• "We've been doing a lot of furniture-type vanities and sinks," he said. These decorative cabinets might be mission, cottage or European style. "They come in a vast range of prices, and some are quite cost-effective focal-point pieces."

• A tub is no longer always an essential element of a master bathroom. "More people are getting away from that unless they use the tub frequently," he said. "They can take that square footage and reallocate it for storage, small pieces of seating, or a dressing-and-makeup table."

• Because tile usually stays in place for at least 15 years or more, he prefers to use timeless, neutral colors: ecru, ivory, honey, beige, straw, gray. You can punch the visual interest with mosaic, metal or glass accents. Or "you can create a lot of drama and color in a bathroom with paper."

Tan Nguyen

Create a spa feel using natural materials such as stone or wood. "I like to frame those, and bring them into the bath environment somehow," he said. "They create a feeling of warmth."

• Carve a small niche into the wall between studs, where you can display art objects, flowers or other pieces of nature.


• Stainless steel washbasins are "durable, light and inexpensive."

• Putting the vanity on legs -- leaving eight inches of space below the cabinet and the floor -- provides the illusion of more space.

• "Use a cloth shower curtain [rather than vinyl] that you can throw in the laundry."

• Save money by using salvage tile or even large-format floor tile. Design a fun pattern, or invest in more expensive tile just as an accent.


• "I love using materials in bathrooms that keep them maintenance free," such as tile wainscoting.

• Make sure there is plenty of light on the sides of the face as well as above the mirror.

• "I prefer vanity cabinets [to pedestal sinks] if space is large enough, and I prefer vanities that look like furniture, as opposed to looking like your kitchen cabinet migrated to your bathroom," she said. Custom cabinetry can be surprisingly inexpensive, she said.

• If your bathroom is covered in tile in a dated color -- avocado or gold from the 1970s; pink or turquoise from the 1950s -- and you can't afford to remove it, "wall covering is your friend," she said. Find a wallpaper that incorporates that color, but combines it with more updated colors.

• Add luxury touches: a pretty faucet, a bit of artwork.

• Powder rooms are small spaces, so you can be adventurous. Try a bright color or large-scale pattern on the walls, or cover the walls with quirky art, such as postcards or New Yorker covers.