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Big Statements
By Tracy Dickinson
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A small powder room can make a big impression.

A small powder room can make a big impression.

Your home probably has one, but most homeowners don’t want to talk about it.

The powder room. The half bath. That forgotten space around the corner that you keep dimly lit so your guests can’t get a good look at it.

It may be small, and it may not be the first impression guests receive from your home. But the powder room doesn’t have to be an unmentionable.

With a little thoughtful planning, that powder room can make a powerful statement.

Say it with design

Because the space is often limited, the design for your half bath is crucial.

Moehl Millwork’s Tina Noel explains, “Most powder rooms lack space, so many times we’re trying to figure out how to use it in the best manner possible.”

Corey Gersdorf of AIM Kitchen & Bath says, “Just because a powder room or half bath is small doesn’t mean it has to feel cramped. Using the right layout and fixtures and even the right choices of tile and paint color can make a big difference.”

For example, if your powder room is near the kitchen or back entry to the home, you may be able to eliminate storage as a consideration in your design. A single shelf to hold extra hand towels or toilet paper may be all that’s necessary if you have a pantry or storage area nearby for cleaning supplies and other spare toiletries.

“About half of my clients prefer a pedestal sink because it makes the room feel more open and lighter,” says Woodharbor’s Jill Lampe. “The other half just want a basic vanity with doors in a simple Shaker style.”

Eliminating major storage space opens up design possibilities for elements such as a pedestal or floating sink, furniture-look cabinetry that offers more style than storage, or decorative shelving beside the sink rather than enclosed cabinetry that visually shrinks the space. “Horizontal elements like shiplap visually expand the width and/or length of the room,” Noel suggests.

And the right lighting can enhance that design too. Gersdorf says, “Adding backlighting under the sink or cabinetry is a nice touch. And a lot of homeowners like to use decorative lighting like sconces in the half bath, but I always recommend some recessed lighting in the ceiling, too, to keep the room from being too dim.”

Choosing a lighter color is also important, he says, because darker colors will make the small space seem even smaller in size.

Say it with pizzazz

We have a tendency to think of the half bath as a little-used room. However, that isn’t usually the case.

“Actually, the powder room can get a lot of use throughout the day. It is the bathroom the family uses during daily activity and the one the guests use, too,” says Noel.

Rather than considering your powder room an afterthought, remember that this is the bath your guests will see, designers say. So make it special.

“I advise clients to create a dressier look,” says Barb Hyde of Beisser Lumber. “This is the space your guests use, and you want them to feel welcome.”

“Finding out who will be using the bath is important in the design,” says Lampe. “If it’s guests, I like to make it fun. If it’s kids, I also make sure the materials are durable and easily cleanable.”

Because the space is smaller, fewer square feet of materials are necessary, which means splurging is more affordable.

“Large-format tiles, even tiling a wall, can be a nice feature in a small room like this,” says Gersdorf.

Hyde says, “I absolutely love, love, love a fun, bold wallpaper in a powder room to give it a little extra punch.”

Flooring can make a statement, too, without breaking the budget.

“If you keep it the same, it tends to have a more cohesive feel from room to room,” says Noel.

“If the homeowner is really budget-conscious, I advise sticking to the same flooring used in the hallway leading to the bath,” Lampe says. “But because it’s such a tiny space, I like to use more-adventurous flooring. A nice hex tile is a great contrast to a beautiful wood floor.”

“Change it up. Use something light. This room should have its own personality,” Hyde advises.

Say it with personality

Because the space is small enough to not blow your budget, and this is the bath your guests will use, it should reflect your family’s personality. It can be a fun space to play with changing trends.

Noel says, “This tends to be the bathroom where we can have fun with finishes and textures. We absolutely like to play off the current trends in this room and mix it up with something new.”

“In the powder room we can usually splurge a little on some detail that just makes it a little more interesting,” says Lampe.

Popular touches such as repurposed materials, unique finishes, and farmhouse styling add creative personality to this little space.

According to Gersdorf, “In a lot of ways, designing the powder room isn’t any different than any other space—the focus is on how the client uses the space and what their tastes and budget are.”

It may be a half bath, but this small room can make a big impression.


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