Nicola Holden Designs – Contemporary Interior Designer, London.

One of my most regular requests for help from clients is to design their bathrooms.  Refurbishing your bathroom is one of the biggest home investments you are likely to make, as well as one of the most disruptive.  And, once it’s in, that’s it.  The space can’t just be swapped around, and so it’s important to get it right first time to avoid making expensive mistakes!

The bathroom is where we start and end every day.  From getting us going on a workday morning to being a place of calm, to relax and unwind each evening, bathrooms need to serve two very different purposes, so it’s worth ensuring that this room influences our behaviour in the right way.

It tends to be one of the smallest rooms in the house as well, so you need to cram a lot of functions into a tiny space. However, it is still a room in your house and so needs to look like it belongs to the rest of it.  It is just as important to ensure you incorporate your personality in this space!

  1. Introduce colour and pattern

Just because a bathroom needs certain areas to be waterproof doesn’t mean it has to be bland.  Adding colour and pattern is one of the easiest ways to add personality to this space, and there are thousands of tile options to choose from!  Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you need to restrict your choice of tiles to a maximum of three.  Be creative with your tiling, layering in colour and pattern.  Listen to your heart as well as your head when it comes to choosing your tiles, and have fun!

Other ways to introduce colour and pattern is with a statement basin.  The London Basin Company have some fantastic options!  And West One Bathrooms sell a waterproof wallpaper which is suitable for use inside your shower cubicle. 

Brightly patterned basin
Image: London Basin Company
  1. Incorporate wooden elements

Being a natural material, wooden furniture is a great way to introduce biophilia to your bathroom.  The most obvious place to do this is with a basin vanity unit.  Wall hung vanity units do help to create the illusion of space if your bathroom is particularly small.  However, if your space is large enough, then you don’t need to restrict yourself to bathroom-specific furniture.  In my bathroom, I have installed a Chinese-style cabinet, but vintage pieces also work brilliantly, as they are imbued with nostalgia and memory, and add narrative.  Just ask your bathroom fitter to cut out a hole in the top for the plumbing.

Bathroom showing wooden Chinese-style cabinet
  1. Use curved shapes and soft materials to soften hard edges

Bathrooms have a tendency to be hard spaces, so choose shapes that are as round and soft as you can, and add in further softness through window dressings, fabric covered lampshades, rugs and lots of towels.

Curved bath and basin add softness
  1. Add art, accessories and plants

Not all your bathroom walls need to be tiled, so where possible leave some of them untiled to allow you to hang art.  Get your picture framer to foil back your art to protect it from steam.  To help your bathroom feel like just another room in your home, incorporate plants and accessories too. 

Art and plants help to create a homely atmosphere
  1. Layer in lighting

Fitting your lighting at different levels adds intrigue and ambience to any space, and the bathroom is no exception.  At the very least try you should have ceiling lights and wall lights either side of a mirror.  These lights should be on different circuits, and on a dimmer switch, so you can create a more relaxed atmosphere when you choose.  You can also incorporate lighting in niches, on shelves, under cabinets.  And, if the layout of your space allows, it can also be possible to incorporate a statement chandelier.  Just do be sure to check that your lighting plans comply with buildings regulations.

Bathroom mirror lights
Niche lighting
  1. Plan in plenty of storage

Try to think outside the box when planning in bathroom storage.  Can you incorporate a small cabinet within the wall cavity behind the mirror?  And think vertically too.  In the tiny bathroom below I had a bespoke wall-to-wall cabinet made to sit on the wall above the towel heater, which meant the client had more than enough storage space without taking up any floor space.

A bespoke cupboard above the radiator
  1. Don’t forget the practicalities

It’s easy to overlook the practicalities in your bathroom – after all there are so many other decisions to be made.  But you will always need somewhere to hang the loo roll, so think about this when you plan the position of your toilet.  You’ll want your towel to be close to hand when you’re stepping out of the shower or bath, and you’ll need a towel near the basin for hand washing. 

By following these tips, you should be able to create a bathroom that feels like a comfortable extension of your home.  A space in which you’ll want to start and end each day!

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