Dawn's Designer Case Study | My Small Bathroom
As a designer sometimes I have to work with what seems to be an un-workable amount of space in a room whilst still making it look fabulous. This is no exception in my own home... I have a lovely little house with my partner in Woking Surrey and although I love our first house together it only has limited space and only one tiny bathroom. This always proves to be difficult because when a client only has the one bathroom in their house it becomes a bit of a technical issue of how are we going to rip it out and re-do it whilst they are living there. Thankfully pretty much all of my clients have more than one so it's not been too much of a problem in the past but it was with me when we got ours done. If I can put this into context.... There was no choice in the matter because when we moved into our little Surrey home the bathroom obviously hadn't been touched since the house had been built in the 80's..... It had nasty old stained (I didn't even want to think about what from) carpet on the floor..... and the toilet started leaking pretty much as soon as we moved in there. I have a feeling it was leaking before but it had been bodged to cover it up in the sale.
Pretty hideous right? As a designer it simply had to go straight away. And so the fun and games of having no bathroom and working from home began. There were a couple of pleading knocks on the new neighbours doors when desperate times called for desperate measures. Incorporating meetings with clients and trips for lunch in local cafes so that I could use the facilities. Using the shower at my other half's mothers house everyday in the late morning so that again I could use the loo. This is not a great set up for someone who has a bladder the size of a peanut but I made do. We also had a very understanding bathroom fitter who re-connected the toilet every evening despite the hassle and time this adds to a job.
Now, when designing my shiny new bathroom I had to make a decision. It's a very small room and I tend to avoid shower baths if I can because I'm not a lover of them. I prefer them to be separate. So do I remove the bath and just have a shower to make it seem more spacious? It's the only bathroom in the house and taking the bath out could make it less appealing to families with infants when we come to sell. I also want to have children soon so what do I do about bathing them? Well.... the answer is no we can't do without a bath in the long term, but we plan on converting the loft so having an additional bathroom up there is going to be a must. In the mean time we can hope with just the shower in there and I can free up some space to make the room look more open and un-cluttered.
I've attached my technical drawings of it below so that you can see what the bathroom fitter was working to. Pretty detailed huh? I like to be prepared and know exactly what's going on in there. It also helps me to price everything up. I'd just like to add that getting a good bathroom fitter is sooooo important I can not stress this enough!!! Don't use your mate Dave who's offered to do it for tea and biscuits. A good bathroom fitter will cost money but not as much as when you have to rip the whole thing out because it's gushing water through your ceiling because the bathroom fitter was crap! I once had a clients fitter take 5 weeks for a small bathroom where multiple leaks appeared one of which dripped all over the clients antique grand piano stripping off the varnish. I could go into other stories such as ... when a clients fitter put a self levelling compound over the £500 wet floor tray. For those that don't understand what this means, the tray needs a small gradient (surface imbalance) which allows water to flow towards the waste. Water doesn't drain away when it's on a flat surface. They effectively destroyed the function of the tray by putting a levelling compound on the whole floor and therefore water couldn't drain away in the shower. Ridiculous! FYI when a client says 'the guys that did the landscaping in my garden said they can do my bathroom' strongly advise against this! Work on gardens does not translate well into bathrooms! Those poor clients got a shock and I learn't a valuable lesson. Get and recommend good fitters and pay them well because they are worth their weight in gold. A good fitter will add value to your house whereas a bad one could potentially destroy it and cost you thousands. That being said don't let anyone take the piss when it comes to price. In Surrey at the moment (2016) I'd say that to get a standard bathroom fitted (ripping the whole thing out and re-doing it completely, not just changing like for like) not including products you are looking at between £5-£8k. If you have a massive bathroom then it could be higher. Mine cost about £5.5k for the fitting with Kirk and I would definitely recommend him.
So... Let me talk you through the details and tricks I used for this.
The bath came out and we built in a wet floor. For those of you that don't know what a wet floor is, basically it's and thin tray that can be tiled over so that it looks like part of the floor. I use a company called Trimline but there are plenty of companies out there. This is more expensive than a normal resin or acrylic tray but worth it because I didn't want to enclose the space with a glass enclosure and have a big chunky white tray breaking up the floor area. I quite like a wet room shower (it's not everyone's cup of tea though) so keeping it open and seamless was key to give a sense of spaciousness. A must was a nice big overhead shower at my partners request which suited me just fine (I used Hansgrohe because the Germans rule at quality long-lasting bathroom equipment). I didn't however want water splashing near the door so a little stud wall was built which then gave me the opportunity to create some alcoves to store shower bits. Then everything is tucked away and the door doesn't get wet. Two birds with one stone.
The layout was planned around the fact that when I look into the shower room from out side I do not want to see a toilet in front of me. I hate that! Who wants to look at a toilet! When I'm on the landing and I look into the shower room I want to see something that looks nice and stylish and inviting. That's why the basin area is right infront of the door. It's a mini feature of the room with a stylish strip of mosaics from Fired Earth running up the back and a lovely framed mirror (Mirror World) and delicate counter top basin. This way round also means I can have a mirror above the basin un like the original layout. That's what I want to look at when I'm sitting back in my chair in my office over the landing. Not a toilet. If you design an area then think about what you want to see first when you enter a room. This tends to be a key point when I'm planning a layout. When I enter, what layout will be most striking?
From the before pictures you can see that there is a section of low level boxing behind the toilet and basin which has been crudely cut for the basin pedestal. Low level boxing is a lazy way of getting pipe work from A to B. I avoid it at all costs because I have yet to find a pretty way of presenting low level boxing. It screams at me 'I'm being used for pipework and nothing else! I have no design purpose!' If you can find a different way of hiding pipework then do it. In this case now that we have removed the bath I can build out the whole section of wall to hide the w/c cistern and also incorporate a hidden bit of storage behind the basin mirror. That's a much better use of space and hiding pipework now isn't it!? if you need to build out a wall then finding neat little ways of using it is great. Little cupboards or alcoves look stylish and are very practical.
I kept the overall design of the room quite simple because I didn't want to overwhelm the tiny space. There's just the one type of tile (meteor blanco from Grespania) and one feature mosaic (iridescent glass mosaic in pewter from Fired Earth) and everything else is done through the fittings, details and the lighting. The lighting is simply two over head spot lights (I removed the central one on the drawing in case you're thinking 'but there's three on the plan') and 4 little marker lights. The positioning and control of them is the important bit. The spots are lined up and there is one positioned over the basin near the mirror. Directing a light into a mirror will bounce the light off and onto the person standing in front of it. I can quite happily do my make up in front of the mirror with out needing any side lights throwing additional light on my face. The markers are positioned with one in each alcove and two under the lower basin shelf. They are controlled via a PIR sensor switch which is a little gadget on the ceiling which detects movement and turns them on. This is extremely handy in the middle of the night when you don't want to turn any blinding lights on. It just gives a little bit of ambient light so that you can see where you're walking and becomes a nice little design feature for the room.
So! I know it's not the biggest flashiest bathroom in the world (designers have budgets too you know) but I hope it's given you some ideas if you have a small bathroom to do yourself. Thanks for reading my case study and feel free to contact me if you have any questions or just wanted to say hi.