Choose Unique Materials to Expand Space

By Christine Brun

August 23, 2017 4 min read

It is easy to be overwhelmed by all the decisions involved with remodeling a major bathroom. Where do you start? How do you translate a particular style into a look that fits the room size? In most small bathrooms, the tasks become even more of a challenge, and frustration grows as you try to pull all the pieces together.

This example is not necessarily the smallest of bathrooms. Yet I chose it because it offers an interesting range of products that illustrate how to devise a smooth and flowy feeling by selecting certain finish materials. Let's walk through this together so you can understand how the principles apply to a tiny room.

Begin by repeating one material as often as possible. As an example, you would select a solid surface for an entire countertop and run it down the side of the cabinet as well. Some refer to this as a "waterfall" application. To unify two separate planes, you could use one ceramic or porcelain tile on the floor and then run it up the walls of the shower enclosure. It is acceptable to alter the size of the material used in the shower pan in order to achieve the necessary slope to the drain. In other words, if the main tile is 16 square inches, have your installer cut the tile into 4 square inches for the floor application. Alternatively, you might be able to order the material in a 2-by-2-inch cut. Be sure to inquire about all the sizes available, and remember that the goal is to have the same material stretch up, over and around everything. That includes grout color, too.

In this room, the most dominant design feature is the use of art glass. By repeating the glass in the windows, the front of the very shallow medicine cabinets and the lower cabinets below the sink, an immediate visual connection occurs. When this happens, the space instantly feels more fluid and therefore larger! This all registers on a subconscious level.

You can find a variety of unique safety glass at a shop that carries windows and doors, or perhaps at a glass store specializing in decorative architectural glass. A supplier of glass shower enclosures and a custom-cabinet shop might also be able to obtain special glass. If they don't carry something to your liking, you could search the internet and purchase it yourself. Have it shipped directly to your fabricator.

Another very subtle aesthetic here is that the countertop, the sinks and the window frames are essentially the same color. This serves to effectively make these elements recede or almost disappear. Conversely, the lower cabinet and the medicine cabinets are constructed out of stained wood that is rich and dark. Notice how when you squint, what stands out the most are the linear horizontal lines of the wood. With the dark boxes running side to side in the space, the entire room is elongated as a result.

Becoming aware is the first step toward being able to consciously manipulate a space. Obviously, every square foot matters in a smallish room, and each choice folds into the recipe for how to expand the space. Be cautious about lightness and darkness. Be aware of how much contrast exists between surfaces, and think about how you want to use that effect.

Photo Credit: Neil Kelly Corporation

Christine Brun, ASID, is a San Diego based interior designer and author of "Small Space Living." Send questions and comments to her by email 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

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