It’s the first thing you step on when you get out of the shower or bathtub, and the only thing standing between you and a cold floor (or a wet one) — a small, but essential luxury.

But a bathmat can be more than that.

When you’re decorating a bathroom, think of the bathmat as “a little art piece,” said Clodagh, a New York-based interior designer. “Keep the towels simple, but have a little fun on the floor.”

That’s what she did at the Six Senses Kaplankaya resort in Turkey, for instance: In bathrooms that were otherwise minimalist, she installed striped, flat-weave cotton mats, for a little kick of character.

Just make sure to think about where the bathmat will hang when it’s not in use.

“It’s not good over the top of the shower,” Clodagh said. “But on the side of the tub or the rail of a shower door, it looks decorative and nice.”

The choice of bathmat may seem insignificant, she noted, but every accessory in a bathroom is worthy of consideration: “Bathrooms are small places, so you can’t afford to make a mistake.”

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  • Is a small or large mat better? “I don’t like tiny ones, because you have to move them around,” Clodagh said. With large bathmats (or bath rugs), “it’s there when you get out of the tub, and when you’re standing at the wash basin as well.”
  • Should it be thin or thick? That’s a personal preference. “I have sensitive feet, so I love a cuddly bathmat,” Clodagh said. But the thicker it is, the longer it will take to dry.
  • Is cotton the only option? Cotton is cushy and absorbent, but there are firmer options, including wood, bamboo and cork.

Here are five unique examples to consider:

Pebbled Chenille Bath Rug: Organic cotton bath rug, available in two sizes, from $78 at Coyuchi, 888-418-8847 or coyuchi.com

Celine Shag Round Bath Mat: Plush cotton circle-shaped bathmat, $39 at Urban Outfitters, 800-282-2200 or urbanoutfitters.com

The Mendocino: Handwoven cotton bathmat with geometric shapes, $62 at Quiet Town, quiettownhome.com

Hinoki Bath Mat: Wooden bathmat from Japan, $50 at Canoe, 503-889-8545 or canoe.design

X Base Bath Mat: Flat-weave cotton bathmat, about $20 at CB2, 800-606-6252 or cb2.com