Planning a bathroom
By Liz Ransome-Croker
Article 1 of 6
Whatever the size of your bathroom – or budget – our expert guide will help you plan the bathroom you've always dreamt of.
Your bathroom or shower room needs to be functional and practical, but good design can also turn it into a haven where you can relax and unwind.
Read on for our tips on how to strike the right balance and find out the average cost of a new bathroom.
Whether your bathroom is spacious or bijoux, you'll want to get the best for your money. Our guide will give you all the guidance you will need during the planning process:
- Family bathrooms
- En suite bathrooms
- Large bathrooms
- Luxury bathrooms
- Bathroom design inspiration
- Bathroom flooring and tile ideas
Visit our guide to the best bathroom companies to find out which scored highly for quality, durability and value for money. We've reviewed big bathroom including Bathstore, B&Q, Soak, Ideal Standard, Roca, Victoria Plum and Twyford Bathrooms.
Bathrooms come in all shapes and sizes, as do the budgets to create them. Whether you're putting together an en suite from scratch or revamping a wet room, first and foremost think about who will use the bathroom and how, as this will affect how you design it.
Below are some key things to think about, depending on your needs.
If you’re planning on renovating your family bathroom there are multiple things you'll need to factor in:
Storage and layout
- How do you want to use your bathroom? Think about what tasks you'll have to do, such as drying or changing your child. This will help determine the layout.
- Lots of storage space is essential to keep a bathroom tidy and organised. What will you need to store? Toys, kids' toiletries, changing mats etc? How often will you need each item and therefore where will it need to be stored for easy access?
- If children might need steps up to the sink, bath or toilet, think about what space you have for these when in and out of use. The same goes for potty and toilet-training equipment.
- There's no getting round it – children make a mess. Going for options that are simple to clean will make your life easier. Steer away from an all-white bathroom and include patterns and deeper colours.
- If you're painting your bathroom, choose paint that's easy to wipe clean as well as being generally bathroom-friendly. The same goes for tiles; textures, for example, can make cleaning trickier?
- Think about safety – choose non-slip flooring and/or use mats, consider curvy designs instead of harsh corners and make sure there is room for you to move around safely.
- If you have a blind, make sure it's a child-friendly one, as pull cords can be dangerous for small children.
- Electrical shaver power points should be out of reach of young children.
- A pull-cord light is advisable so that light switches don't get touched by wet fingers. Think about the length of this – will you want your child to be able to turn the light on and off themselves when they're old enough to use the bathroom on their own?
- Think about the positioning of other items, such as mirrors, to ensure children can reach what they need to and can't access anything shouldn't be able to.
Visit our page on bathroom furniture for more information on planning the storage in your bathroom and to discover how bathroom owners rate bathroom furniture from big-name brands such as Villeroy & Boch, Wickes, Victorian Plumbing and Homebase.
If you have an en suite bathroom, there are some options that will make the most of a smaller space:
- If a bath would be too big for the room, shower enclosures come in a range of sizes. If even that will be a squeeze, a wet room might be a good option.
- Storage is particularly important in a small en suite as you'll want to make use of every inch of space. A vanity unit wrapped around a sink and toilet could make use of otherwise 'dead' space.
- Use walls for storage, such as shelves with baskets, or rails and hooks.
- Don't forget lighting. In a smaller and potentially darker space, it's key. Look at different options, such as lights around a mirror or multiple wall or ceiling lights.
- Think about ventilation, especially given en suites open directly onto bedrooms, to avoid damp. If you have windows, open them regularly; consider adding an extractor fan or window vent.
Visit our guide on small bathroom ideas for more tips on making the most of the space in small bathrooms.
If you're lucky enough to oodles of space, these tips will help you to make a space that would grace a spa:
- If you have the space, a separate bath and dedicated shower cubicle will give you flexibility.
- Consider getting a freestanding bath for a luxurious feel, with storage for candles and reading material close to hand.
- If you prefer to shower, opt for a super-sized shower cubicle. There's also a huge choice of multiple-option showers and shower heads to add a touch of spa-style.
- Are you a couple sharing the bathroom? How about getting a double basin to add that feeling of opulence?
- Channel the atmosphere of a boudoir with a chaise lounge or seating area. Just make sure you think about the practicality of the fabrics/materials you opt for.
- Larger spaces can more easily take bold and dark colours. Create impact with a strong, rich colour. Royal blues work particularly well in a bathroom, or even black tiles or accessories if you're feeling bold.
- Adding in and mixing different materials will also add the wow factor – more on this below.
Even if your bathroom isn't enormous, that doesn't mean it can't be luxurious, even on a budget. Small touches will have more impact in a small space and won't be too costly.
- Paint can easily and cheaply add impact to your bathroom. Dark colours and deep shades are particularly luxurious. Be bold and paint the entire room, or choose specific areas to draw the eye, such as the wall where the bath sits.
- Opt for high-end tiles and splashbacks. If your budget is tight, create feature areas and zones with small collections of tiles, rather than covering the entire room.
- The same applies to flooring. A bold or distinctive floor will transform the look of your bathroom.
- Stand-out taps will add the wow-factor. For example, consider a waterfall tap for your sink or different finishes for a distinctive look..
- Accessories are relatively inexpensive and the ideal way to lift a plain or basic bathroom up to luxury standards. Touches of gold, such as a mirror, soap dish or taps, add instant luxury.
- Don't forget scents – luxurious candles, soap and body washes will all add to the experience.
Be bold with your design
Don't shy away from bold colours and designs. Gold and black are a perfect combination for a glamorous and eye-popping look. For maximum impact, how about a coloured bath or suite?
Use colour to create an atmosphere
Colour can evoke a desired feeling in your bathroom – blue tones, for example, can create a sense of calm. Use coloured tiles, paint or accessories to accentuate a feature or create zones.
Add wood for warmth and texture
Different woods can add texture and pattern to a minimal bathroom, creating the feeling of warmth. Consider using it on a variety of surfaces, from countertops to flooring, or even walls. Just make sure it's treated and suitable for a bathroom.
Play with shapes and patterns
Combine patterns and shapes to create a striking look. Using one similar shape on a range of features will be particularly effective. A mirror in a different form will bring a focus to the idea and add another dimension.
Marry different textures and materials
A mixture of textures, materials and patterns can form an intriguing yet still cohesive look if you stick to a small palette of similar tones to avoid overloading the look. Freestanding furniture and open shelving will also create a clean and modern feel.
Make a statement with lighting
Don't forget lighting – hanging pendant lights will take a bathroom from standard to stunning. They can also be a good way to create a focal point.
Create a traditional feel
Wood paneling can create a traditional look instantly. Marry this with fixtures in classic designs and add touches of silver, brass or gold to complete the look.
Choosing the right flooring and/or tiles for your bathroom can be one of the most important things to consider when planning a bathroom.
Bathroom flooring ideas
You can use pretty much anything for your bathroom floor as long as it’s waterproof and won’t get too slippery when wet.
These days, most people choose tiles (marble, stone or granite look good), sheeted or tiled vinyl (a sensible option if you’re on a budget), or wood-effect laminate.
It’s also possible to have a hardwood floor, but you’ll need to treat it and make sure you don’t leave it wet. Another popular alternative is wood-effect porcelain tiles.
For an ultra-modern and very practical effect, you could even use concrete.
Underfloor heating adds a really cosy touch – as well as helping to dry the bathroom, and prevent damp and mould from forming – if you have hard floors. If you're considering underfloor heating, visit our guide to get an idea of the costs involved.
Bathroom tile ideas
Tiles on the walls around the shower or bath should be added after they're fitted. You can get the same tiles for your bathroom walls and floor if you want a streamlined look.
Options for wall-tile types include glass, ceramic or natural stone. There are matt or gloss tiles in all shapes and sizes; mosaic tiles can add a bit of glitz to small areas, while large tiles can make a space-limited bathroom feel larger.
Natural stone tiles are very expensive to install (on walls or floors) and can be difficult to look after. If they're out of your price range, consider porcelain tiles that imitate stone.
Tiles can also be used to make a statement. Bold colours, different finishes and interesting shapes can have a big impact. You don't have to splash out on the whole room if statement tiles are pricey - consider using them just around a shower, or in a strip running through cheaper plain white tiles, to keep costs down.
Tiling your bathroom, rather than leaving large areas painted, can make it easier to clean. Plus, tiles are less likely to develop mould or damp. Make sure you use an anti damp tile grout when fitting them to the wall.
If you're looking for your own installer to create the bathroom of your dreams, visit Which? Trusted Traders to find a recommended trader in your area that has been through our rigorous checks.
Find out which bathroom brands offer you the most value for your money according to their customers in our best and worst bathroom companies guide.