Functional Bathroom Design Ideas

By Lyle Weischwill | Nov. 02, 2016 2:52 pm PST

Bathroom tiles, lighting, sink and vanity remodeling

When updating your bathroom tiles, lighting, sink and vanity, form should meet function.

The vanity is old, the bathroom tiles are cracked, and the vanity sink no longer works. It’s time to consider a bathroom remodel. But where should you start?

“Style’s important, but functionality is really important,” says Deborah Pierce, principal at Pierce Lamb Architects in Newton, Massachusetts and author of The Accessible Home: Designing for All Ages & Abilities. “You want your bathroom to be safe, easy to clean, low-maintenance and able to grow with your family as your needs change.”

With that in mind, plan ahead and choose products that have style, comfort and safety built in — and you can get a fresh, new, lasting bathroom design with a few changes.

Here are a few design ideas to keep your bathroom both fresh and functional.

Bathroom tile

Think long-term when it comes to bathroom tile. While smaller tiles offer better grip for installation, it means more grout to clean. And while glossy marble is beautiful, it can be slippery, causing a potential safety hazard. There are many brands offering no-slip tiles out there. Look for one with a matte or textured finish.

You can also have tiles installed on the walls as a backsplash behind the sink and toilet to create that “big reveal.”


Whatever your style, you want a sense of calm, order and cleanliness in the bathroom, Pierce says. For that, lighting is key.

Place over-the-sink lighting on the sides of the mirror or vanity to minimize shadows. Sconces, which range in style from traditional to contemporary, also do a great job. Go green with LED light bulbs that are now affordable and give off more natural light.

If you’re worried about falls, bathroom lighting is important — but you should also focus on proper ventilation to quickly get rid of steam and humidity that hamper vision, Pierce says.

Bathroom sinks and vanities

Swapping out bathroom sink fixtures and vanity hardware is a simple way to dramatically change the look of your bathroom. Consider ease of use when making decisions, like lever handles or touchless faucets.

If you want to go the extra mile, consider an updated bathroom vanity. A wall-mounted vanity looks great and will be easy to clean under, but storage might be an issue. A vessel sink atop marble can be a bit more difficult to clean, especially where the bowl and counter connect. Then there’s the option of a removable vanity, which can be quickly removed to accommodate a wheelchair user, suggests Richard Duncan, executive director of Better Living Design Institute in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Think about counter heights, as well, Pierce adds. After all, you want your bathroom to be suitable for all possible users.

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