Work in Progress - Small bathroom design

13 min read

Published 28 Jan 2021

 

A computer generated image of the proposed bathroom design.

I’m sharing another work in progress this month, a small but perfectly formed bathroom. Just like the last work in progress blog, the space is actually now finished but due to the current lockdown I can’t go to take the final photos. But I can share the design and some pics the clients kindly sent me with you. First up, why the clients wanted to make changes to the room, and the all important before pics. 

This cool young couple had bought the house and been slowly doing it up room by room, and the bathroom was the last room left to do. Unfortunately, the previous owners hadn’t done a great job when they refurbished it, so some of the tiles were cracked, the lighting was terrible and the sink was too big. To make things worse, the bath wasn’t the correct type to stand in to take a shower, so it was gradually falling apart. It was also a pretty small room - 1.9m x 1.9m (smaller than the average UK bathroom size of 2m 43cm x 1m 83cm) and the room isn’t square, which made it even more of a challenge. The house is a Victorian terrace and wouldn’t have had a bathroom when it was built, so this room has been carved out of the third bedroom using the least space possible and creating the awkward shape. Here’s the original floorplan, and what it looked like when I went to see it for the first time:

A floorplan of the room before we started work, with dimensions shown.
A before photo of the bathroom with the loo.
A photo of the bath with the awkward space at the end filled in. A photo of the pipework for the sink boxed in. A photo of the sink which was too large.
the useless space at the end of the bath the ugly boxed in pipework the overlarge sink

During our initial consultation, I asked lots of questions and together we came up with a wish list for the room: 

Practicalities

  • keep a bath and shower over
  • a separate handheld shower
  • more storage
  • a better extractor fan
  • a loo roll holder
  • task lighting over the sink
  • the rest of the lighting to be on a dimmer switch so they would have flexibility
  • space either side of the sink to put bathroom essentials
  • the new sink to be smaller but not too small for shaving
  • the position of the current shower needs to be rethought - currently it’s annoying to use as they have to get in the bath to operate it, and to put the hose back after cleaning the bath
  • the shower screen is in the way of operating the taps - and bumps into the storage when its opened
  • the bamboo freestanding shelf unit was bought to give them some more storage but it’s just in the way now
  • the current fit-out was done as cheaply as possible - all the plumbing is lined up along one wall, and the pipework for the sink has been boxed in, which looks ugly
  • there is a useless gap at the end of the bath, as a standard sized bath has been used
  • they wanted a new door, with new handles and a lock
  • the room needed to be easy to clean, and child safe, as there was a little one on the way
  • the couple also understandably wanted to save water and wanted an aerated shower and taps (these push air through with the water so less water is used to achieve the same pressure)
  • finally, the current boiler was old and kept breaking down. It was also in the kitchen, so ideally we would relocate the new boiler in the loft

From looking at lots of inspiration pics, colours and samples, we came up with these style preferences for the room:

  • the current beige tiles were unexciting and had to go - I agreed!
  • they wanted the room to be inspiring and have a sense of luxury, but not feel too fancy for everyday use
  • they like Mid Century design, but with a minimal twist
  • they wanted the look of a freestanding bath if possible, something that was square with a narrow rim 
  • they wanted some colour and an interesting tile surfaces, but the rest of the room would be mostly white
  • they like geometric shapes and black taps
  • they like blues and teals, and greens (but not yellowy greens)
  • they don’t like reds, purples or mushroom/beige colours
  • they would love a reclaimed vintage piece for the sink to go on
  • they wanted tiles for the flooring, nothing in grey or dark, and also not imitating wood
  • lastly, the room needed to work with the style of the rest of the house
So you can see, this small room needed to both work hard and look good, but I do love the challenge of designing bathrooms, and I knew that I’d really enjoy coming up with a cool design for my clients. I was really on board with the couple’s sense of style, as it meant that I could produce a design that was a bit different than the usual white tiles/grey floor and neutral decor that we often see in bathrooms.

So I got cracking with the layout. I tried a few different positions for the bath to see if I could make better use of the space. The loo couldn’t really be moved too far, as it needed to stay on the only outside wall to connect to the soil pipe. It quickly became clear that the current layout was the best one, so I stuck with it. But I did want to improve the sink area - the current sink was far too deep and was squished into the corner of the recess, so it made sense to place it on a unit that would fill up the recess, giving the couple the space either side that they wanted. I really wanted to give them a vintage Mid Century unit to put the sink on, and I found some gorgeous original G Plan units which could be converted to hold a sink, but sadly they were just too deep for the space. If I’d used one, there wouldn’t have been enough clearance to sit on the loo without banging your legs on the cabinet! The solution was for me to design one, and have it made from teak, so it would look like a Mid Century piece. In the end, it was made from cherry wood because it is more water resistant than teak, but it looks similar and still has the same effect. I also found some perfect brass Mid Century style handles, and they helped achieve the look I was going for. The bespoke unit made the best use of space and offered lots of storage, whilst creating a focal point with the sink. I originally designed drawers for the unit under the sink but the overhang of the worktop meant the top one wouldn’t be easy to use, so we changed the design to doors instead. I’d also found a less expensive ‘off the shelf’ wall cabinet to keep costs down, but the couple weren’t keen on the bamboo in it so we decided to have one made by the builders to match the sink unit below. 

Next came the search for the sink. I had to find a long but narrow sink to fit on the worktop in the recess, and make sure it was wide and deep enough to shave in. As I mentioned earlier, the couple were trying to avoid using more water than they needed to, so the first sink I found was too wide, as it would have taken a lot of water to fill it up. The next sink was better size, but when it came to be fitted the plug hole was too far forward and wasn’t actually sitting over the unit at all, so the plumbing underneath would be on show. I don’t know if you noticed in the design visual above but the worktop is a standard depth so we could fit a sink on it, but underneath, the cabinets are shallower so there is room to use the loo comfortably. This was my design solution to fit everything in to such a small area. 

Even with all the technical info from the suppliers, we had to try two more sinks before we got the exact size and shape we needed - at one point I even nicknamed this project ‘the room of a thousand sinks’! Luckily were able to get the wrong sinks returned and refunded and the couple were very patient whilst all this was going on.

The next layout decision I made was to move the shower head to the opposite end of the bath, as the wall is taller here (so they would have more headroom). It also meant I could use some of the wasted space at the end of the bath to build a false wall to hide the shower pipework. The shower screen would also move to the opposite side of the bath, meaning the area around the loo would look more open and spacious.

A photo showing the pipework going into the wall. An in progress photo of the shower installed and the pipework concealed.
the pipework for the new shower going into the wall the new shower installed with the pipework concealed

I then decided to place the hand held shower the couple wanted at the opposite end of the bath to the fixed shower head, so that it’s not behind the shower screen and it could be used more easily. The couple were expecting their first child when I started working with them, so I was designing with young children and family life in mind when making design decisions. Small children need an easily accessible bath so that their parents can hold onto them when bathing them, so we discussed how having a shower screen would impact this. I suggested choosing a folding shower screen but the couple weren’t keen on the way they looked (nor am I, and I’m yet to find a folding one that looks good - if you know of one please let me know) so this was another factor in my decision to move the screen to the opposite end of the bath. The controls for the taps could then be placed with the hand held shower and the couple wouldn’t have to move the screen out of the way to fill the bath. 

I had already decided to build a low false wall to hide the cistern for the loo and the rest of the pipework, as having a concealed cistern would make the room feel less cluttered and would make it easier to clean. I didn’t want the hose part of the hand held shower to dangle down into the bath as that would be annoying when you’re trying to have a relaxing soak, so using a hose which could retract inside the false wall made perfect sense to me. 

A photo of the hand held shower being added to the false wall. A photo of the hand held shower and taps installed.
the retractable hand held shower being added to the false wall  the hand held shower and taps installed

This led me onto the tap placement, and another problem to solve. The bath is designed to be stood in at one end so you can shower in it, so one end of the bath is straight so you can stand close to the edge and get right under the shower. The other end of the bath is sloped so that you can lie back comfortably while bathing. Let me show you what I mean:

A technical drawing of the specifications of the new bath.
I couldn’t place the taps at the sloped end because you could easily hit your head on them when lying down in the bath - not very relaxing! If I put them at the straight end where the shower is, they would be behind the shower screen again and not easy to reach when you want to fill the bath. My solution was to go for a bath filler and overflow in one, and place the controls for it in the false wall. So all I needed to do now was to find a bath with a central overflow (not at either end), with no pre-drilled tap holes, strong enough to hold a person standing at the shower end, and with one straight end for the shower. Oh, and it had to look good too! No problem! A designer look bath with a slim rim all the way around was what the clients wanted. I did a lot of searching and finally found the one above from Duravit.

A photo of the bath installed with the black overflow and filler in one.

the new bath installed with the black overflow and filler in one

With all the technical issues dealt with, I could think about the style decisions which needed to be made. I found some gorgeous teal green tiles with a beautiful shiny glaze and a deliberately uneven colour and texture, which I loved. They were perfect for around the sink, and would add the splash of colour that the clients were looking for. I was then looking for some white tiles for the rest of the room, and decided to use the same white tile on the floor and walls to avoid making the small space look too busy. The floor tiles needed to be non slip, especially with a little one on the way. I found the stunning but affordable tiles from Topps Tiles, which would look so good when paired with black grout. I loved the graphic, grid like and slightly 1980s feel to them. 

A photo of the wall and floor tiles I chose. 

I mixed brass and black taps and fittings, as I didn’t want all the fittings to be black. Black fittings have been on trend for a while now, and the look has been quite overdone. I didn’t want this scheme to date quickly, so mixing in some brass kept the look fresh. I also chose a shower screen with a black border and fluted glass, to work with the other black items in the room and to be on trend but not too trendy. Whilst we’d been looking at inspirational images, I’d shown the clients a black ‘Crittall’ style shower screen, which they’d decided they loved and would prefer. I explained that these screens were definitely on the more trendy side of cool, and as they were very popular now, they would soon start to feel dated. But the clients loved it, so that’s what I sourced for them. 

My visual for the bathroom showing the fluted glass screen

My visual for the bathroom showing the fluted glass screen

My visual for the bathroom showing the Crittall style screen

My visual for the bathroom showing the Crittall style screen

The screen was quite pricey, and pushed the budget up quite a bit, but having looked at cheaper alternatives and found that the black lines were made with stickers, we opted for the expensive one which is made from metal. You really do get what you pay for! This had a knock on effect on the budget and meant that we swapped the expensive angled designer radiator (which you can see in my visual at the top of the blog) for a cheaper, straight lined one. But I think the replacement looks pretty good, and if it meant keeping the costs down without compromising on quality, it was worth it.

A photo of the new radiator installed.

here's the new radiator installed

With most design decisions made, I moved onto the lighting. I chose globe style statement lights for either side of the large mirror above the sink, making sure that they were safe for use above a sink. They are beautiful to look at, and provide the practical light that you need to shine on your face when using a mirror, and also give the sink area a touch of luxury. I chose warm white bulbs for them so that the space didn’t feel too clinical, and put the wall lights on a separate switch so they could be operated independently. We also settled on adjustable downlights in the ceiling, so the light could be directed where it was needed.

Here are some more pics of the finished room that the clients sent me this week:

A photo of the finished space showing the shower screen. A photo of the sink area and cabinets underneath A picture of the finished sink area.

A photo of the finished bathroom.

The best part of all this work is seeing my design come to life and the bathroom being used. When the clients tell me that there are many things in the design that they just wouldn't have thought of themselves, and that they find little unexpected parts of the design useful it warms my heart. Since the bathroom was finished, the lovely clients have now had their baby and the bathroom is being well used. They tell me that the pull out shower nozzle next to the bath can be used to hose down most parts of the room and it has become invaluable for cleaning up the mess that babies can make!

Welcome to my design blog, where you'll see posts about anything from my current interiors obsession, to the latest fabric and wallpaper collections, and 'how to' guides for all things interiors related. I love colour and pattern, architecture and old buildings, and I especially love the moment when you see something so beautiful it makes you take a sharp intake of breath. Happy reading, and if you have any questions, or would like to chat about anything interiors related, please use the contact form to get in touch. Thank you, Louise

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The sought and styled logo on a green background
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A photo of a Blackpop design on a kitchen worktop.
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The cover of the December 2020 issue of Cardiff Life magazine.
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A tropical teal wallpaper plasters the wall above a wainscoting panelling and a navy fabric covered bench. The wallpaper is adorned with tropical wildlife and atmospheric jungle scenery including parrots and  jaguars.
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A picture of designer Matthew Williamson, standing next to a blue dresser with a wide array of candles and candlesticks on the top. Behind him in a ornate floral wallpaper with a sunburst mirror
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Walcot House felt cover curtain poles

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Please vote for my blog

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A picture of the Amara Blog Awards vote for me sticker.
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A photo of the Love Rugs website featuring the article.
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A photo of the new Kami collection from Linwood fabrics.
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A photo of the new coloured taps from the Dowsing & Reynolds Miami colour pop collection.
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a photo  of the new doorstop from Buster and Punch, with their logo and branding.
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A photo of the wallpaper made from cork, By Monkey Puzzle Tree
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The front cover of Cardiff Life Magazine issue no.208, Autumn 2019

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The Amara interiors blog awards voting banner 2019.
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A view if the contemporary copper kitchen featuring the copper pendant lights from Artifact Lighting.

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You can read the blog page here

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A photo of the new House of Hackney Palmeral print for outdoor use.

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A photo which accompanies the Cardiff Life article about Living Coral
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A photo of the new Componibili Bio.
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A photo of California Shutters new range in ash wood.

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californiashutters.co.uk

My new favourite tile!

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A picture of the Lampas Marint pattern tile from Topps Tiles

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Lampas Pattern Marine tile

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a shot of a coral reef with the description Color of the Year 2019

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My work featured on Homify

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a view of the dressed bed, pink walls and blackout lined curtainsMy work has been featured in an article on Homify - one of the leading online ideas platforms for all things interiors. My project is in an article on how to avoid common mistakes when designing a bedroom. The article mentions how important it is to block out light for a good nights sleep - something I addressed by adding blackout lining to the curtains and adding an extra layer of window dressing with the wooden Venetian blinds. To see the article, please use the link below.

Homfy article - Are you guilty of these 8 bedroom design mistakes?