So You Think You Know The Bathroom Design Rules?

For a room that gets used possibly more than any other, bathrooms don’t always get the attention they deserve. We’ve come a long way since plain white tiles!

From injecting colour and pattern to building luxe raw materials, our interiors columnist Lauren Li gives us the lowdown on how to get your best-ever bathroom!

An incredible bathroom by  Alexander Design  inside a loft space in Los Angeles has retained much of its original features and there isn’t a single tile in sight. Photo –  Nicolas Tosi .

An incredible bathroom by Alexander Design inside a loft space in Los Angeles has retained much of its original features and there isn’t a single tile in sight. Photo – Nicolas Tosi.

Hecker Guthrie  has not only created a space that is filled with natural light, it also functions well with a series of glass partitions that give a day-spa vibe. Photo –  Shannon McGrath .

Hecker Guthrie has not only created a space that is filled with natural light, it also functions well with a series of glass partitions that give a day-spa vibe. Photo – Shannon McGrath.

In my work as an interior designer, I’ve seen some real bathroom doozys. I’ve seen bathrooms time capsules from 1960s complete with wall to wall carpet – is there anything more gross? I’ve seen impossibly small bathrooms where you can shower, brush your teeth and do a number two all at the same time. I’ve seen one of the earliest bathrooms to be built inside a house at the grand Como House in South Yarra, it was completely charming and fascinating. I’ve seen everything from 1930s pastel coloured pedestal basins, to bright orange tiles of the seventies, blue toilets of the eighties and dolphin border tiles of the nineties. And of course, the ‘timeless’ beige on beige large format tiles from the noughties, yawn.

Bathrooms are expensive rooms in the house and like everything, in retrospect they will always bear the hallmarks of the time they were created. As new products come into the market, from water efficient tapware to Japanese toilets, my tip is to forget striving for ‘timeless’. You may find yourself with a dreadfully boring space. Live in the now and embrace gorgeous new products and ideas of what a bathroom can be. Think about how you want the space to make you feel.

If you are looking to renovate or build, here are some current ideas, and where we see the future of bathrooms heading.

Thinking About Space

The humble bathroom has evolved substantially over the years. Not only has the ‘look’ evolved, but the number of bathrooms, and where they are located has also shifted. The bathroom is now a space designed to enhance the daily ritual of bathing – a space for relaxation.

Sculptural freestanding baths can be incorporated into master bedrooms to bring serene day-spa vibes into the home. This idea of incorporating the ensuite into the bedroom isn’t brand new, and when done right, creates a lux ‘hotel’ vibe at home. However I’d recommend considering if this kind of thing is really suited to your everyday life. I’ve encountered bathrooms where a clear glass wall is all that separates the toilet from the bedside table. And this folks, is the end of romance.

Instead, consider the bathroom as an additional room in the house, as Alexander Design created in their Los Angeles project (pictured above). This spacious bathroom demonstrates just how incredible an unconventional bathroom can be when it’s treated almost as a living space. It also forgoes a single tile and instead embraces the raw materials inherent to the building.

In another example, Hecker Guthrie has masterfully designed a bathroom and master bedroom with a glass wall with the inclusion of an essential curtain (the toilet is out of view!). The spatial planning of a bathroom like this is very important.

(left)  Studio Ezra  has used a gorgeous zellige mosaic tile, which is handpainted and handmade in Morocco from  Tiles of Ezra.  Photo –  Amelia Stanwix . (right)  Decus  have selected a delightful pink Moroccan tile which gives the space a wonderfully cheerful atmosphere. Photo – courtesy of  Decus Interiors .

(left) Studio Ezra has used a gorgeous zellige mosaic tile, which is handpainted and handmade in Morocco from Tiles of Ezra. Photo – Amelia Stanwix. (right) Decus have selected a delightful pink Moroccan tile which gives the space a wonderfully cheerful atmosphere. Photo – courtesy of Decus Interiors.

(left) A beautiful powder room painted blue that showcases the incredible stone vanity and the patterned floor by  Decus Interiors . Photo –  Anson Smart . (right)  Studio Ezra  designed a serene bathroom using a cement encaustic tile from  Tiles of Ezra  in a hexagon format over the floors and wall. Photo –  Amelia Stanwix .

(left) A beautiful powder room painted blue that showcases the incredible stone vanity and the patterned floor by Decus Interiors. Photo – Anson Smart. (right) Studio Ezra designed a serene bathroom using a cement encaustic tile from Tiles of Ezra in a hexagon format over the floors and wall. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Add Colour

Before you freak out, we’re not talking about bright colours here. But rather than having the neutral, bathroom identical to your neighbours, consider injecting your own personality by using colour – the effect is instant.

The word ‘trend’ implies that an idea appeals to the masses, however using colour in bathrooms is almost an ‘anti-trend’, as so many of us are afraid of it in Australia.

If you’re thinking about giving this a try, you will find some absolutely gorgeous tiles on the market, the hard part is choosing. Use the tiles all over every wall, and avoid the ‘feature wall’, as too many different surfaces in the room can look overly complicated. Studio Ezra uses gorgeous colours in their designs to beautiful effect. Take a note on how they use one colour all over the walls and even the floors. The less materials used, the calmer the space feels.

A fabulous way to bring colour into the bathroom is with a vanity basin. Anyone that has been to the Milan Furniture Fair will have seen vanity basins ranging in colour from soft green and blue and a palette of neutrals. You can see a range at Design Precinct and Roger Seller, I promise they don’t look as crazy as they sound.

(left) Decus Interiors’ Killcare House project. Photo – courtesy of  Decus Interiors . (right) A marble vanity floats over a window in a gorgeous design by Alwill. Photo – courtesy of  Alwill.

(left) Decus Interiors’ Killcare House project. Photo – courtesy of Decus Interiors. (right) A marble vanity floats over a window in a gorgeous design by Alwill. Photo – courtesy of Alwill.

The Floating Vanity

We want our bathrooms to feel clean, airy and uncluttered. A floating vanity that is mounted to the wall allows the flooring to extend to the wall behind, and gives a feeling of spaciousness.

Are you willing to forego a few shelves of storage (‘does it spark joy?’) in an effort to create this floating feeling!?

(left) An incredible bathroom featuring a stone bath by  B.E Architecture.  Photo –  Peter Clarke . (right) Detail of Decus Interiors’ Killcare House project. Photo – courtesy of  Decus Interiors .

(left) An incredible bathroom featuring a stone bath by B.E Architecture. Photo – Peter Clarke. (right) Detail of Decus Interiors’ Killcare House project. Photo – courtesy of Decus Interiors.

(left) Slabs of natural stone clad this shower paired with black tapware for a luxurious effect in this Melbourne penthouse by  SJB . Photo –  Nicole England . (right) This extraordinary double shower combines many elements that we are loving in bathrooms. Designed by  Studio LifeStyle , the incredible veined marble, which even clads the ceiling of the shower and the black steel doors, black tapware and check marble floor it really is a knockout. Photo –  Stephen Busken .

(left) Slabs of natural stone clad this shower paired with black tapware for a luxurious effect in this Melbourne penthouse by SJB. Photo – Nicole England. (right) This extraordinary double shower combines many elements that we are loving in bathrooms. Designed by Studio LifeStyle, the incredible veined marble, which even clads the ceiling of the shower and the black steel doors, black tapware and check marble floor it really is a knockout. Photo – Stephen Busken.

Raw Naturals

There is nothing quite like authentic materials. By this I mean real marble, stone and timber – not faux marble or timber-look porcelain tiles.

The innate beauty of natural materials will sway us to choose them even if they require a higher level of maintenance, and eat large chunks into our budget.

Luxurious natural stone presents a vast range of options in a bathroom, and we see it used in endless ways. From a basin carved out of solid stone to marble tapware, it seems that stone is more than a passing trend.

Large slabs of marble can clad entire showers for an opulent effect, or be used as a vanity top for a touch of luxury – just remember to keep the Shower Power away.

A stunning botanical wallpaper gives an unexpected burst of colour in an otherwise white house in Sydney by  Madeline Blanchfield Architecture . Photo – courtesy of  Madeline Blanchfield Architecture . (right) Photo – courtesy of  Madeline Blanchfield Architecture .

A stunning botanical wallpaper gives an unexpected burst of colour in an otherwise white house in Sydney by Madeline Blanchfield Architecture. Photo – courtesy of Madeline Blanchfield Architecture. (right) Photo – courtesy of Madeline Blanchfield Architecture.

(above) Textured tiles in a captivating herringbone pattern in a project by  Georgia Ezra . Photo – courtesy of  Georgia Ezra .

(above) Textured tiles in a captivating herringbone pattern in a project by Georgia Ezra. Photo – courtesy of Georgia Ezra.

(left) A patterned floor tile adds elegance to the concrete bathroom in this richly layered space by  Decus Interiors.  Photo –  Anson Smart . (right) Statement wallpaper in a bathroom by Alwill. Photo – courtesy of  Alwill .

(left) A patterned floor tile adds elegance to the concrete bathroom in this richly layered space by Decus Interiors. Photo – Anson Smart. (right) Statement wallpaper in a bathroom by Alwill. Photo – courtesy of Alwill.

Try Pattern

It’s been so wonderful to see the use of pattern emerge in bathrooms in recent years. Patterned tiles bring a space to life and add so much personality. Cement encaustic tiles are available in an array of styles, from ornate patterns to suit traditional spaces, through to bold geometric patterns.

We are also seeing gorgeous patterned wallpaper used in powder rooms. These small spaces can be filled with an intense pattern, making for a pleasant surprise for guests paying a quick visit.

(left)  Decus Interiors  give this bathroom a light and airy feel with a steel frame reminiscent of chic European hotels. Photo – courtesy of  Decus Interiors . (right) Artedomus’ Sydney Showroom, designed by  The Stella Collective  and  Thomas Coward . Photo –  Derek Swalwell .

(left) Decus Interiors give this bathroom a light and airy feel with a steel frame reminiscent of chic European hotels. Photo – courtesy of Decus Interiors. (right) Artedomus’ Sydney Showroom, designed by The Stella Collective and Thomas Coward. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

(left) In their Main Ridge project  Studio Griffiths  selected a stunning vanity unit with a black steel frame that the cabinetry sits within. Photo –  Sharyn Cairns . (right) A project by Carole Whiting Interiors and Design. Photo – courtesy of  Carole Whiting Interiors and Design

(left) In their Main Ridge project Studio Griffiths selected a stunning vanity unit with a black steel frame that the cabinetry sits within. Photo – Sharyn Cairns. (right) A project by Carole Whiting Interiors and Design. Photo – courtesy of Carole Whiting Interiors and Design

Black Steel Makes An Appearance

Quite simply, we’re obsessed about black fine steel profiles.

For a while there, frameless shower screens were the epitome of bathroom chic. But then… the black steel frame came along and we’re totally hooked.

You’ll find black steel legs on vanities (when they’re not wall mounted) or black steel framing mirrors. Paired with matte black tapware and you won’t look back!

(above) The bathroom in the ‘Tamarama’ project by Decus Interiors’. Photo – courtesy of  Decus Interiors

(above) The bathroom in the ‘Tamarama’ project by Decus Interiors’. Photo – courtesy of Decus Interiors

(left) This bathroom by  Carole Whiting Interiors  and  Whiting Architects  features various surfaces expertly combined so that it doesn’t look too busy. A white ceramic subway tile behind the vanity is paired with marble slabs in the shower walls and marble mosaics on the shower floor. Timber floors are visually warm and also feel warm underfoot. The freestanding Agape vanity basins inject this memorable bathroom with loads of personality. (right) This bathroom by  Carole Whiting Interiors  and  Whiting Architects features various surfaces expertly combined so that it doesn’t look too busy. A white ceramic subway tile behind the vanity is paired with marble, and marble mosaics on the floor. Timber floors are visually warm and also feel warm underfoot.

(left) This bathroom by Carole Whiting Interiors and Whiting Architects features various surfaces expertly combined so that it doesn’t look too busy. A white ceramic subway tile behind the vanity is paired with marble slabs in the shower walls and marble mosaics on the shower floor. Timber floors are visually warm and also feel warm underfoot. The freestanding Agape vanity basins inject this memorable bathroom with loads of personality. (right) This bathroom by Carole Whiting Interiors and Whiting Architectsfeatures various surfaces expertly combined so that it doesn’t look too busy. A white ceramic subway tile behind the vanity is paired with marble, and marble mosaics on the floor. Timber floors are visually warm and also feel warm underfoot.

Tile Layouts

A combination of large format and small tiles are often used together in bathrooms. Lately, we’ve been seeing large format tiles on the floor and halfway up the walls, with the small tiles used from halfway up the wall to the ceiling.

Alternatively (and boldly), you can use small tiles on entire walls. If mosaics are a bit too expensive (as they often are) consider just using them on the vanity wall for impact – the vanity and mirror will cover most of the wall, meaning less tiles will be needed. Whatever you do, avoid using mosaics in niches only or as feature strips, as this look is dated and the effect of the mosaics aren’t fully appreciated.

Do’s and Don’ts

Shower Niches: Don’t tile shower niches is a feature tile that is different to the surrounding wall. This highlights the shampoo stuff in the niche, which isn’t really a feature. Instead use the same tile as the wall into the niche.

Sight-lines:  Plan the bathroom so that when one enters the room, the vanity is in view, and keep the toilet tucked away.

Selecting surfaces:  Make sure that you are aware of the maintenance required with the surfaces you select. Strong cleaning products can eat away at porous materials such as stone, cement encaustic tiles and terrazzo. Consider if caring for the stone will suit your lifestyle. Talk to the tile or stone supplier and get advice on the slip resistance in areas such as the shower.

Lighting:  The best lighting in a bathroom should be a wall mounted light beside the mirror so that we can see our faces when applying make-up or shaving. Avoid the downlight over head, it causes shadows and is really annoying. Lighting should be layered so that you have a soft dimmable light for night time visits, a bright overall light and task lighting at the vanity.

Own it:  Design your bathroom to suit your lifestyle and taste. If you’re not planning to sell the property in the next 12 months then design the bathroom you, not for someone that you don’t know and try to guess their tastes.

This article also appears in The Designfiles, Lauren is the interior design contributor.