“Go with your gut” is hardly the advice you expect when considering how to make a proper first impression. But then, Kim Layne of Kim Layne Interiors isn’t typically the doyen you’re asking.
Layne and others who know how to shape intuition into striking spaces that outlast a hasty verdict are exactly the experts to talk to when transforming the powder room, mudroom and entryway. Hence, this inspirational guide. Feel free to make yourself at home.
THE HOME: A 1970s 15,000-square-foot palace
THE WISH LIST: Whatever Layne, the designer on the main floor makeover, thought would be best. “The homeowners just wanted to see what I would dream up,” she says.
THE PROCESS: Things started to take shape with the custom marble-tile flooring, which mimics dramatic custom marble flooring throughout the rest of the home. Then, Layne found the Kelly Wearstler wallpaper. “I really love using fine materials,” she says. “They make a statement of quality and they are more long-living; it’s less likely someone is going to pull out beautiful materials in the future.
“Even though one pattern is a bit more angular and the other is kind of rounded, the tile and wallpaper work together because they match in color and in strength.” The Lotus chandelier from Currey and Company, along with a few other carefully selected details, finish the vibe.
THE IMPACT: “This room feels like a jewel box,” Layne says. “Every single thing in this powder room is an exceptional piece, including the wallpaper, the floor color and pattern and the vanity, with its gold legs. Everything has a certain level of quality.”
THE BOTTOM LINE: Embrace lesser square footage. “The reason we put so much drama into this room is because it’s easy to feel like there are just boring walls in a tiny space,” says the designer. “There’s not a magic bullet that can make a room feel big. What’s more important: that a space feels big or well-designed and small?”
Will the vanity fit? If a sink area has at least 40 inches of space to work with, Layne can typically fit a vanity with drawers.
KIM LAYNE INTERIORS, Greenwood Village
THE HOME: Empty nesters’ modern-mountain haven
THE WISH LIST: The Castle Pines transplants were of the same mind as their interior designer, Margarita Bravo: “They wanted the powder room to be something special and creative—a place where we could have a little more fun.”
THE PROCESS: On one hand, creating the finished look was a challenge. “The homeowners were still living in Chicago when we designed the house,” Bravo says. “They saw things from a distance until they could visit—literally every choice was done by email, phone calls, etc.”
On the other hand, Bravo found the fun she mentioned earlier: “This was easy because the homeowners weren’t afraid to try new, different elements. I had a wide canvas to work with.” A Porcelanosa stone statement wall was the first interesting detail to enter the room. It’s the biggest representation of what the homeowners wanted to accomplish in the overall design of the new build. “They really enjoy raw materials with metals and stones, but we wanted to make sure the house didn’t feel too heavy,” says Bravo. “That’s why the finishes are softer materials, but still earthy.”
Next came the stone sink and vanity. “We wanted the sink area to mimic wood,” Bravo says. “In the vanity stone, which I believe is from Brazil, you can see how generous the veins are, which gives you the illusion of wood. We went with stone for practicality.”
The Hubbardton Forge glass sculpture, hung from the ceiling to look like a modish light (but still accompanied by recessed illumination), was the cherry on top.
THE IMPACT: “This room showcases the natural elements present in other parts of the home that guests might not get to see,” explains the designer.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Don’t second-guess the statement wall. “Every single space in a house needs to have that focal point,” Bravo says.
Know your materials. “Sometimes one of the reasons to hire an interior designer is that they know more about these things. I wouldn’t recommend a stone wall like this for a kitchen backsplash, for example, because it would come into contact with grease and food.”
Be flexible. “With a powder bath, one of the first selections you make will usually be the sink. However, I’m always looking for a starting point of any kind.”
MARGARITA BRAVO, Denver
Keep It Simple
THE HOME: Modern and petite
THE WISH LIST: Balance—something that’s interesting, but not overdone, and appeals to a broad audience.
THE PROCESS: This room comes with a bit of an optical illusion: what looks like tile on the far wall is actually wallpaper. Layne and the homeowners chose it, yes, for the pattern and neutral hues, but also because it played nice with the budget. The faux finishing effect was a more-than-pleasant surprise.
A wood slab vanity, faucet, backlit mirror and vase make up the short list that is the rest of the powder room’s design elements—proof, according to Layne, that working to find even a few details can make a small space come alive. “We’ve all gone into the house where the owners decided to do an accent wall,” Layne says. “There’s that blue accent wall! But there are no design elements to support it.”
THE IMPACT: Consistency with the rest of the pretty modern home.
THE BOTTOM LINE: You need more than one unique piece to make a room whole. Think of the details as a collection, Layne says.
Prepare your pipes. “If you’re doing a countertop where pipes will be exposed, you need to know what those pipes look like.”