Measuring and experimenting with different layouts and planning meticulously definitely pays off when it comes to bathroom design. The requirements of a small en suite or cloakroom will be very different from those for a big family bathroom so keep in mind the number of people using the room and when. Sketching a scale plan will help to plot a rough layout: remember to include immovable features such as doorways, windows or chimneybreasts.
In any bathroom project, it’s important to think about the focus of a room and where to place everything to make the best use of the space. Plan your heating and lighting early, too, as these will need to be installed before the flooring and sanitaryware. Other things to consider are water pressure, your hot water system and where the soil stack is situated, which will affect your plumbing choices and where to place fixtures and fittings.
If installing a wet room, where the shower water drains away through a tiled floor, flooring will also need to be checked. Then, once all the information is to hand, you can start planning.
Deciding the function
Whether you’re planning a large family bathroom that’s perfectly equipped to deal with the morning rush, or you are after a relaxing spa-like scheme for two, attention to detail is vital. First decide exactly what needs to go into the room. Adding a separate shower in a big space is a good solution for busy households, as is installing ‘his and hers’ basins.
A large bath is also useful, along with capacious storage. If you’re buying a lot of items, consider going to one supplier, as there might be deals to be had and it will make delivery easier. If you prefer to mix and match and you’re buying from more than one range, check that the colours match, as there is more than one shade of white and it will be difficult to exchange if they don’t quite work together.
Getting the shape right
The bigger your bathroom, the more choice you’ll have over where to place your sanitaryware. Once you’ve decided exactly what you want in the room, think carefully about where you will place everything. Start with your soil stack for the WC and plumbing – it will be more cost-effective to use it as your starting point because moving it could be costly. Starting from scratch is much easier in an extension or loft conversion, for instance, but remember that mistakes made at first-fix will be time-consuming and expensive to change.
Make a scale drawing of the room and then place cut-outs of the fixtures and fittings you ideally want to include on the floor. Experiment until you find an ideal layout with enough space between each item.
Think about the shape of the room, and where particular functions will be performed. ‘In a big bathroom, use the floor space imaginatively,’ says Howard Birch, managing director of Aston Matthews. ‘Rather than pushing all the items out to the walls, make a focal point by positioning a freestanding bath in the middle. You can also create a generous walk-through shower that fits the space with a tiled wet room floor and a bespoke glass screen.
Establishing a family-friendly space is all about making sure each bathroom function has plenty of room, so that there’s no early morning crush. Adding ‘his and hers’ sinks isn’t simply for en suites, but also a great way to make sure teeth are brushed and faces washed quickly before the school run.
If you’re planning a dedicated shower or wet room area, make sure there’s plenty of access to get in and out, and that you don’t place things next to them that aren’t waterproof. In a family bathroom, also think about building a low wall next to the WC to ensure privacy. Creating different levels or using contrasting flooring materials will also help to define zones. A roll-top bath in the centre of a room can be made into more of a feature by siting it on a tiled panel or built-up step.
Bathroom walls and floors
While having a big bathroom can be beneficial in most ways, it will also be more expensive to fit out. Large expanses of wall and floor will take more tiles, so carefully consider the materials you will use. If your budget is tight, opt for ceramic porcelain tiles with a non-slip finish, rather than limestone or marble, and tile only vital areas of your walls, such as above sinks, next to baths and inside showers. Stone flooring can be heavy, so check your joists to make sure they will take the weight.
Bathroom heating options
Even in a big bathroom, towel rails are a good option – as well as keeping towels warm, some of the bigger models give out a lot of heat. Underfloor heating will also keep porcelain or stone tiles warm underfoot, perfect for winter mornings. There are two systems: wet, which carries water through pipes under a floor screed, or dry, made up of electrical matting laid directly underneath the tiles. Wet systems are more expensive to fit initially but will cost less in the long run. Remember not to lay heating underneath where you plan to position showers, baths and WCs.
Choosing a bath
A freestanding bath is a glamorous addition to a large bathroom and can create a real statement. ‘Although freestanding baths are synonymous with grown-up glamour, they are great for families, too,’ explains Lucy Powell, buying director of Bathrooms.com. ‘Choose a bath with freestanding pillar taps and you can squeeze all the children in the tub at once and easily manoeuvre around. Again, joists should be checked if you are buying a roll-top or stone feature bath, as they can be very heavy – a lighter alternative would be an acrylic or composite model.’
More people using a bathroom means more clutter, so storage is as important in a big room as a small one. Family rooms will also need to house bathtime toys or maybe a laundry basket, so to avoid toiletries taking over surfaces, it’s a good idea to invest in several storage solutions.
A cabinet over the sink, a unit beside the bath and a built-in tiled shelf in the shower will keep this under control, but consider where to store things, as it will be inconvenient if items are too far away from where they are used. A wall-hung cabinet can also hold towels and cleaning materials, keeping them out of sight.