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10 Bathrooms Design Risks – How To Break The “Rules” In A Way That Works

Welcome to another “Made it into the book but kinda got cut” blog segment – specifically about bathroom “rule breakers”. It’s about those creatives that said “yeah, we know what we are supposed to do when designing a bathroom” and then did whatever the hell they wanted, knocking it out of the park. They are seriously inspiring. So today I’ll show you some photos that are in the book by these creatives (comment if you like these kinds of posts!). But I’m writing specifically about “the rules” that were broken – to help inspire and empower you to break the rules, should you feel up for it. I’ll be honest that rule-breaking, when it comes to permanent finishes (tile, flooring, custom pieces), makes me VERY nervous and I’m far more restrained than I wish I was. So seeing rooms like these, proving that the risks are very much worth it, is something I NEED in order to muster up the bravery.

design by william hunter collective | styled by velinda hellen, erik kenneth staalberg, emily edith bowser, and julie rose | photo by sara ligorria-tramp

William Hunter’s work is throughout the book. Remember that house that we staged to sell in Eagle Rock, CA? Well, the reason we agreed to do that (beyond the great portfolio work) was to get our cameras on his rule-breaking because it was GOOD. This is their hall bathroom in a vintage bungalow house. He sunk in a farmhouse utility sink (so chunky), and then the simplest yet most genius move here is hanging the vintage trifold mirror over the installed more builder-grade mirror. Lastly, he did a more contemporary cut-out handle for the vanity I suppose with hopes of not adding more to the space, keeping it quiet. So we have unlikely styles mixed together, exciting decor, and an oversized sink. I just LOVE IT.

design by corbett tuck | styled by velinda hellen, erik kenneth staalberg, emily edith bowser, and julie rose | photo by sara ligorria-tramp

This is my best friend’s bathroom and it’s NUTS. Her best move by far is suspending that mirror in front of the asymmetrical window – thus balancing the space. Also, talk about some AWESOME natural light when getting ready in the morning.

A less risk-averse person might have either put the vanity on the wall to the right, made the vanity smaller (bummer), or maybe have made the window shorter so that the mirror was attached to the wall like the one on the right. All seem sad/wrong options after seeing how absolutely incredible it looks as is.

design by william hunter collective | styled by velinda hellen, erik kenneth staalberg, emily edith bowser, and julie rose | photo by sara ligorria-tramp

This is the bathroom from the opener shot – again by William Hunter: Let me go ahead and call out all the rules broken:
1. NOT a double vanity – GHAAST. Yes, this is the primary bathroom and he opted for a single off-center sink and countertop space versus shoving two small sinks in there or even just one but centered.
2. Floor to ceiling mirror behind the vanity – I almost stole this move for our primary bath and am kinda regretting not doing it right now. But Brian and Anne thought it was too contemporary for our house (I still don’t think so). But boy does it looks awesome.
3. Tiled Ceiling – So sick. This is partly so awesome because it’s arched and might not have had the same impact if there was a clear ceiling line. By arching the ceiling, tiling over it, and bringing the mirror up to the arch – it creates this incredible sense of space. William is an architect if you can’t tell. I proposed tiling our ceiling in our bathroom and they quoted an additional $5k in just tile labor to do it, so we opted out. HOT TIP: anything done on the ceiling takes a lot longer and therefore is a lot more expensive in labor costs.
4. Side niches and side sconces – Not a rule-breaking moment but I just want to call out those details that keeps the mirror view unobstructed and likely creates enough vanity light.
5. Also please note the chunky furniture feet on the vanity. I love that so much.

design by project m plus | styled by velinda hellen and emily edith bowser | photo by sara ligorria-tramp

Cleo Murnane of Project M Plus designed their small ADU with a separate toilet room (WC) – the door slid to cover either the shower room or the toilet room. At least one is always exposed! But they look so cool that it just adds to the visuals of the small space and makes it feel bigger. It’s all out on display which is definitely breaking the “hide the toilet” rule which is awesome. Please note that crazy rope light fixture hanging over the toilet. Love it.

design by ben medansky | styled by velinda hellen and erik kenneth staalberg | photo by sara ligorria-tramp

Speaking of bathrooms being on display, Ben Medansky, genius ceramicist, has a very open concept bathroom. Walls? Who needs them. I think the look of his floating toilet on the pony wall to his shower looks super cool. Also, how cool is it that the shower just opens up to an outdoor space? Brian and I are big on enclosed showers to stay warm but I can only imagine how awesome it is to shower on a hot LA summer day.

design by åsom home | styled by velinda hellen, emily edith bowser, and julie rose | photo by sara ligorria-tramp

My friend, Annie of Åsom Home forewent the wall in her bedroom suite for a slatted wall which provided light, created an architectural moment, and connected the two spaces.

design by åsom home | styled by velinda hellen, emily edith bowser, and julie rose | photo by sara ligorria-tramp

This is the powder bath of my friend Annie’s house and as you can probably tell the lady likes her patterned tile. I am here for it! But what is special and “rule-breaking” about this tile combo is that she used two bold patterns in one bathroom. I always preach to keep your permanent fixtures safe (like tile) and take risks on decor. Well, Annie makes a very good case against that advice if you are someone who really loves pattern and wants to “go for it” design-wise. These two work particularly well because they are within the same color palette but are different enough pattern-wise that they don’t blend together visually. It’s just so cool.

Oh and check out that dark blue stone! Such a risk and SO GOOD.

design by william hunter collective | styled by velinda hellen, erik kenneth staalberg, emily edith bowser, and julie rose | photo by sara ligorria-tramp

Wood flooring in a bathroom is definitely not the norm because you know, water. Take that up a notch by adding a clawfoot tub. But man, it’s so beautiful and looks so classic. Probably not a great kid’s bathroom option but aside from that, I’m a big fan. This is another William Hunter design so it’s no surprise it’s awesome and risky:)

design by sara ruffin costello | styled by velinda hellen and erik kenneth staalberg | photo by sara ligorria-tramp

No mirror over the vanity? When you have a cute window like this, why not enjoy it and just put a mirror to the side. I like that Sara Ruffin Costello chose to put up a long mirror so that whoever is using the bathroom can also do a quick outfit check. Basically, you don’t have to put your vanity against a wall just to have a mirror above it. Break the rules.

design and styled by emily edith bowser | photo by sara ligorria-tramp

Now, this isn’t technically a “rule that’s been broken,” but it’s an out-of-the-box idea that almost anyone (homeowner or renter) can do. The DIY master, Emily Bowser, decided to maximize her storage space by adding shelves in front of her window. While it may block out a little light, it looks so cute and will make your bathroom WAY more functional if you are lacking counter space. Bonus points for decanting in matching bottles:)

So there you have it. Some fun and rule-breaking ways to take some design risks if you are renovating. There should never be pressure to take a risk unless you want to because it can be an expensive regret. BUT it could also be a priceless reward:) Just try not to stress too much and have fun (she whispers to herself). xx

Opener Image Credits: Design by William Hunter Collective | Styled by Velinda Hellen,
Erik Kenneth Staalberg, Emily Edith Bowser, and Julie Rose | Photos by Sara Ligorria-Tramp

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paula mills
4 days ago

Love these kinds of posts! and enjoyed your segment yesterday on GMA. Wish you still had a show on HGTV even though you probably don’t wish that!

3 days ago
Reply to  paula mills

Yes, loved the GMA segment (picked up my copy of your book from our local library yesterday).

3 days ago
Reply to  Kj

Oh thank you for the link Kj!!! I tried googling it yesterday but without success…. What a great and engaging segment – you are so fun and confident there, Em! Huge cudos!! (I would have rather died..) And informative too! LOVED all the shoutouts to the farmhouse of course 😉

🥰 Rusty
3 days ago
Reply to  paula mills

Me too!! And I’m in Australia…I googled it!😏

3 days ago

Even though the shelves in front of the window look interesting, the skin care products are generally sensitive to sun exposure. Just something to think about.

3 days ago
Reply to  Nataša

Emily Bowser’s window was an *interior* window in her apartment, so there wasn’t really outside sun exposure coming directly through that particular set of skin care products

3 days ago

I cannot stress enough how much I DO NOT want my toilet or shower on display at all times.

3 days ago

I love these book segments! Learning a lot.
I hate that sloppy chunky rope with the light bulb in that one shot. I rarely use the word “hate” – it’s just decor. But I keep wanting to reach through the photo and FIX it! Haha

3 days ago

I did something that I thought was super wild on a recent flip and used 3 (!) Different kinds of tile in one tiny bathroom. It became the standout room in the house and it was just gosh darn exciting! Yay for breaking the rules!

3 days ago
Reply to  Kate

Oh its gorgeous Kate!!! SUCH a good combo!!!

3 days ago
Reply to  Kate

This is so pretty – thanks for sharing!

It would be awesome to get a post on reader’s remodels that might not be as designer-y, but still cool and attainable for folks.

3 days ago

Love this post but can’t get past the hook that the mirror is hanging from in the first example. Ruins the room for me. Mirror over mirror is very cool but there are about a million more elegant/permanent-looking ways to do it. That one choice makes me question the rest of the design, rather than appreciating it fully as I might otherwise.

3 days ago
Reply to  Shannon

Yes these are interesting but they do evoke some reactions… find the built in aspect of the Corbett Tuck mirror over the window quite fussy. Why not really lean into the asymmetry just have one large simple mirror over the right hand side sink and no built in mirror over the left window? Put a climbing plant/ container tree and a maybe a small leaning vintage mirror in the left window, use that sink for tooth brushing and face washing and enjoy the vacation from a big mirror… I guess mine is a more more casual take…. The William Hunter left side sink situation feels cramped to me… I feel crammed into the corner by the towel and light just looking at it. For a few of these I want to go full Beata Heuman: the Asom home mixed tiles are fabulous, such a wonderful color and pattern story, and I crave a fabric skirt in a wild ass complimenting pattern to cover that plumbing.

Vicki Williams
3 days ago
Reply to  mouseface

On the other hand I loved, loved the matching mirror over the window. Genius! I’m a designer And hope I WOULD HAVE THOUGHT OF IT! OOPS ON THE CAPS.

3 days ago

I’m here for these posts! Rule breakers, rule followers, pattern crushers, layout masters, creative thinkers, diyers, from drab to styled, rental projects to full reno, and of course MOTO’s; Keep ‘EM coming!

3 days ago

The shelves in front of the window look beautiful, but doesn’t sunlight ruin all those skincare products?

3 days ago
Reply to  Annie

No, it’s an interior window

3 days ago

So many amazing ideas in this post. That bathroom with the mirror floating over the window is the stuff dreams are made of.

3 days ago

Love this post! Even though I wouldn’t make all these choices for my clients, I think it’s important for houses to have character, reveal surprises, be idiosyncratic. Otherwise, they begin to all look the same, or can get stuck being defined by the ‘rules’ of a particular era. Here’s to (calculated) risks and (thoughtfully) broken rules!

3 days ago

These bathrooms are so inspiring and I’m a newfound William Hunter fan!

blue (formerly anon)
3 days ago

How do they get the photo of the very large (floor to ceiling) mirror without the camera/photographer in it? (I’m going to be massively disappointed if it’s “photoshop”.)

3 days ago

The photographer is in the other room beyond the blue door frame, holding the camera in the doorway at the height of the vanity so that the arm and camera are hidden in the reflection. At least that is what I would have done. No photoshop necessary!

🥰 Rusty
3 days ago

Those striped tiles in your friend Annie’s house are actually hexagon tiles! Imagine how crazy-patterned someone could be playing with that!?!🤩

“She whispers to herself.” Hehe🙂

Yeah, I like these kind of posts. 👍🙂 Jess has kinda done a couple, but not as zoned in as this. I prefer this focus.

3 days ago

I love seeing creativity in action and getting ideas…keep these kinds of posts coming!

3 days ago

Loved these pics and design choices!!!!!!!

3 days ago

I love to see creative ideas that manage to be interesting, unusual and successful. So much good stuff out there, keep it coming!

3 days ago

I felt a big unclenching after seeing this post, a letting go of expectations and rules. I feel like I can breathe and not worry if I’m doing the right thing. I’m doing the thing, right, wrong or indifferent to it as anyone else might think it. In conclusion, thank you. Amen.

3 days ago

I am dying to pluck my eyebrows at the mirror in front of the window! I just hope that window overlooks a private yard.

The “full length” mirror almost entirely obstructed on the bottom half by the vanity does nothing for me. The peek of mirror underneath just seems meaningless and adds visual clutter. I don’t get that detail. The tiled barrel arch is the stuff of dreams, though!

Do NOT store your skin care in direct sunlight!

3 days ago

Love these posts! We’re working through all the many decisions you make in a renovation and I love seeing where we can break the rules. Keep ’em coming!

3 days ago

I love the off-set sink! We have one in our 1963 ranch and it is so functional and practical. Will do the same in our next house, esp. since you showed it can look really great!

3 days ago

The “never exposed toilet” is a rule that should NEVER be broken.

3 days ago

The bathroom with a mirror over the window looks like a quirky robot face with an off-center vase nose. I can’t unsee it! ☺️

🥰 Rusty
3 days ago
Reply to  Leah


3 days ago

I love these posts! So many interesting ideas.

Roberta Davis
2 days ago

I do like these kinds of posts, Emily! You can show so many good ideas without having to do the whole project. Gives me lots of inspiration!

1 day ago

In the bathroom designed by Corbett Tuck, the best friend’s bathroom, does anyone know what the floor material is? I don’t see any grout lines, which I love! Could it be micro cement?

1 day ago

I received my book and love the layout (and everything else). I would love to know the names of 2 colors – the blue/gray on the title page and the green on the contents page. I would like to find paint in those colors if possible. Thanks in advance!!

6 hours ago

That deep sink! Tucking that into my remodel list. I love that idea for our hall bath that functions as utility sink when I’m cleaning house and is the closest bath to my art studio.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
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