Condo Design Tips from an Award Winning Designer!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Whether you live in an old condo (more than 10 years old) or you just decided it’s time to upgrade your condo suite, there are few areas to focus on. Many of the questions I receive from the readers are related to updating and upgrading bathrooms. In addition to the “Condo Bathroom- to upgrade or not to” blog posted back in July I want to guide you on how to approach a condo bathroom renovation.

First and foremost decide if you are only going to replace the existing plumbing fixtures, cabinetry and finishes... because if you decide on changing the location of your sink for e.g. you might have to obtain an approval from your Condo Board. Read the condo docs before proceeding with hiring contractors and before you purchase materials.

Let’s talk about the “Why” first. Some condo owners approached me at the Fall Home Show with questions about renovating their bathrooms and while they weren’t sure if their bathroom looks up to date they definitely wanted to change the look.

When your bathroom has a look similar to this pink bathroom you May want to consider an updated look.

Some condo owners are wondering why their 10 years old condo is not valued similar to a 2 yrs old condo when it has the same square footage. If you actually compare the finishes installed as standard finishes 10 years ago with the current ones and if you compare the amenities spaces you will find that the new condos are of higher value. What was an “upgrade” 10 years ago may be a standard finish today, but also keep in mind that the market evolves constantly and every year there are new products available (including plumbing fixtures, tiles etc) that have not only an up to date look but a superior quality.

If you have a good idea of which plumbing fixtures and vanity cabinet to select, now it's time to select the tiles. For any size bathroom the tiles design is the most important element, as it creates "the look" of your entire bathroom.

Here are my 5 tips for choosing tiles:

1. decide if natural stone is good for you or you would prefer ceramic or porcelain tiles. Natural stone has indeed a unique look and when the tiles are installed by an experienced tile contractor the entire floor will look exquisite. However keep in mind that you need to maintain a natural stone, it has to be properly sealed and refinished every few years (depending on how well is maintained).

2. the term ceramic is still used for both floor and walls (I see it especially on some real estate listings) and that’s because back 10 years ago or more ceramic was the only option. However, new condos have mostly porcelain tile floors and in some cases they are used for walls too and porcelain tiles are from any point of view superior to ceramic- I'll go into details in another blog post. Large format porcelain tiles are extremely useful when going for an updated look because they tend to look more like natural stone PLUS the less grout the better. If you have to have small floor tiles (12”x12” for eg) choose an 1/8” grout and make sure you match the grout color to the tile color for an almost seamless installation.

3.  Some porcelain tiles come rectified. A rectified tile is defined as a tile that has had all edges mechanically finished to achieve a more precise facial dimension. Most popular are the larger size formats often used in conjunction with smaller mosaic tiles to create unique designs. The advantage of rectified tiles is also its ability to allow tighter grout joint spacing, close to 1/16”. Almost every condo owner I help designing their condo goes for this small grout option, it is a  “look” that will stay in for quite some time. Anything that makes it easy to maintain is a benefit you should consider. The size and the pattern of the tile work hand in hand- for example this amazing gray tile has not just an amazing intricate geometric look but it allows you to install the wall tile with no grout and can create a feature wall in virtually any room. The white and black version look just stunning! Click here to see all colors available.

4. when changing from a bath tub to a shower, have fun with the design! Go back to the inspiration images you selected before you started the renovation. Do you like glass tiles? than think of using them in conjunction with the main wall tiles you selected. Most likely the floor has to be a small format tile to achieve the slope to the drain, so why not continue the mosaic and create a wall pattern? And if you really want to have a one of a kind design- there is a huge selection of mosaics out there, each of them can create a different look - whether it is a spa look and feel or perhaps a retro colourful accent tiles is what you are going for. Andy Warhol Marilyn Monroe image  is part of the design behind this amazing mosaic tile collection.

Think of shower walls accents or even a kitchen backsplash! With white cabinetry this mosaic is sure to stand out.

5. When living in a small condo space, the number of different finishes should be kept to a minimum, visual continuity is best achieved when there is one dominant material (could be the floor or walls color). Tiles are no longer used just in bathrooms like engineered wood floors are not only used in living areas, now they are used in open kitchens for a seamless look.

Always consider your lifestyle when choosing a specific material and don’t limit your design options because of "rules". South of Italy, Dubai, Florida and all warm places- this is where most people consider tiles for their floors throughout, however now that floor heating is so popular tiles are used everywhere - even in bedrooms where there is a choice for visual continuity between the ensuite and master bedroom. Also think of noise transmission from one room to another- you may find that certain condo walls are not acoustically separating 2 spaces so you will have to use creativity in addressing these small design details.

My best advice when selecting tiles is to find retail stores where you have a variety of tiles to choose from as well as a design advisor who will save you a lot of trouble and money by sharing with you all tricks of the trade.

And...always renovate for your immediate use first and for potentially selling your condo second while keeping in mind that a balance between your renovation investment and the appraised value is always desirable.

All tile images courtesy of
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  2. so glad you like it! it's all about content...

  3. Very nice! We just paid somebody to come in and refinish our bathroom remodeling. The reason we went with a refinisher is that we wanted a ceramic tiles and different color. We're thrilled with the results. I am always try to renovate our bathroom and its look fresh and shiny.

  4. At the point when did you paint your lavatory last? Great, now it is time you developed that new layer of paint.

  5. If you have someone who is disable in your home, then one way that you can make bath time or shower time safer for them is to put a seat in the shower, and purchase a handheld shower head for them.  best high pressure handheld shower head

  6. Thank you for taking the time to publish this information very useful! Right Seven

  7. Great article, touched all the point we recommend to our clients as well. Bathroom renovations usually start with new tiles, vanity, and floor since a new bathtub is usually the most expensive part. But even just that can make a huge difference and increase the value of your home!


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