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Condo scene: Design considerations for sleek condo bathrooms


elegant bathroom

When designing a bathroom, it’s key to focus on relaxation rather than merely utilitarian purpose. Many designers look to hotel bathrooms and luxury spas as inspiration.

The Ensuite Escape

When people consider condo finishes, they often place the most emphasis on the kitchen. In a typically open concept condo, you will certainly spend a large portion of your time in the kitchen/family area; however, bathrooms are places we also spend a significant amount of time. Whether you’re soaking in the tub or applying your makeup, chances are you have ample time to take in your bathroom surroundings. With that in mind, here is a guide to the best bathrooms – ensuite or not.

With the increased availability of a wide assortment of amenities at home, bathrooms have become spas rather than places to use quickly and leave. Because of this, it’s key to focus on relaxation when designing a bathroom, rather than merely utilitarian purpose. Today, designers look to hotel bathrooms and luxury spas as inspirations.

In today’s fast-paced world, bringing a little spa energy to your condo bathroom can be a great comfort. If you are designing a new condo or bathroom, think of the design elements in a spa: Soft lighting (think installing dimmers on your halogens or bringing in lamps), calming colours (think wall treatments and tile choices) and a sense of luxury (think adding plush seating or stacks of rolled towels). Beyond that, let’s delve deeper into details.

The Floor

There are many materials to choose from when it comes to flooring. Consider convenience, slipperiness and design when choosing. Small tile mosaics are an on trend choice and today you can create many effects using these, including multi-colour and one-colour looks. Many designers use mosaics as accents for trim and inserts. One look I personally am a fan of is tiles that look like wood flooring, which creates a distinct look while providing the benefits of tile. Tile is durable, easy to clean and won’t be deteriorated by water unlike wood; however, I often see bathrooms with wood flooring as well.

You may want to think about subfloor heating, which can be a joy to wake up to during our winter months. Keep in mind that inserting hot water radiant heating is often not possible in condos, leaving you only with the option of electric radiant heating. Consider possible implications on your health when installing this.

elegant bathroom

Small tile mosaics are an on-trend choice.

Glass It

Glass tiles offer a clean, sleek look in any setting and may be found in various shapes, sizes and opacities. You can also find coloured glass tiles which, when well used, can be breathtaking. The best part about glass tiles is how easy they are to clean.

Many condo dwellers have installed rough stone tiles in bathrooms to create rock walls and, although this can create a natural earthy effect, these tiles are impossible to clean. I have also seen these used as kitchen backsplashes and that is even worse. I hate to think of the grease that must adhere to all that porous stone. If you are seeking a natural looking wall, another option is an unpainted concrete feature wall. This brings us to more on walls …

Don’t Be a Wallflower

White bathrooms are beautiful. Imagine white marble flooring, a deep white soaking tub surrounded by more white marble and a white vanity. Perhaps throw in some wainscoting. This is certainly a great look, but don’t think you need to stick to basics when choosing the wall coverings or colour of your bathroom.

Textured walls can create a sense of luxurious elegance — there are many contemporary options on the market and they are designed to be easy to clean. Ginger Atherton, author of Luxury Home Staging, advises if you do decide to go with one hue, a classic neutral like Mascarpone from Sherwin-Williams can do wonders. Atherton says if you opt for a pop of colour, tend towards softer shades to encourage relaxation.

Don’t Take It for Granite

Granite can be a great counter choice, but while it is lovely, it is certainly not the end all. This will be music to the ears of trendsetters and budgeters everywhere. Consider options like beige limestone, quartz, white marble or composite, all of which may change your entire look.

bathroom with wooded style

Use your sink to create a design statement.

That Sinking Feeling

Like other elements of décor, sinks have come a long way. Use them to create a design statement, or simply opt for something more classic. If this is a bathroom you will use often (such as a master ensuite, rather than a guest bathroom), don’t forget to think of the function of that sink.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when the faucet spout is too near the back of the sink bowl and your hands end up hitting the back of the sink bowl. Also annoying are sinks that create a splash. Elegantly attired dinner party guests certainly won’t appreciate that one, no matter how stylish the sink that soaked them is.

When looking at sink bowls don’t forget to note if the bowl is high or low (is it inset into the counter, or raised?). These days under-mounted sinks have given way to more industrial-looking sinks. Some condo developers have shown two taps on one large trough-like sink. This can be an interesting modern look.

Germaphobes and appreciators of convenience might enjoy a faucet that turns on when you touch it or one with a motion sensor. A faucet that creates a waterfall effect can also be pretty. When purchasing your faucet, first observe how the water comes out.

The Royal Flush

If budget is a concern (and let’s face it, it mostly is), you may think spending money on a Toto toilet is absurd. Those who want the ultimate no-expense-spared ensuite bathroom might purchase a Toto toilet that will have them clicking their heels in joy and exclaiming that there really is no place like home. These toilets can do many things and have an abundance of features, including heated seats.

Regardless of your budget, design is a factor when picking your toilet. Colour – bisque or white – is an important design choice, as is one-piece or two. Floating toilets are another option. These let you clean underneath the toilet and have the advantage of offering a clean look and wall-mounted flush plates which look modern and fresh.

Singing in the Rain

Here is one important – often overlooked – thing to consider when designing your shower. Rain heads are popular, but keep in mind that most women do not like it if there is only a rain head shower as it is difficult to shower under these without getting your hair wet. It may be easier to choose the faucets and jets before buying your condo so the builder can work your choices into construction. It may be costlier to make these decisions later as you don’t want to have to undo work that has already been done.

Rub a Dub Dub

Now to pick the tub. Built-in tubs are not currently on trend, nor are large corner whirlpools. The freestanding soaking tub is in its heyday and, if you go this route, think about the size and shape you want as well as whether or not you want air jets. Your options are unlimited, but you do get a great look with a large soaker.


Lighting will bring your ensuite together. A great hanging fixture will make the room feel less purpose-driven and more sophisticated. You might also opt for wall sconces which can be easier to clean and also add a soft touch. Under mounted lighting in the floor and under the sink and toilet can be another elegant lighting option. Whatever you do install, don’t forget dimmers to help promote sleep during middle of the night bathroom trips or allow you to relax while bathing.

Make an Entrance

For ensuite bathrooms in particular you will want to plan your entranceway. A master ensuite bathroom will be privately located within the master bedroom suite. Therefore why not consider a glass door. Anything from a French door variation to a sand-blasted glass door or opaque shower door would be stylish and appropriate. An embellished door to your ensuite is something you can even enjoy from your bedroom.


Rack ’em up. No, I’m not suggesting you add a billiards table to your ensuite bathroom – I’m talking about towels. One luxurious element you might consider adding to your condo ensuite bathroom is a heated towel rack. This can be a wonderful addition and can turn a grisly Monday in February into a slightly less grisly Monday in February. One underrated decision you will have to make is towel choice. Think plush and, if designing your bathroom to be spa-like, white, taupe or grey towels work well.

Another under-considered element is scent. Don’t forget to add candles to the mix in addition to luxurious scented bubble bath. Lavender can be a calming scent to bring into your bathroom. Nordstrom has many wonderful options including scents and candles from Jo Malone.

There are many things to ponder when designing condo bathrooms. Use this handy guide and your condo sense and you’re sure to design a Pinterest-worthy bathroom.

Marilyn Wilson has been selling real estate for more than 27 years and owns Marilyn Wilson Dream Properties Inc. Christie’s International Real Estate. Reach her through


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