WHAT DO designers fear in the bathroom more than a monster behind the shower curtain? For Allison Babcock, an interiors professional in Sag Harbor, N.Y., it’s seashells that rudely protrude from shower walls. “I cannot stand built-in whimsical accents in bathrooms,” she said. If you want a little idiosyncrasy, she advised, focus on easily swapped-out accessories.

Design pros see mistakes repeated in bathroom planning and decorating, and it pains them. Here are the five most common and vexing ones, along with remedies.

1. Unflattering Fixtures

If you’ve ever left a strip of beard unshaven or applied so much concealer you emphasized the flaw you were trying to hide, blame bad illumination. Direct lighting above the mirror is the worst, warned Ms. Babcock, “aging you and accentuating under-eye bags.” Sarah Kennedy, a designer in Jackson, Wyo., noted that bathroom lighting must serve many masters. “We go there to get ready but also to relax and pamper.”

Instead Flank a mirror with wall sconces at a flattering 66 inches from the floor, advised Chicago designer Donna Mondi. As a fresh take on the dressing-room mirror, Elisabeth Post-Marner, an architect with Spacesmith, in New York, takes a page from Hollywood and installs Robern Mirrors with dimmable LED strips. “A well-lit mirror that makes you look great reinforces your self-esteem,” she said. Ms. Kennedy likes to combine ambient, task and natural lighting for optimal illumination.

2. Fetid Carpet

“I wonder what possessed someone to make that decision each time I encounter it, and I’m amazed how often I still see it,” said Dallas designer Jean Liu of the unattractive and unsanitary choice of wall-to-wall in a loo. Designer Eilyn Jimenez, in Miami, noted that anyone who has ever cleaned a bathroom knows how disgusting the floor around a toilet gets. Even pristine steam and water ruin rugs. “Carpets soak up moisture and will end up smelling wet and mildewy,” said Ms. Jimenez.

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