Small touches create a great master bathroom

The contrast of painted walls and tiled areas, as seen in this McLean, Va., master bathroom, can make the tiles a focal point. In assessing trends for the new year in bath design, interior designer Julia Walter says many homeowners are tiling only parts of their master baths. Angie Seckinger/Boffi Georgetown via AP

It’s easy to design a gorgeous master bathroom if you have a huge budget. But with the right choices, says interior designer Gabriel Anderson, you can have an exceptional master bath without overspending.

‘‘Having huge expanses of marble is amazing and wonderful, but you don’t have to have that to have an amazing bathroom,’’ said Anderson, cofounder of the New York design firm Dean and Dahl. There are ‘‘little touches you can incorporate that really bring a master bath to life.’’

We’ve asked Anderson and two specialists in bath design — Julia Walter of Boffi Georgetown in Washington, D.C., and Nadia Subaran of Aidan Design in Silver Spring, Md. — to tell us what those little touches and smart strategies might be.

Planning a better shower

Interior designer Nadia Subaran says homeowners increasingly want glass-enclosed showers that they can walk directly into without any step or door, as seen in this In this Bethesda, M.D., master bath by Aidan Design. —Robert Radifera/Aidan Design via AP

When you reach in and turn on your shower, does your hand get soaking wet? Wouldn’t it be nice if it didn’t?

‘‘One of the things that I always do now is installing the handles for the shower in a place that’s not directly below the shower head,’’ Anderson said. That will require the pipes to be extended a bit farther, so ‘‘the plumber will be bugged by it. But in the end, it doesn’t really cost a lot more.’’

Another impactful adjustment: Design a shower that’s enclosed by a partial glass wall, with an open space but no door and no step where you enter. The floor needs to be pitched downward just slightly near the drain so that water doesn’t run out of the shower area. This is easier to do in a larger bathroom, especially if you’re doing new construction rather than just remodeling, Subaran said, but it’s worth considering.

‘‘Folks are thinking about wanting the ability to just kind of walk into a shower,’’ rather than stepping over something to get in, she said.

Another option is to make room for a larger shower by skipping the tub. Some real estate agents advise that having a tub in a master bathroom is important for a home’s resale value, and you might find that a tub is a necessity for your family.

‘‘Designing is all about the user,’’ said Anderson, who has two young kids. ‘‘We bring them into the master bathroom and have them take baths in there. For us, it’s an absolute necessity.’’

A freestanding bathtub, as seen in this Chevy Chase, M.D., master bathroom by Aidan Design, is much more popular than the built-in bathtubs that have been used in residential design for decades, says designer Nadia Subaran. Beyond their practical use, tubs like this serve as sculptural design pieces. —Jenn Verrier/Aidan Design via AP

But, he said, ‘‘if space is at a premium, sometimes it’s worth taking that space and having a more luxurious shower.’’

Reconsidering dual sinks

When designing a master bath for a couple, Walter often asks how often they actually use the sink at the same time. It tends to be pretty rare. So for clients seeking a change of pace, she suggests a 4-foot-long wash basin within a vanity.

‘‘Instead of two sinks,’’ she said, you have one sink with two faucets. So you can be next to each other when you want to, but when one person is alone, they have a large sink all to themselves without taking up extra space in the room.

‘‘You can save a little bit of money there,’’ Walter said, and still have ‘‘a beautiful, big, master-bath vanity.’’

Adding furniture and special pieces

‘‘You always need a place to sit down to take your slippers off, or whatever the case may be,’’ Anderson said. This is something often shown in design magazines, and many homeowners do have a bit of space for it.

One tip is to buy an attractive chair or bench meant for outdoor use, because it will be moisture-resistant and upholstered with outdoor fabric. Anderson said many outdoor styles in teak or metal can look great in a master bathroom.

And seating isn’t the only detail you might get creative with: Try hunting for a vintage mirror in a distinctive frame or a unique light fixture, he said.

‘‘This is something that just takes the time of going to estate sales or antique stores or whatnot,’’ Anderson said. ‘‘Taking the time to go and find that special piece … can really elevate your bathroom,’’ and doesn’t have to cost much.

Increasing your comfort

No one wants to feel chilly when they step out of the shower. So many people are adding heated floors to master bathrooms.

‘‘Radiant floor heat is no longer a trend — it’s like the norm for master bath heat,’’ Subaran said.

A heated floor can be expensive depending on the bathroom’s size, but for a heating splurge that isn’t costly, consider heated towel racks.

Using stone

All three designers are fans of stone on walls and vanity surfaces. It offers natural beauty that won’t go out of style and can be combined with a range of color palettes.

‘‘Stone is always a trend,’’ Anderson said, ‘‘but I think right now people are wanting to use large amounts of stone as opposed to porcelain.’’

If you want high-quality stone but are concerned about cost, one option is to cover just one wall and your vanity with it, then leave the other walls painted.

It’s a practical choice that’s also timely, Walter said: ‘‘The trend is going toward not having the whole bathroom tiled.’’

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