Article from FOCUS Magazine – Autumn 16 issue.
Most people feel that expenditure on the bathroom is amply rewarded by efficiency and comfort in what is perhaps the most intensively used room in the house
What are the home improvements that will add the most value to your home? There were some interesting points in the latest research by the Nationwide Building Society. It seems that a home extension or loft conversion could increase a property’s worth by about 22%, or typically £42,700, it seems. An extra bedroom is also highly desirable – increasing the floor area to add an additional bedroom of 13 square metres could add 10% to the value of a terraced house or 13% to a semi-detached home, especially when upgrading from two bedrooms to three.
However our article this autumn is concerned with bathrooms. Based on average house prices, Nationwide Building Society calculated that an extra bathroom could add 4.9% or £9,600 on to the value of a home in the UK. Other research has shown that updating an existing bathroom will only add around £3,500 to your house value, whilst the improvements themselves would cost much the same for a fairly basic refit, and much more – say £10,000 to £20,000 – for a more luxurious bathroom with a spa bath, a rain shower, colour changing lighting, a sound system and so on. But though you might never make any money from re-doing your bathroom, most people feel any expenditure in this area is amply rewarded by efficiency and comfort in what is, after all, perhaps the most intensively used room in the house.
All around us we see pictures of beautiful bathrooms – in the home magazines, in brochures and on TV. To help guide such aspirations into reality, we first talked to Dan Cook, principal development designer at C.P. Hart’s Waterloo showroom, with its ample bathroom settings in a series of “caverns” under the arches at Waterloo – such a convenient location for trips from Surrey and the South East (Newnham Terrace, Hercules Road, London SE1 7DR; 020 7902 5250). Expanded recently, the show-room now covers 20,000 square feet, with a huge array of bathroom products.
The company have a further 14 showrooms across London and the South East, and one in Manchester. “You will get the same service and product range everywhere,” adds Dan, “but you can see a lot more in more spacious surroundings if you come to Waterloo. It’s not just baths, basins, showers and loos – we have a dedicated area for furniture, taps and tile samples backed up by a large library of catalogues, specifications sheets and books so our designers or your interior decorator and/or architect can provide complete specifications. We do site surveys, 2D plans and elevations and 3D visuals. We even have a bespoke furniture designer within the team.”
And a great relief to anyone who has ever struggled to find a “decent plumber” (let alone a tiler or even a decorator), C.P. Hart have a supervised/managed list of recommended installers. “We actually send out these teams to our product manufacturers to ensure they are up-to-speed with the latest bathroom technology and how to install it.”
So what are Dan’s favourite new lines at C.P. Hart? If bling’s your thing, it seems, new exclusive furniture by Justin Van Breda is Dan’s particular favourite. He also recommends coloured ceramics from a new Italian supplier Cielo – “a great way to add depth and design to your ideas.” Shades of avocado and sun king from the 70s? “Absolutely not! This is a new subtle approach, from an age of mixed materials and finishes, with polished brassware and classic styling.” Dan also loves to specify a steam cabinet, part of the whole “wellness” bathroom trend – “the Effegibi brand will always deliver!”
And could we have some bathroom tips, please? “Think about what you don’t like as much as what you do. Don’t be scared to take inspiration from anywhere and keep your eyes open. Explore the different approaches to bathrooms, from hotels in the UK and abroad, through to toilets in bars, offices, gyms and spas.” Above all think first about you and how you use your bathroom – “your functional needs should be the foundation of your design.”
Other preliminaries may seem tedious but are essential. “Get to know the constraints of your space. Everything from water pressure, the position of windows, doors and soil stacks through to your type of floor and walls, and the way you access your bathroom from the rest of your home.”
And Dan has his own reassuring take on luxury: “Luxury for me doesn’t mean expensive and unobtainable. Luxury is about depth, detail, ideas and application. Product combinations, selections of materials, understanding what complements what and what is right for you the user is how you can achieve it. “Details are important: the touch and feel of your surfaces, the quality of the finish and installation, lining up grout lines from the wall to the floor.”
Devon&Devon (Italian despite its name) is a superb bathroom showroom with 200 square metres of space for a brand founded in 1989, now at 77-79 Westbourne Grove, London W2 4UL; 020 7221 5137. Their motto is “Created in Florence, Inspired by the world” and this drives a family business led by architects Gianni and Paola Tanini.
Paola has her own take on luxury: she warns against an excess of “decorative glamour.” Rather you should aim for “a harmonious refined aesthetic underpinned by excellent quality.” Then you can have one or two “statement pieces”. She suggests “an impressive freestanding bath or a fitted vanity unit with a beautiful finish.” Pay attention to detail, she adds – go for elegant floor tiles, ambient lighting, stylish mirrors and high-spec brassware. Double vanities are a leading trend, she says. “They can be personalised and come in many sizes, materials and finishes.”
These are a particular speciality at Devon&Devon. Personal touches might include a monogrammed shower screen and, to round it all off, the finest bathrobes, towels and accessories.
Hugo Oliver is a bathroom specialist with a showroom at Kings Cross (44 York Way, N1 0AX; 020 7812 1300). They have another showroom in Charlton, SE7. Their interior designer, Nancy Straughan is full of ideas for making bathrooms more beautiful, intriguingly based on Google’s “trends data”. People are currently searching for “grey bathrooms,” it seems. “It’s a good choice as grey will always be a conveniently neutral backdrop,” says Nancy, but use different tones to add glamour and depth. Add wooden accessories for a more homely touch. Or simply use grey grouting with plain white tiles.”
A “home spa” is another common search. What are the essentials for this rather general request? “A large deep bath,” says Nancy – “that’s my must-have. Then getting clean becomes a calming ritual.” For luxury add a walk-in rain shower. “Little touches like scented candles can make all the difference.”
Keep you and your linens warm – underfloor heating and heated towel rails are a must if you want to stay toasty. New bathroom technology enables anti-fog mirrors and sound systems can add relaxing music. Include beautiful flowers like orchids and other natural elements like super-soft bamboo fibre towels. Keep accessories to a minimum – “the last thing you want is a fussy over-styled room.”
Patterned tiles are another big trend, it seems. You can lay plain tiles in a herringbone or basket weave to add style and depth. Or for more “bang from your buck” choose glossy tiles, or tiles in marble or concrete. A black and white grid is always smart. For an unconventional bathroom, consider eye-catching geometrics or bright Moroccan patterns.
Ripples is an award-winning bathroom retailer with 12 showrooms nationwide each with a specialist bathroom designer, who will visit your home and put together a hand-drawn scheme. Ripples Reigate is at 9-11 West Street (01737 226450). Here Joanna Crane has chosen her favourite products for that luxury look: Callacatta Antiqua marble, a dense European marble with intense blue, grey and black veining, and subtle bronze high-lights. “The honed (textured) finish makes it wonderfully tactile and, as a high-quality marble it is excellent value for money, at around £65 for a square metre.” A new line in mixer taps called M-line comes in special finishes such as black or white. Joanna also likes the Kartell towel frame for washbasins (this brand, famous for their innovative plastics has created a range for Laufen).
But let’s put luxury aside for a minute and go back to basics. What can you do to upgrade your bathroom if you are trying to sell your house? The following tips are useful for an update that does not involve too much trouble and expense – maybe also for a second bathroom, or for a holiday home, or for a property you are going to let.
Overall, a pleasant bathroom really does need to be fresh and hygienic, both in looks and in action. If existing sanitaryware is chipped or an unfashionable colour, replace it. Staining is the tell-tale evidence that things are no longer working properly – dripping taps for example, or a badly-flushing loo. A basic white bathroom suite is one of the best value items on the home improvements market. You can buy one complete with taps and waste for under £300. Then enhance the effect with a nice neutral colour scheme using off-white, greys, and/or beige (go for the warmer shades rather than ones with blue undertones) with perhaps a touch of black for a little punch and warm finishes such as bronze/copper.
A shower is a modern necessity (and absolutely an essential if you are trying to sell your home). But the addition of an extra shower in any event is a boon for any family, particularly with teenage/young adult children, coming in from sports, or getting ready for a night out. Young people shower constantly – an older generation might even say excessively! Again complete shower kits are not expensive. But check your plumbing system first. The unit you need will depend on whether you have a mains pressure system (modern houses), a gravity fed system or a combi-boiler. But if the flow rate is low you may need to install an electric shower (www.home building.co.uk) that heats its own water direct from the mains. Consult your plumber at an early stage for guidance on what you need to buy.
A smart bathroom has smooth smart flooring – so take up ruthlessly any of that carpeting which often lingers on in older properties, particularly in the country, where it was once considered warm and cosy. Go for vinyl or floor tiles – prices start at as little as £3 a square metre. If you are laying new floor tiles, consider underfloor heating, but bear in mind that an electric mat system will raise the floor level by 3–4mm. At the very least, add a heated towel rail.
Old wall tiles tend to look sad and neglected – you could consider painting them with white tile paint. Or you could tile over the old ones as taking off tiles can be a difficult and very time-consuming job. Make sure any bathroom has an extractor fan for ventilation. Adding a mirror or two will make the space seem larger and brighter.
With a little imagination, you can even add some luxury touches to your basic bathroom refurb without too much expense. Bathrooms with windows are common in period properties, particularly where a previous bedroom has been turned into a bathroom. Such an arrangement is often reasonably spacious – indeed the fittings can seem awkwardly placed, hard up against walls, leaving dead space in the middle of the room. Here you could make the most of any natural light. So many modern bathrooms are “internal” – even in the most lavish of hotels – that a room with natural light immediately feels special. Taking a bath in daylight – especially if you also have a view – lifts the spirits.
The typical bedroom-converted-to-bathroom set-up often has enough floor space for a roll-top freestanding bath – prices are now very reasonable. Making a platform for your bath could raise it up enough to benefit from a view, and conceal pipework (but as always make sure you still have access to plumbing in case something goes wrong). Adding a shower to a freestanding roll top can be tricky but you will probably have room for a separate cabinet which you can buy complete with fittings.
Again, if you have room, consider two basins, which always looks luxurious and can ease pressure in the mornings. Furthermore, shaving kits can be left out undisturbed, as can face creams and cosmetics – and two sets of toothpaste will definitively decide who it is that leaves the cap off.