The Three S’s – Where to Spend, Save, and Splurge…

As I sat down to write Post #2, I thought about what I call the Three S’s of a design renovation…where to spend, where to save, where to splurge. So I am just going to jump right into talking about a master bathroom renovation that I completed a few months ago…how Smart Design + Smart Choices guided the design process and the final selections.

Creating a successful design for this small space (with great potential!) was all about working with a Smart Floor Plan. The client was frustrated with the amount of un-functional space in the existing bathroom layout. After listing the client’s needs and wants in a new bathroom space, I took the footprint of the bathroom (removing existing walls and fixtures) and presented multiple ‘possible layouts’ for the client to sort through and think about. The final layout fit her needs functionally; creating a larger shower + vanity space + adding much needed storage with a new cabinet style armoire + built-in linen closet.

Before: the wall between the two rooms was removed to make one open space

New Floor Plan

The client’s request for a spa-look on a budget’ guided the finish selections…thus paying close attention to the three S’s…where to ‘spend, save, and splurge.’  


Cabinetry and plumbing fixtures are ‘the bones’ of a bathroom space…go ahead and budget for well-made items such as semi-custom cabinetry and upgraded plumbing fixtures. During the design process think about ‘good investments’ for the space such as a frameless shower and recessed lighting.

The vanity becomes the focal point with the combination of a light granite counter top + simple white cabinetry

Add details with the sink and faucet selection


The biggest expense in a bathroom renovation can be the tile…especially if you use a natural stone….so I chose budget friendly porcelain tile for the shower walls and bathroom floor. To create a custom look with the porcelain tile, I used two different tiles…a blue-gray for the main floor/shower floor and a more mottled-neutral tile for the shower walls.

The client wanted a light-feeling bathroom but with warmth and texture (not a white bathroom)…the porcelain wall tiles combine grays and warm neutrals.

The combination of fixed and moveable shower heads add function to the shower space…keeping cleaning in mind!


Splurge in the details or ‘the bling’ for the space.  In this renovation we chose to splurge on mosaic accent tiles in the shower, a large-decorative vanity mirror (you might spend a little more finding one that is just the right size/shape/finish…but it is worth it!), and chrome cabinet hardware. Also, I think the addition of the armoire storage cabinet can be considered a splurge, but is probably an ‘investment’ as it adds much needed storage.

Another note about layout…the different sized windows on the outside wall were once in two separate rooms…a wall divided the spaces.  The armoire cabinet was created for storage but also helps balance the window wall.

Photography: Mary Kate McKenna

Here’s to creating splendid spaces – Cheers!

If you’d like to discuss the design process for an upcoming project, contact me about our design services.

4 thoughts on “The Three S’s – Where to Spend, Save, and Splurge…

  1. As a painting contractor, I’m interested in what color you chose for this space. Was it the amount of space and light that determined the shade? How do you balance this against your customer’s preferences?

    • Yes, the space and the amount of light in the space are definitely two considerations when selecting paint colors. I also think about the style, look, feel of the space. For this project I knew the client wanted a serene, peaceful feeling in her master bathroom…thus we selected a gray softer-tone of blue (not vibrant). My process is to pre-select a few colors that work with the finish selections in the space (for example: tile, counter top, cabinetry) and then order large paint samples. I take them to the site and with the client we look at the samples together (hopefully it is a sunny day). It helps to have the larger samples when I discuss color, hue, undertones, etc. If it is a tricky space/color we often put samples of paint on the walls to make sure we get it right.

    • My Notting Hill – Thanks for the kudos! That mirror is one of those great selections that just finishes off the design. It is from Mirror Image.

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