What to Consider When Remodeling a Bathroom

Harrell Design + Build Designer Sheila Ward Hesting has updated a bathroom or two in her time. As a designer, she asks a lot of questions, diving deep to gain clarity around how her clients live and use the spaces in their homes.

“One of the things I say most is, ‘Tell me more about that,’” Sheila confides. Getting granular about the details is a core competency of any design professional. “I always talk function first, then move to the materials, colors, and plumbing fixtures.”

Jumping straight into the aesthetic aspect of a remodel is exciting but digging into the functional details is the first step that informs the result.

In this article, Sheila shares the primary things to consider when undertaking a bathroom remodel.

Who will be using the bathroom?

Sheila says the first item to consider is who will be the primary user(s) of the new bathroom.

Will it be children, and, if so, how many at a time? Is it the main bathroom to be used by the primary homeowners? Are you planning the new space for guest use? Will the redesign be for seniors or for those with different ability levels? Along with who will be using the updated bathroom, accessibility should be taken into account.

“A bathroom may be used by young children today, but in a few years when they are older, individual privacy will be in high demand,” Sheila shares, noting that how a bathroom will be used today may very well have different design and functional concerns in the future.

How do you want the new bathroom to function?

Will the bathroom serve as a powder room only (a toilet and sink), or does it need to include bathing facilities? Depending upon the individual users, will those people want (and use) a shower, a shower/tub combination, or a separate spacious shower and separate jetted bathtub?

Many homeowners believe that having a spa tub in the main bath is a must for future resale or that installing a luxurious bathtub will encourage them to use it, even if they aren’t typically bath takers.
But in reality, says Sheila, that is not the case. Sheila recalls hearing in one of her design classes, that the actual number of times a homeowner uses an indoor spa bathtub is only seven(!) in the course of their ownership! Think carefully whether you really need and will use a spa bathtub.

“I have discovered after interviewing some clients that an outdoor hot tub can be a much better (and more fun!) option for a family than a jetted spa tub inside the bathroom.”

Another important consideration is whether the functionality that homeowners desire in their remodeled bathroom can be achieved in the existing space. If not, can the components be reconfigured or will additional square footage be needed?

Lighting and Ventilation

The different times of day family members or guests will use the bathroom also comes into play. Some homeowners are up early, getting ready before the sun rises. Others like to bathe in the evening.

Dimmable lights create a relaxing retreat. Lighting that minimizes shadows at a mirror is ideal for grooming and applying makeup. Toe kick lighting, placed in the recess at the base of the cabinets, provides a subtle glow that is great for late-night bathroom visits.

Natural light and ventilation are other significant considerations. Window size and placement should also be considered. Large, low windows can reduce privacy, especially at night. Some homes offer lovely views and privacy, but many homes have nearby neighbors. One solution to this issue could be installing electrically activated “smart glass” that becomes frosted with the flick of a switch.

“We can achieve a well-lit bathroom by placing windows up high or by using opaque glass.” Sheila explains that talking through the details with homeowners helps her arrive at the best option to fit their family’s lifestyle.

There are also many lighted mirrors on the market today that function as mirror and lighting in one product. Additionally, there are products with an integrated TV in the mirror that can eliminate the need for a wall-mounted television.

Storage & Security

Each person has distinct needs when it comes to how they use a space. Storage plays a prominent role for most homeowners. Walking through each person’s use of grooming appliances such as electric razors, hair driers, flat irons, and electric toothbrushes is a guide toward designing a storage solution that meets their needs.

Security is another aspect of storage that homeowners often need but may not know the available options. Medicine cabinets with internal lock boxes (and refrigerator function) and cabinets with locking drawers keep medications secure and out of the reach of small children.

Advanced High-Tech Plumbing Fixtures

There are also a plethora of advanced plumbing fixtures to consider. Electronic keypads can control the elements of water, steam, lighting, and music to provide a multi-sensory showering experience. Customized selections such as rain heads, body sprays, and spa-like hydrotherapy to music speakers, steam, and chromatherapy are controlled by a simple touchscreen interface. Many toilet manufacturers offer washlet, or “bidet-type” toilet seats with controls for water spray, heated seating, and even sensors for raising the toilet seat, or turning on a night light. At the vanity sink, touchless faucets are becoming more normal in the home. Be sure to inquire about the many advancements in bathroom technology available today.


People have very different requirements for the desired warmth of a bathroom, so heating plays a critical role in designing an updated space. “Some like it hot,” while others prefer a cooler environment. Heating needs will also vary by season.

Radiant heated flooring (which can be electric or hydraulic) is a luxurious way to warm a bathroom however other homeowners may prefer a combination light/heater exhaust fan.

Sheila stresses that only after she has a detailed understanding of the new bathroom’s who, when and how, does the conversation turns to aesthetics.

There is a lot to consider when undertaking a bathroom remodel. Let Harrell Design + Build’s award-winning designers unearth all the essential details that play into creating your beautifully functional space.

We invite you to schedule a complimentary discussion with one of our experienced designers.

Or attend one of our virtual workshops to learn more about the Harrell Design + Build Design + Build experience.

As a single source from conception through construction, Harrell Design + Build provides clients with unmatched service, convenience, and quality. Working as a team, our Design + Build process can help you embrace your aesthetic, make the most of your resources, and create quality spaces that fit the unique way that you live.

Woman Founded and 100% Employee-Owned, Harrell Design + Build has created distinctive homes in Silicon Valley and on the mid-Peninsula since 1985. Our Design + Build Team is here to help you reimagine your home inside and out.