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Sometimes understanding space is all about context, but in other cases it helps to cross-reference a single type of space to see the pure and beautiful variety of examples out there. These bathrooms constitute stand-alone works of ingenious interior design.

Black or White? Bathroom design is never just about blacks or whites, but often about brights and darks – color (or the absence of it) can play a role, but natural light, surface reflectivity and other elements are also critical. Often, the purpose helps determine the goal – the Standard Hotel (first image above) commissioned open-feeling spaces to engage their surroundings near the High Line in Manhattan, while the W Hotel in Atlanta sought something sleek, modern, engaging and internally-focused for its visitors. (Images: Thomas Loof and Ben Rahn, A Frame Inc.)

Cold or Warm? Some people would rather feel their bathroom is a private cave, while others prefer bright and bold colors. The first image above depicts stone tiling in a remodeled residential master bath in a 1960s-era modern house; the second shows a blue thermal bath-and-spa room in a popular contemporary resort hotel; the final shot features a forest-and-lake home bathroom where the contrast between orange-painted space and the outside could not be more pronounced. (Images: Santi Caleca,?Gionata Xerra and?Paul Crosby)

Wood & Light: Bold does not have to mean monochromatic, on the one hand, or brightly colored on the other – sometimes simple lines and light-inviting gestures can make even the smallest and most modest of bathrooms feel bigger (and better). In the case of a modern mountainside Japanese home, an open-sky courtyard added daylight to the mix as well as direct access to the outdoors. For a more-enclosed manor house on a farm, a simple light well, some loose gravel, weathered boards, and raw-looking red walls helped complete a rustic aesthetic. (Images: Katsuhisa Kida / FOTOTECA and JFF | Mariana Themudoarticle inspired by Architonic)