INTERIORS – Making a splash by Barbara Chandler

Bathroom Interiors Focus Magazine

The Dornbracht Elemental spa. For more information or to discuss your new bathroom requirements, contact Bathe & Beyond on 01784 426900 www.batheandbeyond.com

Article from FOCUS Magazine – Summer 14 issue.

Current trends suggest that pampering and luxury are now core requirements in bathroom planning

Every home is different, with layers of plumbing built up over the years. Loos and cisterns may be antiquated. Homes will have different hot water systems, waste outlets and water pressures, and alterations will be controlled by varying local authorities/water boards.

Then you have to factor in the different needs/wants of every household, and of course the budget. And the sheer volume of product now on the market is staggering. Just about every single fitting you can think of has been revolutionised by modern materials and technolgy, and the increases in sophistication and choice of surface finishes has opened up a treasure trove of interior design delights. It is thus essential to use a specialist for new bathroom design, supply and installation. And a retailer in your area is usually best, with a thorough knowledge of local tradesmen.

So how much might your bathroom renovation cost? Bathroom specialists report that a spend of £10,000 is considered average. “For £10,000 you might get a freestanding bath, separate shower/wet area, enclosure, WC, basin, vanity unit, mirror, tiling, heating – but these are only very rough guidelines,” says Ripples, the nationwide chain of dedicated bathroom specialists, founded by Roger and Sandra Kyme in 1988, with four branches in London and the South East.

Obviously, the more you spend on products, the more luxurious will be your options, which might include special lighting effects and intricate mosaic work, a wet room and underfloor heating. However installation might add half-as-much again to your installation costs. For the average bathroom project you would need someone to rip out the existing bathroom suite, a carpenter to build walls/box work, a registered plumber and electrician, a plasterer, a tiler and a decorator. Upping the costs might be the building of stud walls, or moving doorways, or replacing a boiler and pipework.

Interiors in Focus Magazine

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C.P. Hart (with nine London showrooms and one in Guildford) advises all clients to carefully ‘shop around’ when looking for an installer “pay as much care and attention to finding an installation expert as you do to sourcing products,” they say. Look for examples of previous work, get multiple quotes and ask for testimonials. If you’re installing a particularly advanced or technical product like a Dornbracht Rainsky shower or Effegibi home spa system, there may be specific installation requirements which affect the overall cost. C.P. Hart has a Recommended Installer programme which is a good place to start.

People are lingering longer in the bathroom, according to recent research. The average person spends an hour in the bathroom each day – which can creep up to 12 hours a week for some women, it seems. “Yes, many bathrooms are now dressing rooms,” says Rachel Martin of C.P. Hart. “At the very least, women do their hair and make-up. And, given more time, at weekends and late at night, the bathroom is a pampering zone. Indeed current trends suggest that pampering and luxury are now core requirements in bathroom planning. Creating the right ambience is essential – it must be a space you would want to linger in.”

Helen Head, senior designer at Ripples, loves “multi-sensory” bathrooms. Texture will appeal to the touch, and can come from tiles, natural wood and/or stone. Coloured lighting can control mood at the touch of a button. She adds that a bathroom is now a place to relax, to unwind with soft music and low level romantic lighting to escape the stresses of day to day life.

It seems that for women, the bathroom has become a key “grooming” area, the preferred place to apply make-up, skin treatments, nail varnish and so on. Of course this arrangement works best for women living on their own. If you share your home with a partner and perhaps children also, you will need as many bathroom facilities as possible to avoid friction – “Are you going to stay in there forever?”. And the older the children, the heavier the bathroom pressures, with teenagers themselves demanding “grooming” space and time.

Happily perhaps, hair styling in the bathroom will be limited because you cannot by law (and for serious safety reasons) take portable electrical appliances into the bathroom, which is why you will not find a power socket.

Plan, however, for space to store cosmetics, skin creams, hand lotion and so on. You will also need counter-top space to spread them out – a fashionable “vessel” basin resting on a counter top is ideal – and you can choose from a gamut of glamourous materials, such as copper-finished porcelain, various types of stone or even marble, and coloured glass.

Bathroom storage has become very sophisticated in the last few years – indeed this is one of the biggest changes in bathroom design and fittings. Increasingly the bathroom resembles a kitchen with its wealth of built-in cupboards, in a huge choice of finishes, from timber veneers (from the palest beech to rich dark walnut), glossy lacquers and matt linen-lookalikes. Many ranges include special designs for make-up – particularly attractive are pull-out drawers divided into compartments to take sprays, bottles and the rest.

Good lighting and mirrors are crucial. Downlighters directly overhead can cast unpleasant shadows, so have lighting on either side of the mirror if possible. A switch outside the bathroom is preferable to a soon-grubby pull cord. Choose LED and CFL energy-saving bulbs with a warm tone.

As with power points, bathroom light fittings are governed by stringent regulations. A testing/labelling system called an IP rating applies to bathroom light fittings. The initials stand for “ingress protection” which crucially indicates the amount of water/steam likely to enter a fitting. For the purpose of assessing lighting safety, the bath-room is divided (theoretically) into four “zones” from 0 to 3 with a different IP rating required for each zone, according to how wet it gets (moisture + electricity is potentially very dangerous).

For example, the zone directly around the bath (zone 1) demands fittings with an IP44 rating, whilst the area within the shower (zone 0) requires an IP67 rating. Yes, it is complicated and difficult for the lay person to understand, which is yet another reason for using a professional designer. Furthermore, all electrics must be installed by a member of a relevant trade association – for example The Electrical Contractors Association (ECA; www.eca.co.uk).

“The design of individual elements within the bathroom matter more if you are spending more time in the space,” says Rachel Martin. “We are starting to see sleeker and thinner designs and the use of the latest composite materials to create more sculptural pieces.”

The current trend for heating embraces fashionable coloured radiators, rather than chrome or white. Popular are natural colours to complement tiles, or bright shades to add a splash of colour (indeed coloured radiators can increase heat output by up to 20 per cent, says Ripples designer Jo Crane. And underfloor heating, she adds, is well suited for fashionably large areas of tiled floor, and is efficient, silent, invisible and highly practical.

Inspired by upmarket hotels, spa baths are increasingly popular, with controllable jets that can deliver any experience from a gentle relaxing pulse to a brisk massage, plus, perhaps “chromatherapy” (mood enhancing colour changes) and aromatherapy (a chance to choose your own scents).

The bathroom has always been a place of inspiration – going back to Archimedes and Eureka. But now around 70 per cent of people have ideas in the shower, says research by German brand Hansgrohe. Their pioneering Raindance range (now widely copied) has three jet sprays at the touch of a button – gentle, strong and a massaging whirl.

New bathroom technology includes remote-controlled showers and touch-sensitive taps, colourful LEDs, wireless music, luxurious steam rooms, and waterproof remote controlled TVs. Lighting can be very flexible, and easily changed from functional to atmospheric. New digital controls for taps and showers can be worked from your phone, with different settings for everyone in the family. For example, Hansgrohe controls use the latest wireless technology to control your shower and lighting all from the touch of a button, inside or outside the bathroom. And their Rain Brain uses latest touch screen technology to control not only shower head options but also a sound system and mood lighting.

Bathroom music can be streamed from your iPhone or iPod via Bluetooth to speakers in bathroom cabinets and mirrors, or even through a bath made by Kaldewei. So you get superb sound quality, and another reason to linger.

For modernists, the look is slim and streamlined – “we call it reduced design,” says Duravit – like Hangrohe and Kaldewei, a well known German brand. Super-thin shapes not only ooze elegance but also save space.

Melinda Hill, a senior designer at Ripples adds: “Pared-down designs have soft and soothing lines to create a feeling of calm.” Replacing traditional shower enclosures are wet or showering “areas”. This eliminates hinges, seals and even doors, replacing them with simple pieces of glass (with anti-plaque treatments) or a tiled wall to walk behind.

Recently launched is the Dea (“goddess”) bathroom range, designed by London design agency Seymourowell for the big British brand Ideal Standard. Nice proportions and subtle curves make this very easy on the eye. Basins have slim rounded edges, and there are “flared” shapes for thin-edged acrylic baths. Careful details include deep but splash-free basins, and under-basin cupboards that slope gently backwards to make extra room for your knees.

Many people, however, still love traditional styles. Indeed leading retailers C.P. Hart have opened a “classics” area in their huge showrooms in the arches under Waterloo railway lines. Here there are Art Deco shapes and luxurious materials, but with high-performance taps and showers, and lots of storage.

Spanish brand Roca have made an all-in-one space-saving loo which doesn’t need a separate cistern on the wall. Water for flushing is hidden under the toilet bowl, and, as needed, pushed out by air and then sucked away again with the waste. However it does need electricity to make it work (though we are promised “six full flushes” in the event of a power cut). See it – and many other innovatons – in the sensational Roca Gallery, designed by Zaha Hadid in Chelsea (Station Court, Townmead Road, SW6; 020 7610 9503).

Watch out for special easy-clean glazes for ceramic basins and toilets, which cut down bathroom maintenance. New “rimless” WCs shoot water in jets around the bowl, avoiding that scale build-up which is the bane of London bathrooms. Loos can have “soft-closing” seats which are “quick release” so you can whip them off for cleaning. But for the ultimate in personal hygiene, install a “shower-toilet,” which will give you a gentle wash (and hot-air dry) whilst still sitting on the loo. Brands include Japanese Toto, whose “washlets” pioneered this agreeable design idea (eu.toto.com). The “washlet” has become their signature product, and you can try it out for yourself at their showroom (140-142 St John Street, EC1; 020 7831 7544).

C.P. Hart report that long gone are the days of a separate WC and bidet. The space-saving Aquaclean 8000 plus from Gerberit morphs the best qualities of a bidet and a WC into a single space-saving WC, operating by remote control. Also by Geberit is the touchless Sigma80 flush plate – which flushes the loo with a wave of your hand. It comes in black glass or with a mirror surface. An automatic standby system keeps electricity consumption to a minimum.

As the bathroom experience becomes longer and more complex, so the look of the space has evolved. Traditionally, the British bathroom was Spartan if not downright bleak, simply meeting basic needs. But that has radically changed, says Rachel Allen. “Luxury bathrooms are becoming the norm.”