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The Luxurious Bathroom

The Luxurious Bathroom


Marble Bathroom

Bathroom design has hardly changed in any dramatic way for nigh on 100 years.  This is hardly surprising as all bathrooms revolve around three or four essential pieces of sanitary ware - wash hand basin, bath, shower and WC.  

Whilst there have been some excellent design innovations such as walk in showers which do away with problematic shower trays, most items of sanitary ware have remained essentially the same, albeit with styling differences.

The bath is the one item that has seen numerous variations, including corner baths, round baths, double baths and even the hideous heart shaped bath.  To my mind the simpler the better and the traditional rectangular bath is probably one of the most practical to this day.

The bathroom should, I believe, be as luxurious as any other room in the house.  Growing up in the 1950s and 60s this was seldom the case.  The bathroom would contain the essential sanitary ware but was cold and austere and was not a place to linger and relax in.  Fortunately attitudes have changed and we can make our bathrooms as luxurious as we like.

However, we still have several design challenges to create a desirable bathroom -

  • selection of sanitary ware
  • layout of the sanitary ware
  • decoration of the space

The selection of sanitary ware available today is excellent and we have numerous styles to choose from.  In terms of colour white must be the first choice as it is the most enduring and flexible. There are some metal baths on the market in nickel and copper and they can look handsome in the right setting as well as some modern interpretations of a traditional stone bathtub.  For those with the budget, and indeed the space, it is still possible to obtain an antique stone bath but for this the setting has to be right to avoid it looking a little pretentious.

Whatever you choose try and go for the best you can afford and avoid anything gimmicky.  Clean lines and handsome shapes are best. Unless you are choosing the most exotic stone or metal baths, cast iron is the best choice of material if possible.

Bathroom at Villa Kérylos

The trickiest area when it comes to selecting equipment is the choice of taps and it is in the choice of brassware that you will mark the bathroom as either leaning towards the traditional or the modern.  Personally I can be comfortable with either but as always the discerning eye is looking for shape, feel and practicality. For a traditional look companies such as Rutland London have an excellent selection of classically styled brassware whilst Vola and Hansgrohe have a clean modern look. Whichever style you choose be sure to see a sample - test it in the hand for comfort and practicality.  In terms of finish I favour nickel or polished brass, but whichever you choose be mindful of how to maintain the finish and how to clean without damaging the surface.

Swan neck taps

How the bathroom is laid out can be a tougher decision than the selection of the equipment.  This will be determined by size of the room, the position of doors and windows and not least by the position of drainage runs.  Traditionally sanitary ware was placed along the perimeter walls of the room as close as possible to soil pipes.  For obvious reasons waste water has to be able to drain and the necessary pipework for effective drainage was often close to exterior walls.

Antique Stone Bath

Re-routing drainage pipes will involve structural decisions as it is not possible to cut away underfloor joists at will nor is it necessarily always possible to dig up solid floors. On a new build project the bathrooms should be carefully planned at the design stage so that the waste water drainage is correctly positioned.  Hot and cold water supplies are more flexible but the siting of the WC should be planned carefully.  Refurbishment projects are more difficult and the siting of the sanitary ware may be settled by the existing drainage.

Stone Bath


Assuming, however, there is flexibility to place the sanitary ware as we choose what is the best approach?  The concept of symmetry, sight lines and privacy will play a part in the design.  Where possible the WC should always be shielded from view when using the bath and a heated towel rail alongside the lavatory might be the perfect solution. The WC and wash hand basin should be in close proximity leaving the bath to be the predominant feature.  Some like a bath in the centre of a room and this indeed can be very smart. Others prefer the bath enclosed within its own alcove thus affording a greater sense of privacy.  These are personal preferences.

When it comes to wash hand basins I prefer the underslung round or oval type with a vanity top in wood or stone.  There is never enough room around a freestanding basin for all of life’s necessities and the vanity can provide the space for soaps and toiletries that would otherwise not be available. Some people like twin basins side by side.  I have never seen the value in this but again it is a personal preference.

Oval underslung basin

Shower enclosures pose an interesting problem.  Given that a bath is for leisurely bathing, the shower in contrast is for a quicker, more invigorating, experience. I think if space permitted I would have a separate shower room with hard floors so water spray would not matter. This would leave a more relaxed space for a bathroom where, if desired, one could use carpets and upholstered furniture.

The final part of the jigsaw is how we design and decorate around the sanitary ware and the technical issues posed by the space. The best bathrooms are those that appear to seamlessly integrate the elements together in a stylish, comfortable and yet practical manner. This can be the hard part.

The overall style of the area will be dictated by the colours, finishes and textures that are applied once the sanitary ware and layout has been planned.  My personal preference is for a masculine bathroom where the finishes and the colours have a strength - wood, stone and earth colours.  However, the style you adopt will depend upon who is using the bathroom.  Some large houses are large enough to have multiple bathrooms which of course enables family members to choose their own style.  In the vast majority of cases, however, bathrooms are shared and therefore must be pleasing to all those using it. Choose colours, patterns and materials that you are comfortable with but bear in mind that whilst you can make a bathroom a very luxurious place you are still dealing with water, moist air and therefore dampness.  You also have surfaces that need cleaning and maintaining in a similar manner to a kitchen - hence my personal overall preference for a more masculine approach.

And finally - do not forget accessories. Towels, soap dishes, tissue holders even the colour of the flowers all play a part in raising the bathroom from austere and utilitarian to comfortable and luxurious.

This article only touches on some of the elements that create a successful bathroom.  If I could end with one parting idea. Avoid obsessing about sanitary ware - keep it simple and classic.  Instead give great attention to layout and style and how the combination of the elements will come together to create a pleasing whole.

Rutland London -
Vola -
Hansgrohe -

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