My (Not So Secret) Favourite Room to Design

By Chris Van Lierop

I’ll let you in on a not so secret amongst friends, the powder room is my favourite room! We’ve spent many years designing whole houses, cottages, gardens, and offices and without fail the powder room is where I really get my excited face on.

For some of you reading who have a cottage and a place in the city, you know what a luxury it is to have a powder room in the city. As a room described as a toilet room, primarily for the use of guests, so many of those older homes in the city don’t have the luxury of such a room. As we’ve grown to doing only cottages, we’ve realized how key a role the powder rooms plays into everyone’s (especially a successful guest weekend) life.

Powder rooms don’t have to take up very much room. Because code usually requires that a toilet have 15” of clearance on either side from centre and 24” from the end to any impediment, these rooms can often be accommodated in an unused corner. Having a sink for your guests puts a damper on how small you can make it, but your guests will thank you every time (plus it’s required).

Photo Credit: Eric Piasecki

Photo Credit: Eric Piasecki

Our perfect powder room has no connection to the kitchen, it sits away from the dining room for some privacy and provides a refuge for guests on the main floor so they don’t have the opportunity to rustle through your bathrooms medicine cabinet to see what pill you’re required to take daily (this week). The perfect powder room would have a high ceiling to give a sense of gravity and so it can accommodate that perfect chandelier or pendant and maybe even a tall mirror. It would have a sexy wall covering, preferably wallpaper, and the small vanity would house only extra toilet paper and maybe some necessary (and sometimes forgotten) toiletry products. There’s room for a couple towels, they’ll help drown the sounds out a little, and a little piece of art or some flowers, provided the wallpaper hasn’t stolen the show. And that’s it.

Photo Credit: John Granen

Photo Credit: John Granen

Anyone who has renovated, or thought about it knows that kitchens and bathrooms are where the most amount of money is spent. There are so many different pieces to them that it all adds up. If you look at the list above, there are about 5 things you need for a powder room, this small economical room takes so little to do — we say go nuts!

The powder room is where you get to introduce your guests to a bit of your (not so mutedly grey) character. This is one of the most visited rooms in your house, it’s time to take it up a notch!

You get to use those brass fixtures you’ve always wanted, but they don’t necessarily go with the rest of the house. You get to paint the room a dark color, it gives this small room some mood. Textures are great, you can probably reach all the walls from the toilet so assume guests will touch them. A fun light, of course, but make sure you install a dimmer, you want to be able to set the mood. That picture that keeps popping up for you in Pinterest feed and you can only imagine how much it would cost to replicate, it’s only a powder room, it might just be accessible.

Photo Credit: Ricardo Labougle

Photo Credit: Ricardo Labougle

We’ve found a bit of a routine in our powder rooms. Design everything else in a house and really get to know your client well and then surprise them with those pieces that they thought just a bit too daring or opulent.

Cole and Son wallpaper makes for a great backdrop. I’ve always wanted to use their Palm Jungle linen wallpaper in one of our bathrooms (pictured below), but haven’t convinced Tim it won’t drive him batty. I’d pair it with a Taper faucet in gunmetal from Kallista, a simple hanging one piece marble top and sink with exposed plumbing, Archie chandelier in Old Bronze from Hudson Valley and I’d probably go antique hunting for a dramatic tall mirror to be spray painted a shiny black - there should always be a little old mixed in with new. Above the toilet I’d find a dramatic dark painting to balance out the room and in this room I’d always find a tile for the floor (for obvious reasons). You’d find me here everyday, taking in another back edition of Architectural Digest wondering when the next time I get to help a client get a little crazy in their powder room.

One of my favorite powder rooms I’ve visited was at a cousin’s house in Ottawa. Our cousin painted part of the bathroom a deep red, had wainscoting below and managed to wallpaper a section with hand cut New Yorker magazine covers, it was so magnificently done and over the top I always needed to make a couple visits when I spent time with them. I have always regretted not secretly taking a picture.

Photo Credit: Stephen Kent Johnson

Photo Credit: Stephen Kent Johnson

If you’re ever in the city and find yourself in East End Leslieville, there’s a wonderful bourbon bar (with some great food) on Queen called Goods and Provisions. It has one of the smallest and most original bathrooms I’ve visited. The powder room has the right hues of wood, perfect subway tile with dark grout and the right lighting. Make sure you have one of their old fashions, they’ve got the formula down pat!

Photo Credit: Stephen Kent Johnson

Photo Credit: Stephen Kent Johnson

As a rule of thumb, we don’t take a lot of pictures of the powder rooms we do. While we try to document all of our work, we feel this the most intimate of our work and like to leave that with our clients, something we share only with them. In the feed you’ll see some powder rooms from us and some powder rooms found throughout the world that inspire us to use a little drama.

Photo Credit: Thomas Loof

Photo Credit: Thomas Loof

Next time you find yourself contemplating whether to add a powder room or whether to redo one, remember that this is your opportunity to infuse a room with that little part of you that wants to escape. Find that perfect Houzz or Pinterest picture, put away your inhibitions to use products you don’t know (and make sure to install a dimmer) and I think you’ll find you and your guests escaping more than once during your next gathering.