the really small ones. It’s easy to say “I need towels”, but what kind of towels? How many? Are the towels different sizes or need to be hung at different heights (like for children)? What if the towels are wet? You see, just the simple function of “ towels” has many different levels.

Create a Mood Board and visualise your ideas before jumping into your bathroom design

The next step when designing your bathroom is to create a Mood Board.
If you don’t know what that is, a Mood Board is a collection of images to visualise the style, design elements, colours, materials and the feeling you want to create in a space. Without it you’ll go blindly into purchasing furniture and decoration, painting walls and putting things together that at the end don’t work well together. You’ll spend time and money on something that doesn’t turn out the way you imagined. To avoid that, creating a Mood Board is key.

You can find tons of already made Mood Boards and inspiration on Pinterest or you can make your own using the free online design tool Canva. 

Styling Secrets guide by NH.DESIGN

Styling Secrets

Learn how to style any room in your home like a pro with my Styling Secrets guide.

Set (and stick to) a budget for your bathroom design

When designing your bathroom, just like any other room, make sure you set yourself a budget. It’s easy to get side-tracked by all the beautiful inspiration out there and get your heart set on something only to find out it’s way out of your budget.

It’s also important to track your spendings during your bathroom project; I use this Google Sheets Budget Planner I created. I set the overall project budget and then allocate different amounts to different areas of the project (like furniture, lighting, construction etc). It’s up to you to decide where to splurge and where to save when designing your bathroom. I personally like to spend a little more on the finishes and less on furniture because it’s more difficult to change the materials later. The right finishes are also a great way to “decorate” in your bathroom without cluttering it with things.

Read how to budget, and what costs to expect per room for renovations.

Getting the layout right for your bathroom design

The layout is important in any space but especially in the bathroom where it needs to be functional for many different people and activities.
Depending on how you’re using the space there are a few key things to consider when designing your bathroom layout. Go back to your list from the beginning and see what you decided you needed in the space.

Make sure you leave enough space for walkways and access to doors or storage cabinets; the rule of thumb is 90-100 cm (35-40”). The same goes for the right height for bathroom vanities and sink cabinets which should be around 90 cm (35”) from the floor to the top of the sink.

Another thing to keep in mind when creating your bathroom layout is the different wet zones to consider. There are different zones based on the distance from water sources like showers, tubs and sinks to install lighting or other electrical. Those zones are also important because some of them have to be tiled instead of painted. The exact rules and regulations vary depending on country and region so make sure to check your local rules before making any decisions.

Choose the right colours and materials when designing your bathroom

The right colours and materials are important when designing your bathroom. Now the word “right” doesn’t mean there’s a wrong choice, it just means it should be right for you and your lifestyle.

To decide the best colour scheme and materials for your bathroom, ask yourself how you use the space. Look at your needs-analysis from the beginning, consult your Mood Board and based on those make your decisions for function and look.

Durable and easy to clean flooring for your bathroom

When it comes to choosing the type of materials for floors it’s a good idea to go with something durable. There is also a specific rating system for tiles to be used on the floor to determine their slip resistance. To make sure the tiles you choose for your bathroom floor are safe to walk on when wet, pick tiles with an R10 rating or higher.

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Pro Tip

Make sure the flooring material you want to use is slip resistant and rated R10 or higher.

Wall colours for your bathroom design

It’s completely up to you what wall colour you choose for your bathroom. But generally speaking, lighter colours make the space look bigger but also show scuffs and scrapes more easily. While darker colours create a more cosy, intimate feeling but can also make a room look small. If you want to go with a nice light, clean look, white is the way to go. Now choosing the perfect white isn’t easy, so luckily I have a guide for that too!

Either way, the sheen or finish of your paint is super important to make your bathroom walls easy maintenance.

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Pro Tip

For best durability and easy cleaning, use a satin or semi-gloss finish for your bathroom walls.

When you’re creating the colour scheme for your bathroom design, the rule of thumb is 60:30:10. That means that your main colour should take up 60% of the space, a secondary colour 30% and an accent colour 10%.

The White Guide by NH.DESIGN is a helpful resource to choose the right white paint colour.

The White Guide

Not every white is the same, and choosing the right one isn’t easy.

Learn everything about undertones and how to pick the perfect white paint colour for any room in your home with my White Guide.

The right lighting for your bathroom

A key element when designing your bathroom is the right lighting. There are 3 types: general, functional and mood lighting. General lighting should give the space an even, bright light level. You can imagine it like this: the light switch you flip when entering a room, that’s your general lighting. Functional lighting is, as the name suggests, meant to support specific functions or activities, like lighting around the mirror for getting ready or shaving Last but not least you have mood lighting, which is used to set the mood and create a cosy atmosphere. Choose the different kinds based on the activities you wrote down in your needs-analysis in the beginning.

Also read my complete lighting guide!

I like to choose statement lighting to create a focal point in the room. Other lighting entirely depends on where you need it, and what for. I’m also a big fan of dimmable lights or Smart Home systems because one light can have multiple different functions.

Styling tips for the perfect bathroom design

Styling your bathroom is the final touch, the cherry on the top. Even though it’s a very functional space it should also look inviting. After all, it’s where you get ready to face the world.

Going into detail of all the ways you can style your bathroom would go too far so I’ve created simple, step-by-step styling guides you can easily implement in a couple of hours.

Find more styling tips for your home here.

With these design tips it’s easy to design your dream bathroom that’s both functional and stylish.

Thanks for reading!
If you enjoyed this post, follow along for more interior design tips and inspiration on my Instagram @nhdotdesign

Take care, Nadine

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