Mad About . . .

Three Key Questions You Need To Answer Part II: The Bathroom

28th August 2018

Following on from the first archive post of the series about the three questions you need to ask before you embark on any decoration scheme, I thought you might like to take a new look at this post on how to apply those questions to a particular room – in this case the bathroom. I hope it helps and I wish I had thought of this before we did the boys’ shower room which we did as a wet room without factoring in just how wet at 14yo could make it. That, coupled with the excessively high water pressure in that room, inevitably leads to a wet landing as well and has, on more than one occasion, led to a wet kitchen ceiling too. 

Last week I told you the three most important questions you need to ask – or should that be answer – before you undertake any redecoration or refurbishment in your home. Those questions were Who, What and When and you can read it again there if you want.

grey bathroom of kate watson-smyth by paul craig

grey bathroom photo by paul craig – we wanted a large walk-in shower and lots of storage

Today I thought I would take you through it again in relation to one room so that you can see the difference it might make. Kitchens and bathrooms are the two rooms we really need to get right because they’re expensive to change, not to mention disruptive. After all, even Enid Cat managed to sit on the floor for a week while the chaise longue was being re-upholstered, but it’s hard living without washing and cooking facillities so it’s a job you want to do once. Or, once in terms of layout and sanitaryware. It’s easy enough to repaint walls and change towels to refresh the look but you really don’t want to be ripping it all out and starting again unless it’s really necessary.

So let’s start with the Who in the bathroom. My mother re-did her tiny bathroom about ten years ago. She had decided that due to low blood pressure and a tendency to faint, she would rather not climb in and out of a bath anymore and she wanted a walk-in shower.

dark grey walls and twin basins bathroom by Paul Craig styled by Kate Watson-Smyth

two basins saves traffic jams in the morning and you need more storage than you think image by Paul Craig

She was persuaded by the fitter that she should absolutely not get rid of the bath as it would affect resale value. Despite the fact that, as she put it, she has no intention to ever sell (that being forecast as my problem not hers). This meant that she had room for a small walk-in shower across the corner. Which meant, in turn, that she had to have a corner loo. And the tiniest basin you have ever seen – more of a cloakroom job really.

Now she is happy because she has a walk-in shower. But that bath lies across the end of the room taking up about a third of the floorspace and my 14yo is the only one who has ever used it in ten years and that was about five years ago.

use mirrors to bounce the light around in the bathroom as well as for looking in

Meanwhile, she has lived with it being unsatisfactory for the last ten years and is planning on using it for at least another twenty and it will never be quite right for her.

So the Who is vital. Because you shouldn’t decorate your house for the people who may come along and buy it in ten years time. Because it’s you who lives there now. And if those people love everything else about your house except for the lack of a bath then they can put one back in can’t they?

ripples bathroom slim fit

ripples bathroom slim fit

Of course the advice is usually that you should keep the bath, but more and more of us take showers nowadays. If you live in a two bedroom flat that is probably not a family house then taking out the bath and putting in a big shower might be the best solution. We are lucky enough to have three bathrooms – one has a double shower in it and no bath – that’s for the teenage boys. In our en suite we have a small free-standing bath which serves remarkably well as a towel holder and jean draper. When we converted the loft we decided to put a bath up there as it would be the only full-size bath in the house. It has been used five times in three years.

wallpaper bathroom by melanie lissack interiors

wallpaper is fine if the  bathroom is well ventilated image by melanie lissack interiors

So ask yourself this: WHO is using this bathroom? A family of four rushing in and out in the morning? A bath is useful for evening relaxation and small children. So perhaps a shower over the bath is the best solution? A working couple? Fit the biggest shower you can afford. Maybe even add two shower heads. And I’ll just leave that there, although I will say that if you have toddlers who are happy to shower together instead of bathe then you can stick them both in there at the same time.

So you get the picture. Now the WHAT? Yes washing obviously. But what else? Is this the place that make-up is being done? In which case you need to think about lighting. A wall light either side of the mirror and, incidentally, a heated mirror, will prevent it fogging up so you can get out of the shower and get started on that without having to wait for the steam to clear.

dark panelled bathroom with wallpaper by suburbansalon

dark panelled bathroom with wallpaper and a statement floor by suburbansalon

Spotlights in the ceiling are also vital, but make sure they are on a dimmer so that if you want a more relaxing light in the evening you have that option. I wrote in more detail about how to get the lighting right in the bathroom here.

Answering this question of WHAT will also affect any decision you make on the colour of the walls. We have painted our en suite dark grey. It’s a controversial choice for a bathroom but I love it. There is also a large window so there is plenty of natural light as well as four mirrors so bounce that light around. In addition to that I don’t do my make-up in there so it doesn’t need to be forensically light. You might need to go lighter.

Bear in mind though that the white bath, basins and ceiling will also add more light. I have a white floor and a pale grey tiled shower so the dark walls are offset by these things rather like they are in the image below.

bathroom via strutt and parker

bathroom via strutt and parker

The final question WHEN is also largely one of light which we have already dealt with and which is perhaps more important when it comes to other rooms in the house which may be used for a variety of different activities. I’m thinking of the sitting room which may need to be used for television, relaxing, eating, sitting, playing games or working but we can look at that in more detail in coming weeks.

A final word on storage in the bathroom. You will need more than you think. Include it at the start. If you don’t have much floor space then use the walls – shelves and cupboards. And talking of floor space the more you see the bigger the room looks. So a wall-mounted loo and basins are always a good idea.

pink dresser in bathroom by rvkloves

vintage pink dresser in bathroom by rvkloves

If you start with these three questions and answer them honestly you will be on the way to getting the bathroom you want and need. We will look at bathroom decor next week. What sort of tiles do you want? How many mirrors do you need? What should you put on the floor? All that sort of thing.

In the meantime, if you are planning a new bathroom, sort out the who, what, when and we shall look at the how and where next week.

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  • Mandy 28th August 2018 at 8:41 pm

    Excellent & thoughtful points you make, Kate.

    With 2 boys in the house, I find WALL-MOUNTED loos a blessing !
    I can’t stand the idea of that edge where the loo meets the floor . . . euwww!
    It makes cleaning a doddle.

    And on LIGHTING – I found a SILENT pull-cord that is also a dimmer – wow. The on-off click used to reverberate through the attic space into every room.

    And it’s worth paying extra for a SILENT FAN too, in my mind . . . preferably with an isolation switch too so you don’t HAVE to have it on if you’re not steaming the room up . . .

  • Mandy 28th August 2018 at 5:45 pm

    With 2 boys in the house, I find WALL-MOUNTED loos a blessing !
    I can’t stand the idea of that edge where the loo meets the floor . . . euwww!
    It makes cleaning a doddle.

    And on LIGHTING – I found a SILENT pull-cord that is also a dimmer – wow. The on-off click used to reverberate through the attic space into every room.

    And it’s worth paying extra for a SILENT FAN too, in my mind . . . preferably with an isolation switch too so you don’t HAVE to have it on if you’re not steaming the room up . . .

  • Hev 12th April 2018 at 9:15 am

    Great advice Kate and I totally agree with you. I’m in the middle of a never-ending en suite refit and I’ve replaced the bath with a shower. It’s more expensive to do this, but I don’t enjoy having a bath and it was a hideous 80’s monstrosity complete with scalloped decorative features and gold taps, just begging to be put out of its misery. I want to enjoy the bathroom now, and I don’t care what future buyers might think. I also don’t care what my bathroom fitter thinks: he’s made it clear he doesn’t like the tiles or paint colour I’ve chosen. He’s even shown pictures of the tiles to ‘other women’ and *they* don’t like them either! I know it will look amazing and it will make me happy.

  • Nicola 11th April 2018 at 11:29 pm

    Isn’t it sad that we make decisions based on ‘resale value’ rather than enhancing our quality of life. Well done for leading the charge against this daft notion.

  • Sandra 11th April 2018 at 2:38 pm

    Kate – I love the mirrors in your bathroom. Please can you confirm where you bought them? Thanks.

  • Anna 11th April 2018 at 12:58 pm

    Excellent advice and as I expect I am nearer to your Mother’s generation, I say get rid of the bath and have a big walk-in shower if you only have one bathroom. A big fixed shower head plus a hand held attachment otherwise it’s hard to clean the shower and also sometimes you don’t want to soak your hair!

    For the shower equipment check out B&Q and wait for discount days. Their storage is excellent too

  • Flora Lingfield 11th April 2018 at 11:08 am

    Best advice ever… until the next blog post, natch! We have a bathroom upstairs housing a bath with handheld shower/tap combo (next to our guest room), and a big walk-in shower in a utility room downstairs. Everyone almost exclusively comes downstairs for a shower – I can’t remember anyone else using the bath since we’ve been here.. and a handful of times for us in 6 years isn’t worth mentioning! Why bother if some future owner needs a bath? When we renovate (soon, I’m thinking – avert your eyes Mr L), I’m now going for the biggest walk-in shower we can get into the space. The only problem I can see is the added luxury and convenience might mean visitors stay longer… If they bring wine, I might be persuaded.

    • Kate Watson-Smyth 11th April 2018 at 2:24 pm

      Well they say house guests are like fish – go off after two days…. although yes, wine helps.

      • Flora Lingfield 11th April 2018 at 3:01 pm

        Maybe I should have that framed… Thank you again for the tips.

  • Sarah 11th April 2018 at 9:56 am

    This is very helpful. It’s the next big job and as you rightly point out, it has to be done right first time. Your point about wall mounted loo and basin was genius!

  • Gina 11th April 2018 at 8:25 am

    Very timely, as I begin planning the bathrooms in our renovation project. Can’t wait for the post on bathroom decor. It’s something I generally find strangely uninspiring.

  • Adam Wollerton 11th April 2018 at 7:37 am

    Hi Kate! As a bathroom designer based at Bathroom Eleven in Surrey, I love your blog and the bathroom related posts.

    On the lighting, a dimmer is always an option bur rather than relying on dimmable spotlights for a mood lighting option, I tend to design a lighting setting on a secondary switch to offer a softer lighting state. So perhaps the practical spotlights are on one light switch, and then on a second one might be recessed lighting, led strip under the basin (also cancelling out shadows for that sense of space), or maybe some wall lights with a fabric or sandblasted shade for a much softer and more subtle light.

    Love the blog and hopefully you can check out Bathroom Eleven for your ‘Where?’ Section on bathrooms! We also have a portfolio on Houzz which is definitely worth a nosey at 🙂


    • Kate Watson-Smyth 11th April 2018 at 9:55 am

      That’s great advice thank you for sharing.

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