Evoking the Past

Located off of the main entrance in a lake house, this powder room has a low-key feel. Designer Dave Heigl used a distressed cherry cabinet with a zinc countertop and rounded backsplash to evoke the spirit of an old-fashioned washstand. A Waterworks vessel sink is filled by a wall-mounted brushed nickel faucet; over time, the zinc counter will develop a deep patina.

The earliest powder rooms didn't have sinks or even a commode. Their sole purpose was to provide a place for servants to add talcum powder to the white wigs of respectable men. But even though the hairpieces of the 18th century have long ago fallen by the wayside, the powder room (which now, thankfully, includes indoor plumbing) remains an indispensable place to freshen up.

While a first-floor WC was a rarity in the 1880s, seen only in the wealthiest homes, by the 1930s, powder rooms as we know them could be found in many houses of the day. Still, it wasn't until the mid-20th century that the amenity became standard fare in suburbia.

Powder rooms are generally situated near a home's public rooms (the foyer, the living and dining rooms) as a convenience to guests. As a result, these half baths are now one of the most frequently remodeled and updated rooms in the house, according to a recent survey by Moen, Inc.—and adding one to an existing home can increase resale value by as much as $20,000. Because they're so much on display, powder rooms are often treated today as small showplaces and decked out with sculptural sinks, handcrafted fittings, and decorative tile or paneling. After all, given their small scale, they offer a good opportunity to make a big style statement without a huge outlay of cash. But before you go investing in that hand-hammered copper sink or inlaid cherry vanity, here are some things to consider.
Ask TOH users about Small Bathrooms

Contribute to This Story Below