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Bathroom Design Basics (Everyone Should Know)…

I get asked a lot what the pitfalls of bathroom design are for designer’s who are just starting out in the business and I would have to say that bathrooms and kitchens are by far the hardest if they have never experienced renovating their own or a friend’s first!

Kitchen’s are a whole other ballpark and come with many, many opportunities for mistakes for the unwitting, fresh designer, so I thought I would start with bathrooms as we could fit this into one blog post!

There are a few key areas that are really important with bathroom design and refurbishment that are really important to highlight to a novice who has never undertaken a project like this before. Often, an interior designer will eventually get asked to design a bathroom for a client and they will say yes, then think “its just about choosing tiles and a suite, right?”


Finishes

  • Walls – This is possibly the trickiest thing to consider when undertaking a bathroom renovation or design as the first thing to consider is how much space you have for finishes! If the architraves are staying (as they will most likely do in a low cost or budget renovation), then you will need to measure how deep they are so that you can design around the doors and windows.
  • Floors – Next, unless you want a “lovely” toe scratching metal bar or even worse, a toe breaking step up into the bathroom, you will need to understand what the juxtaposing floor finish is going to be (or is) and how deep that is too. Whilst you’re at it, if your client hasn’t got a big budget to ask the carpenter to cut the door to fit your 30mm stone flooring, then you might want to measure how much gap you have under the door too, just to make sure you know how much space you have to play with.
  • Ceiling – If you can’t measure the void within the ceiling or can’t photograph it, then think about whether the property is a flat and what floor it is on. You may need to consider fire-hoods / casing and some LED lighting will have large heat diffusing backs and or may require transformers in an accessible place, close to the lights themselves. Don’t forget that bathroom lighting in Zones 1 and 2 needs to be IP44 rated minimum (Zone one is the area in the bath, shower or around the sink and Zone 2 is the area around those areas up to about 60cm – which is more of a splash zone).

Just as a rule of thumb, I would look at the thickness of what I am proposing (the depth of the tile or stone) and then know that I will probably need around the same amount of space behind the tile to fix it in place. Usually, a 3mm tile can get away with a much thinner bed, but a 20mm piece of stone will need at least 10mm bed with at least a cementitious board that can carry the weight of the stone.

Don’t forget that not all wall tiles can be used on the floor either. Ceramic tiles which are usually cheaper will usually be only for the walls as they are much softer than porcelain tiles or stone, so always check before making your final decision on your finishes.

Photo by Jared Rice on Unsplash


Drainage

I used to get teased in offices I worked in because I actually am a total geek with drainage and love working it out. I used to get a lot of the s**t jobs passed to me as I genuinely enjoyed them! I love drainage! I even considered changing careers at one point to re-train as a plumber (then I realized I have a very sensitive nose…)

Drainage is one of those things that if you don’t know what you are doing, then leave it alone and don’t mess with it. The cheapest thing with a bathroom is to leave the pieces where they are and replace them like for like. Even something as simple as changing a bath to a shower can cause problems, as a shower trap will need to fit in the floor and that isn’t always possible on a refurbishment. That is why you see those poor showers that need stepping up in to (oh the humanity!)

The key with bathrooms, however, is looking at where the riser is. You’ll spot it easily in an older building as it will probably be boxed out, but in a new building, it will most likely be concealed slightly better (you’d hope). The toilet is usually positioned pretty close to it, so that is your first give away. Moving a toilet or shower around the riser is usually not too much of a problem because the proximity to the connection is the key.

As a rule of thumb, a shower waste will be around 50mm and a toilet waste pipe will be around 110mm in diameter and they require a fall to the riser of 1:60 (that’s 1 meter in height for every 60m in length – or about 2cm drop per meter. That doesn’t sound like much, but considering the floor depth is usually around 250mm, then you start to encroach on the ceiling below if moving it more than a couple of meters.

Although that still doesn’t mean you can move them because it also depends on what the floor or ceiling structure is made from. If you are dealing with a timber floor and the joists are running in the right direction, (check the engineer’s or architects drawings) you can get lucky and you can run the pipes within the floor, but if your joists are running in the wrong direction and you don’t have a ceiling void below, you will have to alter your layout (or opt for a syphoned toilet…)


Sanitary Fittings

Ah, the joy! Just when you find the perfect shower in the right finish, you can’t match the mixer, or just when you find the perfect set for everything it doesn’t have WRAS approval. This can be a minefield and unless working on super low-cost projects are often best dealt with a contact or supplier from a specific company. There are so many parts and mechanisms that go along with and need to be ordered to fit a shower or tap that it is best to work alongside someone who knows their stock.

This is the kind of thing you don’t really want to leave to your plumber. Low-cost projects usually do and that is where you start to get mismatched items or showers not working well. If you know it, you will also need to know the pressure you currently have and the type of system in your property. A gravity led system has much less pressure than mains pressure and you may need to also install pressure reducing valves (for the designer that means fitting more things in behind the already full walls or hiding more stuff or trying to box it in).

What I’m trying to say is that choosing a shower head and matching mixer is not as simple as matching the style to the mixer on the basin. There are a lot of things that are needed to be considered alongside the items themselves to make sure they work correctly once installed. Add to this water reducing filters and water saving devices you have to really know what items will work to give you the desired end result.

Before choosing sanitary items and before speaking to the manufacturer (you always should before ordering to make sure you are specifying the right parts) make sure you have to hand the following things:

  1. The type of boiler and hot water installation (ie mains or gravity pressure).
  2. Water saving or regulatory requirements (usually only for new builds or historic projects) or any unique property specific requirements.
  3. The depth of the walls, floors and ceilings and construction type for installation and fixing – sometimes noggins or ply need to be inserted into the wall to fix the mixers, towel rails etc.)
  4. Depth and profile of the finishes (Eg. a highly profiled tile can look terrible with a flat plate for a mixer stuck on it, no matter how aligned it is!)
  5. Which direction the floor and ceiling joists run (if timber construction) and where the wall studs are.

And just one final note, don’t expect to be able to use an external wall depth to add to the room you have. External walls should not be messed with, especially in new construction where any penetration could affect the airtightness or vapour control of the building. As a general rule, if you want to hide some piping in an external wall, you will need to build a new wall or boxing in front of it so that you don’t damage the external envelope of the building which could cause damp or allow vermin into the walls. Refurbishments are where most of the big mistakes happen because the initial build is tightly controlled but small or minor works in between aren’t usually monitored and often done by uneducated homeowners, on the cheap or in a DIY way.

Buildings are getting more complicated and there are more things that can be damaged than just a bit of mould getting through a wall. Partitions, floors and ceilings all act as fire compartmentalization so some alterations, if not completed by a competent person who knows the local laws may be unknowingly creating a dangerous situation.

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5 Ways To Update Your bathroom

Bathrooms can be rooms that get overlooked in a house and they shouldn’t. These spaces are nearly always the first place we go to when we wake up and the last room we leave before we go to sleep, so they should make us feel great.

I’m one of those “bath lovers” so I can really spend hours in my bathroom as its the place I actually go to to try to relax.  Below are a few ways you can update your bathroom to give it a fresh finish.

1. Add plants

There isn’t a single room in your house which won’t benefit from housing a plant. Not only are they so varied and beautiful, they are also proven to help reduce stress and create a sense of well-being. Plants can also help to reduce noise and improve air quality! Ok I’ll stop singing plants’ praises, but now you know, you have no reason not to add some greenery to your bathroom!  This is one of the fastest, most fun and easiest ways to update your bathroom.

Bathrooms aren’t always filled with lots of natural light so choose plants which require low lighting to thrive. Humidity and temperate levels are also important as hot running water and lots of steam can cause these levels to increase, and some plants are not happy about this.

Most bathrooms aren’t huge in size either, so opt for plants which can sit on a shelves and windowsills, trail down walls and hang from the ceiling. My favourites are aloe vera, ivy and the cast iron plant, which lives up to its name. Not even I can kill this one!

Image source http://www.housemixblog.com/2017/03/28/plant-wall-in-the-bathroom/

2. Add art

Art work is another way to update your bathroom. If you think your bathroom or downstairs toilet is too small for art work, it isn’t! Artwork comes in every form and size these days and you may be surprised at what works in this space.

Seascapes and beaches are a great go to for bathroom art work but really anything can work. Nature is another art subject which sits well in a bathroom as it will help to bring the feeling of the outdoors in to your space. If you want a cosmopolitan feel printed typography and graphics are a fun way to freshen up the room.

3. Updating shower curtains and screens

Refreshing your bathroom can be as easy as changing your shower curtain. Long gone are the days of plain white shower curtains which stick to your wet body whenever you try to move!

The High street and lots of online retailers offer various colours patterns and designs which can be suited to any style. I would suggest opting for something fun and patterned or colourful to really add some life to your bathroom. The best thing about shower curtains too is that they can be changed easily and as soon as you think it has had its day. They are also great if you like to change your style from time to time and can be a cheap way to update your bathroom.

Another option is to invest in updating your shower curtain to a glass screen. This option will help to modernise a bathroom space, possibly making it feel lighter and arguably even cleaner.

Image source – https://www.urbanoutfitters.com/shop/saskia-pomeroy-plants-shower-curtain-001?category=A_NEWARRIVALS&cm_mmc=social-_-pin-_-562016-_-plantsshowercurtain

4. Updating Towels

Updating your towels is also a really easy way to freshen up your bathroom. Adding luxurious towels in contrasting or complimentary colours will make the space look nicer, but importantly when you get out of the shower or dry your hands, they will feel nicer on your skin.

There’s nothing better than placing your towel over the radiator before washing and then stepping into a warm fluffy towel!

image source https://www.wayfair.co.uk/textiles-bedding/pdp/behrens-zen-hand-towel-brns1033.html

5. Window furnishings

Updating your window furnishings is another great way to bring your bathroom to life. Blinds don’t have to be extortionate and colourful prints or designs will help to instantly uplift the room. As with choosing art work and shower curtains, you can have lots of fun with choosing patterns and colours for blinds. The designs are endless and there is a design out there to suit everyone.

So I would suggest keeping in mind the other elements of the room. A patterned artwork, blind and shower curtain will probably be too much for one space so choose one element and make it work for you. As for me, I would be heading straight for a safari patterned blind, to give my bathroom a real tropical feel. (I’m still in the middle of my safari craze and am loving it!)

image source http://wadeweissmannarchitecture.com/

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How to Make a Small Room Feel Huge – Part 1

Having lived in small, shared, inner-city spaces for much of my 20’s, I found lots of ways of making my tiny rooms appear much bigger than they were and more importantly store all of my guitars and sporting equipment like snowboards, climbing gear and bikes out of the way for daily life.

I remember my first room in London was less than 4m2 (13 square feet) and I loved living there so much. It was cosy, with a big window and I even had one of my super tall besties stay with me in that room. I remember he had to sleep diagonally across with his feet in the storage part of my undersized bed. I think I paid £60 a week to live there (ahh memories).

It wasn’t until recently, when I was working with a client who loves large open spaces that I found he wasn’t convinced about something I had proposed, which led me having to make a digital 3D model to explain it. That is when I realised that this stuff can be quite hard to visualise, unless you have experimented with it or seen the results yourself.

So here I am going to share some of my secrets and experience with you. I hope this is useful and helps you to live better in your small space and enjoy your time there so that you too can look back in years to come with fond memories and a few good stories to tell

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Top ways to living in a small space and make it feel bigger than it is:

  1. Use reflective surfaces (high gloss) and mirrors. When the surface is super reflective you can even use black as it reflects just like a mirror.
  2. Keep furniture low so that your eye casts over it and doesn’t obscure the room when looking around.
  3. Use sliding doors and pocket sliding doors. These will free up the space in front of cupboards, bathrooms and allow you to use the surface of the wall that the hinged door usually hides.
  4. Keep vertical and horizontal lines going full length or height and use built-in furniture to accentuate vertical or horizontal lines. Our eye naturally follows the lines and when the line stops with an obstruction, our eyes rest on it. In a smaller space, you want your eye to be able to move at least a little bit before it stops dead, so stand back and see what is stopping your eyes from flowing.
  5. Put a reflective surface or mirror on the wall opposite the window. This will bounce light around the room and acts like another light source.

In one of my apartments, I built–in high gloss floor to ceiling cupboards with sliding doors on the wall opposite the window. It made the room feel huge and gave me a practical way of hiding all of my clothes.

Want 5 more tips and some good habits for living in a small space too?

How To Design A House on A Tight Budget Part 2

To be honest, I could write a book about this topic because there really is so much to consider and so many different ways that you can approach your project that can save you money.

The main thing I do believe though is that you need to have an end goal in mind and that is why the first 4 steps really help get you clear on what it is you want your end result to be. Unless you are clear on this, you will waver, and wavering WILL cost you money and you most probably won’t get the result you were aiming for (except by luck).

Step 5

Plan and layout your rooms. This is so easy these days! Just google kitchen layout or living room layout and get loads of ideas for your own space. Make a decision based on how you live and how you want to live in your newly designed space.

Step 6

This is a little harder unless you have some experience, but you will find out soon enough how much things cost in a home and where to source things. So the next step is to figure out where you are going to spend your money. This is usually where you will get disheartened. Seeing how much things ACTUALLY cost (seriously? £60 for 1 cushion!) – So now is the time to really know where you will spend your money.

If your lifestyle commands that your kitchen is the heart of your home, then that might be a no-brainer, the kitchen is where you spend the money. In a living room, it could be the lounge or the built-in tv wall. If you want to ration it around the house, then that’s ok too, just remember when you see that gorgeous rug that is completely out of budget… Be strong, there will be another rug, just as soft (almost), with a beautiful weave (almost), for a much better price…

Step 7

Spend time sourcing. One of the hardest things you will probably come across is where to find that amazing lamp you just need to complete your room and you can’t find it anywhere. The cool thing about being a designer is that people approach me to show me their products; so I don’t usually have to search for too long as I have good connections with the industry.

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For the rest of you, I have shared my Pinterest board, so that you can at least have somewhere to start as this is where I share all of my go-to places and it really is a great resource. Follow it here: https://uk.pinterest.com/jochrobak/interior-designers-resources/?etslf=6966&eq=interior%20designers%20re

If you have any great resources you want to share, please email me or ask to collaborate on my Pinterest board.

Step 8

Get it to a stage where you can live with it, then you can spend the rest of your days tweaking it, evolving it, testing other fun ideas or changing things up for the season.

It is an amaaaazing feeling when you have finished a room to perfection and it is just everything you had imaged it to be and more. Don’t stop until you get to this place. It IS worth it.

One of my followers said she saved loads by buying expensive furniture second hand and repainting it to look new. Let me know how you saved money on your own project?

Pulling Apart A Bathroom

One of my readers asked if I could do another one of these gifs where I pull apart the room to help you learn how to create the room, and so here it is. Today’s bathroom pull-apart. The image is of the Karlavagen Residence from sharedesign.com.

I thought this bathroom would be a good example to use to help you understand what is going on here, and also I think the designer did such a beautiful job to create a gorgeous bathroom that it was a pleasure to work on and also write about.

So I took away everything that most people wouldn’t normally have in their bathroom and I whitened the tiles in the shower to resemble a more realistic and probable tile selection from a non designer, so that you can imagine your starting place in relation to this image.

I know my readers can get as far as space planning and if you are lucky enough to have a historic and gorgeous property with radiators that are that pretty, lucky, lucky you! Also that amount of room for a bathroom wouldn’t go astray in any property, although as you can see, in order to have such a large shower, the designer did rotate the bath and created different perspective than what most people would have done, which I also thought was pretty creative.

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I also know that my readers would probably be able to chose the traditional style shower head to match the age of the property and overall look. Here are the things that take this bathroom to the next level however and see if you can do the same when designing your own bathroom.

  1. The tiles. The undertone of the marble creates warmth and as you can see here, with different light, it looks a different colour. (brighter with natural day light on the left). Actually a quick tip, if you want marble and cant afford it, smaller sized marble tiles are how to achieve the same feel and I have to admit that that would be my choice too, considering the amount a slab of 20mm marble costs. Most people stay safe with tiles, but as you can see the pattern of the natural marble creates a modern, natural feel.  Also continuing the tiles into the bath area, created a continuum between spaces. I removed the tiles behind the bath so that you could see how the feel of the room was improved by having added them there.
  2. The window treatment. This really adds a luxurious, soft element to this bathroom and really sets it apart. Notice the curtains still allow light in, so they may not be lined.
  3. The black and timber additions. This is something you can do in any room! Just find your highlight colour and use it! They have been very refrained here and the timber on the right makes the rght feel so warm and the black on the left really contrasts against the white walls to give you a focal point. Notice, even the little curtain tie appears to be black. The timber really adds some warmth, or else the feel of the room would have been much more monochrome.

I hope this helped you see this room from a designer’s perspective and gave you a way to approach your own bathroom design. One more point here, it isn’t usually that difficult to make an architecturally gorgeous room beautiful, but there are ways of making any room pop, so don’t feel that just because this room started off beautiful because it had historic features, that you wouldn’t be able to create an equally stunning space without them. Yes its easier to work with a beautiful space, but if you don’t have architectural features to work with, either create them, or chose your focal point to be the dramatic statement piece and let everything else be the backdrop.