Once the smallest and most overlooked room in our house, the bathroom is having a moment in the spotlight – with homeowners wanting to make their space a focal point in their house. Update yours by taking note of some of the latest trends on the horizon.
Layer on the texture
One of the most exciting areas of development for bathrooms is surface design. Take tiling, for instance. Where once it was de rigeur to have a plain, pared-back look – perhaps with a contrasting border – it has now become all the rage to introduce pattern. Fashionable geometric designs give a retro feel – especially when teamed with claw-footed baths and traditional accessories. While dazzling, all encompassing patterns, such as those available at luxury Italian tile brand Bisazza (www.bisazza.com), are more akin to works of art.
Harriet Roberts, co-founder of Bert & May (020 3673 4264; www.bertandmay.com), a reclaimed tile specialist based in east London, comments: “The winning Alexis tile from our RIBA Design-a-Tile Competition is a beautiful geometric and so thoroughly modern with its three tones. It translates beautifully in monochrome, picking up on a key trend in interiors this year. I can imagine the tile in a top London hotel or in a West-End restaurant but it works equally well in a stylish home.”
Tiles that replicate a wood-effect are also creating a buzz in the design world. The ‘Selection Oak’ range from Surface Tiles (020 7354 7000; www.surfacetiles.com) consists of porcelain wood-effect tiles for walls and floors, available in a range of realistic natural colours. The brand’s Burlington range, meanwhile, faithfully replicates quarried stone – tapping into the leaning towards more matt tiles – and is available in wide, ‘planks’ to allow the creation of different laying patterns, such as herringbone or parquet-style floors.
The wood-effect fashion has also been identified at tiling specialists The Stone & Ceramic Warehouse (020 8993 5545; www.thestoneandceramicwarehouse.co.uk). “Textured finishes can now be applied to porcelain as seen in our Driftwood range,” says Stuart Wisbey, director at the company. “This has a fabulous wood-effect grain texture and often gets confused for the real thing! A fully waterproof, scratch and dent resistant bathroom floor is a must for families with small children and pets,” he adds.
At Carpet Mill (01223 316866; www.carpetmill.co.uk), manager Peter Day has noticed a rise in popularity of the luxury vinyl tile in stone and wood effect. “It’s definitely a rising trend – and we have two British companies that supply us with lots of different finishes. Practical and hardwearing, ranges, such as Colonia by Polyflor at Home, give an effortlessly stylish look to modern-day bathrooms.”
The use of more luxurious, architectural materials is also on the rise. Marble, due to its high price-point, is ideal for giving smaller spaces the wow factor and, when used on all surfaces – floors and walls – can give a small bathroom increased depth and added interest.
Fraser Lovell, founder of Frassk (0161 848 0246; www.frassk.com), which specializes in wonderful, tactile marble basins, comments: “We’re seeing the use of marble in bathroom design more and more. It’s a great material to use. As well as adding a sense of luxury and sophistication to the bathroom, it is very hardwearing and versatile. It is also a beautiful stone to work with and offers an abundance of heritage. At Frassk we have crafted our new washbasin collection, designed by Paul Crofts Studio, from solid Carrara marble. White marbles, Carrara in particular, are of the most popular due to their classic and timeless appeal.”
Promoting the return of copper to our bathrooms is the Albion Bath Company (01255 831605; www.albionbathco.com), which has developed a polished copper finish for its free-standing, non-footed baths, which doesn’t tarnish or flake. As well as being a stunning centre-piece to a room, the use of copper gives an industrial and textural feel that simultaneously harks back to the past while being very much of the moment.
Echoing this nod towards the use of layered textures are the new, non-toxic natural wallpapers from Urbane Living (020 7138 3838; www.urbaneliving.co.uk). Manufactured using low energy and renewable materials, they give a high-end look in harmony with the environment. The Natural Mica Wallpaper range is made from recycled polystyrene and gives a granite effect that is available in an opulent range of colours and densities. While the Natural Cork Wallpaper is available in a choice of textures and designs including an unusual cork and copper blend featuring luxurious flecks of naturally rich copper. As they are breathable, thus preventing mildew and mould, the wallpapers are ideal to use in a bathroom.
All shapes and sizes
The shapes in our bathrooms are changing. Furniture and sanitary-ware is becoming more curvaceous and feminine with a move away from straight lines and the typical boxy approach. The PuraVida range from German bathroom specialists Duravit (0845 500 7787; www.duravit.co.uk) is a case in point, and has won the Reddot Design award for its design aesthetics. Included in the range is a softly curving basin and a floating vanity unit available in black, red and white high gloss. Also available at Duravit, and designed by Sieger Design, is the X-Large range of bathrooms, which aims to be visually calming, using fine lines and elegant contours across the range.
Francis Lowman, managing director of By Design Bathrooms (01223 248 409; www.bydi.co.uk), luxury bathroom specialists based in Cambridge, gives his view on the new approach: “There’s been a real shift in how people see their bathrooms. Once upon a time, the bathroom was an after-thought almost, the smallest room in the house, and very much a practical space. Nowadays, clients see their bathrooms as a place of respite, where they can go to escape for a while.
“In terms of style,” he continues, “people want us to create a dream-like space for them – somewhere that is comfortable and luxurious. This can be achieved fairly easily on a variety of budgets by choosing simple lines, paring back colour schemes and keeping the functional aspects hidden. Floating vanity units are very popular, as are frameless showers and wet rooms without any barriers. Clients are also using larger rooms for their bathrooms to give the feeling that this is more than a room to be hidden away. Wall-mounted toilets are also very popular. They are more hygienic and also create an illusion of space. Lighting is also a key factor when designing the bathrooms, for function, form, space and setting a mood.”
While floating furniture and frameless showers give the feeling of space, a growing penchant for elaborate, French-inspired vanities to house sinks in (as available at online boutique This Home; www.this-home.co.uk) gives an added layer of interest and work well against a modern backdrop. Try contrasting the two styles for impact and dramatic effect.
At The Bathroom Barn, based in St Ives, near Cambridge (01480 458900; www.bathroombarn.co.uk), managing director John Rush has seen the rise in a softer design ethos for bathrooms. “It’s more covetable now to go for curvier lines. Softer-shaped furniture is somehow more modern and appealing. The same goes for frameless showers, walk-in showers with no doors and wet rooms – we want our bathrooms to be appealing places, not just merely functional.”
In terms of colour, a monochrome palette is making a comeback, giving a nod to Art Deco masterpieces of old.
Rob Whitaker, creative director of Fired Earth (01223 300941; www.firedearth.com), renowned for their wide range of beautifully-crafted tiles and bathrooms, agrees: “Monochrome is a key trend at the moment. The simple combination of black and white offers endless design possibilities, from the very contemporary to the Art Deco and the classic, and it has a fresh, clean look that’s perfect for bathrooms. Use eye-catching pattern and luxurious finishes such as polished marble, sparkling glass and gleaming chrome to ensure plenty of visual interest and to counter the absence of colour. For all-out drama and glamour, opt for a predominantly black scheme with accents of white, using lighting to enhance jewel-like details and to create a sense of warmth.”
Harriet Roberts, co-founder of tile experts Bert & May (020 3673 4264; www.bertandmay.com), lends her expertise: “Monochrome – black, grey and white lend gravitas to any floor, and can often be the most striking as they let the pattern speak for itself. In Mediterranean countries where the light is brighter, the colours tend to be brighter.”
Complementing this look is also a return to a 1930s’ simplicity – combine period fixtures and fittings, utilitarian accessories, minimalist details and chunky wooden accents for a modern take on the industrial style. If your bathroom is big enough, the ultimate endorsement of this trend is the addition of a fireplace.
Owner of fireplace specialist Renaissance London (020 7251 8844; www.renaissancelondon.com) and expert in architectural salvage Owen Pacey reveals the growing trend: “I think a fireplace brings drama and glamour to a room. I love seeing fireplaces in every room and I’m seeing a returning trend of installing a fireplace in kitchens, bedrooms and bathrooms. Fireplaces are the design focus for many rooms and people are seeing their power and potential.”
“It also makes sense to invest in a working fireplace this winter as you can ignite your property’s value by up to 5%, add an aesthetic glow of a real fire and save on heating bills too,” he adds. “With up to 20 per cent more people choosing a real fire over the past couple of years, there’s a definite trend towards investing in beautiful fireplaces.”
While not necessarily new – after all a beach theme works so well in a bathroom – the new take on the coastal look is a more pared back one. Choose accessories wisely and keep it simple – you don’t want your bathroom to look overly fussy.
Select rattan and wicker baskets for storage – there’s a wide range available at The Holding Company (www.theholdingcompany.co.uk). White-wood cladding and painted floorboards accented with blue tiles make for a beach-hut vibe. Frame windows with blinds made out of cheerful, striped fabrics in linen or cotton – Vanessa Arbuthnott (01285 831 437; www.vanessaarbuthnott.co.uk) has a wide range of styles to choose from – to continue the seaside theme.
If you have room in your bathroom for a chair or even a sofa – upholster it in a subtle stripe, in grey and white rather than the more obvious blue palette. It will give a modern take on the nautical look.
For a cosy, soft feel choose rustic pots and containers for toiletries, chunky towels housed on wooden ladder ‘shelves’ and for a touch of glamour add in a glittering chandelier or antique mirror for personality.
Instead of a room to be forgotten about, we’re seeing our bathrooms’ potential as an added space in which we can relax. An increasing number of us want our bathrooms to be as large as possible and will often rehouse them, when renovating, in a spare, unused bedroom to maximize their potential. Rather than a practical space for merely functional purposes, our bathrooms are evolving into another living space – where we want to spend time in, to retreat from the world. Colourful cabinetry, soft rugs and statement lighting can add to the lounge-look and move the bathroom out of its clinical past. Large soaking tubs, wet areas and even reading corners are often incorporated by interior designers where space is possible.
Endorsing this view is the increasing number of luxury companies, such as artisanal cast-iron bath specialists Catchpole and Rye (020 7351 0940; www.catchpoleandrye.com), who are helping to elevate the humble bathroom to a new level of luxury. Catchpole and Rye are the go-to company for stand-out antique baths, French-style washstands and characterful taps that will transform an ordinary washroom into a place of beauty.
Meanwhile, endorsing the bathroom as our new living room even further is the current fashion for using wallpaper. For a talking point, choose a quirky bold design, such as the new papers by Japanese designer Eley Kishimoto (020 8674 7411; www.eleykishimoto.com), for alcoves or an accent wall.
Sarah Cole, marketing director at Farrow and Ball (01223 367771; www.farrow-ball.com) comments on the change in our decorating patterns: “As more of us have en-suite bathrooms, the use of wallpaper in bathrooms has become to be popular again. There’s a new trend for connecting bedrooms and en-suites by continuing the background or pattern colour from pretty bedroom wallpaper into the en-suite bathroom. Try our Lotus pattern for a glamourous look.
“In recent years we’ve seen people become much bolder in their decorating choices to make bathrooms more interesting,” she continues. “We’re becoming more inventive when decorating, and even neutral bathrooms are becoming more colourful. A great way to add colour into a bathroom is to paint the underside of a freestanding bath in stronger shades like Pelt or Rectory Red to contrast against white suites.
“Rich colours like Brassica and Hague Blue are being used increasingly; their intense, almost jewel-like quality can transform a bathroom into an enveloping cocoon.” What more could you ask for?