If the term "jewel box," frequently used by interior designers to describe a powder room, in no way describes your half bath, perhaps it's time to consider a makeover. While a full remodeling project may not be necessary on any of your bathrooms, even a smaller upgrade should be done within the context of the rest of your home and, in particular, the rooms that surround the bathroom.
Brian Vanfleet, owner of BVF Design Consulting in the District, said that while you don't necessarily need to have your baths match your other rooms, every room should share a certain element of style.
"You can take a traditional home and update the baths with cleaner lines to make it more modern without feeling like you're walking into a different home," Mr. Vanfleet said.
Christopher Patrick, owner of Christopher Patrick Interiors in the District, said hall baths and powder rooms can be treated like separate spaces, but a master bath typically must be integrated with the master bedroom in terms of style.
"The powder room is one place in the home where you can be bold and expressive, especially because the door is often kept closed," Mr. Patrick said. "It can be fun, almost a surprise, to walk in and find a funky little space."
Mr. Patrick said even if you choose to make your powder room stand out from the rest of your home, the elements in the room should be consistent.
"For example, if you decide you want a contemporary powder room, it should all be contemporary," Mr. Patrick said. "You need to have a cohesive idea rather than a back-and-forth confusion of style, especially in a small space."
For example, Marika Meyer of Marika Meyer Interiors in the District designed a formal powder room for a traditional, formal Georgetown home with a custom-designed vanity with a curved edge that mimics the curved backsplash. She added elaborate fixtures and then purchased an inexpensive mirror that was faux-finished to blend with the other elements of the bath.
In the master bath, you need to take cues from the rest of the suite, Mr. Vanfleet said.
"I remodeled my own master bath four years ago and used cream and soft celadon colors to make it a comforting but bright space and then added texture with a stone floor," he said. "I used glass-panel walls to separate the bath from the master bedroom and the den, but this means the spaces have to work together because of all the glass. The stone floor works well with the heart-of-pine floors that are in the rest of the suite because of their natural warmth."
Mr. Patrick said he typically ties the master bedroom and master bath together because the spaces interact with each other.
"In one home we worked on, the bedroom was mostly tan with blue accents, so we made the bathroom mostly blue with tan accents, he said.
He said bathrooms should be streamlined to reduce clutter.
"Even in a traditional home, you can have a contemporary bath as long as you are still speaking to the traditional elements of the home," Mr. Patrick said. "For example, you can pick hardware pieces that have traditional appeal but have been updated. In the D.C. Design House, I used modern versions of vintage-looking cross-handles for the vanity sink."
Mr. Patrick suggested using traditional elements, such as subway tiles or pinwheel tiles, but updating them with a modern twist, such as using dark grout.
"White baths are on the fence between traditional and contemporary baths," Mr. Patrick said. "It depends on how you accessorize the space which direction it goes."
Ms. Meyer said subway tile in an otherwise sleek shower can be one way to keep a contemporary bath from being too sleek.
"You have to be careful about resale value when you renovate a bath," Ms. Meyer said. "If everything in a house is traditional and Colonial, then it would be a mistake to put in a supercontemporary bath. You need some level of consistency."
For the master bath in a Georgetown home recently designed by Ms. Meyer, she matched the soft colors of the bedroom and bath and repeated the Roman-shade window treatments in both spaces.
"The master bath is such a personal space, it should be reflective of the homeowners," Ms. Meyer said.
Mr. Vanfleet suggested making a hall bath as calming as possible by keeping the types of materials and colors as close as possible in tone and texture to each other.
"No one ever puts as much money into the secondary baths as they do in the master bath or the powder room," Mr. Vanfleet said. "The overarching need is to make this space inviting without spending a lot of money.
"At one home I'm working on now, we pulled out the tub and replaced it with a glass-enclosed shower because it makes the space lighter," Mr. Vanfleet said. "Everything is a shade of white or cream. The floors are beautiful porcelain tiles that mimic stone at a fraction of the cost and are more durable, too."
Mr. Patrick said that because hall baths often are shared by several family members and perhaps guests, this space should be as neutral as possible. He said when designing a connecting bath, homeowners should try to bring in a unifying color that is common to both adjoining bedrooms.
"The size of your house dictates how you handle the design," Mr. Vanfleet said. "The smaller the house, the more you want to stay in the same range of finished materials because the more your eye stops, the more you feel constricted in a space. For example, in a small house you want the flooring consistent from the front door through the kitchen and into the bath."