3 non-negotiables for an expensive-looking bathroom, according to interiors expert Kate Watson-Smyth

Want to achieve luxe on a budget? You've come to the right place

White bathroom with dark vintage cabinets and shelves, bathroom sink, mirror, and home decor furnishings
(Image credit: Future PLC/James Merrell)

Interiors expert and journalist, Kate Watson-Smyth, shares her best advice for instantly making a bathroom look more expensive and luxurious – and the secret lies in making simple tweaks to what you're already working with.

Given that our bathrooms are singlehandedly where we spend some of the most time in our homes, you'd think we'd pay more mind to make our bathroom ideas sing. However, more often than not, they end up at the bottom of our design priority list due to a lack thereof of space (and budget).

But, did you know that there are a handful of easy and affordable ways to make your bathroom look expensive to spruce up even the smallest of small bathroom ideas?

Handbasin with white and grey marbled top, blue vanity unit, wood panelled wall and original cast iron radiator

(Image credit: Future PLC/James Merrell)

Kate Watson-Smyth's secrets to making a bathroom look expensive

Speaking to Ideal Home on how to make a bathroom feel more luxurious, the Mad About the House writer begins, 'Decorating our bathrooms to create peaceful havens dedicated to so-called 'me time' has been popular for a while as we seek to escape the pressure and stresses of daily life. But next year, this may be taken to another level.'

This coincides with TaskRabbit's 2024 trend report which predicts that next year, more Brits will be focusing more on honing into moments of pampering and self-care – and what better area to transform for that sole purpose than your bathroom?

Kate Watson-Smyth
Kate Watson-Smyth

Kate Watson-Smyth is an author and journalist who has been writing about interior design for more than 20 years. As well as four best-selling books, her work has been published in the Financial Times, Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph, Guardian, Independent and Grazia. She writes a monthly column for Red magazine and her home has been featured in the Wall St Journal, Corriere della Sera and Remodelista.

'The thing about UK bathrooms is we have some of the smallest bathrooms in Europe so you can be quite limited in what you can do,' continues Kate.

While this may initially seem like a bad thing, rest assured it's not. It just means you have to be extra crafty with what you do to make the most of a small bathroom layout.

White tiled bathroom with oval mirror and sink with dark vintage wood cabinets

(Image credit: Future PLC/Nathalie Priem)

1. Ditch the spotlight

As far as bathroom lighting ideas go, it's pretty much a given that many of us typically opt for spotlights. However, Kate warns that you may actually be committing a lesser-known bathroom lighting mistake by going down this route.

'We tend to default to spotlights in bathrooms which can be the best and most direct light, but it's not necessarily the most flattering,' explains Kate. 'The most flattering light is a side light. So if you can have lights on either side of your bathroom mirror.'

Bathroom with maroon wood panelled walls, grey and white marbled floor, handbasin in wooden chest of drawers vanity unit

(Image credit: Future PLC/James Merrell)

She continues, 'Given that our bathrooms are where we start and end the day, who doesn't want to see themselves in the best light at that point? A side light is much nicer than a straight overhead which will highlight all lines and shadows.'

2. Mix it up with some vintage wood

'The other thing about bathrooms is they tend to be full of hard surfaces, straight lines, and shiny white materials,' continues Kate. 'So I'm a really big fan of bringing in a bit of vintage wood wherever you can.'

Yes, you heard it here first. Mixing bathroom surfaces with the dark wood trend is guaranteed to be a statement, and what we also predict to be a big bathroom trend on the rise.

'Now, if you've got a big bathroom, a vintage stool to rest your wine on while you're in the bath or put the radio on, that will look great. If you've got a very small bathroom then some vintage shelves or a vintage cupboard.'

White bathroom with dark vintage cabinets and shelves, bathroom sink, mirror, and home decor furnishings

(Image credit: Future PLC/Siobhan Doran)

'I cannot keep track of how many glass-fronted vintage cabinets I'm seeing in bathrooms at the moment: on Instagram, on Pinterest, on everywhere I look. So, you can pick those up and that will just bring a little bit of character.'

While we of course advocate you shop secondhand to get that true 'vintage' look, you can alternatively find some beautiful dark wood pieces online, like this Wooden Reeded Glass Wall Cabinet from Melody Maison

3. Tie it altogether with a colour scheme

Lastly, as with any room in your home, a bathroom colour scheme will never fail to make your design choices look all the more intentionally curated, which in turn screams luxe.

'Bring in a colour scheme by having some matching towels in warm colours and candles for atmosphere if you want to create that spa kind of feeling,' advises Kate.

Alternatively, working on your bathroom plant ideas is also sure to command attention and add that needed pop of colour into an otherwise dull-looking scheme. Not to mention, if you snap up the best bathroom plants to tackle moisture and condensation, you'll be killing two birds with one stone.

Bathroom conversion full of warmth and character. Vanity unit with white and green marble top

(Image credit: Future PLC/Simon Whitmore)

And just like that, you're well on your way to curating a bathroom space that will assist you in making those self-care goals for 2024 all the more achievable and enjoyable to partake in – that is oh-so-luxurious.

Taskrabbit, the platform that connects people with skilled reliable Taskers to get help around the home and garden, has been working with Kate Watson-Smyth on their 2024 interior trend report, revealing what is set to be big in our homes in the coming year. Those looking to get a helping hand can book a Tasker online or on the Taskrabbit app.

Jullia Joson
Junior Writer

Jullia Joson is Ideal Home’s Junior Writer. She’s always loved all things homes and interiors, graduating with a bachelor's degree in Architectural Studies from the University of Nottingham in 2022. Previously, she was an Intern Editor for ArchDaily. Now focused on news stories, Jullia can be found down the TikTok and Pinterest rabbit hole scrolling through any new and upcoming trends, hacks, and home inspiration.