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Common Bathroom Design Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Last updated July 30, 2021

10 Common Bathroom Design Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

 

To truly design a great bathroom, you need to focus less on the looks (which are also important), but more on how it works. Functionality is key.

Additionally, a new bathroom doesnt come cheap, so you want to do it right the first time. To help save you time and money, we’ve put together a list of 10 common mistakes that design professionals see in a bathroom designed by someone without experience.

 

1 ) Including Giant Bathtubs (and Other Features)

Proportionality is important to consider when designing a bathroom. While a large tub for soaking after a long day might seem ideal, if there is no room around the tub to clean, or if it is too close to the vanity or toilet, things can easily feel too cramped. And, in the case of a toilet, its a bit gross.

It’s important to keep things in scale and consider space for moving about and cleaning when designing a bathroom.

Master bath with soaking tub

While this bathroom looks beautiful with its huge, angled standalone tub, cleaning around the tub will be a real challenge (Plan #101-1977).

 

Finally, keep in mind that your extra large walk-in shower might be a perk for you, but if you eliminate the only bathtub in the home when installing it, it could impact resale value as many homebuyers still like having a tub in the house.

 

2) Showcasing Visible Toilets

No one wants to come face to face with a toilet when they don’t have to. In other words, don’t make the toilet the most visible thing in the bathroom. And don’t put it directly across from the door.

White powder room with vanity, toilet, and small wall cabinet

In this powder room, the door opens right up to the toilet. Another option would have been to switch the location of the toilet with the vanity to add a bit more privacy (Plan #142-1520).

 

For example, if you have a half-bath near the family room, do you want your guest on the couch to have a front row seat to the place where everyone does their business? Luckily, this can easily be avoided with thoughtful design.
Something else to consider: placing the toilet in a separate room completely. This is easy enough to do when creating a master en-suite, or even in “Jack and Jill” bathrooms for the kids.

Having a “throne room” as they are colloquially referred to makes the bathroom a more accessible place, especially for busy families and couples. It allows for great concurrent use, as in if someone needs the toilet, other household members can be in the shower, or brushing their teeth without disruption.


3) Forgetting Electrical Outlets

Forgetting electrical outlets is a common bathroom design mistake. It’s not that they are not included, but rather their placement is off. When remodeling a bathroom (or creating one in a new build), you must take special care to consider the home’s current electrical layout.

Electrical outlets are best served near the vanity for ease of use. It’s also always a good idea to have more than one power point in the room, as it can be frustrating to constantly unplug your electric toothbrush and razor to make room for the hair dryer.

Bathroom vanity with dark faucet and mirror above

An electrical outlet just above the sink vanity is essential for doing any activities that might require power such as a blow dryer, electric shaver, or electric toothbrush (photo credit: Andrea Davis on Unsplash).

 

However, placing the socket more than a short cord’s length from a resting surface can lead to major headaches in everyday use.

 

4) Incorporating No Storage

We keep a lot of things in our bathroom. When planning the design of yours, you need to keep storage in mind. Where will you store the extra toilet paper, your shampoo bottles, and toothpaste?

While it is possible to add storage after the fact with removable containers, a well-designed bathroom will also have built-in options. For example, many showers now have sleek cutaways in the wall to store toiletries and most mirrors still double as medicine cabinets.

Large bathroom with lots of storage in cabinets and drawers

Rather than have lots of mirror and counter space, this bathroom emphasizes the practical need for storage – note the vertical cabinet to the right and the extended-size drawers below it (Plan #161-1127).

 

5) Featuring Bad Lighting

A common bathroom design mistake is to not carefully consider the lighting. The right lighting is essential – especially in the bathroom, where we groom ourselves to make our appearance to the world each day. It’s the place where we start and end our days, so it’s critical to get the lighting right.

We’ve put together an in-depth guide on this called "9 Tips for Selecting the Perfect Bathroom Lighting."

We highlight working with backlighting to mitigate shadows in the morning and using dimmers to soften the light’s harshness for sleepy eyes.

Large modern bathroom with recessed lighting and oversize mirror

Recessed lighting in the ceiling plus overhead lighting on the mirror creates enhanced lighting in the bathroom, which eliminates shadows. Plan #202-1025

 

We also cover ways to utilize natural light and the best bulbs to use.


6) Using Poor Ventilation

It’s not always possible to have a nice, bright window as ventilation in your bathroom. Occasionally, bathrooms are interior rooms and there isn’t an option for more natural ventilation.

To avoid problems like an overgrowth of mold (and the persistent, pungent smells that come with it) in what is the wettest room in the house, you need to consider other options, like an extractor fan.

Something to remember is that skimping on ventilation will give you one of the biggest headaches in bathroom design. It’s a lot easier to repaint the walls or replace a faucet than having to start over again due to poor initial ventilation design.

 

7) Not Considering Layout

Your bathroom’s layout is as important of a feature as any when designing the space. It’s very easy to create a room in which features hug the walls (i.e. vanity on one wall, shower across from it) with no real character or use of the space’s middle.

In a smaller bathroom, this layout might work perfectly. But, in a larger space, consider dividing the room to make it feel cozier with a small wall in the middle, or even a piece of furniture, like a dressing lounge.

Floor plan of master bath that shows smart use of space in the layout

The floor plan above actually highlights two well-designed bathrooms. Most prominent is the master bath. Rather than have a large open space, a wall divides the room with “his space” on one and “her space” on the other. On the right side of the floor plan excerpt above is the powder room for the home with the toilet tucked away for additional privacy (Plan #106-1274). 

 

Designing your bathroom’s layout is also the time to consider future accessibility. To read a full list of things to keep in mind when designing a bathroom that will age along with you, you can read our linked article.
 

8) Using Poor Measurements

We’ve all seen the design fail photos floating around the internet. You know the ones: the bathroom door slams into the toilet when opened all the way. The only electrical outlet in the room is nowhere near the counter. The floor tiling stops half an inch too early, leaving an awkward gap. Don’t let your bathroom become one of them!

Whether you are your own contractor or you’ve hired a professional, one of the easiest mistakes to make is using improper measurements when installing features. However, it is also luckily one of the easiest mistakes to avoid, as with a little extra care there will be plenty of room for the toilet.


9) Forgetting Accessories

While this could also be filed under the mistake of not measuring, it happens often enough that it needs its own point. Remember: the water features (sink, shower, toilet, etc.) aren’t the only things to consider when measuring and planning your bathroom’s layout.

You also need to consider if there will be room for the commonly used accessories like the magazine basket, toilet paper holder, towel bars, etc. If you don’t plan ahead and consider these things, it might mean that the towel bar can’t fit anywhere near the shower and you might then spend every day walking (sopping wet and freezing) to retrieve a towel.

Little things like this can also significantly impact resale value as they are small, but the annoyances can add up over time.


10) Favoring Aesthetic Materials

Certain materials might make a social media-perfect bathroom, but could do less for every day functionality. For example, marble is an elegant material that looks great in most parts of a home. It’s versatile; as you can use it as material for countertops, flooring, etc.

However, a common bathroom design mistake is incorporating marble as flooring in the space. Yes, marble can be expensive (and typically rightly so), but in the bathroom it’s difficult to maintain…and particularly slippery, which would only compound the frustration of having a too-far-away towel rack.

Master bath with two vanities that focuses on aesthetics and clean design

The use of practical and attractive materials in this bathroom really makes it stand out (Plan #202-1019).

 

Marble is also very porous, so if improperly sealed, one dropped jar of makeup could ruin it. It’s not worth the risk. If you are keen on the marble aesthetic, speak to your builder about alternate materials that look similar, but don’t run the risk.


11) Bonus Tip

Be flexible when designing your bathroom to avoid common mistakes. Due to the “wet” nature of bathrooms, it’s rare to not have some sort of leak or malfunction during construction. Wise homebuilders should expect the unexpected and have a little extra put away for these situations as they arise.

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