Q&A: Daun Curry on how to design your dream bathroom, big or small

Oct 15, 2020

With a passion for both fashion and interiors, Daun Curry brings a rich background to her decorating clients. A Parsons School of Design graduate, she freelanced as a stylist before opening her own high-end New York design firm in 2009. Her homes, from beach getaways in California to penthouses in Manhattan, are known for practicality and livability as well as their individual style. In bathrooms, Curry, who is originally from Florida, incorporates unusual finishes and textures and balances light and shade.

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. She and weekly guests, whether designer Michael S. Smith, Martha Stewart, Marie Kondo, the Property Brothers or Amy Astley, editor-in-chief of Architectural Digest, answer your decorating, design and decluttering questions. Jura is always happy to whip out her paint chips, track down a hard-to-find piece of furniture or offer her seasoned advice on practical living and organizing. For more than 20 years, our Thursday Q&A has been an online conversation about the best way to make your home comfortable, stylish and fun. We invite you to submit questions and share your own great tips, ideas and opinions.

Good morning everyone. Designer Daun Curry is here to answer your questions about getting your dream bathroom, whether it's large or small. Daun's Instagram feed has some gorgeous examples of baths. I am partial to pale pink marble. Let's chat.

A big hello from New York - Isn’t it amazing that we can all connect on this platform?! A huge thank you to Jura and the Washington Post for having me - I’m thrilled to be here today and to answer all of your questions about bathroom design. As a true Taurus woman, I love long soaks in my bath, steamy showers and anything spa-centric. Bathroom design is extremely important to me as the bathroom is a place of self-care, a place to recharge and renew.  The bathroom should always be functional and beautiful. Thank you to everyone that is here with us today - I’m super excited to answer all of your questions.

What are your tips for designing very small bathrooms?

Hello and thank you for your question! The first thing to think about is what are your absolute needs for function. Make a list and I suggest making the list as you go through your daily routine. One thing that would really help a small space is considering if you truly need and will use a bathtub, this can be a huge space saver! Medicine cabinets are great for storage and also vertical storage on walls. Keep the color palette light and bright to open up the room and keep everything feeling fresh

Our upstairs bathroom has a wooden floor. This seems like ... a terrible idea? Especially with children! Am I missing something? We have to reno it anyway, including replacing the walls (the entire upstairs is currently not habitable, long story). My gut says to tile the floor but what's your opinion? It's real wood, house was built in 1920.

Great question! I do love the beauty of a natural wood floor and it sounds like a charming home with some nice old details. However, your gut is correct! I would not recommend wood floors in a bathroom - especially one that children use. They are a breading ground for bacteria and frankly unsanitary for that application. Tile (porcelain or marble) is the way to go, it's easy to clean and will be durable and beautiful - good luck with your renovation! 

We need to replace the floor tile in our main bathroom, and I have fallen in love with a marble tile. I'm worried that the marble will be hard to care for and will look stained or worn quickly. (Cost isn't the concern since it's only 30 sq. ft.) Do you have any recommendations for caring for marble, or should I just try to find a porcelain that looks like it?

Marble and natural stone always top my list because of their timeless beauty, but there always needs to be a balance between beauty and durability. You can seal marble but over time it will show wear and patina, which in my opinion is a part of the beauty. Porcelain is a great option and there are so many wonderful products out there now. One of my favorite vendors for porcelain is Porcelanosa - good luck!

What are some unusual accessories that would make a small bathroom more interesting? Our guest bathroom has a tub, one-sink vanity, and toilet. There is room on the vanity to add something in addition to soap and a tissue box, but I am stymied at what else to put there. Color scheme is soft grays on floor and walls and a deeper gray shower curtain with chrome fixtures and a mirror framed in silver.

I love adding some warmth and dimension with accessories in the bathroom. Think of accessories that are not necessarily meant for a bathroom. Some of my favorite accessories for a bathroom are plants, trays, beautiful tissue box, hermes dishes as catchalls (they carry porcelain coasters and soy dishes that are under $150), pretty soaps and toiletries, natural elements like coral and shells, candles and luxury linens.

Hi! We are painting are bathroom, and want a subtle light greyish blueish color, preferably Behr brand. And recs?

Hi, I'm not that farmiliar with the Behr brand but I love Benjamin Moore and my favorites are Grey Owl, Horizon, Revere Pewter and Rodeo.

How do you choose whether a bathroom should have lighter surfaces or should have a darker theme? Does light vs. dark make a space seem bigger than the other?

Light tends to feel fresh and clean whereas a darker bathroom has a moody, sexy vibe - it just depends on what you are going for. Powder rooms are a great candidate for a dark moody palette! 

Can you discuss your approach to lighting in bathrooms?

Layered lighting is very important in the bathroom - think highhats, sconces, and decorative fixtures all in the same bathroom. Everything should be on separate switches and always on dimmers :-)

Hi! If you're redecorating on a budget, what changes would you suggest tackling first? / Which changes are likely to make the biggest impact?

Paint goes a long way on a budget! A fresh coat of paint on cabinets, walls, ceiling and trim will do a lot to freshen the entire space.

What if you love color in the bath? I would love to design my entire bathroom in a pale blue marble... how can I make sure it will not overwhelm the space?

Thank you for your question. I also love color! This idea sounds gorgeous to me and I don't think it will overwhelm. One of my favorite pale blue marbles is called Mediterranean Blue. Take time to go to the stoneyard and tape out what cuts you want. Think about what details you want - is there an opportunity to bookmatch anywhere? You may have to purchase more material to ensure your layout is cohesive and fully thought out, but it is well worth the cost. Natural stonework elevates any interior and easily lasts for years.

Is a powder room just the same as a half-bathroom, or what?

A Powder Room is a bathroom for guests and is typically a half-bath where the design approach is more decorative.

I found a honed marble I love (slab size 24x48) and want to use it on the walls in my bathroom, but afraid it’s too large for the size of the space (7’x12’x10’h). Do you think the slabs will look like they don’t belong in such a small space? If not, should it go throughout the bathroom or just keep it to the shower area? Thanks!

Half the battle is finding a material you love! I think go as large as you can - it always feels luxurious to have large cuts of stone.

My bathroom is a very tiny 1930s bathroom and it's going to stay very tiny. But I am re-doing it and would like to put in a cabinet sink with storage, but everything I find that I like is too big. A friend said to look for a piece of vintage furniture that can be fitted for sink--like an old washstand or side table. Have you ever done this? Is it difficult?

I have never done it, but have seen it done and think this could be a great fit for your 1930's bathroom. It brings in a bit of old world nostalgia. The typical height for a bathroom vanity is 34"-36" so I would look for pieces around that height and be sure you coordinate with your contractor on sizing before you purchase.

What are the design considerations when weighing the use of large format vs. smaller format tiles?

The size of the bathroom is definitely a consideration but you can use large and small format tiles in the same bathroom. Shower floors need small tiles for the slip factor and I love large format on walls and main floor areas

How do you choose a bathtub? What are the benefits of a freestanding tub vs. a built-in? I love freestanding tubs but I always worry about the potential mess!

If you have the space for a freestanding tub, I think it's a beautiful look and far outweighs a little water on the floor :-)

I'm about to redo my small (7 x 12) bathroom, replacing the old tub with a walk-in shower. It's a mid-fifties house. I keep coming back to tiling the enclosure with subway tiles. Do you have any suggestions for something more original?

Hi and thank you for the question. Subway tile is always timeless but I hear you on the originality factor. I would try Cle Tile and Waterworks as sources, both have beautiful options that are a little more stylized. Good luck!

I realize this is off topic, but thank you for the article on maximism. I have a house full of objects and textiles that I love and celebrate. I'm glad to see my style aesthetic finally getting some love.

Thank you so much for the comment! I am happy that you love your home and your objects - that is what it is all about! 

Do you tend to opt for certain finish options time and time again? I know there are a lot of trend-driven fixture finishes like black chrome that are en vogue at the moment, but I'm worried that will eventually date my bathroom.

wonderful question! It is hard sometimes to be on trend and timeless at the same time. My advice is to go for what your love. A well thought out metal finish throughout the bathroom can really elevate the look. Just be sure to go for it all the way, all plumbing fixtures, hardware and accessories in the same finish. 

There is a simple mirrored medicine cabinet over my sink. How difficult is it to replace the mirror part with something that has a frame while keeping the storage behind it? I see a lot of YouTubers hanging a normal / flat mirror in a bathroom above the sink, but I really need the storage so that's not an option for me.

Storage is essential in a bathroom to avoid clutter for sure. I would recommend simply replacing the entire medicine cabinet with something you love. Restoration Hardware has a variety of options. Happy hunting! 

I am 66, live alone in a small single story, with one very small full bathroom. (And a powder room in the unfinished basement). I would like to get rid of the bathtub and have just a large shower. A lot of the houses in my area sell to seniors, or young singles and couples. In fact, I myself downsized to this house. At one time, in the 1950's, these were considered family homes, but families want bigger houses now. I plan to live here at least 10 more years. Please, give me permission to have a house with no bathtub.

Hello and thank you for your question. I not only give you permission to not have a bathtub but in fact, this is a trending design choice. There is a growing consensus that bathtubs are passe. 

My husband and I bought a 50yo condo here in Seattle last year and we expect to live in it for 5-10 yrs before reselling. The bathrooms are cramped and dated (think dark wood and harvest-gold tile). We don't have a huge remodel budget, nor do we have much space to play with, but we are trying to think creatively about what will a) make our experience more pleasant, and b) be worthwhile for resale. Our master bath has a weird layout with just a single vanity, standing shower, and the bedroom closets. (Only way to expand the footprint would be to sacrifice a closet.) Our guest bath is a tiny galley, but I don't want to get rid of the tub - hot baths are what get me through the Seattle winters. If it were your house, where would you focus your energies? What's worth splurging on and what's not? (Wall-mounted toilets, vanities? Shower-to-tub conversion? Putting a double vanity in the master closet and trying to build closet space elsewhere?) My husband worries that we'll spend a lot of money and end up with something that doesn't feel that much improved. What's the best bang for our buck?

Hello and thank you for your question. If you are viewing this as an investment, keep everything white and fresh and don't get too decorative. I do think that people look for a double vanity in the master bathroom so that would be a great investment. I would not suggest wall mounted toilets as they are very specific and not for everyone. Good luck!

Thank you for answering my question and all these informative answers!

I've got to run now but that was great fun! Thank you everyone for your questions and for joining us. And of course a HUGE thank you to Jura and the Washington Post for having me! Have a blessed day everyone! 

I love that Daun has given us all permission to dump our bath tubs. This chat is full of great tips so it will be one to refer back to. Thanks a lot for being here Daun. Next week Robin Wilson will be here to talk about wellness and health in your design choices. A really great topic and you can post your questions right here now.

Be well everyone.

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Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily Twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering and organizing.

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