Louise Jones reveals the essential ingredients of an luxury bathroom, from slipping into showroom tubs to bookshelves by the basin.
What makes a bathroom luxurious?
A sense of space instantly creates a feeling of indulgence. The addition of steam showers to dressing areas means that space is increasingly important in a luxury bathroom. A cramped room will not feel luxurious, nor create a sense of calm and wellbeing. I like to apply the same level of design detail to a bathroom as I would to any other room in the house. It might be a practical space, but it can also be a superbly comfortable and elegant one.
How do you begin?
Consider the floor, wall and ceiling treatments, because they will dictate the character of the room. The choice will depend on who the bathroom is for, its link to the bedroom and the style and age of the house. For a master en-suite, I might use a colour scheme and palette of materials that co-ordinate with those in the bedroom to create a sense of flow or take elements from one room to complement the other. Polished marble, mirror and glass always create a glamorous feel. There’s a vast choice, from classic white, cream and delicately veined grey marbles to bolder colours with dramatic veining or semi-translucent onyx. There’s a certain romance to selecting a stone that can never be replicated, which is why the natural material will always remain a luxurious choice, however perfect the marble effects in porcelain tiles become.
Painted wall-panelling is another good option: it adds personality to a room and can be eminently practical in concealing storage (as well as imperfections in the walls that can be an issue in older houses). I also love tiles in bathrooms, because there’s such a wide selection of colourful designs and sizes available now.
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Patterned tiles used in a shower area or combined with half-height wall-panelling can add great impact.
Walls covered in fabric or wallpaper can add warmth and introduce a layer of decorative interest that is greater than plain painted walls. Provided there is a modern ventilation system to draw out steamy air, both paper-backed fabric and wallpaper can be used in a bathroom without difficulty, although you can glaze wallpaper (Decorators Varnish in Dead Flat from Polyvine test a small sample before use) or buy specialist papers for bathroom use (such as Wall&Deco from West One Bathrooms) if you prefer.
What are your thoughts on storage?
It’s essential! The amount of storage will depend on the size of room and the storage requirements of each individual, but I usually include some convenient eye-level cupboard storage behind a mirror in the basin area, plus drawers in the vanity unit below because it’s easier to see contents than there than at the back of a cupboard. Some clients will want a dressing table and wardrobe area, too, if the bathroom is large enough.
A freestanding bath makes a strong focal point, especially if it is positioned under the main window in the room. Be wary of choosing the biggest bath, however, as most people find it more comfortable for their feet to touch the end of the tub.
I recommend trying out the designs you like, even if it means slipping off your shoes and climbing into a bath on display in a showroom. Comfort is all.
How do you choose a shower?
No one wants a dribbling shower, so go for a head that’s compatible with your water pressure. Decide whether you prefer an invigorating experience, in which case a smaller ‘club-style’ head is best, or a soothing rain shower from a larger design. Many retailers have shower troughs, where you can feel the spray patterns from a variety of heads.
How do you choose a tap?
It needs to be the right scale for the basin or bath, and complement its style. I like the interesting finishes, from copper (left) to pewter, that are now available. It’s another way of adding detail to complete a room design.
And the finishing touches?
Mirrors, a comfortable chair, lamps and towel warmers to pretty soap dishes, unusual cabinet handles, paintings and a shelf of books – they are all ways to personalise a bathroom and make it feel special.
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