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Mix and Match: Finding the Right Design Combination for a Bathroom

By Judith Nasatir

Good design is about mixing and matching. We want our homes to reflect our individual tastes and interests. It should be practical and personal.

We shy away from cookie-cutter rooms filled with furnishings all in the same scale and style. And, what "goes together" doesn't always need to match.

These same design principles aren't limited to the family room or bedroom. They also apply to the bathroom. In fact, the bathroom is a terrific place to experiment with a mix of styles, particularly because it's often a white space waiting to be discovered. A bathroom doesn't need to be boring and bland, and it doesn't need to be eclectic and over the top.

There are simple steps in finding the secret formula for mixing and matching designs in your bathroom.

* Defining Your Bathroom Shapes and Spaces
The first step in a successful mix-and-match design is analyzing the space of your existing bath. Do you want to break it up into smaller areas with full or partial height walls? Do you want to add a curving partition? What sort of nooks and crannies are already there?

Then, you can determine the fixtures to suit your style, since they come in an enormous range of shapes, sizes and scales. Since fixtures are usually white, or neutral colored, you can clearly see their silhouettes, proportions and profiles. Ask yourself: Is there a particular curve, line, shape or angle that defines your favorite fixture? Can you find other pieces with that same shape so that it subtly repeats itself throughout the space as a unifying element? Or, is there a piece with a complementary curve, line or angle that would add interest to the room? Some people prefer fixtures to be sharply angled; others prefer fixtures with a soft corner, long curve or swooping side. Even when you're mixing and matching, you want a certain shape consistency or underlying element to balance and bring the room together. When you've discovered what it is about each shape -- in the abstract -- that appeals to you, then you've found the main ingredient to tie the space together.

* The Match Game
Once you've defined your bathroom's shapes and spaces, it's time to play the match game. There are finite elements to every bath: sink, toilet, tub, shower, faucets, shelving and towel bars. However, your choices for these fixtures and fittings are infinite. You can streamline your decisions by sticking with a few traditional elements that you may want to match versus mix. You'll probably be happier, for example, if the color of your fixtures matches throughout your bathroom.

That is, if the white (or whatever hue) of the sink is the same color as the tub and toilet, even if the degree of surface sheen varies between matte to high gloss. Another classic element that benefits from a true match is the finish of faucets and other hardware, whether it's chrome, brushed nickel, pewter or brass. If you stick to fixtures and fittings from the same manufacturer, you'll find that you automatically streamline the visual appearance of the space because the colors and finishes will match exactly.

* Similarity, not Sameness, is Essential

Now that you know what you want to match, it's time to decide what you'd like to mix. Learning what it takes design-wise to create a unified space from dissimilar elements can be challenging. But you can chart a smooth path through the distinctions. When it comes to mixing, look for unique ways to pair lines, proportion, material compositions, scale and detail -- rather than an obvious, arranged match. For example, Porcher's collection of European-inspired, modern designs are perfect for mixing and matching. Their Nemea shelf and towel bar shelf, designed by Italian artist and designer Enzo Mari, may not be an obvious roommate for a pedestal lavatory designed by David Chipperfield. But these two products can clearly cohabitate thanks to their common elements, including soft edges, varying depths of the projecting elements and metal finishes.

* Mastering the Mix
You know you've mastered the mix when you're comfortable making a truly bold choice, and exploiting the element of surprise through contrast. If the majority of the bathroom's elements are sleek and modern, adding a more traditional component such as a cabinet or armoire will help change the feel of the room by commanding center stage. The reverse is also true. You could use a vintage-style tub, such as Porcher's Ardennes cast-iron design, alongside a sleek Veneto toilet. Although these fixtures are clearly from different eras, and have different material, color and sheen finishes, they do have a similar voluptuousness in their transitional curves that permits, and even encourages, their use together.

* The Golden Rule
To find the right recipe for the mix that suits you, take a lesson from the masters. Strip your needs and tastes down to their essences, and put function first. Once you discover why certain designs seem to feel right together, and what those elements are that you care about most, you'll be able to create a space that really works for you -- and your highly personal mix.

Courtesy of ARA Content

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