Small Spaces

By Christine Brun

January 2, 2009 5 min read


Find your home's inner spa in a small bathroom

Christine Brun

Creators News Service

Last summer I joined millions of Americans who, because of escalating fuel costs and a weak dollar, took a "staycation." One thing I learned from my stay at home is that when you have time to look around, home improvement ideas just spring to mind.

It turns out I'm not alone. Millions of Americans have turned a critical eye toward their homes and many see their bathrooms as the No. 1 candidate for a remodel. So said Sally Morse, director of creative services for Hunter Douglas custom window fashions.

The reason for a focus on bathrooms could very well be how much baby boomers -- and their Generation X and Generation Y offspring -- have come to enjoy visits to the spa. Familiarity with super-soft robes, luscious fluffy towels and divine aromatherapy is rather addicting.

Morse suggests turning your master bath into a spa with the addition of piles of white towels, scented candles and a fresh coat of paint. After all, paint is still one of the most economical tools for achieving a new look.

When putting a new coat on our bathrooms, Morse reminds us not to forget the "fifth" wall: the ceiling. If your walls are white, then try sky blue for the ceiling. Or you might select some other serene hue and paint the entire bathroom, including the ceiling, in that color.

Subtle tones like khaki, soft wheat or a warm gray can work as a neutral with attitude. Gentle blues, blue-greens or aquamarines can be dreamy when paired with pure white fixtures.

New window treatments are another affordable way to introduce a feeling of freshness into your bathroom. In the photo shown here, we see a device that allows maximum light to shine into a bathroom while still providing privacy.

This shade, by Duette Architella, comes in what is known as a top-down/bottom-up design. It offers flexibility when bathroom windows reveal too much yet admits plenty of highly sought-after natural light.

Unfortunately, not every bathroom window is placed in a way that provides the critical feeling of privacy essential to making the bathing experience comfortable and serene.

Another idea might be to commission a leaded glass window for your bathroom. Depending upon the design and selection of window glass, you can achieve privacy without any window treatment at all. You will want to test out the glass before having the window made. It is possible to get samples of the different options.

If having a window made is out of your price range, consider some sort of texture. There are dozens of woven Roman shades on the market that filter light in a way reminiscent of the Pacific Rim. Think Bali, Thailand and Hawaii.

If you have more serious issues, such as a leaking shower pan or shower enclosure, it can dictate a more in-depth overhaul of your bathroom. If so, be prepared to spend substantially more money.

Every remodel project tends to grow into something larger. For instance, a slow leak hidden in the walls might have damaged another room. If you have mold or dry rot, be prepared to properly fix all the damage.

Obviously, the cost to replace old bathroom fixtures with modest new ones will depend on the size of your room and how much of the work you are able to perform. If you cannot do the work and need to employ a handyman or contractor, prices can range between $5,000 and $10,000.

If you wish to revamp a standard bathroom into a totally different configuration and use high-end finishes, the cost can escalate to between $35,000 to $50,000. So much depends upon the individual elements you select and the complexity of your individual project.

One bright spot, according to many realtors, is that you can recoup 80 to 85 percent of your investment when you sell your home.

Remember that there is much you can improve with affordable elements: A costly candle marked $35 might seem silly right now, but all it takes is an exotic aroma to transport you mentally to a relaxing destination.

Other relatively inexpensive changes can bring new life to an old bathroom. Consider a new area rug to cover cracked or marred flooring, new light fixtures to replace outdated lighting, or a new faucet and towel bars. Sometimes just new soft towels make you feel comforted and pampered.

In these difficult times don't despair if you cannot afford the bathroom of your dreams. Pick a wonderful paint color and get to work!

Christine Brun, ASID, is a San Diego-based interior designer and the author of "Big Ideas for Small Spaces." Send questions and comments to her by e-mail at [email protected] To find out more about Christine Brun and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Like it? Share it!

  • 0