The 8 things you need to know before you start a bathroom project

Even the simplest of bathroom projects requires a serious amount of preparation if it is going to come off stress free. Livingetc reveals the secrets to a hassle-free renovation...

When it comes to bathrooms, great design is more about how the space works than how it looks. A minimal scheme can quickly turn from Zen oasis to cluttered mess when lotions and potions cover window sills and floors, and certain fittings might look the part but be a nightmare if you’re only planning to get the cleaning products out fortnightly. Dedicating a little time to certain key considerations will ensure you get the most out of your bathroom refurbishment. And have you worked out how you’ll cope without a shower for a week?

1. There is a whole world of style beyond the three-piece suite.

Matching fittings, avocado-coloured or otherwise, are well and truly over. The sure-fire way to create a contemporary space is by mixing different styles and introducing decorative touches such as wallpaper. Rip pages out of magazines and build boards on Pinterest to hone your dream look. Once you’ve done your visual research, try to nail down what it is you like about each space and search for common themes.

2. No, a minimal glass shelf won’t be enough…

Storage is the key to a successful bathroom. Toiletries never display well (unless you’ve taken out shares in Aesop or Jo Malone), nor do shampoo bottles standing on the floor of the shower. A substantial vanity with space for extra towels is a smart buy. Take a look at our collection of the best bathroom storage ideas for more inspiration.

3. Dig out that gym membership card.

You might usually only make it to the local Virgin Active once a month, but that will certainly change if you plan to rip out the only bathroom in the house; you’ll find those changing rooms quickly take on a new appeal. How long you’ll have to cope without a shower or bath depends on the scale of the work – a spruce job might only take a matter of days, but if you are planning to move fittings or relocate plumbing, account for significantly longer. If you don’t have a gym membership, your only option might have to be chez a friendly neighbour, so start smiling when you pass in the street well in advance of any work. Believe us, dry shampoo can go so far…

4. Tiles are the easiest way to follow trends.

Surfaces make or break a bathroom: there’s little that feels more dated than cruddy, worn-out vinyl. One current trend is for graphic ceramics – say, a patchwork of decorative geometrics or a striking hexagonal design. You’ll achieve maximum impact with a floor-to-wall seamless feature, but you can also opt for a feature wall or floor. Think about your room proportions before choosing your tiles. Very decorative designs can be too busy for a small space, whereas they could be an ideal way to add interest and warmth to a large bathroom.

5. Be realistic about cleaning habits.

Some of today’s fashionable fittings, such as black sinks, are not suitable for the slack cleaners among us (you know who you are), as marks show very easily. Grout is another killer; instead choose a solid surface or large-format stone slabs for your walls to save a lot of elbow grease. Lift fittings off the floor to allow for easy cleaning; wall-mounted buys can be mopped underneath.

6. You can’t order fixtures a week before you start work.

Regardless of whether you are buying from a high-street store or a high-end brand, factor in delivery times. Big name manufacturers might take three or four weeks to deliver, while luxury brands can take around eight weeks. Any custom products will take longer so give yourself plenty of wriggle room to avoid having contractors twiddling their thumbs on site.

7. Just because you don’t need a bath in your life right now…

When planning a layout, bear in mind how your needs might change in the years to come. Your family might grow, or indeed you might be selling in which case remember that a bath will have broader appeal.

8. Size really does matter.

It is easy to dream of his-and-her sinks, a statement walk-in shower or a double-ended roll top but the truth of the matter is it isn’t going to be possible in the most UK bathrooms – apparently the average footprint is about the same as a king-size bed. Don’t cram in fittings (this will only make the room feel smaller) and research products that will help you make the most of your square meterage, such as wet-room style showers or Japanese-style square tubs.

For more modern design ideas, see Livingetc.

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