A hi-tech en suite

Karen and Martin Hibbert have redesigned their bathroom space to include the latest digital technology

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‘When we moved into our home 13 years ago, we loved its location overlooking farmers’ fields,’ recalls Karen.

‘The garden leads straight onto country tracks where we can take the dog for walks and my husband Martin can go running. We’d bought it new from the builder, but we seem to have done some sort of project every year since then.’

The couple put their own stamp on the main living spaces first, adding underfloor heating downstairs when they installed a new kitchen. However, with three first-floor en suites and a main bathroom, upgrading them remained on the back burner.

‘We wanted to tackle our en suite as it’s larger than the main bathroom,’ says Karen, ‘but for such a large room it didn’t feel that big – you couldn’t lie down in the bath, and the layout didn’t work with the shower behind the door and basin in the corner.’

Fact file

  • The owners: Karen Hibbert and her husband Martin, both chartered accountants, live here with their two children, Matthew, 17, and Jessica, 15
  • The property: A four-bedroom detached house, built in 2001
  • The location: Billingham, County Durham
  • What they spent: The couple’s bathroom project cost around £30,000

floorplan before and after work

Finding inspiration

The Hibberts started scouring magazines and visiting local showrooms for inspiration. With busy lives, and Martin often travelling for his job, the couple wanted a company that could project-manage for them.

‘We were looking for the wow-factor, and the CAD plans that John Milburn from Domani Bathrooms drew up for us really delivered that,’ says Karen. ‘He was able to place the actual products on the plan so it looked like a photograph, which gave us a real sense of what it would look like.’

A design wishlist

Karen and Martin had five must-haves on their wishlist – a walk-in shower with both fixed and handheld showerheads, a Jacuzzi spa bath, underfloor heating, good lighting and plenty of storage.

As for the style, the couple wanted their new space to feel streamlined and contemporary. ‘I do love mirror-effect finishes but I wasn’t necessarily thinking of going for a black and grey scheme when we first started looking,’ admits Karen. ‘The design evolved as we began picking fittings.’

Vado Aquablade showerhead

Karen and Martin had five must-haves on their wishlist – a walk-in shower with both fixed and handheld showerheads, a Jacuzzi spa bath, underfloor heating, good lighting and plenty of storage.

Beginning work

Finally, in July 2014, the three-week project got underway. ‘It wasn’t disruptive as we could use the main bathroom,’ says Karen. ‘Plus the fitters were very clean and tidy.’

The couple opted for a striking scheme with black glass drawer fronts. ‘We saw the grey floor tiles in Domani’s showroom,’ says Karen. ‘They were teamed with the black glass vanity unit we’d already chosen, and complemented each other really well. John then suggested putting mosaic tiles behind the vertical radiator and the vanity unit to break up the expanse of larger tiles.’

Adding hi-tech fittings

The Hibberts have spared no expense when it comes to high-quality fixtures and fittings. ‘My husband is quite a gadget man, so he wanted the latest in bathroom technology, including a bath that fills itself to the right temperature,’ says Karen. ‘You can even turn on the bath or shower with your iPhone or iPad. As Martin loves fell running, it was important to have a luxurious spa bath with a massage function.’

One of the key changes was the wet room-style shower with sleek glass panels. ‘I work out a lot, so sometimes end up having up to three showers a day,’ says Karen. ‘It has no shower tray or doors, so there’s lots of space to move around.’

With three different heat and flow rate settings, Karen and Martin have programmed the shower to suit their individual needs. ‘I prefer it warmer than Martin and I like the option of just using the handheld shower rather than the overhead one when I don’t want to get my hair wet. Plus the flexible shower hose is handy for cleaning it.’

John also recommended the thermostatic controls, and digital technology comes into play with the hi-tech Crosswater tap. ‘The tap is easily programmable,’ says Karen. ‘I’ve set it up so that it’s one click for warm water and two clicks for cold water.’

Bathroom design details

Lighting the bathroom

The room is lit with a mixture of ceiling spotlights, LED lights around the skirting boards and task lights above the vanity unit. ‘The LED ceiling lights are dimmable, which is nice when you’re having a relaxing bath,’ says Karen, ‘and the lights above the basin are useful when applying make-up.’

Once the bathroom was fitted, Karen drafted in her interior designer friend Pam Willis of Graham Willis Interiors to help with the finishing touches.

‘I chose a lovely floral wallpaper for the wall by the two windows,’ says Karen. ‘It is studded with little diamantes and goes so well with the curtain fabric. It might be a bit unusual to have curtains in a bathroom but it’s such a big room that I think it can take it. It softens the look and makes it feel more like a room than simply a bathroom.’

With their new en suite now complete, Karen and Martin say that they wouldn’t change a thing. ‘The bathroom is just how we imagined and looks spectacular.’

The costs

Fixtures and fittings£17,857
Installation and labour£6,876
Wallpaper and curtains£2,000
Underfloor heating£680