Bathroom Design Ideas


Every element in this modern bath is designed with sinuous, simple forms that let the material star.
Every element in this modern bath is designed with sinuous, simple forms that let the material star.

In home designs, bathrooms are often given low priority. During a remodel, the bathroom may fall by the wayside behind more public spaces like the kitchen.

­But it doesn't have to be that way. Every popular decorating style can be interpreted for the bath. On the other hand, the bath is one place you can indulge in styles that depart from those used in the rest of the house.

So why not make your bath a romantic refuge or your kids' bath a tropical aquarium? You may even want to treat the powder room to a more adventurous or opulent look than in the rest of your home, indulging in ornate mirrors, lavish tile work, vividly colored wall-covering, or an unusual sink.

Whatever styles you love, you're sure to find ideas worth adapting in this article. The pages that follow explore several different bathroom design ideas:

Style Considerations

Any bathroom project, big or small, will benefit from careful planning. Take some time to think about these practical points before you begin.

Ranch Style

Natural materials give texture and depth and luxury to any room, but particularly lend themselves to the bathroom. Learn how to incorporate wood, stone, and tile into the perfect ranch-style bath.

Artistic Styling

Blending different styles together with safety and accessibility features will give you a bath that will serve you through all stages of life. Find tips to help you design a bathroom that's both safe and appealing.

Pan-Asian

A treasured item or heirloom can form the basis of your entire bathroom design. See a good example with this Pan-Asian bath, which was inspired by a Japanese jewelry box.

The Lodge Look

Don't be afraid to use bold colors in your bathroom design. Take a look at these rustic bathrooms to get an idea of how a splash of color can highlight the unique features of your room.

The Middle Ages

Ancient Roman bathhouses project a timeless elegance. Find ideas for capturing that spirit while maintaining all the comforts of the modern era.

Low-Key Luxury

A bathroom with a single-color design and carefully chosen accent pieces can become a tranquil oasis. Check out this beautifully blue bathroom, and find inspiration for your own bathroom color scheme.

White-on-White

This white-on-white bathroom design is anything but boring! With carefully chosen accent pieces, the white theme pops with crisp clarity.

Finding a Focal Point

Using a distinctive architectural feature or piece of furniture as a focal point is a great way to unify your bathroom design. Get ideas and tips to help you define a focal point in your own bathroom.

French Flair

You don't have to kiss a lot of frogs to create a bathroom with the charm and spirit of a fairy tale. Explore this French-style room to find ideas for imbuing your own bathroom with inimitable character.

Romantic Retreat

Love is in the air in this opulent and flattering bathroom. No matter how small your bathroom space may be, you can always find room for romance. Get inspired to capture the essence of romantic style in your own bathroom.

Classic Design

Want to capture the grace, symmetry, and dignified look of an ancient era? Find your muse in this bathroom design influenced by the Empire of Napoleon and the Roman Empire.

Contemporary Styling

Modern bathroom designs encompass several different styles, including California spa, Scandinavian, Art Deco, and retro looks. Learn the hallmarks of contemporary styles to help you narrow the focus of your bathroom design.

Glamor

A modern, airy bathroom with sleek lines and urban design isn't only for large spaces. Find out how you can get the same look and feel, even if your bathroom is small.

Bringing Nature In

The use of hardwood and other natural materials has long been a great way to bring the outdoors inside. In this magical grotto bathroom design, you'll find dozens of ways to inspire your own bath décor.

Creating Warmth with Color

To give your bathroom a warm glow, try using soft complimentary colors. Check out this contemporary soft yellow and plum bathroom design for a great example of the way color choice defines the character of your bathroom.

Cutting-Edge Design

Far from being cold, these ultra-modern, minimalist designs use Asian inspirations to create a zen-like tranquility in the bathroom. Embrace the serenity of these designs as you choose aspects that could work in your own space.

Playful Color

If you're working with a limited budget, the most economical way to make a big impression is by using color. Learn how using a limited range of a favorite color can turn your bathroom into a standout sensation.

Creating Drama

The materials you choose for your bathroom remodel can make a big difference. See how natural tiles and wood like those used in this bathroom add rich color, striking texture, and drama to the room.

Minimalist Strategies

To keep a minimalist design from looking too cold and sterile, add a few accents in a couple of different colors. Find tips to help you bring more personality into your minimalist bathroom without overwhelming the design.

Modern Art

In these bathrooms, the toilets, sinks, and tubs are the art! With flowing lines and sculptural curves, these bathrooms are out of the ordinary, yet make you feel right at home.

The Clean-Cut Look

Natural tile meets the minimalist hallmark of function, but with an incredible style that's infinitely varied. See how different tile can set the mood you want to achieve in your bathroom.

Stone Styling

More like a castle than a cave, this impressive stone-filled bathroom makes excellent use of another natural material. Find inspiration, and ideas for incorporating stone in your own bathroom design.

Using Glass

It's not just for windows anymore! Get several ideas for using glass to make a small bathroom feel larger and brighter.

Incorporating Sunlight

Take advantage of any sources of natural light to accent your bathroom design! Find ideas for window styles if you're remodeling, and see how the light can create a relaxing bathroom retreat.

Cool Blue

You can't go wrong using sea-inspired blues and greens in your bath décor. Turn your bathroom into an aquatic paradise with this minimalist bathroom design.

Streamlining Tight Spaces

Bathroom design doesn't have to suffer just because the room is small. Learn how a streamlined design can help you make the most of your available space.

Adding Visual Features

Give your bathroom a more interesting look by adding a few arresting focal points. Explore the possibilities, including a mosaic tile feature.

Bright Colors and Light White

White fixtures -- almost every bathroom has them, because they're classic and coordinate with everything. Make the most of your white bathroom fixtures by adding strategic brightly colored features.

Mixing Traditional and Contemporary

Merging your favorite elements of traditional and contemporary styles to create a transitional style allows you to personalize your bathroom design. Learn more about transitional styles.

Streamlining a Vintage Look

For a look that's crisp and fresh, try using traditional style in a mostly white bathroom. Mix and match pieces, with carefully chosen accents.

High Art

A traditional bathroom can achieve transitional style with the addition of some modern artistic features, like the aqua tiles in this bathroom. Find ideas to help you bring your traditional bathroom into today's style.

Refined Rusticity

Have a traditional rustic-style bathroom but aren't sure what to do to bring it up-to-date? Get inspiration from this transitional style bathing retreat.

Balanced Design

Finding a balance between classic and contemporary styles is what transitional design is all about. If you lean more toward a style like Art Deco, you can use that style to set the tone in your bathroom design.

European Charm

Mixing Old World elegance with stylish modern touches is a hallmark of European transitional bathroom design. Learn how to adapt the best of these ideas into your own bathroom.

Using Patterns

Bold geometric patterns can take a traditional bathroom to the next level. Find tips to help you use patterns in your bathroom without overwhelming it.

Take a look at the style considerations on the next page for some tips and ideas that will factor into your bathroom design, no matter what style you choose.

Bathroom Design Idea: Style Considerations

This elegant bathroom shows its English country style in the plaid walls and border of rosy garlands.
This elegant bathroom shows its English country style in the plaid walls and border of rosy garlands.

It's easiest to create a whole new bathroom design if you're doing a total remodeling job, but even if you're not, take heart. Because the typical bath is fairly small, it only takes a few key elements, or even just new wall-covering borders and accessories, to suggest a new style in your bath.

The trick is to decide on a color scheme and a visual theme and then use them consistently throughout the room. Some baths, for example, play it safe with all white or all beige fixtures and walls but let loose with some very expressive, imaginative colors and patterns in the less permanent elements.

To create a coherent look, employ the decorating "rule of three" and repeat each major color in your setting at least three times.

What if you've created a cohesive style in the rest of your home and would like to extend it to the bath, but your budget won't go for a complete redo? Relax. Permanent elements that might not "go" with your home's overall look can adapt just fine, with a little imagination.

This Italian-villa style bath has border tiles in a Greek key motif and corbel-style supports for the sink.

One homeowner on a budget whose palette featured the English garden tints of celadon green and rose despaired of a master bath tiled in yellow -- until she and her husband hit on a watercolor scheme of sand, violet, aqua, and lemon. The room became their "English Caribbean retreat." So keep an open mind as you look at your own bath and its possibilities!

Creativity in the bath is great, but you should consider a few practical points.

Never sacrifice safety for style

Sharp-cornered cabinets, tubs reached by steps without handrails, floors and bath rugs that aren't slip-resistant -- these prescriptions for disaster are totally avoidable, so don't settle. Insist on a bath that's as user-friendly as it is fabulous-looking.

Plan for the long term

Consider using as many universal-design products and layout ideas as possible. If you're sinking a lot of money into the master bath of your dreams, you want to be sure you can enjoy it as your physical needs change through the years. The time to install reinforcement blocks for grab bars is before, not after, you install marble panels on the walls.

Keep it simple

Soothing tones suit this Southwest-style bath.

Some decorating looks tend to use more accessories, more busy fabrics...more of everything. Employ these looks if you love them, but edit rigorously. Too many knick-knacks and a riot of colorful, large-scale patterns will make the bath look small and cluttered.

When selecting accessories, remember all the stuff that naturally accumulates in a bathroom, and you'll probably want to keep the decorating clutter down. Preserve visual serenity with as much closed storage as possible unless you're neurotically neat.

The neat, ordered open shelves in home-decorating magazines were set up for the photo shoot, not for the morning rush hour! (Make an exception for a pretty basket full of rolled hand towels or a shell full of usable-size scented soaps that further your color scheme.)

Deploy your dollars cleverly

Ask your contractor for ways to keep costs down in areas that don't affect function, safety, or looks so you'll have more left to spend where it counts. "What counts" is different for everyone, so do what matters to you, not your mother or your neighbor.

Intricate tiles look great in a Mediterranean-style bath.

For example, if you can find the time, do as much tear-out as you feel competent to handle (and agree with your contractor about the dollar value of your labor so it doesn't show up on your bill).

Consider a vanity made of large marble tiles, not a whole marble slab; a less fancy toilet, but one that offers pressure-assist flushing; or plain ceramic tiles in most places, accented by hand-painted ones for borders and backsplashes. You'll certainly come up with your own list of trade-offs that don't feel like sacrifices. Just be sure you don't sacrifice quality when it counts.

Demand the same quality and taste in bath accessories as you do for the rest of your home

Just say no to the fluffy toilet seat and tank covers, skimpy contoured bath rugs, lace-and-moiré satin-trimmed toilet paper covers and tissue box holders, bas-relief resin wall art depicting old-time bathroom fixtures, and so on.

These impulse items still beckon from every bazaar and highway gift shop, but there are many more chic and elegant ways to create a romantic look these days.

If you like a sleek, modern scheme, make sure the items you choose are made of heavyweight, top-quality acrylic, plastic, metal, or glass. Well-made acrylic accessories with the frosty, pastel look of sea glass are attractive; funky colored metal items with a 1950's drink set look are fun.

Stone forms a dramatic frame in a lodge-style bath.

In general, modern-style items designed and made in Italy, Sweden, Denmark, and the United States have a good track record at a variety of price points. Next best, and often much less expensive, are those designed in these countries but manufactured elsewhere. Modern often doesn't age well unless it's done well, so take time to get the details right.

Even if you have a glass-door or open-area shower that eliminates the need for a shower curtain, you'll have to contend with fabric in the bath in the form of towels, bath mats, and, most likely, bath rugs.

Quality really counts here: Skip fabrics with printed-on designs and colors that fade unevenly, and choose plain, solution-dyed colors and self-patterned designs achieved with permanent textures. Towels and rugs are major allies in furthering a color scheme. Watch for white sales, and stock up on necessities.

Don't get too cute with the kids' bath

You'd love to give them a spectacular children's theme bath like the designs you see in magazines. Go ahead, but confine the fantasy elements to things you can change fairly easily, such as wall-covering borders, not installed tiles.

Choose timeless, gender-neutral colors you can pair easily with other tones (teal green goes as well with lilac as it does with navy blue), and mix in new patterns as children grow.

Many people find they redecorate the kids' bath three times: when they're very small, when they're "big kids" in grade school, and when they're teens. And this same bath may become a guest bath later on! So choose permanent fixtures and surfacing materials with a long-range view in mind.

There are dozens of great styles to choose when creating your bathroom. See the next page to get tips for a ranch-style bathroom.

Bathroom Design Idea: Ranch Style

Even with rough-hewn materials, this ranch-style bathroom projects an image of elegance.
Even with rough-hewn materials, this ranch-style bathroom projects an image of elegance.

A bath in a ranch-style vacation home, especially one with great vistas all around, seems made for a sculptural, timeless design. While the materials are ageless, their strong, simple good looks, relying more on texture than on artifice, create a rather contemporary mood.

The mix is one of free-spiritedness, but with a certain comfort. Weathered wood, rough-cut stone, and strategically placed beams work together to create a simple, striking room. In a space like this, a great view easily takes on the starring role.

A knotty pine vanity and the tub surround with a weathered washed finish blend quietly into the creamy walls of this Southwest-inspired bath with a spectacular view. Huge floor tiles in a rustic red-brown tone ground the space; the roughly-hewn tub surround and vanity top add more important textural notes.

There are all kinds of comfort, and this baths illustrates just how easy to live with -- and how sophisticated -- rustic style can be.

Mixing styles is a key to creating a comfortable and personal bathroom design. See the next section to explore the artistic fusion of several different styles.

Bathroom Design Idea: Artistic Styling

The safety features in this bathroom blend seamlessly with the overall design.
The safety features in this bathroom blend seamlessly with the overall design.

This 1950s-era bath received a complete makeover to update its looks and safety features. The room is accessible but not institutional-looking; a room that reflects a richly simple Arts & Crafts-inspired design, with subtle Asian influences.

This bathroom is an admirable example of universal access within a sophisticated decorative scheme. From up-to-the-minute features that offer safety and performance to Asian antiques that enrich the overall look, this bath is filled with thoughtful elements.

Annexing two feet of extra width from an adjacent closet allows for the separate bathing and showering functions safety experts recommend. Grab bars and rails -- some stock, some custom -- are everywhere you'd want them to be but don't appear intrusive.

A wall-hung toilet and bidet can be accessed from a wheelchair if need be; a custom support rail is good-looking and functional. A whirlpool tub sub-mounted to a solid-surfacing platform eliminates the obstruction of a tub lip. Other features include grab rails for safety and lever-handled faucets for easy manipulation.

An Asian-inspired wall-covering with a soft metallic finish gives depth and interest to the walls and ceiling. The result is a room that is universally appealing as well as universally accessible.

The Asian-inspired features in this bathroom complement a multitude of different styles. To learn more about Asian-inspired bathroom design, see the next section.

Bathroom Design Idea: Pan-Asian

This stylish bathroom mixes styles, colors, and textures to great effect.
This stylish bathroom mixes styles, colors, and textures to great effect.

If you love the pale pink of English cabbage roses, the allure of Asian porcelain, or a color drawn from a signature piece of some other culture, why not use it to develop your new bath's color scheme?

An inlaid Japanese jewelry box was the inspiration for this room, filled with a wealth of style and amenities. Who'd guess this lavish family-size master bath was once a small bath and studio?

The Japanese jewelry box that inspired this hand- some bath looks right at home on the counter-top.

In addition to making a distinctive personal statement, this bath is a clever example of the power of color. Warm, earth-tone marble makes the space as visually cozy as a wood-paneled library, without sacrificing the cool gleam the luxurious stone provides.

The lighting in this bath is just as inventive and clever as the rest of the design. A row of brass-and-glass mirror sconces illuminates the scene with-out disturbing the masterfully simple look of the space. And tiny "running lights" in tubes surround the tub's marble base, creating a fun, romantic ambiance at night.

Marble in rich, earthy tones creates a visually warm scene. Even the magazine rack maintains the mood.

Drawing once again on inspiration from the East, the color palette includes ebony, ivory, and cinnabar -- the dark red-orange color of an ancient Asian lacquer. (A fine example of the painstaking craft is visible on the vase tucked into one of the storage shelves.)

Looking for a more bold and colorful bathroom design? See the next page to learn how deep colors can be used to good effect in a lodge-style bathroom.

Bathroom Design Idea: The Lodge Look

A vintage-style tub in bright crimson red sets a confident tone for this one-of-a-kind bath.
A vintage-style tub in bright crimson red sets a confident tone for this one-of-a-kind bath.

­Most lodge-look rooms are soothing retreats in earthy tones of green, brown, and gold. These bathrooms, however, rewrite the history books with a fearless use of knock-out color, especially bright red and cobalt blue.

Surprisingly, these colors work just fine with the predominantly golden tones of the wood, creating a nicely balanced triadic scheme of the three primary colors: red, yellow, and blue.

In addition to courageous color, these rustic beauties share a use of practical surfacing materials. In one bath, floors are wood like the walls, wrapping the whole space in golden tones.

Splashes of color add to this bath's rustic charm.

A vintage red tub nestles alongside a contemporary glass-block panel that evokes the small window panes of old, especially when it's set into a wall paved in fieldstone. Nearby, a comfy sofa in royal blue sets off the golden-hued log walls.

In another, white ceramic floor tiles are easy to clean and offer visual refreshment, too. A sink alcove in a cheerful blue-striped wall-covering gets an extra punch of color from a red vanity, its paint agreeably scuffed and distressed for an aged look.

Underfoot, a wildly modern rag rug in blue and red reinforces the whimsical look of the curly iron-framed mirror.

Tucked into a discreet corner in the third bathroom, the one-piece toilet is given a measure of privacy by the double-sink vanity. The vanity cabinet, simply crafted in rustic knotty pine, is topped by deep cobalt blue ceramic tiles that are as handsome as they are practical. Rosy red wall-covering and a Spanish-inspired mirror add sparkle and warmth.

Bold colors highlight the intriguing shapes in this lodge-style bathroom.

In rooms this naturally dramatic, a few decorative accessories exhibiting influences from colonial Spanish to Southwest Native American are all the spark these schemes need. The effect is a tribute to the romance of the Old West, rejuvenated with a bracing jolt of contemporary flair.

These rooms evoke the past while embracing the amenities of the present. For a more traditional approach to this philosophy, see the intriguing archaeological style of the bathroom on the next page.

Bathroom Design Idea: The Middle Ages

The mix of tiles in this bathroom gives the look of an ancient bathhouse.
The mix of tiles in this bathroom gives the look of an ancient bathhouse.

Ceramic tile has been admired for its durable, brilliant color and shine since the earliest civilizations. This bathroom design pays willing homage to the beauty of tile with a design that evokes all the romance of ancient and medieval days.

Alluding to the cultures of Byzantium and Moorish Spain, among others, the space features a spirited mix of small glossy blue and green tiles; medium-size tiles in an ombré range of burnt umber, tan, and other earthy tones; and large tiles in pale, neutral tones embellished with intricate traditional motifs you'd expect to see on a shrine.

The combination sounds challenging, but the visual effect is layered, rich, and dazzling in a surprisingly subtle way. The romantic at heart might say that the effect is one of happening across an archaeological find of some sort.

A glass door with a scrolled brass handle and arched, open top beckons into the private enclave of the sunken tub area. The arch motif is repeated in the row of small, beautifully proportioned windows in the tub area.

A bather in this unique space enters another world. A sunken tub lined in small stone blue tiles and surrounded by larger tiles in warm-hued umber gives the slightly mysterious feeling of a pool in an ancient grotto. Arched windows let in ample light without compromising privacy and contribute to the ancient, romantic feeling.

While it's not Pompeii, it's certainly a treasure trove of timeless design ideas.

Want a more modern -- though still traditional -- bathroom design? See the next page for a simple and luxurious design idea.

Bathroom Design Idea: Low-Key Luxury

The ornately embellished tub gleams in this otherwise low-key bathroom.
The ornately embellished tub gleams in this otherwise low-key bathroom.

From Canton to Copenhagen, white cut with blue (especially intense, mid-tone cobalt or royal blue) has won hearts through the ages. This bathroom design takes the perennially popular pairing to regal new heights with the addition of gold accents.

Golden embellishments make the royal blue tub into an eye-catching, formal focal point. Gilt touches in the mirror and fittings carry the confident theme.

The room is swathed in a rich blue background that makes neutrals -- from the plain wood floors to the metallic accents -- really shine. Cut with lots of sparkling white, the look is cheerful and romantic.

If blue's not for you, try this treatment with another color. This concept would have an entirely different look -- and feeling -- with walls of, for example, raspberry, lime, or evergreen, but the result would be the same: sophisticated, confident, and luscious!

And if you're not sure that a colorful bath would suit you at all, take a look at the next page to find ideas for a white-on-white bathroom design.

Bathroom Design Idea: White-on-White

The tub in this white-on-white bathroom gives bathers a seaside view.
The tub in this white-on-white bathroom gives bathers a seaside view.

A predominantly white bathroom design has universal appeal, but there are as many moods to white as there are people to appreciate them.

In this king-size master bath, an air of well-bred, quiet luxury has been established through an array of deftly understated touches. Most of these make use of white-on-white -- a scheme that seems to render even the most whimsical elements witty rather than cutesy.

Custom-made bathroom cabinets are trimmed in bamboo for a subtly exotic touch.

The result is a layered, rich look that exudes dignity and gives one a sense of the owners' personalities, too. The teak and white wood tub surround, for example, evokes both classic architecture and the timeless appeal of ships. The state-of-the-art tub is protected by a fiberglass finish and a traditional recessed-panel surround.

The vanity cabinets, traditionally simple except for exotic touches of bamboo trim, recall tropical English plantation influences. The ivory wall-covering and coordinating oyster white tile vanity trim are beautifully textured for a quiet opulence. The plantation look is enhanced by the door's fixed-louver top that lets air circulate but protects privacy.

The shower is even more beguiling thanks to accent tiles depicting shells, sand dollars, and starfish.

The shower stall is a masterpiece of white-on-white tiles in classic rope and marine-life motifs. Unlacquered brass fittings and a built-in seat of softly mottled polished stone enhance the underwater mystique.The overall effect of these signature elements is seaworthy but not cliché.

No matter what color scheme you choose for your own bathroom, the design should be centered around a distinctive focal point. To learn more about finding a focal point, see the next page.

Bathroom Design Idea: Finding a Focal Point

Superbly matched wood grains and intricate ebony detailing on the vanity lend an exotic air to this bath.
Superbly matched wood grains and intricate ebony detailing on the vanity lend an exotic air to this bath.

Viewers to this spacious master bathroom might have a bit of difficulty singling out just one focal point. Creating a space with one -- or more -- focal points is a simple way to add interest to any bathroom design.

The spectacular vanity with its pair of crystal sconces is certainly a show-stopper. The mirrored wall, hung with gleaming chandelier sconces, enhances the elegant excitement of this space.

But the marble-surrounded tub with its window view flanked by classic oval windows is also unquestionably eye-catching. Extending the tub's marble surround onto nearby walls is clever in several ways: It gives the whole room a sleek, flowing look and provides ample space for both seating and stacking bath supplies.

Deceptively simple, this tub surround in fine wood gains richness from the swirling grained marble top.

Even if your bath isn't large enough to have more than one focal point, you can still take a few tips from this handsome room. Position a large mirror opposite the window if possible to capture all the light as well as the view, if it's a pleasing one. (If it's not, a pretty translucent shade or curtain that obscures the scene but admits the light will do.)

Install vanity lighting right on or above the mirror for more reflective sparkle. For the crowning touch, find a vintage dresser and have it converted into a unique vanity, or just embellish an ordinary vanity with special paint and hardware.

Centering your bathroom design around a focal point adds visual drama to the room, but so does a distinctive geographical style. To explore a bathroom with a French flair, see the next page.

Bathroom Design Idea: French Flair

This French-style bath is full of enchanting details.
This French-style bath is full of enchanting details.

There's no mistaking the French influence in this bathroom design. Refined but not stuffy, it's filled with élan and a quintessentially chic spirit.

Enlisting the spirit of Cinderella or perhaps Marie Antoinette, this bathroom has a distinctly coquettish air. Faux accents are at their finest here, such as the painted drapery rod and swathe over the door that complements the faux drapery on the vanity mirror.

Filled with beguiling details, this powder room looks like it's straight out of a French fairy tale from the 1700s. The gilded wood mirror frame is echoed in the faux-painted drapery above the door. A hand-painted sink adds panache.

What's key to keeping these decorating ideas from becoming cliché? Sophisticated, largely neutral color schemes confined to a palette of white, cream, tan, brown, and black, plus a hint of old rose.

Using a style or period to inform your bathroom design usually results in a room that's filled with charm and personality. See the next page to find an even more romantic bathroom.

Bathroom Design Idea: Romantic Retreat

This traditionally elegant bath is awash in romance.
This traditionally elegant bath is awash in romance.

Unabashed romanticism reigns in this peach-toned bathroom design. The room has a basic placement of fixtures, a penchant for the grand gesture, and a preference for a flattering color -- such as peach -- anchored by sophisticated taupe and rich brown neutrals.

A refined opulence is achieved with peach silk on the windows, peach marble on the floor, and a lovely substantial vanity and mirror embellished with faux finishing in subtle peach-and-taupe tones.

Coordinating faux-finished cabinets, along with pleated sheers and peach silk balloon shades in the windows, complete the romantic ambiance.

Whatever "romantic" style means to you, you can create it even in the smallest space. Don't be afraid of an over-the-top idea, either very dramatic or sweetly whimsical: The mood makes for a room that goes beyond the everyday. And that's the essence of romantic style.

If you're interested in a bathroom with cleaner lines and symmetry, see the next page for a classic bathroom that hearkens back to the Roman Empire.

Bathroom Design Idea: Classic Design

The grace and symmetry of this classic bathroom bring to mind ancient landmarks.
The grace and symmetry of this classic bathroom bring to mind ancient landmarks.

This stunning bathroom design, while equipped with modern conveniences we've come to depend on, clearly hearkens back to the elegant, many-layered past.

A black-and-white-and-gold scheme recalls the Empire period of Napoleon, which itself borrowed images and motifs from another empire: ancient Rome. In this space, the use of a columnar pedestal sink and architectural fragments as accessories is very apt.

The warm color palette gives this Empire-inspired bath a great dignity and vigor that would make any owner feel like a prince of the realm. Slender columns set off the bathtub alcove, one of this bath's many clever allusions to classicism.

In this bath, neutral colors show how rich and eloquent they can be. Light-capturing white and special touches, like the artworks matted in gold, add to the quietly opulent mood.

Contemporary styling can be just as engaging as traditional or classic designs. See the next page to learn more about contemporary design styles.

Bathroom Design Idea: Contemporary Styling

The spacious ambiance in this modern bathroom is inspired by California spa designs.
The spacious ambiance in this modern bathroom is inspired by California spa designs.

Contemporary style embraces a fairly wide range of looks. "Modern" design is officially pegged to begin with the Arts & Crafts/Mission styles that arose in the early 20th century as a revolt against the fussiness of Victorian traditional style.

But in the early 21st century, "modern" is popularly used to describe design icons from the 1930s to the 1960s. "Contemporary" -- sometimes used interchangeably with the word "modern" -- is less a structured concept and more a way of life.

Contemporary is cool and clean and can be as casual or as elegant as you please. Because so much of a bath is dominated by modern fixtures anyway, many people simply choose contemporary style, regardless of what they're using in the rest of the house.

In general, contemporary style appears simpler than traditional: Curves are looser and more sculptural; squared-off angles are commonplace; surface details are minimized or eliminated; and textures, rather than representational images, offer interest.

Sculptural one-piece toilets, sleek built-ins of all kinds, minimal or simply shaped hardware, and lots of chrome are all contemporary design elements. Some modern-style products make a point of revealing their structure and function where traditional style would take pains to disguise them.

Others reduce forms to their simplest, essential expression, easily seen in abstract patterns of dolphins, leaves, etc., in contemporary fabric designs.

Contemporary style is easily at home in the modern bath, since it's of the same generation. Whether the look is dramatic or serene, contemporary style at its best conveys an uplifting spirit of freshness and freedom.

To get a feel for a glamorous modern bathroom design, see the next page.

Bathroom Design Idea: Glamor

This glamorous modern bathroom has all the creature comforts, and then some.
This glamorous modern bathroom has all the creature comforts, and then some.

If you're in the market for a really fabulous, totally modern bathroom design, this one offers great inspiration. But it also exhibits the intelligent use of design concepts that can work just as well in a smaller room.

A circular skylight echoes the line of the curved shower wall, balancing the array of square and rectangular volumes elsewhere in the space.

A massive built-in marble vanity inset with a pair of squared-off sink bowls creates an austere and handsome design. The very modern horizontal line of the space is enhanced by the row of beveled-glass, mirrored vanity cabinets that hang above.

A built-in banquette seat, comfortably upholstered in moisture-resistant fabric the color of the walls, utilizes the classic roll pillows popular since ancient Roman times. Built-in lighted wall niches are architecturally striking as well as practical for storage and display.

This bath is obviously large, but even a small space will look bigger if you keep the vanity, walls, and flooring in the same light tones and smooth textures.

If marble or solid-surfacing materials are outside the realm of your budget, there are plenty of good-looking laminates in pale, creamy tones to choose from.

Frameless mirrors are proven winners in creating a more spacious, brighter atmosphere; here, a row of mirrored medicine cabinets offers storage as well as dazzle. You may not have room for this many cabinets, but try a triptych (three-section) mirrored cabinet on one wall with the same model on the opposite or adjacent wall, and see how the space opens up.

Modern design doesn't necessarily need to have an urban look and feel. For a spectacular bath that highlights the best of the great outdoors, see the next page.

Bathroom Design Idea: Bringing Nature In

A shower stall with a frameless glass door lets the beauty of the bathroom's stone tiles show through.
A shower stall with a frameless glass door lets the beauty of the bathroom's stone tiles show through.

Entering this bath is like stepping into an enchanted grotto or cavern. Tumbled marble tiles, slab marble tiles, and handmade tiles that look like elegant natural stone all pay tribute to the beauty of nature in this handsome bathroom design.

A mix of large, medium, and small tiles in a variety of hues and patterns swirls around the room, but the fantastic array of patterns and sizes is never dizzying thanks to the rich yet subdued range of earthy colors and patterns.

The visual drama inherent in these excitingly patterned tiles is enhanced by using different sizes of tiles and by setting some on the square, some on the diagonal.

Befitting this extraordinary bath, a wardrobe gives ample storage (and a bit of privacy for the toilet area.) The natural graining of the wardrobe's fine hardwood is enhanced with a gleaming protective finish; the top, where condensation might collect, is a thin slab of granite.

A vanity niche, mirrored on all sides, reflects the sparkle of a stainless-steel sink and the muted glow of brushed-nickel fittings. A slab of granite with a beveled edge tops a frameless vanity cabinet in beautifully grained hardwood. The wood bears an intriguing carved design echoed in the wardrobe doors.

To make a concept like this work takes careful planning of every detail and meticulous placement of every tile. That kind of artistry and care is clearly in evidence, even in small details.

To keep the room human-scaled, small diamond-shape tiles are set in channel-bordered rows at chair-rail height and above. Small, gleaming metallic tiles add jewel-like accents to this already beautiful space.

The warmth of the wood with the contrasting coolness of the varied tiles keeps this bathroom interesting and inviting. Another good way to introduce warmth into a bathroom is with color. For a good example of the homey warmth some colors can bring, see the next page.

Bathroom Design Idea: Creating Warmth with Color

The golden tone of the walls is picked up in the tiles on the shower, walls, and floor of the welcoming bath.
The golden tone of the walls is picked up in the tiles on the shower, walls, and floor of the welcoming bath.

While most contemporary bathroom designs use neutral or primary-plus-white color schemes, this one takes a painterly approach that's downright romantic.

A golden glow that's almost Impressionistic suffuses this bath, making it cozy even on the chilliest days. The confident complementary color scheme of yellow and violet is rendered here in a luscious cantaloupe and plum.

Used in conjunction with a naturally finished golden maple that's nearly the color of the tiles, the effect is as warm and uplifting as afternoon sunlight.

Semi-gloss walls in tangerine and plum add depth and richness to the color scheme, making the bath look larger without feeling remote.

Just the right amount of white keeps the colors from becoming monotonous; fittings and accessories in shiny chrome also add a cool touch that's distinctly contemporary.

A pristinely simple pure white sink and light fixtures in the same spirit make a fresh contrast to the colorful surroundings. To the right of the sink, a spacious closed cabinet in mellow maple and a narrow shelf below the frameless, beveled-edge mirror provide ample storage.

A spacious shower stall tiled in golden hues imparts a warm, pampering air. The shower wall, half tile, half glass, lets the sun shine in while providing a measure of privacy.

The private toilet is a great option for families.

A simple maple banquette next to the shower staff snuggles up beneath a small drop-down vanity storage shelf. Above, a good-size window offers ample natural light for applying makeup. The plum-and-gold color scheme is carried through into the adjacent bedroom.

A private toilet compartment offers all the necessities: good lighting, ample closed storage, and the all-important rack for reading material. The low-profile one-piece toilet takes up minimal space.

To create a similar look, choose two adjacent colors you love, and balance them with their opposite colors. To get the cozy effect of warmth in this bathroom, choose two soft tones. Or choose deeper colors that will give your bathroom more energy and a vibrant feel.

Looking for a sleeker contemporary style in your bathroom? Go to the next page to find excellent examples of cutting-edge modern bathrooms.

Bathroom Design Idea: Cutting-Edge Design

Asian influences give this cutting-edge bathroom a serene and tranquil feel.
Asian influences give this cutting-edge bathroom a serene and tranquil feel.

A traditional or transitional space can easily be built up in layers, but a contemporary bathroom design needs to be thought through from the ground up, especially if it adheres to a minimalist aesthetic.

It's distinctly possible to create a striking contemporary bath in a typical "white box" room, but it's certainly easier if you have the advantage of carving out an interesting architectural shell. Interior designers and architects refer to this process as "getting the bones right first."

These two baths testify to the importance of architecture as the structural framework for modern style.

In one, a skylight window floods the space with light, and a dramatically angled wall shelters the tub, creating strong areas of light and dark. In a space like this, sculpturally inspired fixtures and mirrors are icing on the cake.

Minimalist but not chilly, this pristine bath borrows from the Asian aesthetic as well as a very clean-cut contemporary style. The wall-hung sinks are universally accessible, and the uniquely styled tub is nicely in tune with the classic-modern rattan chair in the window.

In the other bath, every specific need of the owners was anticipated and accounted for in advance, with solutions built into the space.

A home spa with attitude, this bath has cubbyholes and cupboards aplenty to make basic bath storage part of the design of the space rather than something that intrudes on it. Deft touches, including a recessed light strip and unusually shaped windows, add to the interest.

If a minimalist aesthetic doesn't suit you, try adding strong color to make your bathroom a vibrantly engaging space. See the next page for ideas on how to integrate bold colors into your bathroom.

Bathroom Design Idea: Playful Color

Blue hues create dramatic backdrops for the pure white fixtures in this striking bath.
Blue hues create dramatic backdrops for the pure white fixtures in this striking bath.

Fields of strong color played against bright white fixtures is a foolproof recipe for an exciting contemporary bathroom design. If your budget is limited, you can make a memorable statement just by painting the walls in one or two of your favorite vivid colors.

For the most striking look, choose two widely different colors, such as royal blue and lime; for a more subtle sense of depth, choose two adjacent colors like royal blue and violet or lime and leaf green.

Against such strong hues, even the simplest white fixtures gleam with fresh importance. If your budget allows, you can build up the look with installed materials that create pleasing variations on your color theme.

This bath uses tiles -- in a mottled mix of related tones -- to create depth and interest within a limited color range. Silvery chrome and glass are all you need to complete this artful, modern look.

For a more understated, spa feeling, see the next page to find a dramatic bathroom.

Bathroom Design Idea: Creating Drama

Natural colors define the tone of this bathroom.
Natural colors define the tone of this bathroom.

In a rustic environment, the modern-style emphasis on texture over ornamentation is right at home in this bathroom design.

This vacation house near a pond in New England is a fine example. It enjoys a richly understated design that pays homage to both the beauty of nature and the modern aesthetic.

Its master bath is completely open to the master bedroom, creating a spacious retreat. High, clerestory windows and a central skylight admit an abundance of natural light while preserving the owners' privacy.

The design achieves an interesting mix of textures with the smooth-grained maple used for the bath's cabinets and the knotty cedar used for the upper walls and tray ceiling that frames the skylight.

The fine-grained maple cabinets and knotty cedar walls, along with the deep-tone, tiles create a symphony of natural colors and textures in this masterful bathroom. The artfully positioned skylight puts the tub area in a natural spotlight.

It's the room's tiles, however, that really make this space special. Large in size, their ombré tones of deep green, teal, umber, gold, and purple-gray look even richer thanks to their subtly textured, slightly lustrous surface.

The slate-textured tiles have a subtle sheen in a rich array of earth tones to create natural drama in this bath. A roomy whirlpool tub shares a partition wall with the shower, keeping the overall space uncluttered and letting the beautiful tones of the tile take center stage.

The simple design and use of natural colors in this bathroom keeps it spare yet luxurious. For a true picture of minimalist looks, see the next page.

Bathroom Design Idea: Minimalist Strategies

A few well-chosen accents warm up the minimalist look of this bathroom.
A few well-chosen accents warm up the minimalist look of this bathroom.

In a bathroom design with neutral colors and a minimalist decorating scheme, the accent colors you choose can make a big difference in how the room feels.

The owners of a modern, minimalist-style home wanted the same decorating style for their bath but without the chill this look can sometimes impart. Choosing a sophisticated palette of taupe, plum, and silver was an excellent start: The color scheme, largely neutral, is warmer and more interesting thanks to the selection of plum as an accent color.

Crystal vases and large pieces of silver-painted pottery add a few dramatic light-reflective elements to this minimalist space, creating interest without too much softness. Pale floor tiles; a textured glass-block window; and frameless, hardware-free cabinetry create a repeated geometric theme.

To add more warmth and depth without busyness, the walls were ragged and glazed in layers of taupes and ivories to create an aged, faux-stone impression. The result was an added dimension much more appealing than the previously sterile, white walls.

Against the expanse of ivory-white surfaces everywhere, the bright accents of silver and the warm accents of plum and taupe stand out even more dramatically.

If you love a spare aesthetic but want more warmth than a minimalist design can offer, think about the horizontal lines and sculptural fixtures that a modern art design can offer. See the next page for some good examples of a modern-art bathrooms.

Bathroom Design Idea: Modern Art

The unique toilet, bidet, and sink give this modern bath an artistic flair.
The unique toilet, bidet, and sink give this modern bath an artistic flair.

In a small bath, beautiful contemporary fixtures and fittings may be the main way to express your modern point of view. But even if your bath is as spacious as these, great modern fixtures can create a pleasing sculptural effect in your bathroom design.

Modern takes a new turn in a lime-green bath where the toilet and bidet are mounted right on the face of the cabinets for the smoothest scheme possible. The wall-hung sink cabinet is coordinated in style but offers a lighter look.

In the second bath, horizontal lines, a basic element of modern design, make a strong but soothing statement in this bath. The azure blue of the wall behind the tub also contributes to the tranquility of this space. Sculptural modern fixtures with smooth, flowing lines fit in beautifully; umber-colored mirror frames tie in the modern art on the wall.

The flowing lines of the bathroom fixtures work nicely against the horizontal lines of the walls.

The fresh tones of lime green and aqua on the walls add to the lively ambiance of these baths; for a crowning touch, the owners carefully selected pieces of fine contemporary art.

To any room, fine art adds a sense of luxury and presence in a way few other elements can. Of course, you wouldn't want to hang a piece of art near the shower, but if your bath has a good exhaust fan and the art is placed well away from water sources, there's no reason why you can't enjoy art in the bath.

If you don't have a current collection to choose from, start with an inexpensive print or a local art fair original.

In these bathrooms, the art is functional, at least in terms of the fixtures. Utilizing only useful items is a hallmark of minimalist philosophy as well. To see some good examples of sleek, modern, minimalist bathrooms, continue to the next page.

Bathroom Design Idea: The Clean-Cut Look

A splendid array of textured, subtly colored tiles with a slightly metallic sheen has a mesmerizing effect.
A splendid array of textured, subtly colored tiles with a slightly metallic sheen has a mesmerizing effect.

In a cluttered, busy world, the appeal of minimalism is obvious. Living up to the classic design dictum that everything in the home should be both beautiful and useful, minimalism cuts out the 90 percent of items that aren't.

In these two baths, the owners have obviously conquered the impulse to let meaningless "stuff" accumulate. Their challenge was to create decorating schemes that celebrate freedom from clutter without looking cold or uninviting.

Both baths utilized tile as a solution: Sleek to look at and easy to care for, tiles epitomize the best of modern design. But because tiles are made from earthen materials and they're as old as civilization itself, tiles also impart a timeless, natural quality that makes a modern aesthetic livable.

Austere and simple, this bath evokes a serenity and dignity usually associated with Asian design.

Interesting textures, varying color tones, and a few non-rectangular shapes really stand out in minimalist schemes like these. In this context, a small row of round tiles makes a friendly statement and a sink bowl appears as a dramatic decorative accessory.

Using tile isn't the only way to incorporate natural materials into your bathroom design. See the next page to learn how stone can have a dramatic effect on the look and feel of the room.

Bathroom Design Idea: Stone Styling

Natural stonework transforms this bath into an opulent, cavernous retreat.
Natural stonework transforms this bath into an opulent, cavernous retreat.

Contemporary bathroom design can be as cutting-edge or as soothing as you'd like. In this remarkable space, it's both.

This master bath pays decorating homage to nature with a mix of bamboo, marble, limestone, and wood. The judicious use of glass and iron further enhances the timeless, rustic dignity of the space.

Limestone stars here, both in the small, painstakingly chiseled 1×3-inch tiles on the wall and in the large crosscut tiles that face the tub.

Underfoot, pebble stone floors in the shower and bamboo strip flooring in the rest of the space add to the quiet richness of this sophisticated bath. Tub and shower walls are covered in tempered glass and a neutral, 12×12-inch Peruvian stone in the same shades as the shower floor.

Marble vanities add a sense of ancient elegance to this bath.

On the practical side, the custom-height, extra-tall vanities flank a chest-on-chest-style pine cabinet for holding bath supplies. His and her vanities made out of centuries-old carved Carrera marble sit under a wall of clerestory windows. Supported by black iron bases, the vanities are 39 inches high.

As if all the natural beauty indoors weren't enough, large tempered-glass windows in the tub and shower area open onto a small porch overlooking the mountains.

If you have a small bathroom, light is the easiest way to make it feel bigger. Continue to the next page to learn how incorporating glass into your bathroom design can help add more light.

Bathroom Design Idea: Using Glass

Translucent glass panels create a sense of privacy, while enhancing the feeling of light and space.
Translucent glass panels create a sense of privacy, while enhancing the feeling of light and space.
White and glass make this bath appear bigger.

Transforming four cramped little rooms into a light-filled minimalist suite was the task in an apartment of a Victorian English mansion.

­The new scheme replaces a cluttered pair of bedrooms and bathrooms with a single space, zoned and demarcated by glass walls and internal windows. The bathroom is positioned in one corner of the space.

Glass panels, acid-etched so they're translucent but not transparent, were installed above the tub, replacing more traditional window coverings.

The mirrored panel above the artful glass sink is actually the front face of a built-in cupboard, while a vertical set of recessed shelving niches is used to display accessories.

Using glass instead of traditional opaque wall partitions to divide the space provides intriguing glimpses through to other areas and allows the not-always-plentiful English light to brighten the entire space.

A clean, simple base of stone and glass sets off the varying colors of paintings, cushions, and most of all, flowers and plants.

Using more glass is a great option in a bathroom that doesn't get a whole lot of sunlight. But if you are blessed with a naturally well-lit room, you can play up that advantage in your bathroom design. See the next page for ideas to incorporate natural sunlight.

Bathroom Design Idea: Incorporating Sunlight

The Art Deco-style vanity provides a distinctive focal point in this bathroom.
The Art Deco-style vanity provides a distinctive focal point in this bathroom.

No matter how much you admire the clean-lined aesthetic of contemporary bathroom design, you'll probably be most comfortable in a bath that coddles you a little bit. This dramatic bath, while unquestionably the height of modernity, still offers some thoughtful comforts as well as thought-provoking design.

For one thing, the room feels even more spacious than it is, thanks to splendid views of the great outdoors. If you're lucky enough to have a house with protected, private views, you may want to maximize them with picture windows or even greenhouse windows -- bump-out models that have a glass "roof" over the window top to let in even more light.

Another appealing feature is the vanity, beautifully crafted in Art Deco-inspired style that's both modern and romantic. Classic sink fittings contribute to the sense that this piece is an heirloom from the 1930s.

The sun-bathed tub offers personal luxury.

A cleverly designed tub surround includes a two-tiered shelf with space for display above and room for stashing bath supplies below. The greenhouse-style window acts as a great light scoop and offers a fine view of the secluded garden.

Separate shower and toilet areas complete the luxury of this bathroom.

A separate compartment houses a urinal as well as a conventional low-profile toilet. Conveniently located glass shelves provide ample storage space.

Even if scenic views and custom-crafted vanities are not in your plan, you can still create a modern-style haven in your bath by keeping things simple.

If this understated Art Deco look is a little too traditional for you, think about livening your bathroom up with a refreshing minimalist look. Continue on to the next page to find ideas for a cool blue look.

Bathroom Design Idea: Cool Blue

This cool blue bathroom is made for relaxation.
This cool blue bathroom is made for relaxation.

Just imagine coming in on a hot day from the garden or the tennis court and splashing cool water on your face in this bathroom, and you'll know the essence of refreshment.

Exquisitely engineered in virtually every detail, this deceptively simple-looking room has a lot more going for it than immediately meets the eye. Green glass, a durable but delicate-looking material, is beautiful and practical for the vanity top and door and creates a pleasing "watery" image most appropriate for a bath.

Beautiful blues -- cobalt and turquoise -- continue the water image and add depth to the scene.

Thoughtful details have been chosen for maximum function and elegant form.

Notable examples are the curvy, shiny wall radiators that heat up the setting's style appeal while they warm up the room.

If you remember radiators as ugly, clunky things, you'll scarcely recognize the sleek, shining, almost musical elements that decorate the walls of this bath and tub area. About all these dazzlers have in common with the old radiators is that they're made of metal.

A combination of curved and straight lines adds a subtle rhythm to this blue-and-white bath and keeps the minimalism from becoming too stark. A green glass door and coordinating vanity counter provide subtle color and luster.

Niches cut into the wall and vanity base function as cubbyhole storage -- and add a little more zip to the architecture.

A sparkling stainless-steel sink is a dazzling focal point to the softly glowing green glass counter-top. Above, a good-size mirror pulls the intense turquoise blue of the tub area into the room, adding more color in an intriguing way.

The aquatic energy simply shimmers in this modern, minimalist bathroom. If you like the streamlined look but want a bathroom that feels more serene, continue on to the next page to find a neutral-colored oasis with soothing Japanese inspirations.

Bathroom Design Idea: Streamlining Tight Spaces

In a tight bathroom, streamlining the space gives the impression of more room.
In a tight bathroom, streamlining the space gives the impression of more room.

A townhouse in Greenwich Village designed for a composer, an artist, and their son honors both the family's Japanese heritage and its hectic travel-heavy lifestyle with a serenely modern bathroom design.

The couple wanted to indulge in their tradition of taking long, soaking baths but also wanted a separate shower and a double-sink vanity. The architect obliged with a soaking tub joined to the shower in interlocking units to save space.

The tub surround projects into a frameless shower to form a small ledge that the two fixtures share, an engineering tactic that made a 5-foot-4-inch tub and separate shower possible in the limited space.

Pocket doors at either end of the bath keep the room visually simple and the limited floor space unobstructed. To further streamline the space, medicine cabinets, mirrors, and shelves are frameless and built into walls.

To minimize the visual impact of the double sinks, a wall-hung vanity appears to float over the floor. A wall-hung toilet produces a similar effect. Overhead, a skylight also helps create a more spacious, open feeling.

As another space-saver, storage shelves are built into the bathroom wall.

A soothing palette was achieved with faux-limestone facing on the tub surround and shower walls that complement the slate floor tiles and light maple cabinetry.

The maple itself was chosen to match the woods used elsewhere throughout the home, a detail that further enhances the feeling of flowing continuity.

To bring in more light, so important to eliminating that closed-in feeling, a light shaft, two stories high, takes the idea of a skylight to a whole other level.

In a neutral-toned bathroom, choosing one or two vibrantly colored focal points can really complete the look. Continue on to the next page to get a feel for how to add visual features.

Bathroom Design Idea: Adding Visual Features

The curved wall of green glass makes a fine focal point, reminding bathers of a waterfall.
The curved wall of green glass makes a fine focal point, reminding bathers of a waterfall.

Modern style may look simpler than traditional style, but the best modern bathroom designs aren't about cutting out ornamentation. Instead, they're about making every element in a space functionally beautiful.

This bath proves the point admirably with a carefully engineered array of delightful elements to be discovered. While not disturbing the purity of the room's mostly rectangular lines, the design offers visual enticements through different media.

Mosaic tile, for example, plays a starring role by bringing in luscious yet soothing color plus texture. The tile floor in the round shower stall beguiles further with a stylized design that evokes windswept flowers in a sharp, abstract way.

A bathtub framed in stone gains added interest from a tall, curved wall section covered in green mosaic tiles and punctuated by a slender ribbon of inset etched glass. The band of glass has the witty effect of a cascading waterfall. It's another allusion to nature, and gives bathers something appealing to gaze at.

A tall, narrow mirror is enhanced by a frame of small green mosaic tiles that relate to other strong vertical rectangles in the room's design. A vanity cabinet of precisely crafted wood is a sleek piece in the best modern tradition. The overall effect: clearly chic yet soothing.

Continue on to the next page to see how classic white bathroom fixtures can get a design boost with the use of soothing color accents.

Bathroom Design Idea: Bright Colors and Light White

Tiles in warm and cool colors form an energetic back- ground for the all-white fixtures and walls in this bath.
Tiles in warm and cool colors form an energetic back- ground for the all-white fixtures and walls in this bath.

While fixtures are available in virtually any color today, white is still the overwhelmingly preferred color in bathroom design. Some consumers will choose white fixtures even if they're installing very colorful permanent tiles as backgrounds, so the popularity of white fixtures isn't due solely to practicality.

One of the reasons white remains right in so many homeowners' minds is obviously that "white goes with everything." White fixtures look peaceful against pale blue walls today, brilliant against burgundy red ones tomorrow.

But even if you commit to a strongly colored wall in a permanent material, white fixtures still give you maximum leeway to change your scheme. The same pale blue plus white that looks young and fresh with lime green towels and accessories will appear sharply sophisticated with black towels and accessories.

Another reason white fixtures may be retaining their appeal is even more simple: Traditional or modern, the shapes of bath fixtures just stand out more interestingly in white.

Can't decide between a traditional and modern style in your bathroom design? Why choose? See the next page for ideas on blending the two styles to create your own look.

Bathroom Design Idea: Mixing Traditional and Contemporary Styles

An antique mirror, tub, and gilt accents look right at home with the modern sink in this clever eclectic bath.
An antique mirror, tub, and gilt accents look right at home with the modern sink in this clever eclectic bath.

Transitional bathroom design styles are just that: transitions between traditional and contemporary styles.

Many of today's most exciting rooms are expressions of transitional designs, born of the tension between old and new, ornate and clean-cut, romantic and edgy.

But transitional style is more than just exciting. It can also be very practical because it fearlessly borrows options from both traditional and contemporary venues.

In transitional styles, you'll see rustic or elegant looks that span centuries but are united by one or more strong design elements: perhaps a repetition of colors or patterns that cleverly create a mood. You'll also see rustic and elegant elements combined, again most successfully when they share a bond of color or mood.

In transitional styles, the most modern fixtures may keep company with tiles that were modern in the days of the Caesars, and brand-new designs inspired by ecology meet up with those inspired by nature 100 years ago. Sophisticated yet very livable, transitional styles will get you where you live!

The label "transitional" encompasses a wealth of different styles, including eclectic, Arts & Crafts/Mission, ethnic, and beach house styles. The key is the mix and match of styles that makes it your own. To get a feel for a simple transitional style, continue on to the next page.

Bathroom Design Idea: Streamlining a Vintage Look

This bath's focal point is a French country armoire that helps relieve the monochromatic color scheme.
This bath's focal point is a French country armoire that helps relieve the monochromatic color scheme.

If you like the look of transitional bathroom design, create it easily with lots of white. Sleek modern fixtures can look at home with curvy traditional cabinetry if you choose them in white and pale neutral tones.

In the baths shown here, white predominates, cloaking all with a clean yet very romantic aura. The only other tones in the room are undemanding neutrals: the tan of a wicker basket; the soft brown of a weathered wood armoire; the deeper, lustrous brown of wood strip flooring.

The great things about this concept are that white paint is easy to come by at all price points and white tiles and fixtures are typically less expensive than colored or decorated tiles (although white fittings may cost more than chrome ones).

Best of all, the unity provided by white somehow makes everything go together, regardless of how disparate their origins or styles may be. Chic and peaceful, white is right.

Having vintage pieces in your bathroom doesn't mean that you're bound to a monochromatic design with accents. You can be as creative as you want with a transitional bathroom design. Continue on to the next page for an example of artistic transitional style.

Bathroom Design Idea: High Art

Aqua tiles on walls and floor provide a focal point.
Aqua tiles on walls and floor provide a focal point.

A guest bathroom in the century-old home and studio of a prominent painter/sculptor was given an artistic bathroom design during a recent major renovation.

The room is a transitional-style treasure, incorporating Gilded Age grandeur and Italian modernism in a surprisingly serene enclave. Every innovative detail was planned with extreme care.

The space feels contemporary but without up-to-the-minute materials or design clichés. The owner's wish was to blend old and new as artfully as possible -- a request with which the architect happily complied.

The spectacular sink and extra-long cast-iron tub, all the more impressive because they're vintage originals, joined a few judiciously chosen new elements, including the glass shelf and towel bar.

For the surfacing materials, a color scheme of aqua, antique gold, and rich brown was chosen for its timeless appeal.

Turquoise bath tile may be a cliché -- but not here. These industrial-grade Italian floor tiles are randomly cut in trapezoidal shapes and splayed like a starburst from the room's center point. Similar square and rectangular tiles are used on the shower wall.

Ancient design elements include walls hand troweled with ocher-tinted plaster and a handsome sink with a fluted-column pedestal. Halogen lights piercing the wall punctuate the space with modern touches.

If your bathroom currently has a more rustic look, you can combine it with more contemporary features to create a personalized transitional design. See the next page for tips.

Bathroom Design Idea: Refined Rusticity

A modern, minimalist aesthetic mixed with rustic materials gives this transitional bathroom design a unique feeling.
A modern, minimalist aesthetic mixed with rustic materials gives this transitional bathroom design a unique feeling.

A 10×11-foot bath isn't small by most standards, but it's not vast, either. To create an arresting bathroom design statement in a less-than-lavish footprint, this room uses a minimalist approach with just a few quality elements thoughtfully deployed.

If you like the look of minimalist chic, this bath features ideas you can use to your advantage -- even if you're working with a typical 5×7-foot bath.

Painted poplar walls, a tub surround of slab slate, and a vanity of salvaged antique chestnut wood give this bath a look of refined rusticity. Rustic but luxuri­ous materials, mostly slate slabs and antique chestnut wood planks, offer subtle colors and textures that enhance this bath's quiet atmosphere.

If your budget won't go quite that far, painted walls, large slate tiles, and distressed oak (or another wood with a pronounced grain) can be used for a similar effect if the workmanship is good.

Even more important than surfacing materials are the practical comforts this room provides: an extra-deep soaking tub, double sinks and medicine chests, and separate glass-enclosed compartments for the toilet and shower.

The key to any transitional design is to achieve a balance between traditional and contemporary features. Continue to the next page to find an inspired bathroom that may give you ideas on how to achieve this balance.

Bathroom Design Idea: Balanced Design

The Art-Deco-style vanity provides pleasing lines and plenty of storage in this transitional bathroom design.
The Art-Deco-style vanity provides pleasing lines and plenty of storage in this transitional bathroom design.

This transitional-style bathroom design proves the timeless appeal of an architectural design with "good bones" followed through with quality materials and execution.

It's difficult to decide what's most eye-catching in this space: the dramatic oversize skylight, the masterful vanity curving onto a second wall, or the frivolously pretty candle sconce contrasting with so much geometry. All these elements, large and small, work and look well together.

A sleekly simple shower stall, generous in size, features the added comfort of a built-in seat. The frameless glass door enhances the simple sculptural effect of the compartment's design.

The rounded shower stall is simple, yet elegantly luxurious.

A masterfully designed vanity includes all the storage, both open and closed, any user would ever need, all wrapped up in a handsome piece of furniture. Echoing the curved motif throughout the room, the vanity swerves gently to avoid a sharp right angle as it flows onto an adjacent wall. Cool metal pulls enhance the vanity's Art Deco-inspired good looks.

The straight beams of the ceiling provide a nice contrast with the curved lines in the fixtures.

This bath's design is unusually dynamic thanks to the series of repeated curves and squares balancing one another. Against this array of forthright shapes, the irrepressibly curly wall sconce, complete with real candles, lends an eye-catching, romantic contrast.

The space offers an array of ideas worth considering for your bath, whatever its size. Your vanity may not be a serpentine affair, but it should still include as many open/display and closed/private storage compartments as space allows and be rendered in the nicest material your budget will accommodate.

Your shower stall may be smaller, but adding a built-in bench (perhaps a pull-down model if space is really tight) is a sensible convenience. And whatever your budget or style, you can't do better for accessories than a few fresh blooms and candles.

If you prefer a more eclectic look to a defined style such as Art Deco, transitional design provides the perfect balance. Continue to the next page for some eclectic transitional design ideas.

Bathroom Design Idea: European Charm

A traditional claw-foot tub and pedestal sink share space with a loft-type window and a modern lamp.
A traditional claw-foot tub and pedestal sink share space with a loft-type window and a modern lamp.

Transitional style may be achieved by using elements that combine both modern and traditional bathroom design signatures; for example, a traditional toile (scenic-patterned) fabric in a bold, modern color. It may also be achieved by balancing contemporary and traditional elements in eclectic fashion.

In either scenario, the effect can be the best of both worlds: the free-spirited simplicity of contemporary style and the elegant warmth of traditional style.

While some might think of transitional style as American, it's as likely to appear in European-inspired rooms. With so many ancient treasures near at hand yet so much that had to be replaced after World War II, Europe evolved a uniquely rich form of transitional style.

That style is amply evidenced in these two baths. Open spaces decorated with only a few grand gestures, these baths are appointed with just the right mix of modern conveniences and timeless comforts. The result: quietly romantic retreats.Another way to spice up a traditional look and create a transitional style is to use bold patterns. Continue to the next page for an example of geometric patterns in a transitional bathroom.

Bathroom Design Idea: Using Patterns

Neutral tones, patterned, take on depth and richness.
Neutral tones, patterned, take on depth and richness.

This masterful master bathroom design indulges its owner's love affair with strong geometric patterns. A riot of stripes, triangles, and related shapes are combined and repeated in a dizzying array that creates the optical illusion of physical dimension on a flat plane and movement in an architectural space.

The handsome vanity with its distinctive crown is a fitting companion to the world-class floor. The meticulous decorative tile work that makes this bath's floor such a standout appears on a smaller scale in the shower.

The overall effect is not jarring, however, just tremendously energizing. The design, while fearless, stays within the bounds of comfort thanks to a soothing color scheme of neutrals: gold, brown, taupe-gray, white, and black.

This strategy makes sense regardless of how opulent your bath plan may be. Of course, it doesn't hurt if you can manage a floor made of no less than five different kinds of marble, a show-stopping shower stall, and a vanity as handsome and dramatic as a piece of drawing room furniture.

The striped pattern in the tub surround is repeated in the towels and accents.

But even if you can't quite muster these extraordinary elements, you can still aim for a winning look of restrained richness and focused energy.

Whatever design you choose for your bathroom, whether it's traditional, contemporary, or transitional, be sure your expectations are in line with what's possible, given the scope of the work and your budget. The ideas in this article should help you put your dreams in perspective.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mary Wynn Ryan is the author of numerous interior design books including The Ultimate Kitchen, The Ultimate Bath, Cottage Style, Fresh Country Style and Garden Style. She has written about home furnishings and interior design for various magazines and served as Midwest editor of Design Times magazine. She was also the director of consumer and trade marketing for the Chicago Merchandise Mart's residential design center. She is president of Winning Ways Marketing, an editorial and marketing consulting firm that specializes in home design and decorating.