Layout Pointers
Traditionally the sink is the focal point, and the toilet is either placed next to it, where it can't be seen when the door's ajar, or on another wall entirely, where it's even less conspicuous. If space allows, using a vanity that resembles a dresser or sideboard can give the room a handsome, furnished look that ties to other rooms in the house. In a small space, a pedestal, console, corner, or wall-mounted sink can eke out a few extra inches, as can a round toilet, rather than one with an oval bowl.

If there's no squeeze on square footage, consider hiding the toilet in a niche created by a half wall far from the basin.

Materials and Finishes
Try to think outside the traditional bathroom box; the powder room should look more like a decorated room than a utilitarian WC. "It's one of the rooms that guests use the most, so it's worth spending some money on," says Illinois-based designer Mary Lou Kalmus. Kalmus suggests choosing one special item to work around. "It can be anything from a vessel sink to an antique mirror," she says. Emphasize architectural detail by carrying molding treatments and wall paneling from surrounding spaces into the room. Spring for hardwood, stone, or mosaic-tile floors, and give the walls rich color and/or pattern. A freestanding table near the sink is an attractive way to display tissues and hand towels.

Many powder rooms lack natural light, and get much of their use at night, so properly placed lighting is key. Designers often rely on wall sconces flanking the mirror to cast flattering, shadow-free task light. But it's good to have overhead ambient light as well, whether in the form of a pendant lamp or chandelier, or even a skylight to brighten the room during the day. Putting all light sources on dimmers allows you to modulate the glow for evening.

Ask TOH users about Small Bathrooms

Contribute to This Story Below