Special touches can create a beautiful bathroom

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Five years ago, the ideal master bathroom was supposed to be large and lavish, with a huge Jacuzzi tub and a mile-long marble vanity.

Times have changed, of course, and so have budgets. "Everyone's scaling down in every single room," says Sabrina Soto, a real estate agent and host of HGTV's "Real Estate Intervention" and "Get It Sold."

And yet, Soto says, people still want their bathroom to be something special. It's where their day begins and ends, "so it's really a destination for them within their homes."

How can you create a fabulous bathroom without overspending?

Soto, decordemon.com founder Brian Patrick Flynn and Los Angeles-based interior designer Betsy Burnham weigh in on the best ways to create an extraordinary, truly personalized bathroom:

CUSTOM CREATIONS

Burnham often makes medicine cabinets for clients. It's surprisingly simple: "The contractor or builder creates a box for me, and I pick a wonderful frame at my framer and have a mirror made. We use a big hinge on the side that opens 180 degrees."

"In a bathroom, you want to use every bit of space you have for storage," she says. "So it's a great way to have an original piece over your sink" and also create ample shelf space.

Rather than buying a complete sink and vanity, Flynn suggests choosing a cabinet or dresser at a flea market and then having a sink fitted into the top. Choose a cabinet with legs if you want the illusion of more floor space.

You'll just need a carpenter to cut holes in the top and back. Then a plumber can attach the sink and install the whole thing.

Vessel sinks, where the bowl rests above the vanity, can work well with this kind of design. They come in a huge array of colors and materials. But Burnham cautions that they are very trendy right now and might feel dated as time passes.

THE RIGHT MATERIALS

Consider the overall design of your home as you choose the permanent elements of the bathroom.

"A more classic bath in a classic, traditional house really does ask for ceramic tile" in crisp white or a soft cream, Burnham says. "If you've got a more modern house, and you're putting in metal windows, then I love stone" for floors, countertops and even walls.

Other possibilities: "People are now going into the eco-friendly options, like bamboos or recycled glass," says Soto. "And recycled tires and paper are being used for countertops — it's really durable."

If the walls are a solid, neutral color, Burnham likes to go "a bit crazier on the floors, like a black and white pattern or a stone mosaic."

A wooden bathroom floor is also a possibility. The wood can be treated to resist moisture and can be painted any color.

What about wallpaper? It's hugely popular right now, though it's more common in small powder rooms than in master baths.

"Can you do wallpaper in a bath you use daily? Yes," says Burnham. "My wallpaper guy told me abut this wonderful finish-coat that your painter can paint over the wallpaper" to protect it from moisture over time.

If you don't want to commit to an entire room of wallpaper, Soto suggests papering one wall in a large, bold pattern.

CHOOSING HUES

Like Burnham, Flynn favors baths done in all white or black and white. These choices "never get old," he says, "and then any single color you mix in will go great."

Flynn also likes white in contrast with charcoal or black/brown (which he describes as "basically a mix of super-dark brown and charcoal, richer than black and not as harsh").

You can bring in a bold accent color by painting one wall, or just through towels and accessories. In choosing accent colors, Soto says, pick something that works well with the decor of the master bedroom.

Also, Flynn says, consider how a given color makes you look in the bathroom light. This is a place where "you spend a lot of time looking at yourself," he says, and if the walls give off a greenish hue you may not feel very attractive first thing in the morning.

Another color tip, this one from Soto: Use darker shades of grout, because they're easier to keep looking clean.

POPULAR SPLURGES

"Instead of a big Jacuzzi tub, people want a soaking tub. Or they're getting rid of the tub altogether," says Soto. "People would rather have a huge shower that maybe has two showerheads, or do the steam-room shower."

Rain and waterfall showerheads come in many styles, and some units have sprays that run head-to-toe.

If you want a tub, consider a freestanding model. They are modern versions of old clawfoot tubs, but with a base that goes all the way to the floor. They feel more like a distinctive piece of furniture than a built-in part of the bathroom.

Heated floors are a splurge that some people consider well worth it. Heated towel racks, which are less expensive, offer some of the same luxury. And some of Burnham's clients say they must have a TV in the bathrooom for watching news in the morning.

One last fabulous touch? Flynn loves using a chandelier in place of a basic ceiling light.
   
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.