Design Notes Archive

Renovating Tips and Tricks

Renovating Tips and Tricks

I’m in the midst of renovating the master bathroom in my new (old) house and given my career path, this should be a seamless affair but when it comes to renovating, nothing is without a surprise or two. I’ve been doing my research and through a bit of trial and error, here are a few lessons I’ve learnt along the way:

Lighting: Multiple sources are the most flattering and effective, even in a smaller powder room. So in addition to the overhead light try flanking the washstand with sconces. The ideal height is for the center of the light to be 66” from the floor. Install separate switches for controlling different sources and always, no matter what room it is, ensure every light is on a dimmer.

Paint: Bathrooms need paint that can stand up to moisture so durability is key but also think about the finish. To accentuate architectural features, give doors, molding and millwork one level of sheen and walls another. Glossy paint highlights imperfections so try satin on the walls and semi-gloss on the trim.

Recessing: Don’t forget about the space between your walls! Flat screen televisions are so thin these days, consider recessing one into the wall and then covering with a two-way mirror. It will look like a regular mirror when the set is turned off while allowing a clear view when it’s on. If you’re installing new tile in the shower, recessing an alcove into the wall for shampoo and accoutrement is a space saving alternative to mounting an external shelf. I’m even attempting to recess the radiators!

Tile: When only partially tiling the walls, ensure the tile is high enough to provide a backsplash for the washbasin but not so high that it cuts the room in half. Depending on the height of your ceiling, somewhere between 36” – 41” from the floor is generally a good way to go. Use a chair or pencil rail to finish it off.

Windows: For a traditional look, consider wooden louvre shutters that have separate tilting rods for the top and bottom. You can close the lower half for privacy while letting light pour in through the top.

Monika, Editor, Design Notes

PS - Have you had your own "I wish someone had told me that" moment? I'd love to hear from you! Send your tips to me at

Photographs © Courtney Banton, James Michael Howards