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Bare Necessities - How to Design a Bathroom, Minimalist Style

Is less more? Or is less a bore? That is the question designers have debated for centuries.

Bathrooms -- and the fittings, fixtures and furnishings that designers develop for the most functional space in any home -- are subject to these same whims and questions that drive all types and tides of style.

Sometimes ornament takes center stage; sometimes simplicity does. Today, the trend is modern design -- open-space planning and stripped-down, seemingly simple forms. This curlicue-free, ornament-banning minimalist aesthetic once espoused by the 20th century modern masters remains a truly international style that travels well and incorporates contemporary technology in timeless form.

Modern design has always made sense in the bath, for all the obvious (and some not so obvious) reasons. By understanding the essence of modern design, you can transform your bathroom into a simple yet luxurious, minimalist retreat.

It involves assessing your space, determining how you want to use it, finding the right pieces to define the space, and adding any final touches to make it your own.

Measure Up and Maximize the Minimal Space
Minimalism requires a specific kind of perfection because everything in a minimalist space is totally exposed -- whether you have a small powder room or large master bath.

The most important rule: Maximize any available space.
While the minimalist style gets its beauty from simple lines, it can easily accommodate a seductive curve or two. Walls, floors, ceilings and any other surfaces, whether vertical (such as the shower enclosure or cabinet doors) or horizontal (such as shelving, and sinks and their surrounds or supporting counters), must be clean, crisp and as uninterrupted as possible.

By focusing on your bathroom's space and geometry, you're ready to create an interior that's simple and serene.

Form Follows Your Functional Needs
Like most styles that emphasize the architectural over the decorative, minimalism evolves from the inside out. Think about how you'll be using the space. Although this style favors the uninterrupted plane, it also welcomes surface interest, as long as the form has a necessary function.

For example, consider incorporating surface-mounted fittings and fixtures, from a sink bowl atop the counter to a high-arching faucet off the wall. Other fixtures also don't have to be found in traditional places... a bathtub can sit within the room, rather than nestling into a wall or corner.

When it comes to function and space planning, also assess your bathroom storage needs. If you have a small space, building in storage options, rather than using pieces of furniture, helps open up a tight space.

In minimalist style, storage is usually systematic: find the most beneficial dimensions for the basic storage unit and group it in multiples. From constructing an entire wall of shelving or cabinetry to adding cabinet units under or over the bathroom counter, it's possible to create a clutter-free space.

With closed cabinetry, consider using touch latches instead of visible hardware or, if necessary, bar pulls or simple knobs rather than elaborate handles.

If furniture is the option, make sure all pieces sport clean details and strong lines, while being made of materials pleasing both to the eye and to the touch.

Minimalist Design Math = Subtracting Not Adding
When it comes to creating your space, it's not necessary to strip away either luxury or comfort to make or remake your bath in the minimalist style. However, it's imperative to think differently during the design process: concentrate on editing, rather than on adding.

As John Pawson, the celebrated English architect and a key player in the current minimalist revival, has stated: "Minimalism is best defined as the perfection an artifact achieves when it is no longer possible to improve it by subtraction. Thus, minimalism is the quality an object has when every component, every detail, every junction has been reduced or condensed to the essentials."

Selectively Mix Color and Materials
While minimalism generally demands a monochromatic color palette, strong or even muted colors can be used on one or several of the room's key planes. Visual interest can also be added with textures and materials, both man-made (glass, steel, ceramic tile, and composite materials) and natural (wood and all types of stone).

Just remember, in minimalism, addition is achieved through subtraction. Pare away all the extras to reveal the very essence of the bath.

Courtesy of ARA Content

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