Our Complete Guide to Bathroom Renovations
Everyone wants their bathroom to be that beautiful, spa-like retreat, but how do you keep your cool during the reno process? Our designers, along with renovation matchmaker Sweeten, give some insight.
We will be the first ones to admit… bathroom renovations can cost a pretty penny. As soon as you open up any walls or start replacing any plumbing, the pocketbook starts taking a hit, adding up to $10,000-$25,000. For this reason, people often allow their bathrooms to be dated, stuck in the hot pink 50s, the milk-glass green 70s, or even scarier the time of carpeted bathroomsin the 80s. (Yes, that was a thing. We don’t know why it was a thing, but it was.)
But just like the rest of your home, your bathroom is important, and redesigning it can maximize your enjoyment of the space. You can renegotiate the layout, choose better finishes, and make statements with larger pieces. As long as you keep our designer-compiled guide in mind, you can have that perfect, spa-like bathroom of your dreams. Below, we’ll run you through from beginning to end of how to make your bathroom sparkle again.
Right off the bat, Homepolish designer Shannon Tate says, “Consider practicality first and then move onto design.” Similar to our piece on kitchen renovations, the first thing to think about before you start tearing out walls or ordering custom fixtures is how you and the people in your home use the bathroom. Is it a space shared between 2-4 people? Are you the type that enjoys long soaks in the tub? How large is your space anyhow? Limitations on the space as well as your primary needs from the room will dictate how you design it.
WHETHER OR NOT TO GO ALL IN
Look at your bathroom carefully prior to beginning work. Can you enliven the space through curated à la carte items and individual fixture replacements or is it truly in need of the full bathroom renovation? As Jean Brownhill Lauer, CEO and founder of Sweeten, a service which connects renovators with local contractors, says, “A full bathroom renovation is an integrated process that involves design, materials, installation, and plumbing. If your bathroom only has one or two areas of concern, you can swap out individual fixtures. The minute you start opening walls or touching the plumbing, the job becomes a more holistic project with a typical starting point of $15,000.”
That might cause you to cringe. Where is this multi-thousand dollar price tag coming from. Well, plumbing is best left to the professionals, unless you want a Sorcerer’s Apprentice situation on your hands from a broken pipe. The same goes for any electrical work.
Sweeten shared pricing info with us for this post and has more on technical costs like prep, demolition, and framing.
LAY IT ALL OUT
If you decide to go the full renovation route, it’s time to start considering where everything should be ideally placed. As Homepolish designer Angela Belt says, “If you own your apartment or your home, you shouldn’t have to settle for a bad bathroom layout. Let’s face it. You’re in the bathroom every single day, and it has a relatively small square footage compared to the rest of your home. Maximizing space with the proper layout is of the utmost importance.”
In order to find that perfect configuration, think about what you find difficult in the current space. What are your priorities? Reflect on bathrooms you’ve been to at recent parties and whether you liked them… what worked in that particular space? In the planning phase, there are no wrong answers, so challenge the traditional ways of placing things and see if you stumble upon something new.
FOCUSING ON THE NECESSITIES
In the end, the bathroom is a place where nature rules. You have to bathe, keep your face clean, brush your teeth, use the toilet every once in a while. For that reason, there are certain unavoidable pieces that you have to include in your bathroom:
The Sink Vanity: You probably think this song is about you. Well, guess what? In this instance, the vanity is really all about you. Sinks and the vanities to accompany them come in a variety of specifications from highly customizable to set pieces, already integrated with a countertop and under-sink storage. Basic sink bowl options can run $200-1,200 and range up to $3,000 for higher-end custom pieces. Something to keep in mind, a well-designed vanity will only make you look better in the morning.
Sink and Shower Fixtures: As our creative director Orlando Soria showed in his own bathroom, sometimes the bathroom fixtures can be design element that adds some drama into the bathroom. In his case, he punctuated the all-white space with stark black fixtures from Brizo. These pieces can cost as little as $50 at Home Depot, but the higher-end ones go for as much as $1,000. Our designers all agree that putting thought into the details of fixtures will make the whole room shine.
Bathtubs: The bathtub is arguably the most luxurious part of the bathroom. And believe us, if you’re in a home with a beautiful tub, particularly a clawfoot beauty, all of us in New York are looking at you in envy from our built-in porcelain piece of sadness that came standard with our apartment. As Homepolish designer Jennifer Wallenstein points out, “Freestanding tubs have made a major comeback. In addition to the clawfoot, there are also some beautiful modern versions as well, such as this Kreeo tub carved out of a single block of marble! If that is outside your budget, look for something in that shape but in porcelain or fiberglass. Waterworks has stunning bathtubs too.” Bathtubs essentially come down to a matter of space and budget, typically running from $600-3,000. For a very budget-friendly option, you can choose simply to reglaze an existing tub for as low as $400.
Shower Enclosures: Yes, you can always go with the standard shower curtain, but for a more glamorous and luxurious option, go with a glass enclosure. Available in pivoting or sliding options, these will run between $350-2,000.
The Toilet: Unless you’re looking for the Maurizio Cattelan Golden Toilet, your toilet should cost somewhere between $200-1,000. Online, AllModern and Wayfair have beautiful options, but our designers also use Porcelanosa, Ferguson, Snyder Diamond, Kohler, and Duravit. People often try to hide the toilet away, but Shannon reminds us, “Everyone expects to find a toilet, so don’t think that it’s an overtly offensive thing to see. Just keep it minimal and understated.” Again, unless yours is gold-plated.
The floor is just as essential as the pieces mentioned above. As we said in our guide to flooring, due to the constant presence of moisture and temperature fluctuations in the bathroom, wood is not a good idea when it comes to flooring. It will inevitably warp over time.
Instead, opt for durable choices such as tile, made from marble, ceramic, or even terra-cotta, encaustic, or concrete. Jennifer remarks, “You can really find something to suit any style–super modern and geometric, more traditional Spanish or Moroccan, or fun, contemporary penny rounds of hexagons which have been trending as of late.” Some favorite sources include Cle Tile, Marrakesh Design, Cement Tile Shop, and Tabarka Studio. The penny tiles can go as low as $3/square foot, but marble slabs will cost those pretty pennies, running at around $35/square foot.
LET THERE BE LIGHT
Bathroom lighting is a mixture of ambient lighting and task lighting, as we outlined in our ideas on lighting. Shannon likes to install the bathroom lights on dimmers in order to create the perfect soothing atmosphere (imagine just sinking into a bubble bath after a long day at work). The vanity is where the task lighting comes in. As Jennifer says, “It is meant to be functional and not just decorative. There is nothing worse that overhead lighting casting a ton of shadows on your face. Light on either side of the mirror work nicely, especially in combination with the ambient lighting.”
If possible, allow your vanity to be near natural light sources which will allow you to adjust your hair and makeup appropriately. However, if natural light is not in the cards, incandescents or bulbs that mimic daylight are the best bet. You want a soft glow, not a sterile, clinical feel.
Don’t forget that bathrooms need ventilation! Shannon reminds us, “You want to vent out the excess moisture as much as possible, not only to combat things like mold, but also so you have a bathroom and not a steam room.” You don’t want to wait for a foggy mirror after you’ve showered. You’re a busy person and every second of morning prep counts!
When it gets down to it, though the bathroom may be a small space in the home, it can be very complicated. Hire a Homepolish designer to help you get down to business. For more on pricing and to find a general contractor who can work with your Homepolish designer, check out Sweeten.