Bathrooms - Creating the ultimate ‘wow’ factor

Bathrooms can be dream spaces or ultimate nightmares. They are usually amongst the smallest rooms in the house but used more than any other. So much needs to be squeezed into these small spaces and they must all work perfectly day in and day out.

Bathrooms can be dream spaces or ultimate nightmares. They are usually amongst the smallest rooms in the house but used more than any other. So much needs to be squeezed into these small spaces and they must all work perfectly day in and day out. There is nothing more off-putting to buyers or guests than a grotty bathroom. Here are a few things to think about before starting a bathroom project, so you can be on your way to stunning buyers with the bathroom of their dreams.

The great thing about contemporary bathroom design is that you can mix and match your favourite pieces from a variety of suppliers’ ranges. People now see bathrooms as an extension of their home instead of a totally separate environment. From exotic woods to marbles and metals, the choice of materials is endless.

Things to think about before you start….

Mood and budget - It’s important that you browse through as many magazines and catalogues as you can find. Visit showrooms to see what style you like and how they look ‘in the flesh’. Decide on the mood you want to create – cool and contemporary, warm and cosy, slick and masculine, opulent, retro Victorian or 20’s Art Deco? - and the budget you want to allocate to this re-design.

Who will use the bathroom? Will the whole family use this space or is it a chill out room for mum and dad? If it is an en suite bathroom, perhaps you may want to coordinate with the adjoining bedroom. For the family a degree of practicality will be required in the design – storage, durability, safety and ease of cleaning are all things to consider.

Layout - When visiting your bathroom showroom you must have all dimensions with you, size of room, position of doors and windows, radiators, toilet and sink and shower/bath. This is important for the designer because to move soil pipes is an expensive business so it is better and cheaper to work with the layout you have.

Lighting - Lighting is all important and needs to play a dual role. For a relaxed atmosphere use dimmers for general lighting. Task lighting is more direct, brighter and placed where activities take place – i.e. shaving or putting on make-up. Plan what goes where and chose your fixtures accordingly. UK requirements stipulate that light fittings within 600mm of a bath or shower must have an IP rating of 65 whilst other lights at more than 600mm away must have an IP rating of 45. Lights must be operated by a pull cord or an outside switch.

Storage - Storage is essential in a bathroom to maintain that all-important uncluttered look. A bathroom is a very private area and there are some things that are best stored away. A cupboard behind the main mirror takes little room and is extremely useful. Clever storage could consist of mobile units that double-up as seating and can be tucked under the basin when not in use. Built-in cupboards above concealed cisterns are a good way of maximising space without hitting your head! You might even consider allowing for bath panels to open up or have pull out drawers made for extra storage.

Heating and ventilation - A cold bathroom is a real turn-off. Is the heating up to scratch, do you need additional warmth? A heated towel rail is cost effective to run and can help to top up the heat. Consider installing under floor heating in small spaces. You can make a design statement with contemporary radiators - they give you that wow factor as well as being useful. If you are going to use a large mirror you may want to consider installing heated pads on the reverse. These are wired in with the light switch and prevent the mirror misting up after a shower. Remember that it is a local authority regulation to have external ventilation such as from a window or extractor.

Fixtures and fittings - When you are planning a bathroom it is unlikely that you will be choosing fixtures and fittings all from the same manufacturer. There are no fast and hard rules about this, but do keep to the same style to keep the overall look elegant and coherent.

Always buy the best fixtures you can afford, regardless of whether for you or for resale. Cheap taps for example are a false economy; they don’t work and drip continuously and feel nasty. Good quality fixtures and fittings always add that “wow” factor, they also feel good to the touch. So a simple white suite can set you back as little as £500 from B&Q and can be dressed up with good quality fixtures.

**Bath or shower? **A bath is great for relaxing in the evening, but a shower is invigorating inthe morning. Bath for resale, shower for you. Or have a shower above the bath. Think about the design of your shower: do you want exposed i.e. surface mounted or concealed mixer valves in your shower?Concealed mixer valves lend themselvesto slick and contemporary rooms, whilst exposed bathroom furniture can become part of the "look" especially if it is either screamingly modern or if you want to enhance the period feel of the bathroom to be in keeping with architectural detailing for example.

Fixed shower heads or wall mounted? You can have both with a diverter valve - this allows you to switch the water between the two. Washing small children or washing your hair is easier with hand held shower heads. Fixed shower heads can also be enhanced with luxurious body jets if you have good water pressure!

So before you buy anything check your water pressure – a plumber can do this for you. Pressure is measured in bars and most homes will have a water pressure of 1-1.5 bars whilst hotels are nearer 3-4 bars. You may want to fit a pump as some of the new fixtures and fittings may only work with a higher pressure. Many come from mainland Europe where water pressure is higher so you need to check that it can be adapted to the UK standards and pipe sizes. Huge shower heads look fun but require an immense flow of water to operate properly, so bear this in mind before committing.

The epitome of luxury? Indulgence but at small prices. The more restrained the design of the taps, showers heads etc. the more you need to emphasise texture in the surfaces you are using, otherwise it can look very dull. So for a natural and contemporary feel why not mix simple but good quality taps with a sink countersunk into a wooden countertop? Wood can, however, be high maintenance if used in a wet environment. If you chose to use wood as a countertop it must be either sealed against water or maintained with linseed oil or similar. Softwoods are best avoided. Go for hardwoods with a high oil content such as Teak or Iroko.

Next time we will talk more about wall and floor finishes, wet rooms and walk-in showers and how to create that spa-like experience without breaking the bank.

Françoise Murat & Associates specialise in interior, garden & landscape design.

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