There are some bathroom design approaches that I employ to varying degrees that can be applied to pretty much any bathroom, irrespective of whether the budget is large or small. Room size does not change the basic function – yet every single client has different personal preferences on how they want their bathrooms to look and work. It is worth sourcing fixtures from many different suppliers and becoming creative, not only will you end up with a gorgeous, fully styled bathroom but you will also save money.
Here are a few tips using examples from the Velvet Orange portfolio to give you the confidence to approach your own bathroom design, at the end I have included some important factors to consider on bathroom infrastructure.
One of the most pleasurable ways to un-wind is to have a long soak in a deep bath. Freestanding baths are really popular and come in all shapes and sizes. Classic claw toed baths never go out of vogue, and are best installed in their own space with room around them, or, in clear line of sight to take in their shape and colour. Longer baths (1750mm+) can be double-ended, (should you wish to share your bathing experience), in which case taps can be placed centrally or even dispensed with altogether (see below). Traditionally, claw toed baths were made of cast iron and are still available but note they very heavy and lose heat faster than in baths made from modern materials.
This was a deliberate choice to refurbish an existing fixture as essentially there was nothing wrong with it – the bath was re-enamelled and looks like a brand new piece. The freestanding side table and a bathroom TV at the other end make for an inviting spot to relax.
This show stopping bath below is one of my favourite pieces of all time. It was costly but it was compensated for elsewhere in the refurbishment and was placed as a feature piece beneath the bathroom window in clear line of site entering into the master en-suite in this high end London development.
Bath by BC bathrooms
The frosted glass insert allows light into the wardrobe area and links the bathroom visually to the
A classic look can still be achieved using a standard bath and some clever tiling and other finishes. In this refurbishment below in Clapham, there was not enough room for a classic freestanding bath which my client so wanted. So we created an alternative look with a similar feel by fitting large marble effect polished porcelain tiles on the sides of a standard bath, and a bespoke stone top ontop of the bath edge to complete the feeling of encasement. A smooth bullnose edge detail gives a luxe hotel look which is what the client wanted – she wanted to feel pampered in her own bathroom. As the theme for this room was “reflective polished white”, smaller tiles from the same range were used as feature mosaics to create texture around recesses, and a mirror bathroom TV was installed at the foot of the bath.
Polished porcelain tiles, polished stone tops, exafill bath filler and a bathroom TV..
To avoid the clutter of too many taps and shower heads, an exafill bath filler can be used as an alternative to a bath tap. In the first image above – this allows the bath to be filled via a sleek overflow fitting (dispensing with the need for bath taps altogether).
2. SINK CABINETRY and STORAGE
You do not have to buy all your furniture from one shop, and if you can’t find a vanity unit you like, it is relatively easy to create one with some imagination. I love doing this as more individuality can be brought into play. The vanity cupboard in the previous image was a sideboard, converted by my joiner, to house the under-counter bathroom sinks and provide precious storage. The unit was spray painted and the same stone worktop as the bath was installed with a smooth bull nose edge to match. In the example above, the drawers became dummy fronts as they hide the sink pipework, but all three cupboards are fully useable.
Similarly below, this vanity unit was a French sourced sideboard – the metallic detailing and curved shape fitting perfectly with the concept we were after, and it was far more cost effective to do this than have the unit made. A stone specialist installed the carerra marble worktop to tie in with the floor and walls. Note that variations in stone can occur between suppliers and sources, so check that your samples are a good fit before commissioning work. Here the cabinet is high so internal storage is available but to a lesser degree – we were not concerned in this instance as bathroom storage was amply provided elsewhere in this large room.
Sinks and taps by Villeroy Boch, worktop and splash back by stone supplier, bevel edge mirror
Alternatively you can mix and match bespoke bathroom cabinets with sinks bought elsewhere, such as below. The extra wide unit allows for workspace next to the sink, and a push touch drawer results in clutter free design.
As long as a shower is a minimum of 750mm square, it should be comfortable for use by most people. The taller you are, or the messier you are in the shower – the more space you will need
This shower was installed within an old school conversion in Wimbledon. Textured green Chinese slate on the walls was blended with honed limestone elsewhere. A bespoke shower screen was commissioned from a glazier and water softener installed to reduce limescale build up. The room itself was only 2m wide by 3m long but keeping the fit out simple gives a feeling of spaciousness.
Wall mounted taps free up precious surface space and deco bathroom wall lights are installed ontop of the ceiling height bathroom mirror for screen star glamour
If you want a walk in shower without having a wet room, a low profile shower tray is a good option. In this house refurbishment we dropped it into the floor as we had space beneath the floorboards, so it was flush with the tiles.
Travertine and walnut have always been a match made in heaven
If the tray is not dropped into the floor, it can still look sleek and be highly practical as seen in this super luxe refurbishment below. The shower tray was 900mm x 1600mm but here a fully enclosed sliding shower screen by MATKI was installed as the ceiling mounted shower head is central and water splashing would travel further.
4. DECORATING WITH TILES
There is world of options to choose from along with a wide range of suppliers and this is where you can become truly creative.
These gorgeous mosaics below were all that was needed to create a stunning design statement in a guest bedroom. A simple mosaic border teamed with complimentary wallpaper and a bedroom dressed to kill and the bathroom becomes an extension of the space beyond. The entire suite is light, airy and luxurious.
Being bold with tiling choices pays off, especially if you choose strong, sultry colours and artwork to style the room. In this Battersea home below the marble effect, polished porcelain tiles are chocolate brown with deep swathes of burnt orange and smoky blue veining. We used Farrow and Ball Tanners Brown on the walls and dark stained oak shelving to pull it all together. The client’s artwork turns this shower room into something sumptuous and personal. Using tiles like this is bold and the styling should not be done by halves – be confident and push the boat out on remaining colour choices and materials to pull it all off.
5. DECORATING WITH COLOUR
If a bathroom is not going to get too steamy, I love to use wallpaper for the glamour factor. This small but perfectly formed bathroom was a part of a complete overhaul. The bathroom previously was an off white with seashells for decoration and a country shabby chic look. Keeping the layout the same but employing brand new fittings, we went for high octane looks to suit our client with antique glass along the entire room length, lemon carerra mosaics, cole and son wallpaper and not a little dash of panache in the styling items.
Closing the door and switching off from the outside world in this bijoux bathroom would be heavenly
I have used stripes more than once. It is an enormously effective and cool way of dramatising quirky room shapes and designing with style and a smaller budget. I love colour across ceilings and across rooms from one end to another – specifying clashing colours and varying stripe widths with very pleasing results.
This design was for a shared bathroom between a brother and sister – pink and blue can be punchy..
All brand new fittings, sinks/units and WC by Bauhaus, exafill bath filler, glass mosaics in recesses, simple white tiles and walls
….and here where clients did not want to do anything but re-paint their children’s bathroom but were un-sure how to work with the floor tiles. Using neutral walls and complementary colours in the paintwork really works.
As you can see bathrooms can be glamourised very easily by using colour, artwork, tile details and even styling items like candles and side tables. Working around the more practical demands of the space, these are all illusions of sumptuousness that are window dressing the necessary fixtures and fittings that play the functional role.
Some boring but necessary things for you to think about….
Unless your bathroom refurbishment is part of a larger scheme, you will probably be working within a particular footprint.
- Most logistics are negotiable for a price, but if you want to keep your costs down try to work around the existing WC location.
- If you are installing a WC that does not have access to a stack directly, a saniflo is an option. Macerating products on the market are much better than they used to be, but I would urge you to do this only if you are putting in a second toilet or bathroom and it is un-avoidable.
- Waste water from showers and baths needs to fall away on an incline so consider where the drains are on your fittings in order to have them as close to the outside as possible – the further away they are, the higher off the floor they will have to be in order to drain well.
- In a small bathroom, too many doors can be maddening – having to close or open one in order to get in and out of another is painful. Re-hang your bathroom door or replace with a pocket door if you have space to make things easier.
- Make sure you design both hidden and display storage into your bathroom, having a gorgeous space cluttered by bottles does not work.
…how long is a piece of string? From dirt cheap to eye wateringly expensive, my mantra is that you get what you pay for, however, you do not have to pay through the nose for all your fixtures.
- If you have a healthy budget then fantastic, skip this point. If you are juggling funds, buy great, sleek and simple ceramic pieces that are not branded and splash out on chrome ware, tiles and styling.
- Do spend money on decent chrome ware.
- Walk in showers are great if installed properly and there is a correct fall-away into the drain. The alternative is a low profile shower tray which can either be fitted flush with the floor or stands proud of it by a minimal amount.
- Having as much visible floor space as possible will make your room feel spacious, note that a wall mounted, off the floor toilet needs to have a heavy frame embedded in the wall to hold it structurally. Allow a good 20-25cm for this within the existing wall space or allow for it in your design.
- Make sure your system can cope with high pressure fittings.
- Do not under-estimate good ventilation, a window in the bathroom is the ideal scenario but if this is not possible, good venting via ducts to the outside is obligatory.
- If you are in a hard water area, a water softener is a great way to avoid limescale buildup, your contractor can install one for you.
- Putting a heat pad behind a fitted mirror in a bathroom means steam-free mirrors after a hot shower.
8. ADDING VALUE
Many of my clients are keen to consider the impact of their refurbishments. Apart from some common sense on aesthetics and functionality, most of the time when it comes to bathrooms you can’t really go wrong, although bear the following in mind.
- If you have a family house, keep a bathroom with a bath in it. Many people shower all the time but taking a bath out of the house and trying to sell for top dollar will be a challenge, especially if there is no easy way of re-instating one.
- Ground floor toilets are always viewed positively by my clients and potential buyers of their homes.
- Be absolutely certain if you are making uber bold design choices on fittings. If adding or maintaining value is important to you then keep your design statement to the styling elements in your bathroom.
- Use contractors who know what they are doing, have a proven track record and will provide certificates where necessary. They are more expensive than others for a reason – this piece of advice is non-negotiable.