Few remodeling decisions have the intensely positive impact on a homeowner that can be achieved by renovating a bathroom. We conceal the functions of this very personal place with a slew of nicknames– “the necessary,” “the sandbox”and “the loo.” We’re seldom there for glamorous reasons, and privacy is precious. Renovating a bathroom can be logistically inconvenient; people say you don’t get your investment back when you sell; and it’s hardly the best focus for animated party discussion. There are excellent and seemingly endless reasons to postpone renovating a bathroom.
REASONS TO RENOVATE
Reality-checks, however, suggest that updating a bathroom can be one of the most satisfying decisions a homeowner can make. New materials provide beautiful surfaces tailored specifically to your needs and wishes. The most durable, like natural and engineered stone, can reduce maintenance time and your exposure to harsh chemical cleaners. The relatively small size of a bathroom may expand the choices of luxurious materials, since smaller quantities are needed than in a family room or bedroom. New trends, including elements of universal design (providing easier use by those who are elderly or disabled) can have a substantial impact on how long you actually choose to remain in the home.
In the hands of an experienced provider, today’s luxury materials take advantage of both traditional and new technologies to help you fit renovation into your hectic schedule. Natural and engineered stone countertops and vertical panels may last nearly forever but take only reasonable time to install. Knowledgeable providers work with your other professionals, to tailor counter design and materials specifically to your room and activities. Placement and installation are incorporated organically into the overall design plan. This means that you are spared tight spaces, shortfalls, sharp corners and other impediments to easy movement and activity. Expert measurement and cutting, along with creation of an easily-modified template, mean that problem-solving precedes, rather than follows, installation.
Choosing to work with a knowledgeable stone provider lets you make informed choices that you will enjoy for a long time. Surrounding yourself with the very best, most durable decorative materials makes daily beauty and personal-care a relaxing pleasure. Instead of scrambling for a refuge from a deluge of demands, you can relax and recharge in a visually and physically soothing oasis before plunging back into your hectic routine. Renovating and updating the common rooms and bedrooms of your house make everyone more comfortable. Renovating and updating your bathroom rewards you for your hard work while letting others share in the benefits of your planning.
Incorporating stone counters and surfaces into a bathroom renovation plan can add color and texture to any décor. Most important, stone counters enhance, recharge or even reconfigure room space, making it work more efficiently for family needs.
Stone counters come in a huge range of natural and nature-based colors, from creamy white to glossy black, with shades of almost every color you can imagine in between. Stones reflect the natural striations and shadings of beach, mountain and desert rocks. Engineered stone can offer even more natural colors that evoke the darkness of sea water and the forest floor, the paleness of clouds and the warmth of sunlight and firelight. Look to stone, rather than plastic laminate or porcelain tile, to make texture a prominent element in design.
Color selection follows general design principles: light colors tend to make spaces look larger and less defined, while darker shades offer stronger definition and may limit feelings of spaciousness. There are, however, no absolutes. A warm, glossy peach-blush curved counter draws the whole room toward its centering glow, while the uninterrupted sweep of a narrow slate-blue counter across two adjoining walls suggests a much larger room than its actual dimensions offer. Using stone surfaces vertically as partitions in coordination with counters can completely reshape space and redefine patterns of use in beneficial ways. Punctuating the sweep of a stone counter with two vessel sinks halves the pace of morning “chores.” A second shelf close to a mirror provides a display area for decorative elements in a vanity corner. A single vertical stone panel with backlighting, of translucent onyx or gemstone quartz, provides a extraordinary decorative focus that lets you keep other surfaces spare and muted.
Especially in climates marked by high humidity or extreme dryness, the very air in a room is hard on décor. Laminates, ceramic tiles, water-resistant woods and other trendy bathroom materials may be highly unsuitable to long-term upgrading. Unlike other surfaces, stone counters will not flake, chalk, blister, discolor, streak, mold or warp. Maintenance requires only a soft cloth and mild cleaner. An easy annual renewal of sealant keeps stone counter surfaces looking beautiful in spite of heavy use.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT PROVIDER
What should you expect of a knowledgeable stone provider? The answers may feel obvious but are not.
Breadth: In consumer terms, breadth describes the number of choices available to meet the need you are trying to address. While all stone may seem heavy, rigid, dense and durable, not all varieties of stone make good counters, especially for the splashes and steam of a busy bathroom. Victorians favored marble bathrooms because marble surfaces repelled more water than wooden ones. Modern providers, though, will offer a broad range of granites, quartzite and engineered stones that will survive harder wear and stronger chemistry, retaining their beauty for many years. A knowledgeable provider offers you with a number of different materials to solve a problem.
Depth: Ideally, within the breadth of a knowledgeable provider’s stock are lots more choices. Henry Ford’s old saw about choosing a car in any color so long as it was black rings hollow when you’re selecting an essentially permanent design element. The shape, color and surface texture of stone bathroom counters will dominate every changing color scheme and help to integrate new décor trends with existing favorites. For the best choice of this durable design element, depth of choice is essential. A gray with just a bit more rose in it echoes the sunset from west-facing windows. A granular beige brings the feel of the lake shore into the room. Brilliantly polished white surfaces reflect all the light from both windows and fixtures, making the room seem larger and immaculately clean. A knowledgeable provider carries a wide range of choices within any category of materials.
Breadth, depth and experience. Of the three, experience may be the most important criterion. That doesn’t just mean choosing the provider who’s been in business the longest. The old ways and old styles are not always the best. A knowledgeable provider works to stay educated in his or her field. That can mean maintaining a design background with further study, making it possible to work expertly with your designer or contractor or give you the best advice for the job you are doing yourself. A knowledgeable provider stays up to date on the newest technologies and has done or designed many different kinds of jobs within the field. Experience on paper and experience on site inform every new job. A knowledgeable provider has language skills, translating technical knowledge into practical advice and planning. A knowledgeable provider has listening skills, knowing what you mean when you talk about the sunset and also how you need to balance design decisions against pending college tuition.
GETTING YOUR MONEY’S WORTH
Choosing the right materials provider also means recouping some of the value of your choices when the time comes to sell your property. Realtors warn that money spent on many design and décor decisions is hard to redeem when ownership changes. Especially in rooms where decisions may be particularly personal, they warn, what you most enjoyed may constitute the greatest aesthetic obstacle to a prospective new owner.
Remodeling Magazine’s annual Cost vs. Value Survey offers much-needed perspective. On their list of the 29 or so renovation decisions they track each year, bathroom redesign lands mid-list. Surprisingly, redesign (15th on the list) surpasses bathroom addition (19th). Even more interesting, on the 2017 list, universal redesign of a bathroom (making changes which allow easier access and use by those with disabilities), has risen to 12th and is expected to score higher on return of investment in the future, according to Realtor.com. Even at position #15, renovating and updating your bathroom can result in a 64.8 percent return on your investment at time of sale, while a universal-design renovation can return as much as 68.4 percent.
Two lessons are clear. While the decisions you make about materials and design for your bathroom may be the most personal choices you exercise, good materials and good design are a good investment. Given the impact those choices can have on your daily life and well-being, perhaps you need to schedule bathroom remodeling early in your overall renovation plans so that, no matter what return you finally see on your costs, you reap the rewards of good choices for as long as possible. Choose the finest materials, the most future-focused design goals and the most knowledgeable provider you can, and enjoy the results.