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How to design a bathroom: the golden rules

How to design a bathroom: the golden rules

The bathroom is probably the most neglected room in the house when it comes to dedicated design, but it's consistently recognised as one of the most important when it comes to relaxation. 

If it's a given that it's one of the most important rooms in the home, why is good bathroom design often an afterthought? Why does the kitchen get all the glory?! Designing your own dream bathroom doesn't have to be an ordeal. Deciding to become your own bathroom planner can be an incredibly rewarding experience, particularly if you have a clean slate and are designing the bathroom from scratch. 

But behind the multitude of sizes, designs and styles are some common principles of design that should always form part of your bathroom plan.

Whether it's a family bathroom, master bathroom, guest bath, wet room or an en-suite, there are a few rules that need to be adhered to before you unleash your inner bathroom planner on your own house. Have a look at our guide to the golden rules on how to design a bathroom here.

1 Plan your layout using a bathroom planner

If you are designing a bathroom from the ground up, you want to plan things out first before you fit so much as a single tap. You can do this on old-fashioned graph paper of course, but by far the best way to start planning a bathroom layout is by using an online 'bathroom planner' programme. This software makes bathroom planning a breeze and is now a key part of the planning process at many a bathroom showroom. With bathroom planning software you can:

Select a room shape or plot your own bespoke floor plan

Add in windows and doors to help you better visualise the design

Add a shower enclosure, baths, taps and fittings, toilets etc.

Insert bathroom furniture such as storage cupboards and vanities

While most brands and major chains have their own software packages, there are a few free bathroom planning sites and apps out there that can do the job just as well. Just have a search!

2 Always consider your space

After using the bathroom planner, you'll know how much space you've got to work with, and how much you'll lose due to the shape and size of your amenities and bathroom furniture. Of course you'll want your bathroom to feel as spacious as possible, without having to compromise on style. Luckily there are a number of space-saving ideas that could help, including:

Wall-mounted toilets

Corner shower enclosures

Freestanding baths

Large shower vs small bath

Choosing any of these options will help free up space, so don't be afraid to experiment in your initial bathroom design phase – a click of the mouse is all it takes to remove design ideas that don't quite work.

Include plenty of storage

The clutter of excessive toiletries can work against all your impressive bathroom design work, no matter how fancy some of the products may look. So try to make great bathroom storage a high priority. Master baths are now home to a wide array of gels, creams, scrubs, sprays, makeup and grooming tools and displaying them all on a windowsill or lining the edge of the bathtub can really add to the visual clutter. No matter how impressive your bathroom design is, clutter can wreck your attempts to create a calm environment. Try to think in multiple directions – add a medicine cabinet above the basin, a vanity unit under it,  shelves on the walls and woven baskets in a corner.

Choose the perfect colours for your new bathroom design

Many bathroom suites seem to be designed in the same types of colour scheme - either white, monochrome or neutral tones. But one of the biggest mistakes made on bathroom projects is playing it safe with colour. If more vibrant shades really float your boat then just go for it; there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to personal taste. 

Having said that, grey and white combination tiles can bring a contemporary monochrome style and feel to rooms of any size. And opting for dark-patterned tiles can give a more boutique feel. It may seem like a bold design idea, but the dark tiles can be softened with a feature like a freestanding bath to add a touch of style.

Decide where your lights are going

Your bathroom ideally needs at least two types of light - task and ambient - and if it's feasible, 'accent' lighting too.

Task lights should be placed either side of your mirror to prevent overhead shadow and create the perfect spot for shaving, make-up and hairstyling. Ambient light is great for when you want to have a relaxing soak in the bath, and it's even more effective with a dimmer installed.

If your plans and budget allow, accent lights can provide a stunning visual effect and bring your room to life. They can be fitted at the base of walls, or maybe behind a freestanding bath, if you are installing one in a master bath. 

Some opt for candles where there's no other ambient bathroom lighting available, and that can work just as well. 

Don't forget to accessorise

In bathroom design, it's easy to forget the small things and instead focus on the big-ticket pieces. But it takes more than a toilet, shower, bath and storage space to create the perfect master bath. Remember to give a little thought to design ideas, fittings and accessories such as …


Soap dispensers

Fluffy towels in soft or bright colours

Luxury bathmats

Towel holder

Some of these little finishes might not be at the forefront of your mind when you're planning, but they all contribute to help create a space you can truly relax in.

... but don’t squeeze in too many pieces!

A bathroom is often designed to fit into the smallest space possible, and then people still want to include a bath, separate shower, double bathroom sink and a floor-mounted toilet. Give your space a break! Only install a separate bath and shower if it's a realistic option and there’s actually enough bathroom floor space; otherwise it's best to combine the two. Remember that you always need sufficient room to be able to stand, dry yourself and turn around. Your bathroom should be a place in which you can unwind, so if you only have a small space to work with, make sure it’s not chock-full of fixtures and accessories, as you might not have enough elbow room to use it comfortably.

Provide a focal point

Many bathroom spaces play it safe with a cream or white scheme, but to make yours unique, you need a focal point. It can be a difficult balance: for every dull-looking bathroom, there’s one that's so dazzling it gives you a headache. The best way to make yours extra special without going too far is to choose a feature that fits the scale of the room. In a large master bath you may have room for a signature rainfall shower, or a stunning rolltop bath. But in a small bathroom your focal point could be an ornate mirror, key colour,  decorative tile, or sleek washbasin such as those provided by Vitra.

Design a space that’s easy to clean

All bathrooms can get wet and dirty quickly, but your initial design choices can have a major impact on how easy to clean and manage your bathroom is. For example, cleaning grout lines can be one of the most demanding chores in the bathroom, so to save yourself from scrubbing miles of grout for the next few years, you could line the walls with solid surface options instead of tiling.

For example, stone slabs have fewer seam lines and won't attract as much dirt or mould, but if you want to stick with tiles, then you can reduce the amount of grouting on show by using large-format porcelain tiles. Another way to keep your bathroom clean is to stop the floor tiles from constantly getting wet. This is best achieved by enclosing the shower area with a glass screen or shower curtain. But of course, shower curtains are well known for attracting mould, and glass screens or shower doors are easier to maintain. Shower screens are easy to wipe clean, and there are a number of coatings and sprays that can be used to help a shower door repel soap scum and water. Finally, the taps and sink fittings you've chosen might perfectly complement your style, but pay close attention to their finish and whether they'll cope with regular cleaning before their appearance starts to tarnish.

We’re here to help

If you fancy yourself as a closet bathroom designer and would like a few tips or a bit of advice, call us on 01226 770383, or use the ‘chat now’ feature on our website. Whatever the size, from a master bath to an under-stairs en-suite Bathrooms Direct are on hand to answer your questions and help you browse through our wide range of products to find the perfect bath or walk-in shower to suit your bathroom style perfectly. We have thousands of satisfied customers across England and Wales and the rest of the UK!

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