They Know Bathrooms: Experts to Help you Design

Designing a bath requires attention to detail. Here is where to find great fixtures, tile, countertops, and moreā€”plus the expertise to pull it all together.

By: Mary Clare Glover

“I’ll go to a National Kitchen & Bath Association meeting, and there will be three bathroom designers and 150 kitchen designers there,” says Carolyn Thomas of Jennifer Gilmer Kitchen & Baths.

It’s a now-common complaint in the home-design community: the disappearance of bathroom designers.

“Bathrooms require more man-hours, more handholding, more attention to detail than kitchens, but they don’t necessarily bring in more money,” says Thomas, who explains that while kitchen design revolves primarily around cabinetry, bathrooms require labor-intensive design around plumbing.

Many certified kitchen-and-bath designers also complain that bathroom remodels are formulaic and leave little room for creativity. As a result, a lot of companies that used to design kitchens and baths have changed their focus to just kitchens.

Although it can be hard to find a bathroom designer, it is not impossible—the firms listed here all have dedicated bathroom designers on staff and will take on bathroom-only projects.

These firms can guide you through an entire renovation. They will draw up a plan and do the construction with either their own employees or subcontractors. Designers can help you choose tubs, showers, sinks, faucets, flooring, and decorative hardware.

It’s useful to look at a firm’s Web site before making an appointment. You’ll often find photos of its work and lists of products it carries. Always check references before signing on the dotted line. The National Kitchen & Bath Association certifies bathroom designers; certification is a good indication of credibility.

To come up with our list of good bathroom designers, we talked to homebuilders, architects, and other industry experts as well as customers. Not listed here are architecture and design/build firms that do bathrooms usually only as part of a larger project like a master-suite addition. If you are planning a project larger than a bath, see our August 2006 list of top architects and remodelers on Washingtonian.com.

If a designer or contractor isn’t listed here, that doesn’t mean the firm doesn’t do good work. Even being listed does not mean it will be right for you. Designers are usually happy to provide other referrals. Consider this list a starting point.

Ten Good Bathroom Designers

Although this list focuses on local, independent bathroom-design companies, keep in mind that superstores such as Expo Design Center, Home Depot, Lowe’s, and the Great Indoors also offer design help. Many of the bath designers listed here recommend those chains as good places for ideas.

Bath & Kitchen Creations, 43671 Trade Center Pl., Suite 112, Sterling; 703-996-8600; bathandkitchencreations.com. This family-owned design/build firm has three bath designers and handles lots of traditional bathrooms. Owner Bob Clements says it can work within existing walls to make a bathroom seem larger. Common techniques include installing large mirrors behind vanities, using glass-enclosed showers, or adding windows and other sources of natural light.

Dee David & Co., by appointment, Falls Church; 703-560-6601; deedavidandco.com. Dee David has more than 30 years’ experience and works only in Northern Virginia. She incorporates safety into her designs: “All of my bathrooms get grab bars, and I always recommend materials and surfaces that aren’t slippery.” Function does not preclude form; David and her two assistant designers have degrees in interior design. Projects have a $20,000 minimum.

Design Solutions, 1598-D Whitehall Rd., Annapolis, 800-894-7349; 218 N. Washington St., Talbot Town Center, Suite 1, Easton, 410-820-6770; dsikitchens.com. Owner Joni Zimmerman has been designing bathrooms for almost 30 years. She likes whimsy: She recently outfitted a bathroom with beach furniture. What you won’t see: “typical tile that just screams bathroom.” Instead, she looks for classic, sophisticated tile.

F.A. McGonegal, 212 N. West St., Falls Church; 703-532-2284; 1800smworks.com. This design/build/supply firm opened in 1915. In addition to designers, it has licensed plumbers, carpenters, and electricians on staff plus “reference rooms” that teach about bath-design options.

Harvey’s Kitchens & Baths, 22560 Glenn Dr., Suite 115, Sterling; 703-444-0871; harveys-kb.com. Certified bath designer Kara Reinertsen creates customized, traditional baths. She loves indulgences like multiple showerheads and Jacuzzi tubs but avoids dark colors, which make a bath feel cramped.

Jennifer Gilmer Kitchen & Bath, 6935 Wisconsin Ave., Chevy Chase; 301-657-2500; jennifergilmerkitchens.com. Carolyn Thomas says bathroom design is “a balancing act between form and function.” Thomas, who has a degree in interior design, stresses the importance of incorporating storage—built-in shelves, closets, and vanities—into bathrooms. Although her designs run the gamut from traditional to contemporary, they have a common thread: a relaxed, soothing atmosphere.

Kitchen & Bath Factory, 4624 Lee Hwy., Arlington; 703-522-7337; kbfactory.com. In business more than 25 years, this company does about two bathrooms a week in Virginia and the District. Designer Barbara Doyle says she works mostly with small spaces, so her goal is to create simple, traditional styles that maximize space. She and designer Kristy Hamilton use neutral colors to create soothing spaces and tend to stay away from ultramodern fixtures. Most baths fall in the $12,000-to-$17,000 range.

Kitchen Guild, 5027 Connecticut Ave., NW, 202-362-7111; 3739 Pickett Rd., Fairfax, 703-323-1660; 6823 Tennyson Dr., McLean, 703-893-8900; kitchenguild.com. In addition to Kitchen Guild’s custom-design service, the company last year launched a division called BathExpress. With showrooms in Fairfax and McLean, BathExpress offers predesigned bath packages. Customers work with showroom specialists to pick a style, finish, and accessories. Installation takes about six days and typically costs between $10,000 and $25,000.

Reico Kitchen & Bath, 8123 Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda, 301-654-6000; 7500-B Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, 703-748-0700; www.reico.com. This firm has 20 showrooms throughout the Mid-Atlantic and carries six cabinetry lines in various price ranges. Showroom specialists and designers can help with simple projects like replacing a vanity or will hold your hand through a full gut and remodel. Its couture group handles high-end, custom projects in the $60,000-plus range.

Tunis Kitchen & Bath, 7032 Wisconsin Ave., Chevy Chase; 301-652-5513; tuniskitchens.com. In business almost 50 years, this company has four bathroom designers. It does lots of contemporary baths.

Counters, Flooring, Fixtures, Tile, and More

Ann Sacks Tile Stone Plumbing, 3328 M St., Georgetown; 202-339-0840; annsacks.com. This national chain manufactures its own line of tile. It also carries other high-end stone, glass, and mosaic tiles as well as plumbing accessories.

Arc Stone II, 9020 Edgeworth Dr., Capitol Heights; 301-499-2100; arc-stone.com. This large showroom carries natural-stone selections including granite, limestone, onyx, and slate.

Architectural Ceramics, Rockville, 301-762-4140; Bethesda, 301-718-8343; Washington Design Center, 202-554-8719; Alexandria, 703-299-6200; Falls Church, 703-714-0161; architecturalceramics.net. A favorite of architects, interior designers, and homeowners, this local chain’s huge tile selection includes custom and hand-painted.

Arlandria Floors, 1800 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria; 703-548-4848; arlandriafloors.com. A large selection of laminates along with wood, tile, linoleum, and ceramic.

Bartley Tile Concepts, 6931 Arlington Rd., Suite C2, Bethesda; 301-913-9113; bartleytile.com. A wide selection of high-end, customized stone and hand-painted ceramic tiles, both imported and its own line, the Donna Marie Collection.

Best Tile, 11601 Boiling Brook Pkwy., Rockville, 301-984-3386; 8196 Terminal Rd., Lorton, 703-550-2352; besttile.com. This importer specializes in tumbled and antique stone as well as porcelain tile.

Classic Floor Designs, 2120 L St., NW; 202-872-9860. This 15-year-old company has a 5,000-square-foot showroom with hardwood, vinyl, stone, rubber, and even leather flooring.

Concrete Jungle, 4510-J Metropolitan Ct., Frederick; 301-874-1001; concretejungleonline.com. Artisans fabricate and install custom concrete vanity tops, shower surrounds, floor tiles, shower benches, sinks, and wall tiles.

Design Tile, 8455-B Tyco Rd., Vienna; 703-734-8211; design-tile.com. This showroom’s wide selection of tile is arranged by color and composition for easier selection.

Ferguson Enterprises, locations in DC, Maryland, and Virginia; ferguson.com. Designers recommend this national chain for appliances, fixtures, sinks, toilets, and tubs in all price ranges.

Kitchen, Bath & Building Design Center, Washington Design Center, 300 D St., SW; 202-646-6118; merchandisemart.com/dcdesigncenter/kbbdc. Ten showrooms of high-end and cutting-edge design in cabinetry, flooring, tile, and fixtures. Showrooms include Studio Snaidero (202-484-8066) for contemporary European styles; DeZahra (202-234-7287) for hand-crafted tile; Haifa Stone (202-484-5103) for limestone and marble; and Clive Christian Home (202-314-5700), Rutt Custom Cabinetry (202-554-6190), and Wood-Mode Kitchen & Bath Design Studio (202-266-0600) for beautiful woods.

Marble Systems, 2737 Dorr Ave., Fairfax; 703-204-1818; marblesystems.com. Natural stone—including granite, slate, limestone, and marble—in a wide variety of surface finishes like polished, rustic, chiseled, and antique.

Marblex Design International, 2926 Prosperity Ave., Fairfax; 703-698-5595; marblexinc.com. A fabricator specializing in custom stonework for countertops, floors, vanity tops, shower walls, and seats. The showroom features marble, granite, limestone, and quartz surfaces.

Marmara, 1125 Okie St., NE; 202-635-4292; marmarausa.com. The only stone fabricator in the District, Marmara carries granite and marble as well as more-unusual surfaces such as limestone, onyx, travertine, and soapstone.

Noland Co. Bath & Idea Center, 6607 Wilson Blvd., Falls Church, 703-241-5000; 5511 Nicholson La., Rockville, 301-881-4225; noland.com. These two local showrooms—the Falls Church one measures more than 4,500 square feet, Rockville about 650—showcase plumbing, sinks, lighting, shower doors, and more.

R. Bratti Associates, 401 E. Glebe Rd., Alexandria; 703-549-1135; rbratti.com. Specializes in granite, marble, and limestone for custom vanities and showers.

Renaissance Tile & Bath, 816 N. Fairfax St., Alexandria; 703-549-7806; renaissancetileandbath.com. Formerly called Ademas, this designer choice is part of a high-end chain based in Atlanta. Design consultants on staff help consumers choose from the wide selection of limestone, marble, granite, and hand-painted tile.

Restoration Hardware, Georgetown, 202-625-2771; Alexandria, 703-299-6220; Tysons Corner Center, 703-821-9655; Columbia, 410-772-8070; restorationhardware.com. This national chain sells vintage-inspired lighting, towel bars, and other accessories such as shower curtains and bathmats.

Union Hardware, 7800 Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda, 301-654-7810; 7505-M Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, 703-893-4444; unionhardware.com. In business since 1914, this designer favorite carries tubs, sinks, faucets, decorative hardware, and accessories such as mirrors and lighting.

Waterworks, 3314 M St., NW; 202-333-7180; waterworks.com. The Georgetown branch of this national retailer carries minimalist, high-end bath fixtures, sinks, and tubs. Also a wide selection of such accessories as stools, bathside tables, washstands, and medicine cabinets.

W.T. Weaver & Sons, 1208 Wisconsin Ave., NW; 202-333-4200; weaverh­ardware.com. This family-owned institution has been in business more than 100 years and carries decorative hardware, tubs, high-end fixtures, and accessories.

For More Information

American Institute of Architects, 1735 New York Ave., NW; 800-242-3837; aia.org. This site has a searchable database of architects and sample contracts. The three local chapters—DC (aiadc.com), Northern Virginia (aianova.org), and Maryland (aiamd.org)—also provide information on finding and hiring architects.

American Society of Interior Designers, 608 Massachusetts Ave., NE; 202-546-3480; asid.org. This association of professionals has good design resources on its Web site.

National Association of the Remodeling Industry, 800-611-6274. nari.org. On the Web site, click on “home owners” for advice on choosing a contractor, a searchable database of contractors, and articles and tips on saving money and avoiding trouble in remodeling.

National Kitchen & Bath Association, 877-652-2776; nkba.org. This association provides lots of planning tools and project photos and trains and certifies kitchen and bath designers. The Web site is under construction but will offer a searchable online database of designers.