A step-by-step guide to designing the perfect bathroom

We've gone through everything required of the perfect bathroom, from baths to lighting, and put it together for you here

Open design bathroom with double shower

With careful consideration, your bathroom can become the soothing sanctuary you’ve always dreamed of. So where to start?

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Minimalist chrome sink fitting

Bathing beauties

Us Brits love our baths. While our European cousins tend to go for wet rooms or walk-in showers, as a nation we love nothing more than a long soak in a hot, bubbly tub at the end of a hard day, especially come the winter months.

If you have the space, a freestanding design is the ultimate in luxury. Bear in mind that ideally, you need to be able to access them from all sides and you won’t be able to add on an over-bath shower. If space is more limited, then a built-in bath is the solution and you can find L- and P-shaped styles that are designed for over-bath showering, too.

Circular bath designer collaboration from Victoria + Albert
Bath from Victoria + Albert baths with designer Steve Leung

Installation is easier these days thanks to flexible pipe fittings and push-fit connections, but materials can also make a difference. Solid stone is durable but heavy and must be professionally sealed while acrylic or solid surface composites are lighter and retain heat better. Cast iron is hard-wearing, strong and low maintenance, with little chance of staining or damage – though you may need to reinforce the floor to take its weight.

Classic bathroom with roll top blue bath from Ripples
Bathroom from Ripples, Boat bath from BC Designs in Farrow & Ball Stiffkey Blue

“When choosing between a freestanding or built-in bath, take into consideration the structure of the space,” says Emma Joyce, brand manager at Victoria + Albert Baths.

“Freestanding is a smart design solution, as it can open up floor and wall space and give the illusion of more light,” she says.

For a classic, timeless look, consider a slipper style – either with claw feet or a more clean-lined contemporary look – and add interest by painting the exterior in a vibrant or metallic finish.

Current trends include hand polished and lacquered exteriors, curvaceous and circular models as well as shorter lengths that fit easily into a smaller space.

Visit showrooms to try before you buy – it may sound silly, but don’t be embarrassed to pop your shoes off and jump in. All baths feel different, so you want to make sure yours is
as comfortable as possible.

Wash and go

When it comes to choosing the basin and taps, many of us are currently opting for a modern monochrome look with either a glossy white basin teamed with matt black brassware or a matching black tap and basin combo.

Choose the best quality your budget allows, especially with brassware, as you want something that will last.

“Black, and in particular matt black, has been a hugely popular accent in bathrooms for a number of years now with no sign of disappearing,” confirms Yousef Mansuri, head of retail design at C.P. Hart.

He says: “This is largely due to its neutral ability to complement any colour or style of a scheme. It doesn’t show fingerprints like chrome does and adds a dramatic contrast.”

Coloured ceramics are also on the up. If you want to plump for something different, check out the hand finished porcelain basins (below) from London Basin Company, which come with beautifully drawn intricate patterns and prints. These designs make the ideal statement in a cloakroom or en-suite.

Hand finished pink patterned Amara sink
Amara sink from the London Basin Company

Material-wise, ceramic is a safe buy for basins as it’s hard-wearing and low maintenance, while marble composites are also easy to care for and are available in a wide choice of sizes and shapes.

“Today’s interiors are more confidently eclectic, mixing old and new elements and introducing materials and textures,” says Jane Gilchrist, director of Alternative Bathrooms.

“Making the basin a feature can be really successful – it doesn’t have to match the bath and WC,” she says.

Matt black wall mounted taps
Brooklyn three-hole basin set from The Watermark Collection

With countertop basins being one of the most sought-after styles, it’s important to pay attention to the surface or vanity below, too. Freestanding units look stunning while fitted furniture offers the benefit of optimum storage.

Eau zone

There’s nothing quite like a steamy hot shower to start the day, so make sure you invest in the best model to suit your needs.

“The key questions are, who will be using the shower and where is it situated,” explains Sarah Evans, head of channel marketing at Hansgrohe.

She says: “For multi-occupancy properties, thermostatic showering offers safety for everyone as it ensures the temperature remains stable should someone else turn on a cold tap or flush the loo. Without this technology, the temperature could fluctuate quite dramatically, causing discomfort or even injury.”

An overhead drencher is great when you want that rainfall effect while a separate hand shower is ideal for a quick hair wash. Consider adding water jets that can target aching muscles or a shower pipe that combines overhead and hand shower with a valve for an all-in-one solution.

Concealed valves keep pipework hidden, which makes the most of a smaller space while exposed shower systems are more cost effective and easier to install.

Pink white and grey space saving bathroom
Effegibi FitBox Shower System from C.P. Hart

A shower pump is essential if you have a gravity-fed water system, which is where you have a separate water tank in the loft, common in older properties.

Shower cubicles come in a variety of shapes and styles to complement your space. There are sliding doors, single panels, quadrant enclosures, bi-folds and more.

The black trend also continues into shower screens with Crittall-effect panels offering the urban, industrial look.

Spacious geometric bathroom theme with curved matt black shower
Sphere shower from Frontline Bathrooms

Wet-rooms are another option, as Michael Sammon, sales and marketing director for Frontline Bathrooms, explains: “It can be time-consuming and labour-intensive to fully waterproof the bathroom but you can achieve a wet-room look by opting for a shower tray with a low profile that can be fitted on, or levelled with, the floor.”

Light show

It’s all too easy to overlook the lighting, but as Pooky founder Rohan Blacker explains, a well-lit bathroom is so important. “Our bathroom is where we tend to start our day, and good lighting is essential to be confident of assuring a world-beating grooming regime,” he says.

“UK legislation does limit how we use light fittings in the bathroom. All lights within 60cm of any water source must be IP-rated, meaning they are specially designed to keep out moisture,” he adds.

Ideally a layered lighting scheme works well, just like in the kitchen. Think about installing wall lights either side of a wall mirror or go for one of the latest high-tech cabinets that incorporate built-in lighting along with added extras such as shaver sockets and Bluetooth speakers.

An overhead light source will provide good all-round illumination while feature lighting can also be added in the form of recessed spotlights in storage niches or plinth lights around the base of a bath or vanity unit.

Bathroom with mirrored lit cabinet
Ainsley mirrored cabinet from Sensio

“Pendant lights are a current trend in the bathroom,” confirms Michael Linsky, managing director of Sensio Lighting, “and are great for hanging over a bath or basin worktop area.”

He adds, “You could also consider wireless battery lighting, especially within cabinets with IP sensors, as the brightness is much higher than it used to be. Smart technology is also now entering the industry and a smart driver can be connected via Bluetooth to your Alexa to control bathroom lighting.

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“Voice control will be a game changer and we can see it exploding once word gets out about its ease of use and capability.”