An interior designer shares her golden rules for bathroom design

Interior designer Sarah Foote from Sarah Foote Design shares practical pointers for bathroom design

A well-designed loo never goes unnoticed – it has a captive audience, after all. What else is there to do while frequenting the smallest room in the house but admire an exquisite tile choice, a beautiful basin or a sumptuous selection of soaps? When designing a bathroom, we need to pack a tonne of functionality into what is normally quite a modest footprint. We brush, floss, exfoliate, cleanse and clean in it, but we also use it as a place to relax in a hot bath, unwind and enjoy some me-time. So, while layout, storage and performance are top priorities, just as important are the beautiful materials, clever styling and thoughtful lighting that help take this space from one of necessity to one of luxury.

1. Natural light is key

Natural light is vital in a bathroom. If your space doesn’t have windows, consider installing an opening skylight – it will create light and much-needed ventilation and save on wall space. If you’re unable to add natural light then use a white colour palette, install multiple mirrors and specify excellent lighting.

2. Choose space-saving products

Every centimetre counts so try these space savers; Cavity sliders Great for ensuites, but bear in mind that you can’t install facilities against the cavity wall. Smaller in-wall cisterns These save you up to 150mm compared to a standard in-wall cistern. Individual heated towel bars I like to install the smaller width version in a vertical line of five up a wall. Vanities Opt for a smaller depth of 400mm to 450mm.

3. Pre-plan with your tradespeople

There are many details to cover off in the planning stages but I find these can often be missed:

Floor height: Discuss dropping the floor height of your bathroom or, with new tiles, screed and underfloor heating, you could end up with a 40-50mm step up.

Shower niche: A full-length wall niche looks luxurious, is practical and is easy to install if specified early. It should be 1000mm from the floor to the bottom shelf, with an inside height of 300mm. Ask your tiler to mitre the tiles so you don’t end up with a visible trim.

Above-vanity storage cabinets: The more storage in a bathroom the better, but let your builder know early so they can frame around the space to allow the unit to sit flush into the wall. Also get your electrician to pre-wire for demisters, which can be inset into units.

Tile layout: Never leave the layout of tiles to your tiler always discuss where you want your tile cuts to be. Avoiding a smaller-cut tile at either the top or bottom of a bathroom wall is key to a finished look.

4. Know your numbers

Think about heights and details well before you start the bathroom, as it’s stressful having to decide these on the spot. Below are a few measurements to use as starting point – these are usually individualised to suit the bathroom size and people who will be using it.

Shower heads: The top of a slide shower head should be at 2000mm. A rain head should be at 2250mm.

Shower mixers: Position centre 1000mm from the floor.

In-wall bath mixers: Normally 150mm above the top of the bath, or more for freestanding baths.

Walk-in showers: The shower glass should ideally be 1200mm wide to allow for minimal overspray. The access width should be 650mm-700mm.

Shower size: Minimum 1000mm x 1000mm.

Vanity height: Aim for 900mm to the top of the vanity or top of a vessel basin (set the vanity top lower).

Vanity with a single sink: Width should be 700mm minimum but 900mm or more is better.

Vanity with a double sink: Width should be 1400mm minimum but 1600mm or more is preferred.

Individual heated towel rails: Allow 270mm between each rail, with the bottom rail 1050mm off the floor.

5. Choose star pieces you love

It’s important that a bathroom is functional and durable foremost, but if you have key pieces that you love choose these early and design the bathroom around them. Stick to one or two features and keep things classic after that. The plan is to create a bathroom that won’t date before its time.

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