Caitlin Wilson’s 5 tips for remodeling a bathroom

Welcome to Join the revivalwhere we follow designers through the renovation and decoration of historic homes. In our first ever Join the revival series, designer Caitlin Wilson invites us into her 1920s Georgian home in Dallas’ Highland Park as she recreates it for modern living.

I am often surprised by the number of people who overlook their bathrooms when decorating their homes. To me, they make for some of the most interesting design choices! Intricate mosaic tiles, antique brass fixtures, well-designed cabinetry: there’s no shortage of exciting details when planning a bathroom renovation. In the bathroom, the order in which you make these decisions is more important than anything else.

In this house we have five bathrooms, so I’ve had lots of learning opportunities. Here are a few insider bathroom design tips that I gleaned from all of these rooms.

Caitlin Wilson’s bathroom remodeling tips

Be ready to choose your inventory.

First things first: Before you do anything else, choose your fixtures—the permanent parts of a bathroom that need to be touched, like the bathtub, toilet, sinks, and faucets. Why? Because your builder needs to know which valves to buy to accommodate your fixtures. Once you’ve chosen, you’re committed. For me, it was a lot of pressure early in the process.

In a showroom, you can easily be convinced that you should buy all the furniture for your home from the same supplier. The truth is, you don’t have to choose just one. There are plenty of options out there, but as long as you use the same supplier for each bathroom, you won’t drive your builder crazy.

Caitlin Wilson

Caitlin Wilson’s bathroom inspiration.

Katie Nixon

Use finishes to establish your style.

Do you want your bathroom to feel casual or formal? Modern or traditional? Whether you go with chrome, nickel, oil-rubbed bronze, or brass, the finish you choose goes a long way toward establishing the room’s aesthetic. I love how the Waterworks porcelain handles feel old fashioned – fitting for our home which was originally built in 1920.

I chose a few different finishes throughout our bathrooms, but mostly went with unvarnished brass and polished nickel. A tip: If you struggle with the consistency, you can almost always count on polished nickel; gold is not created equal.

Consider the art of cabinetmaking.

I definitely feel that you can overthink cabinetry. When we built our first home, we added a closet space to each. single. thing. I had custom cabinets and drawers everywhere. I learned my lesson about that – sometimes when there are too many built-in features, it takes away the warmth and character.

In this house, I didn’t use as many built-ins because I wanted to give space to collect and layer antiques. The bathrooms, however, were places where I could get very involved in cabinet work. In the girls’ bathroom, I built a scallop into the cabinet to give it a French, antique feel. In the baby’s bathroom, I added a tall cabinet for storage and a trellis so it feels like a charming piece of furniture rather than a solid cabinet.

caitlin wilson bathroom

The light blue and white marble floor in Caitlin Wilson’s bathroom adds visual interest to the space.

Katie Nixon

Don’t overlook the mirror.

Mirrors are underrated! Just as finishes can set the tone for a room, mirrors are an opportunity to make a statement. It is not necessary to choose a mirror that matches your vanity. Whether you’re customizing your mirror or shopping for an antique, try to find a mirror that’s the same width as your vanity. If they don’t match perfectly, that’s OK; aim for a mirror that is about 75 percent as wide. As for height, the higher the better.

The wallpaper is the great unifier.

Early on, I ordered a custom tub, painted in my favorite periwinkle blue. It was beautiful and perfect and I had no doubt it would be piresistance in our girls bathroom. Three months after I ordered it, I found a slab of pink marble that I couldn’t live without.

I wasn’t going to use multiple colors in one room, but how could I choose between marble and this beautiful bathtub? Wallpaper to the rescue! By choosing a pattern that pulled the two colors together, I didn’t have to choose.

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