Welcome to Along for the Revival, where we follow designers through the renovating and decorating process of historic homes. In our first-ever Along for the Revival series, designer Caitlin Wilson invites us into her 1920s Georgian home in Dallas’ Highland Park as she reimagines it for modern life.
I’m often surprised by the number of people who overlook their bathrooms when decorating their homes. To me, they provide some of the most interesting design choices! Intricate tile mosaics, antique-brass faucets, well-designed cabinetry: There’s no shortage of exciting details when you’re planning a bathroom renovation. In the bathroom, more than anything else, the order in which you make those decisions matters.
In this house, we have five bathrooms, so I’ve had plenty of learning opportunities. Here are a few insider bathroom design tips that I’ve gleaned from all these rooms.
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Caitlin Wilson’s Bathroom Remodeling Tips
Be ready to pick your fixtures.
First things first: Before you do anything else, you have to choose your fixtures—the permanent parts of a bathroom that have to be plumbed in, like the bathtub, toilet, sinks, and faucets. Why? Because your builder needs to know which valves to buy to accommodate your fixtures. Once you choose, you’re committed. For me, that was a lot of pressure early in the process.
At a showroom, you can easily be convinced that you should purchase all your homes’ fixtures from the same vendor. The truth is, you don’t have to choose just one. There are lots of options out there, but as long as you use the same vendor for each bathroom, you won’t drive your builder crazy.
Use finishes to establish your style.
Do you want your bathroom to feel casual or formal? Modern or traditional? Whether you go with chrome, nickel, oil-rubbed bronze, or brass, the finish you choose goes a long way toward establishing the room’s aesthetic. I love how Waterworks’ porcelain levers feel old-world—fitting for our home, which was originally built in 1920.
I chose a few different finishes throughout our bathrooms, but mostly went with unlacquered brass and polished nickel. A tip: If you’re struggling with consistency, you can pretty much always count on polished nickel; golds aren’t created equal.
Consider the art of cabinetry.
I definitely feel like you can overthink cabinetry. When we built our first home, we added a cabinet space for every. single. thing. I had custom cabinets and drawers everywhere. I learned my lesson on that—sometimes when there are too many built-ins, it takes away the warmth and character.
In this house, I didn’t use as many built-ins because I wanted to leave room for collecting and layering antiques. The bathrooms, however, were places I could go big on cabinetry. In the girls’ bathroom, I incorporated a scallop into the cabinetry to give it a French, antique feel. In the baby’s bathroom, I added a tall cabinet for storage and a trellis overlay so it feels like a charming piece of furniture rather than a massive cabinet.
Don’t overlook the mirror.
Mirrors are underrated! Just as finishes can set the tone for a room, mirrors are an opportunity to make a statement. It’s not necessary to choose a mirror that matches your vanity. Whether you’re customizing your mirror or shopping for an antique, try to find a mirror about the same width as your vanity. If they don’t match completely, that’s OK; aim for a mirror that’s about 75 percent as wide. As far as height, the taller the better.
Wallpaper is the great uniter.
Early on, I ordered a custom bathtub, painted in my favorite periwinkle blue. It was beautiful and perfect, and I had no doubt it would be the piéce de resistance in our girls’ bathroom. Three months after I ordered it, I found a slab of pink marble that I couldn’t live without.
I wasn’t planning to use multiple colors in one room, but how could I pick between the marble and this gorgeous bathtub? Wallpaper to the rescue! By selecting a pattern that pulled the two colors together, I didn’t have to choose.