Welcome to Second Nature, a Q+A series with Jute founder, Ali Davin, that explores all things healthy living, with a fond emphasis on that thing she does best—interior design.
Kitchens tend to get all the attention, but the bathroom is one of the hardest-working spaces in your home. Serene yet practical, luxe yet utilitarian, it’s a small room with a big emphasis on function.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to bathroom design—the perfect bathroom is the one that takes all of your personal preferences into account. Here’s what to consider when you’re ready to remodel.
You really have to take your personal habits into account. I’ve found that people are way more particular about their bathrooms than their kitchens, which is funny because it’s a much smaller space and less of an investment. But everyone uses the bathroom, and not everyone uses their kitchen. So to start, we ask people really personal questions.
Do you use an electric toothbrush? Are you and your partner in the bathroom at the same time? How much separation do you need from your partner? Do you read in the loo? What tools do you use to style your hair? Do you do your makeup in the bathroom? Do you like to take baths? How do you feel about tile grout and/or shower cleanliness? People have very specific answers to every single question we ask.
It’s all about those personal preferences and habits. Thankfully there are less design rules for the bathroom, versus elsewhere in the house. It doesn’t matter if everything matches. You can mix different hardware metals and that’s ok, because it just needs to be utilitarian. The ergonomics trump everything.
People are usually particular about storage, so we customize the vanity based on what they own and how they use the space. For example, if you do your makeup at the vanity, we’ll make sure there’s good natural light as well as flattering lighting, like sconces. If you use multiple hair tools, we make sure there are plenty of electrical outlets. A lot of people want a separate space from their partner, so we’ll do countertops that don’t touch or completely separate vanities. For sinks, we use integrated stone or porcelain. We rarely do medicine cabinets—they’re old-school and most people don’t want them, but if we do, it’s a custom niche in the wall with a frame and door. The mirror can come from anywhere—it doesn’t have to be specifically made for a bathroom.
Showers are another key part. Some people are very particular about plumbing fixtures—we’ll often put rainfall, wall, and hand showers in. We frequently get asked for showers that are large enough for two. Lots of people don’t like grout because it can get moldy, so we usually do slab showers made from limestone, travertine, marble, or quartzite. We do, however, recommend tile for the floor of a shower, because the pitch you have to create for the water to go down the drain is harder to do with a slab. People love built-in niches to hold all of their bath products. For a while, steam showers were a thing, but nobody wants them anymore. I personally love a bench in the shower, but no one wants those anymore either.
There’s a trend toward bathrooms feeling like actual rooms, which is the way people did it a long time ago. We’re making them bigger, often taking square footage from other rooms in the house. The majority of the time, what people want to do in their bathrooms can’t be accommodated within the current size.
We do that through soft goods, like a vintage wool rug. We actually do hardwood floors in baths in almost all of our projects—with a good sealant, you don’t have to worry about ruining it. People care a lot about linens, like robes and towels. We’ll use window treatments to soften the hard surfaces, versus for privacy—surprisingly, we’ve found that’s not so important to people. And we frequently put wallpaper in powder rooms but not so much in main bathrooms.
We stay out of the toilet game. We don’t tell people what kind to buy. We determine where it goes—plumbing is easy to move but sewer lines are not. Then we ask people to go out and find the one that they want.
Not everything has to match—it just needs to play off of each other.