From the June/July 2020 Issue  

Bath Time with Kate Rumson – Warming up a private space

Writer Ren Miller

Conversations with Kate

Many bathrooms feature interesting tiles, glossy finishes and beautiful vanities. But do they always feel like they’re in tune with the rest of the home? Do they offer any softness and warmth as we start and end our days?

Kate Rumson is on a mission to make sure the bathrooms in the new home she is building in central New Jersey are not only beautiful and functional but also comfortable and luxurious spaces that reflect the ambience of the other rooms. Rumson, founder and creative director of The Real Houses of Instagram (@the_real_houses_of_ig), offers the following insights in this fourth installment of our series about her construction project.

Ren Because bathrooms aren’t among the public spaces in our homes, they often tend toward fairly hard, sterile looks that don’t match the warmth of other rooms. What are your thoughts on bath decor?

Kate I always try to make every bathroom I design feel less like a bathroom and more like a comfortable and luxurious living space. I accomplish that by incorporating warmer materials such as wallpaper, area rugs, wall art and drapes whenever possible. Naturally, bathrooms have many cold surfaces (tile, stone, glass), so I feel it’s important to add softness and warmth with fabrics and accessories. Also fresh flowers—I love adding a generous size vase with fresh flowers whenever possible—it’s unexpected and immediately elevates the entire experience.

Ren How many bathrooms will you have in your new home and will they look similar to each other or will each have its own ambience?

Kate My new house will have five en suite bathrooms and one powder room. I plan for each bathroom to have its own identity. I don’t believe that all bathrooms throughout the house should have a similar look and feel. People who occupy a home usually have different personalities—whether it’s children, guests or in-laws—so I think it’s wonderful to be able to offer different styles and experiences throughout the house. It makes living or staying in a home more interesting and special.

Ren What do you feel is the most important feature in a bathroom and why?

Kate Proper ventilation. Hot showers, toilets and running water create humidity, so having a good exhaust fan is extremely important to prevent mold, mildew and all of the issues that can come from it. Because I install wallpaper and crown molding in almost every bathroom I design, I always begin every bathroom project making sure there will be a powerful exhaust fan vented outside (and not to the attic as is often the case in older homes).

Ren Manufacturers have introduced a wide range of finishes for plumbing fixtures. Do you have a favorite?

Kate Yes, I love polished nickel. It’s warmer than polished chrome and adds just the right amount of shine to a room. I will be going with Brizo plumbing fixtures throughout my new house. I plan on incorporating their luxe gold and matte black finishes in a few bathrooms, but the most important spaces (kitchen and master bathroom) will have polished nickel fixtures. I also feel polished nickel is timeless—I can’t imagine ever getting tired of it.

Ren Pocket doors—once the bastion of Victorian parlors—have found renewed popularity thanks to new styles and a focus on the efficient use of space. Will you use any?

Kate Yes! Pocket doors are perfect for smaller rooms because they are all about saving space. I’m a big fan of pocket doors and will have almost a dozen of them in the new house. I’m going with Masonite Doors for all of the interior and exterior doors, and the possibilities are endless! With so many different styles, sizes, stains and colors, every opportunity to use a pocket door feels like an opportunity to add art to a room.

Ren How do you plan to personalize your bathrooms?

Kate I’ll start with shower doors. Shower doors are not what they used to be—there are so many interesting designs available today to fit any style or personality. Last year, I remodeled my master bathroom in my current townhouse and chose black, industrial-looking shower doors by DreamLine—they set the tone for the rest of the room and added so much interest and style. I will go with DreamLine shower doors again using different styles in different bathrooms to ensure each en suite will have its own unique look and style.


Kate Rumson imagines the day when her new home is finished and she’s able to soak after a long workday.

In previous bathroom designs (clockwise), Kate has used fresh flowers, rugs, interesting shower doors, wallpaper,  artwork and drapes to create a comfortable, welcoming atmosphere.