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30 Planning Tips

•Good reasons to hire a bathroom designer.
•See how a designer can help you get the most out of your bathroom.

When your bathroom project is finally complete, and your time, energy and budget are long spent, there's nothing more humbling than spotting mistakes. Even more frustrating is when you can't quite figure out where you went awry.

"Some people inherently know that something is wrong with the room, they just can't tell you what it is," says Sherry Ruggieri, an interior designer in Turnersville, NJ. Getting advice from a professional during the planning process can often mean the difference between a bathroom that is adequate but uninspiring and one that fully delivers your dream.

In an effort to help you avoid remodelers' remorse, here are seven ways to tell when you may need to get professional help for your project.

It's time to call an interior designer when:

1. You don't know how to get the look you desire.

Capturing a particular look, say the ambience of a rustic inn or beachside getaway, takes more than hunting down certain fixtures and decorative tile; it takes knowledge and experience. Design experts know how to unify colors and materials to create the feel and look of your entire vision-not just pieces of it.

2. You feel cramped.

Homeowners are often awed by the way designers can eke out space where seemingly none exists. They also have a talent for moving things
around to create space around fixtures and new work areas. If you're truly tight on space, designers know which fixtures provide some breathing room-a pedestal or wall-mount sink in lieu of a chunky sink cabinet, for example-and can suggest innovative storage solutions. They also can tell you when it's structurally sound to break through a wall to annex space from an adjacent closet or stairwell-or how to make the most of the space you have.

3. You need to lighten things up.

Natural lighting is typically at a premium in bathrooms. Windows are few, and those that do exist often are uncomfortably close to a neighbor's home. Peak usage times for bathrooms are the pre-dawn hours and at night before bed, making good artificial lighting vital. Designers can show you the best product choices and locations for lighting. For example, "A low-cost option is to cover your windows with decorative opaque film to add colorful, diffused lighting-and some privacy," say Christine Suzuki, ASID, of Seattle.

4. You can't afford the personalized spa you long for.

Designers know how to help you feel truly pampered-within your budget. They'll help you prioritize your luxury wishlist, beginning with determining what you love most about a spa. Is it heated floors? Warm towels? Natural stone? A clean, contemporary décor? Do you prefer a jetted tub, whirlpool, deep soaking tub or a bubblemassage bath? A multiple-head shower? A designer can help you crystallize your thinking and home in on the most pertinent products for your bath.

5. You may already have what it takes.

Instead of starting from scratch, you may be able to integrate some of your bathroom's existing features into your dream bath. Designers can help breathe new life into bathrooms by updating faucets and handles and refinishing existing cabinets. Think your double sinks clash with your toilet? A designer can harmonize the look by finding the right countertop treatment. Or, if your husband consistently leaves a wet countertop after his morning shave, a deeper sink may serve as a solution.

6. You may be overlooking important issues.

Safety may not be your first priority when you're being seduced by today's luxurious bathroom-sanctuaries. A designer will keep you mindful of safety by emphasizing such products as grip rails in tubs, shower and bathtub seating and non-slip floors in wet areas. "Polished stone can be dangerously slippery," says Suzuki. "You can choose a tile with a smooth surface, like limestone, but make sure it's not high-gloss. If you carry the stone into an open shower, for example, use smaller tile with more grout to prevent slipping."

7. You need help defining room areas.

This is an issue for both large and small bathrooms. Designers are creative at devising ways to separate and reconfigure space. Ruggieri suggests that for those who desire a separate toilet area in a small bathroom to install either a thick half-wall with optional open shelving above or, for a less expensive option, a glass partition that's frosted on the bottom half. In a larger bathroom, create private his-and-her sink areas by placing each in a different area of the room or, if they're on the same countertop, divide them with a stunning tower of cabinetry If you have room to spare, completely separate his-and-her toilet and shower areas are a great way to go.

"Designers are problem-solvers when it comes to balancing finance, aesthetics, design and safety," Ruggieri says. "Are they an investment? Yes ... but it's worth it."

If you need help hiring and working with an interior designer, a new publication, Designing Your Space, is now available from the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID). Additionally, the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) is a great resource. NKBA designers have special expertise in design as well as construction, mechanical, plumbing, and electrical systems, and are certified based on up-to-date industry education and years of experience.



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