Bathroom design has come a long way in recent years. Cutting-edge finishes are no longer the preserve of the rich. High street retailers now include incredible designs to challenge those of bathroom gurus such as Philippe Starck.
The important thing to ensure with any bathroom is that is a pleasurable area to inhabit, but, ultimately, it must be practical – easy to use and clean. There is no point having a great hand basin if you cannot get to it for towels and potions.
Storage is important, and there are now an incredible range of cupboards and cabinets – and dual-purpose mirrored cabinets always help to increase the feeling of space in any bathroom.
If you have room, install a separate bath and shower. This is not only practical for multi-tasking families, but helps add value if you are looking at resale. However, if you have room for only a bath, consider a showering bath, which works best with a custom-fit glass shower screen. These allow you a proper-sized shower enclosure, without taking up valuable extra room.
It is essential that you try the bath in the showroom, by actually sitting and relaxing in it for a number of minutes. You need to feel comfortable over a period of time.
Your bathroom should be warm and inviting, not fuggy and dull. So careful attention must be paid to the lighting you choose and your methods of heating and ventilation.
When it comes to lighting, there are two important points to consider – practicality and ambience. There is no point having a beautiful bathing oasis with sensual lighting if the lady of the house cannot do her make-up or a man cannot see to shave.
The best way to achieve both is to consider an overall scheme with flexibility that can be enhanced by some specific high-intensity lighting, such as mirrors with integrated lights – you can even get shaving/make-up mirrors to suite these days for less than £100; still on the pricey side, but the impact is incredible.
Recess spots remain the practical and stylish choice for most people and have the added benefit of emphasising ceiling height. Look for spotlights that can be angled rather than just pointing straight down, to allow you to highlight particular decorative features (such as a favourite vase or picture).
Traditional radiators take up valuable wall space, so remove them and replace with a heated towel rail. They come in all shapes, sizes and finishes. Chrome is the most universal to match any colour scheme. To ensure the luxury of warm, dry towels throughout the year, buy a dual-fuel version (powered by your central heating in the winter and electricity in the summer).
Tile is always the best floor covering to have, but can feel cold (especially when nipping out of the shower), so consider installing under-floor heating: smaller rooms can be accommodated with a mesh that you lay under the tiles. If you can, this is an investment you will never regret.
If you are looking at ditching the bath and concentrating on a shower, then aim for a walk-in enclosure with a double-size tray (no less than 1400mm) so you can make the most of the experience.
Avoid shower curtains as these can be unsightly and cling to you when you least expect. Opt instead for plain glass shower walls which are less fussy and allow the eye to travel beyond them, elongating your view. Keep them effortlessly spotless by using a daily spray shower cleaner.
If you are feeling a little indulgent, consider an all-in-one unit that acts as a steam sauna as well. A little Tardis-like in appearance, but a lot of fun to use!
Small bathrooms require more careful planning, so create space with clean lines, clever storage and optical illusions. Consider if you really need a bath.
The market no longer demands this in smaller properties and a cramped bathroom can be turned into a good-sized shower or wet room.
The latter is a fully-tiled room with a wall-shower fitting and drainage in the floor, but no shower tray. They are popular in contemporary design, giving a great illusion of space.
However, plan carefully to avoid plumbing disasters and to ensure that your toilet-roll does not get soaked at the same time as you do.
If you do want a bath in a small room, many retailers offer shorter versions – 1500cm or even 1200cm – rather than 1700cm.
Wall-mounting the WC and hand-basin gives the illusion of a bigger room by visually maximising your floor. However, the plumbing for these can be trickier, as it involves sinking pipes into the walls.
Corner WCs and basins are a great choice to fit items into dead space, particularly next to doors. Opting for a smaller hand-basin can also be attractive, yet practical if its primary use is to clean your teeth and hands.
When decorating any bathroom, keep colours light and bright, with themes running through floors, walls and ceilings.
If you have good-sized windows, use unfussy window dressings to soften the overall effect.
The best trick with tiling is to use large, plain tiles to give the impression of space, rather than small or patterned tiles which can look very busy in enclosed areas.
Finally, coloured suites should be avoided at all cost – whatever you do, keep it white, white, white.
Jamie Hempsall, BIID is an award-winning interior designer. Visit him at www.jamiehempsall.com or call 0800 032 1180.