Five Design Considerations For Your Luxury Bathroom
When designing a bathroom, there are many features we can include to make your life easier. Here are our top five design considerations – the essential areas you should consider before buying a new bathroom.
A well-designed bathroom should not be a struggle to clean. Nowadays a shower enclosure can be formed from simple glassware that doesn’t have all the dirt collecting nooks and crannies we’ve come to take for granted.
At Ablutions, we design our showers to reduce, or eliminate, three areas that cause cleaning headaches. These are silicone sealant, rubber seals (both ‘stick-on’ and captive) and tile grout. These are all areas that dirt and mould love to grow, so by eliminating them, we ensure an easy-clean shower.
There should be no areas in your new bathroom that you can’t reach. Avoid placing a freestanding bath so close to the wall that spiders and toilet roll inners can easily reach the space, but brooms, mops and brushes just won‘t go.
If you want the look of a freestanding bath but without the impractical reality of having nowhere to put anything while you’re using it, consider using a discrete bath deck. A bath deck connects the bath to a nearby wall, providing a handy ledge for toiletries and candles, while not spoiling the sleek lines of your new bath.
Dirt and mould collect in tight, damp spaces, so think about removing gaps and joints by using continuous solid surface worktops and splashbacks in Tristone or Corian. Alternatively, consider using large format tiles to ensure surfaces are as uninterrupted and grout-free as possible. If you want to avoid extra cleaning, be cautious about using textured tiles and natural stone (the exception being Honed & Filled Natural Travertine).
All bathrooms need storage, but a good designer asks you how much you need. This will avoid wasting space with a ‘wall-to-wall fitted furniture’ look.
The best place for toiletry storage is at eye level. Small containers, bottles, make-up, shaving accoutrements, contact lens requirements and medication will take up much less space if you can see at a glance where they are. It’s equally important to be able to retrieve them without a struggle that involves knocking over items at the front of a shelf to reach the things at the back.
Beware of drawers for bathroom storage, as they are simply not the answer many think they are. Drawer mechanisms take up storage space and, unlike a shelf, a drawer is not adjustable at all, so many people end up putting tall bottles that won’t fit in the drawer on the window cill.
Half-empty drawers are also a pain, as the contents tend to fall over unless you open them very gently.
Mid-height cabinets are a great storage feature. These miniature ‘larder units’ seem more acceptable to most people when kept below eye height, so the display area on top is not out of sight. A mid-height unit offers you total flexibility for the height of storage, so small items are best on shelves placed close together at the top of the unit, while space for six-packs of gel and spare toilet rolls is provided at the bottom.
Lighting is probably the area in bathroom design that has seen the most advances in recent years, and developments don’t look set to cease any time soon.
Secondary lighting adds real value to your bathroom as it can be ‘honed’ to your mood. It has practical applications too – movement-activated light means you can take a quick visit in the early hours without hunting for a switch or having to click a pull-cord loudly.
Internal cabinet lights are invaluable at making sure that cabinet interiors are fully utilised. And LED deck lights have a variety of uses – they can create dots of light along a step for safety, or create an illusion of space when used beneath cabinet plinths.
Ceiling downlighters provide efficient room lighting and are low maintenance and low-cost. They are rated in single-figure Watts and thus run cool and don’t age like tungsten or halogen lights.
They also sit flush to the ceiling, so cleaning and maintenance are much simpler than with pendant fittings or spotlights.
There has been a real explosion recently in the availability of designer radiators and towel ladders, and the great thing is that the competition has resulted in some attractive designs at sensible prices.
Look out for coloured radiators and ladders, as matt dark coloured radiators are more efficient per square metre than bright chrome, and their input can be aesthetic as well as practical.
Don’t skimp on radiator/ladder size – you can always turn them down, but a cold bathroom is not a nice one, and it doesn’t cost a lot to upgrade to the next size.
Think about underfloor heating – it too can contribute to your satisfaction with your new bathroom. Heating a small bathroom with underfloor heating will cost about the same to run as three old fashioned 100W light bulbs.
Don’t be frightened to split the heating into, say, a radiator on a wall where there’s plenty of room for general room heating, and an additional one at a high level exactly where it needs to be to be reachable from the shower.
Access & Ergonomics
This is an area where, sadly, the bathroom industry falls down. There is far more emphasis on ‘how well it looks’ than ever there is with ‘how well it works’.
I have seen trade design competitions won by entries that don’t even have a toilet roll holder, let alone an ergonomically positioned one. Careful thought is needed, especially if you don’t want your guests inconvenienced.
An easy trick to make the room feel larger and friendlier is to re-hang the entrance door so that it’s flat to the wall when open – instead of it making a ‘corridor’ for you before you get in.
A WC pan can be sited very close to the bath without it being a problem. It can be a help for the ‘not so nimble’ when getting into the bath, and it’s also very convenient as a seat when it comes to bathing the children.
In a tiny room, the use of angles will generate space. Take, for instance, a WC that is so close to a side wall that a hot radiator is a real hazard to the user. In this situation, by setting the pan at an angle, you gain valuable extra knee-room.
Years ago, British toilets were well over 18 inches high – about 460mm – and most people that are old enough to remember them will not like some of the ‘Lilliputian’ loos that we import today.
The answer is a wall-hung WC, fitted at the users preferred height, making it so much easier for the user to get off.
Other things to remember include:
- Double-ended baths are effectively shorter than single-ended, as regards bathing length.
- Watch out for twin-grip baths where the extra ‘ledge’ for the grips make the bathing area very narrow and the bath very difficult to get out of.
- Avoid ‘P’ baths which make the wide end unusable for bathing, unless you want to sit on the plug and have the taps sticking into the back of your neck. If you take up floor-space with a bath that is extra wide for showering, make sure it’s suitable for sitting in the wide end and that the other end (the ‘feet’ end) is only about 500m wide.
- Check that access out of the shower can be achieved without the door opening out and wetting the floor.
Bathroom Designers vs Bathroom Salespeople
It’s important to remember that your bathroom will only function to your total delight if each component has been chosen to work alongside the others. It is here where the utmost care is needed as the bath you fell in love with, when you spotted it in the centrefold of your magazine, will easily disappoint if it isn’t pointed out to you that you just don’t have the space to do justice to it.
A smart ‘bathroom designer’ will talk you through all the options and lead you to a design that will work for you, in the space you have, and not be frightened to reveal to you any compromise that he/she sees in the design you ask for.
A ‘bathroom salesperson’ however might want to avoid a negative response to your ‘wishlist’ and just cave in to your requirements, lest a ‘no’ puts his/her commission at risk.
So it’s essential that the trust you put in your designer is not misplaced and that you see that he/she is taking a real interest in getting it right for you. A good test here is to ask if your designer will come to see you when the work is complete.
You want to avoid a scenario where your ‘designer’ disappears as soon as your deposit has cleared, leaving you in the hands of the faceless individuals in the installation department.
Just remember this – when someone sees your new bathroom for the first time, you want to hear them say “Wow – who did this for you?” – don’t you?
What you don’t want to hear is “Oh, I see you got the bathroom done then!”
Written by Stuart Irving, MD and lead designer for Ablutions Luxury Bathrooms, and former winner of the KBDA Bathroom Designer of the Year award.